Location: 2828 Rock Rd, Clarks Summit, PA 18411
Web Page: http://www.draculasforest.com
Dracula’s Forest is one of the longest operating haunted attractions on the East Coast and a pioneer in the industry. For 34 years Dracula’s Forest has provided scares for all ages, and visiting this attraction is Northeastern Pennsylvania tradition. We have never attended an attraction that has so much potential to be something extraordinary yet fails to capitalize on its rather apparent strengths. We have enjoyed Dracula’s Forest every single season, and continue to do so, as despite its shortcomings the hayride is still extremely entertaining. Dracula’s Forest’s “Haunted Hayride” is still an exciting journey into the unknown, and one can only hope that changes will take place to really take this attraction to a new level in future seasons.
From a nostalgic standpoint, it is easy to appreciate the unique old school features of this attraction as many of the vintage set designs and scenes are unlike any other in modern haunted attractions. The gritty, realistic atmosphere of the attraction itself is the perfect foundation for a unique experience that we hope one day is capitalized on before it is too late. Minor alterations to this attractions approach, as well as some modernization regarding promotion, presentation, and execution of the attraction itself, would go a long way towards providing an unforgettable experience. Dracula needs to awaken from his coffin and inject new life into this historical haunted attraction which has the that brings back Dracula’s Forest as an industry leader in the Northeast PA/Tristate area.
As it stands, Dracula’s Forest is a relic of an attraction and has lost its direction as one of the scariest haunts in Northeast PA. What makes Dracula’s Forest a perplexing case, is that it has the potential to be absolutely terrifying while maintaining a “family friendly” atmosphere. Furthermore, the staff and workers of this attraction are extremely nice, helpful individuals who want to provide a great evening of Halloween fun. It pains us to see such potential ignored, as minor and more significant scale developments over a period can allow this attraction to respect its history while building upon the historical significance to create an unforgettable event. It is time for Dracula’s Forest to evolve, competition continues to grow and with some minor adjustments and a refocusing of resources, new life can be injected into this historical gem of an attraction. A deep respect for the past, coupled with an aggressive plan to tackle on the industry addressing newer trends and interests can make Dracula’s Forest shine again and we sincerely hope they decide to take the necessary steps to not only survive but thrive into the future.
Dracula’s Forest features two attractions, the vintage “Haunted Hayride”, and additional walkthrough “The Dark Kingdom”. Each attraction, while enjoyable can be significantly enhanced to address the horror interests of diverse age groups and haunt fans, while justifying a rather steep $25.00 price for a combo ticket.
“Haunted Hayride” is a throwback to the gritty hayrides of year’s past, utilizing unique set pieces and an amazing atmosphere/environment to create a memorable haunted attraction experience. The realistic, custom-built set pieces some of which have been present over the past several seasons are not found in many larger scale haunted attractions. The “Haunted Hayride” effectively hides scare actors who augment the various vintage scenes which are found throughout the attraction. While the set designs feature unique props and structures unlike any other, there is an overall lack of theming between each scene. The level of gory details placed into most scenes is impressive enough that themes, characters, and storylines can be created throughout the attraction. Actors in random skull masks, while scary for children or teens, fail to reach the potential of the attraction. Some of the newer set design and props are purchased from Spirit Halloween stores (as stated in Facebook Review Responses) and do not fit the overall horrific, rustic nature of this attraction. Another issue is that some of the props no longer even work. For example; a large snake prop is hidden in the forest no longer moves, just makes a sound, and the “wizard” who greets hayride guests also no longer is mobile. Despite these issues, the atmosphere of the hayride and the vintage set designs are a treat to see. Improvements to the hayrides theming, actor training and a sense of purpose behind each scene would add new life to this classic haunted attraction.
The atmosphere of Dracula’s Forest is haunting, to say the least, and as one approaches the trail the visual effect of seeing the path before the journey is compelling, and builds anticipations. Scene designs at Dracula’s Forest are unique, and while not much has changed, it is likely some of the props can only be found at this pioneer attraction. While set design and environment is robust, Dracula’s Forest fails to capitalize on its iconic history as it has not made any attempt to modernize its show for the past several seasons.
Last seasons changes, for the most part, remain in place. Midpoint during the hayride a loudspeaker/announcer “welcomes” guests to the attraction and this ominous announcer is creepy as they display an affinity for “eating” children. This soundtrack choice is odd but adds a sense of fear to Dracula’s Forest. The vintage “Haddonfield” memorial hospital now features a visit with Michael Myers, and Dracula’s Forest has reverted its finale to a clown-themed “Tunnel of Terror”.
The Dark Kingdom (Walk of Doom)
The “Dark Kingdom” is the same exact attraction as last years “Walk of Doom”, an outdoor, self-guided tour of the creepy woods surrounding the hayride at Dracula’s Forest. The dense foliage and dark atmosphere of the attraction is the perfect backdrop for a terrifying experience, and it is an entertaining diversion that can be so much more.
The “Dark Kingdom” is a long trail and features a variety of random scare actors, most which are typically clowns, and a few masked characters. There are some enjoyable scenes, including a large “baby” who likes to show off their “dolls” but the scenes are pretty run of the mill. Some of the actors simply would scream “run” louder and louder which was not scary, and does not build tension whatsoever, even the tease of a “werewolf” scene was just flat. Being lost in the dense forest of the attraction itself generates fear, as the environment and surroundings of the haunt itself are truly frightening. A more focused effort on building interactive walk-through set designs, coupled with actors who are relevant to each scene can improve “The Dark Kingdom”. In its current incarnation does not compliment the “Haunted Hayride”, and can use more development time. It is hard to understand why more changes were not undertaken between this and last years show.
Dracula’s Forest is a legendary haunt, one that is a staple in the industry and at one time was indeed the “scariest” of its kind. The attraction still presents a fun hayride but fails to provide a show that is on the level of its local competitors. The “Haunted Hayride” features many actors with no purpose. Most of the scare actors have no tie in with each scene, and their work consists of rushing a tractor, banging on it and then staring at those guests who squirm. At times, these actors do a decent job at “targeting” those who are scared, then retreat into stupidity. For example, we witnessed two masked characters scare a college-aged couple, and when that couple responded the actors started babbling meaningless banter such as “I’m Timmy.” Confused scare acting and awkward interactions are is the result of inadequate scare actor training. Dracula’s Forest relies heavily on the scare actors who are simply people in hoodies jeans, and with random masks. Occasionally a few costumed clowns appeared but they are in the minority. Character development even on a minor scale can freshen this show up greatly.
It is time for Dracula’s Forest to respect its history, invest some money or reallocate its resources to bring this attraction into the modern era of haunts. Haunts with far smaller operations are doing fantastic work to bring innovation to the field, and Dracula’s Forest is frozen in time and needs to look at a new direction to ensure that it lasts for generations to come.