Dracula’s Forest, Ransom, PA, is one of the longest operating haunted attractions on the East Coast and a pioneer in the industry. For 35 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 entertaining 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. Dracula’s Forest has so much potential for a true revival it is insulting to those patrons that visit every single year and hope for an improved or at the least operational show that begins to respect itself as a pioneer and innovator in the haunt industry. It is easy for a haunt fan to appreciate what is featured at Dracula’s Forest as well as easy to become frustrated at what “can be” with minimal investment and renewed energy aimed at creating a first-class, competitive show.
Not only is a visit to Dracula’s Forest a tradition, but it also an exercise in frustration as a once “great” haunted attraction has fallen behind the times, and in some instances into disrepair. It is a testament to the overall atmosphere and base attraction design that it still is an enjoyable hayride, as so many glaring problems become more visible and disheartening each season. Perhaps no other attraction we have ever visited fails to realize its potential like Dracula’s Forest and with some minor and larger improvements, it once again can rise to be one of the premier attractions in Northeast, Pennsylvania and beyond. We fondly look back at the glory days of Dracula’s Forest, when the midway was booming, the infamous “Shockwalk” challenged guests to escape and the hayride itself was filled with energy and excitement. At one point in time, Dracula’s Forest was the premier haunted attraction, a terrifying experience that embraced new themes each season, maintained energy that spurred ominous dread in each customer, and created memories that likely are engrained in the minds of the generations of those fans who still visit today and hold out hope for a resurgence. (Sadly the attraction has closed its gates, with rumors/hopes of returning in a different form in 2021).
Dracula’s Forest features two attractions, the vintage “Haunted Hayride”, and additional walkthrough “The Dark Kingdom”. “The Dark Kingdom” was closed due to flooding on our visit.
Dracula’s Forest’s hayride is a long enjoyable journey in an atmosphere drips of authenticity and horror. Scenes and sets are unique to this haunt as many were first constructed generations ago yet still hold a certain “creepy” factor in their design. From a familiar opening in which a chainsaw-yielding monster gives an ominous warning, to a haunting graveyard set, the design of each scene is generally effective. What holds Dracula’s Forest back from excellence and competition is that these scenes are beginning to break down and show their age. Many of the once functioning props no longer even work, such as a large “snakehead” which once would cause a startle scare and a creepy “Wizard” who would greet guests as they entered the hallowed grounds of this longstanding attraction. In fact, it is rather sad that instead of repairing or replacing the “Wizard” is replaced by a motionless “Crypt-Keeper” prop that once sat atop a unique “treasure” scene. The old “Wizard” prop stands motionless next to this now, almost thrown into the scene with zero thought. Most scenes are planned this way and several guests on our visit asked if there were any “themes” to set design or characters featured by the attraction.
Dracula’s Forest’s “Haunted Hayride” features numerous “monsters, clowns, psychos, and other random ghouls” that do a great job of hiding in the woods. However, little to no attempt is made to ever make sense of actor placement or create any type of characters or stories within the attraction. A majority of the “scare-actors” are people in masks with hoodies, sweatpants/jeans, and boots. The haunt industry has evolved well past the time when attractions could throw people with masks on into the woods and while a few actors wear “costumes” and try to portray characters such as psychotic clowns, and an undead bride. Seeing actual characters (few as there may be) is a welcome sight as is the brief appearances of “Michael Myers” freshly escaped from “Haddonfield Hospital.” Again, the majority of scare-actors have zero purposes and can easily be assets to the show with some minor training and costume adjustments. Screaming in people’s faces, asking them if they want to play and taunting teenage girls who “scream” are all rather cheap “scare tactics” that need to be left to history.
Furthermore, the once infamous “Tunnel of Terror” finale has been reduced to a sad shell of its former self. Instead of a terrifying, memorable ending, we saw a person with a “Joker” mask and sneakers on dance oddly, and two other random “monsters” roam the sides of the wagon to the tune of “Sweet Dreams.” Little to no effort was placed into this ending which was once themed to leave people speechless.
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 competitor. 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.
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. 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.