Location: Dorney Park, 3830 Dorney Park Road, South Whitehall
Web Page: http://www.dorneypark.com
Cedar Fair Entertainment spares no expense in Dorney Park’s annual haunt production, totally transforming the entire amusement park into a Halloween fan’s dream. Every single corner of the park is re-purposed to embrace the season, featuring horror inspired soundtrack, lighting effects and dense patches of fog in between each “Scare Zone.” Endless hordes of scare-actors roam the park, interacting with guests, all while maintaining characterizations that fit each scare-zone. Dorney Park’s Haunt X is a big budget show, as costume/make-up designs enhance the performance of each actor who takes their roles extremely seriously. Entertainment is the focus of Dorney Park’s Haunt X, and while not always the “scariest” of attractions, it is hard not to appreciate the sheer level of quality that goes into development/execution of this massive operation.
Each scare actor completely embraces their defined characters, and even the most annoying “teens” can’t break these individuals. About overall design, there is a defined feeling of pride in which each haunt staff member focuses on providing a quality show no matter how large each crowd may get. Dorney Park’s variety of haunted mazes and Scare Zones targeted a variety of horror genre’s and combined additional entertainment options such as the famous “Blood Drums” show. Even the most jaded haunt fan will enjoy the entertainment and presentation of Dorney Park’s Haunt X, as well as appreciate the massive production values spent on each yearly show. Dorney Park spends the entire year building and planning its annual show, and visitors need to appreciate the level of work that goes into the haunt each season. Dorney Park takes great pride in their attractions development and each year strives to create a first-class show for a wide array of audiences. Every single set and piece of artwork is custom designed by talented Dorney Park staff, and each maze is created from scratch each season. Dorney Park is a first-class haunt with entertaining attractions that cater to the masses. In previous seasons, one of the major selling points was the innovative “Skeleton Key Room” experiences that added a new level of intensity to each maze. Some of the former “Skeleton Key Rooms”, during previous seasons were very much on the “extreme” end of haunting; such as “coffin rides” through a furnace, and hillbillies who forced fed guests “mothers” finest strew. Dorney Park has cut back on the level of maturity, and interactive nature of these rooms, but this does not take away from the entire entertainment package.
Dorney Park is a great value due to the number of different Halloween inspired events, diverse core attractions and “Scare Zones” featured throughout the park. From theatrical shows, such as the “Blood Drums,” to “Fright Feast dining options, Dorney Park’s Halloween Haunt X provides quality entertainment for all ages, interests and maturity levels. Despite its popularity amongst the general public, veteran haunt fans will appreciate the budget intensive, Halloween spectacle created each season. The focus of the review will be the central attractions (mazes) as well as brief feedback on the “Skeleton Key” Rooms.
Blood on the Bayou
“Blood on the Bayou,” is one of the most visually impressive, disturbing, and sadistic walk-through attractions at Dorney Park. “Blood on the Bayou” is “black magic-themed” emphasizing the dark side of Voodoo and cultivating a gritty, dark atmosphere submerged in evil. From scenes of sacrifice, gore and nightmarish displays of “black magic” this is a must-see attraction. Attention to detail is augmented by a world-class set design, creating an authentic, real experience within the context of the “voodoo theme.” Again, no expense is spared in bringing to life this horrific maze, and every single detail down to the scene specific soundtrack is aimed at creating genuine reactions.
We have never witnessed a more “realistic” take on a voodoo/black magic-themed haunted attraction, and even the tiniest of details are impressive within each room of this large New Orleans inspired Manor. The structure of the maze/house itself transforms an area of the park into the Louisiana French Quarter, using mood lighting, and sound effects to create a dark, ominous tone.
Skeleton Key Room- A brief visit to a small room in which a scare actor warns guests of a monster. Ends as quickly as it sounds.
“Tourist Trap,” new for 2017, takes guests back in time to the 1893 World’s Fair. The former “Mansion House Hotel,” is entirely transformed into a period piece haunt which portrays a violent past. The rather quick walkthrough maze, starts off rather unassuming, with a theme of an unknown murderer spreading fear throughout the inhabitants. As the attraction approaches its climax, the hauntingly beautiful set designs, and historical characters become blood-soaked and violent. Scenes inspired by “Jack the Ripper” quickly turn a slightly startling attraction to one that is downright disturbing. The gruesome experience is over rather quickly, but an authentic, effectively designed maze and a creative addition to Dorney Park’s Haunt X. Scare Actors portray their stylistic characters with excellence, using dark humor at times to add to the presentation. The “detectives” assigned to this murder case are rather hilarious as they roam the grounds outside of this new attraction, and add to the theatrical quality of this haunt.
Skeleton Key Room– “Tourist Trap’s” “Skeleton Key Room” starts off with strong scare-acting and a storyline that forces guests to face a fear of “bees.” However, after a brief “play” and use of auditory noises to build confusion, the scene ends quickly.
“Blackout” is a pitch-black style maze in which guests must navigate the darkness following dimly lit arrows. The attraction is highly effective at generating scares and utilizing creepy actors who get uncomfortably close in the darkness. Actors are hidden along the dark maze, are almost impossible to see and make this one of the best attractions at the park. “Blackout” was once a “Fright Lane” pass exclusive, for mature haunt fans, but this is no longer the case. With additional guests entering the dark maze, the effective feeling of “isolation” is reduced as we bumped into several groups in the dimly lit environment. “Blackout’s” design should refocus on providing an “exclusive” experience for those guests who upgrade their passes, reducing the number of guests within the pitch-black maze, augmenting a sense of fear and isolation.
Skeleton Key Room– “Blackout” features a “Skeleton Key Room” which allows guests to see other patrons and trigger “scares” within the maze. However, only one person is allowed to work the brief scene taking away from its value, and leaving a desire to participate in the action.
Chamber of Horrors
“Chamber of Horrors” is disturbing, a horrific scene of gruesome death, the closest representation to true horror featured at Dorney Park. “Chamber of Horrors” is one of the most detailed haunted mazes you can visit, with a sadistic design depicting mature themes and torture. Monuments to serial killers, along with displays of movie monsters give way to aggressive, sadistic scare-actors. Last season we felt that this maze was poorly executed and did not give guests time register the disturbing nature of this maze. “Chamber of Horrors” is downright creepy. Seeing bodies “melted” alive in molten wax is enough to make one’s skin crawl, and the rather odd characterizations of serial killers such as the “Zodiac,” and “Ed Gein,” add to the disturbing feeling created by this maze.
“Cornstalkers” is a hybrid outdoor/indoor maze, and one of the more mature, gritty attractions at Dorney Park’s Haunt X. “Cornstalkers” is one of the more gruesome attractions featured at Dorney Park, featuring moments of crude humor juxtaposed with a rather violent atmosphere. Despite the mature theme to this haunt, its open space and lack of surprises hurt this attraction. Open space and a lack of misdirection allow “Cornstalkers” to feel almost “too familiar” and while gruesome, has lost its luster. “Cornstalkers” almost feels like a maze on life-support, with fewer actors, which was the case last year with “Mansion House Hotel.” Perhaps our visit was on an off night, but compared to the quality of the other houses, “Cornstalkers” didn’t feel on the same level in terms of intensity. Scene design is still excellent and the few actors we did encounter did a great job at playing their defined roles, new energy is needed to make “Cornstalkers” stand out again.
Skeleton Key Room- “Cornstalkers” features the most entertaining “Skeleton Key Room.” Guests must search for hidden keys as well as search “feces” while being taunted by the resident hillbillies.
“Urgent Scare” is the latest incarnation of the traditionally haunted maze, previously operated as “Asylum.” Detailed scenes of medical horror, coupled with theatrical scare actors create a memorable experience that is far more aggressive than its previous incarnation. From a twisted mirror maze, through pathways through demented medical experimentations, each room features gory details and special effects that induce fear. “Urgent Scare” is relentless and shockingly disturbing for an amusement park haunt. Gruesome set designs convey a sense of paranoia and aggression that perfectly fits the attraction’s theme. “Urgent Scare” moves away from the “asylum” theme, and focuses more on the madness of the “doctors” in each scene.
Trick or Treat
“Trick or Treat” is a “witch” themed maze, highlighting the dark side of Halloween, in which eagerly hungry tormentors have abducted unsuspecting children. This season, the freakish makeup and vintage Halloween masks placed on each scare-actor created an unsettling atmosphere. Special effects such as floating witches and creepy character designs create a creepy experience of a child’s Halloween experience gone extremely wrong. The vintage Halloween masks placed on the abducted “children” are freakish and disturbing. The pacing of “Trick or Treat’s show” allowed for close interaction between guests and scare-actors creating a rather unsettling feeling. “Trick or Treat” benefits from the high production values of Dorney Park’s Haunt X.
Dorney Park’s Halloween Haunt X features several “Scare Zones” which are essentially themed attractions set in between each haunted maze that defines certain locations in the amusement park. From the off-color pirates of “Cutthroat Island” to twisted clowns of “Carn-Evil,” each zone is uniquely themed to create memorable experiences.
We especially found the medieval “Age of Darkness/Overlords Resurrection” to be an especially impressive “Scare Zone” again this season creating vile medieval world celebrating scenes of torture, featuring massive fire-breathing dragons knights, heretics and an emotionally charged “execution scene” that places the guest at the center of the experience.
Skeleton Key Room(s)- A variety of “Skeleton Key Rooms” include “drinking” whiskey with Pirates and being executed at the “Age of Darkness/Overlords Resurrection.”A more popular “coffin ride” once featured at “Grave Walkers” has been replaced with a search for a key scene.
The Final Word
Dorney Park’s Halloween Haunt X proves that amusement parks can operate incredible haunted attractions that cater to Halloween fans of all age and maturity levels. To avoid long lines, upgrade to the “Fright Lane” pass, which includes “Skeleton Key Room” access and an additional pitch-black style maze. Dorney Park continues to improve each year, and we hope they enhance their “Skeleton Key Room” experiences next season.
While Dorney Park’s Haunt X is an enjoyable experience and great value, it has taken a step back in the execution of “Skeleton Key Room” experiences. In the past, we were shocked at how each special experience bordered on the “extreme” and created a whole new level of immersion within the traditional confines of a mainstream amusement park attraction. At the time, the “Skeleton Key Rooms” was built right into each attraction and challenged guests to complete intense tasks to finish each maze. However, over the last two seasons, the quality of the “Skeleton Key Rooms” has steeply declined to the point where we honestly cannot recommend the upgrades unless you want the front of line access offered by the “Fright Lane Pass.” Each “Skeleton Key Room” except the “Age of Darkness/Overlords Resurrection” scene is relegated to what is essentially a small shack outside of each maze. Guests who pay extra have access to these bonus scenes which overall are nowhere near as interactive, or as mature as they once were. Furthermore, the attraction “Blackout”, was once exclusive to those who purchased a “Fright Lane Pass” adding additional value an exclusivity to this upgraded package. Return to the interactive, built in “Skeleton Key Room” experiences of previous seasons would be a welcomed addition in future seasons. With some minor improvements and greate exposure to the mature haunt seeking crowd, Dorney Park’s Haunt can easily reach elite status.