Location: 1911 Scranton Carbondale Highway (Business Route 6), Dickson City, PA 18519
Dates and Hours:Circle of Screams is open every Friday & Saturday from September 14-22, then every Friday through Sunday, September 28th thru October 28th. Ticket booth opens at 6:00 pm and closes promptly at 10:30 pm; the last ride leaves at 11:00 pm.
Circle of Screams (COS), in Dickson City, PA is a perplexing show, one that spurs a sense of angst yet remains entertaining almost in spite of itself. No other haunted attraction has had such a troubled history in terms of show quality show as COS, and no other haunted attraction perhaps has so many positive aspects that it almost escapes the pre-defined constrictions that limit its overall growth. From an infrastructure and investment standpoint, COS is in desperate need of an upgrade, and it is almost sad to see such talented performers, and staff re-purpose broken down, old scenes to create an entertaining narrative. At times, the lack of scene/structural development hinders any type of storyline and forces guests to become almost confused with a lack of holistic narrative. Quality haunted attractions encourage creativity, embrace a spirit of professionalism and provide the platform for their performers/staff to maximize their potential. In 2018, COS has sacrificed much of its hayride to enhance its walk-through attractions, the intense “Delfino Manor” and a lengthy tribute to “The Walking Dead.” The decision to cut back on the hayride allows for a more “personal” interactive experience and while we do miss some scenes it demonstrates a spirit of change and a willingness to take risks in show production.
Circle of Screams’ initial attraction “Haunted Hayride” has been severally cut down from its previous incarnations. What was once the “core” attraction at COS is essentially a ride in the forest, with some minor scenes (including a killing of the old “mascot”- “The Director”), a brief encounter with “Jason” at “Camp Crystal Lake” and a bizarre encounter with a rather violent “Toothfairy”, but from a structural standpoint it has fallen far behind other hayrides you can visit this season. Some scenes were essentially baron and it was clear that there were little to no upgrades made to the attraction this year. “Haunted Hayride” now serves as an entertaining diversion, a pre-show almost to the “walk-through” attractions that now serve as the centerpiece of COS.
“Haunted Hayride” is the launching point as guests are guided along two unique journey’s a theatrical carnival style dance performance (featuring a rather disturbing bearded woman) known as “Cirque De Peur”, and a shockingly excellent tribute to the AMC hit television series “The Walking Dead.” While the “Cirque De Peur” show is entertaining, it would likely be best served as a pre-show/stage show act, and it lacked the “scare-factor” of last season as many guests were waiting for a sudden “surprise” yet the show simply ended. “The Walking Dead” tribute features character actors playing the roles of “Rick and Carl Grimes” as well as the infamous “Negan.” Performances along an outdoor stretch to a “camp (repurposed hillbilly scene)” are phenomenal. We are not generally fans of “zombie” themed attractions yet found the numerous “undead” actors to be genuinely creepy and the scenes acted out to be mature, adult-themed in presentation and extremely violent.
First class actor quality and engaging character-driven performances are where COS thrives, and “The Walking Dead” tribute (which should almost be classified as its own attraction) highlights each actor’s talent. “The Walking Dead” tribute could have been a corny recreation of a television show an almost cheap knockoff yet the presentation and performances of each character ensured that it was an engaging, entertaining and darkly humorous experience. It is a risky move to build an entire stretch of an attraction based off a popular franchise yet COS did a fantastic job of using structures formerly featured in its hayride to create a realistic representation and fitting tribute to “The Walking Dead.”
Delfino Manor is the centerpiece attraction at Circle of Screams, an intense, mature horror experience that makes a visit worthwhile. “Delfino Manor” is constructed from the remnants of former lackluster attractions at COS including the “Maze of Torment” and “Asylum Vortex.” What is built in these attractions place is a walk-through haunted house that is not aimed at being “friendly” to those looking for a quick “boo” scare. Scare actors are absolutely insane in this attraction, appearing out of nowhere, as intense lighting and fog effects strike the senses and hulking monsters such as a deranged/stalking inhabitant simply known as “Tiny” act our scenes of unadulterated violence in this chilling house of torment. Loud “metal” music blares throughout each hallway and once outside again the talented scare actors turn a rather simple maze into a mind-bending experience. “Delfino Manor” is a mature haunted house that has all the core tenants of a “scare” focused attraction. Tight spaces, the perfect combination of “jump” scares and acting coupled with sensory assault create an experience that we wish was only longer. “Delfino Manor” is an entirely unique experience, which should continue to grow and become the “core” attraction at COS. The attraction does fall slightly flat in its conclusion as a brief trip through a wooded area includes an encounter with a unique “Minotaur” who was entertaining in his performance but confusing in placement, as well as a quick trip through a vortex tunnel that did not seem to work. Despite the rather underwhelming end, “Delfino Manor” was nonstop fun, it made each guest feel isolated amongst the insane and the type of mature attraction that is not afraid to experiment and take chances in its presentation. Special recognition needs to go out to the various actors who were downright violent in their physical style of acting, pouring their heart and soul into their relentless performances.
The Final Word
Circle of Screams has an incredible acting team, quality makeup, and character design and at times thoroughly developed “characters” yet lacks the structural impressiveness to compete with its much larger regional competitors. Furthermore, at $30.00 in its current state COS is lacking in terms of overall value, as while entertaining, cuts made to the hayride and repurposing of older scenes hinder the overall quality of an otherwise highly entertaining and at times intense show. Competitors are similar in price range yet offer longer, more robust shows. While this may seem critical, we still enjoyed our visit at COS and found that the “Delfino Manor” attraction was well worthy of a trip this season. Ideally, management will realize how talented the performers and crew are at pulling off a great show despite a blatant lack of upgrades to invest in the physical attractions themselves. We do recommend you visit and support this attraction as it is unique, actor-driven and creative in its presentation. “The Walking Dead-Tribute” and “Delfino Manor” are disturbing, engaging experiences that allow each scare-actor to shine, and are perfect examples of the endless potential waiting to be unlocked at Circle of Screams.