Hotel of Horror 2019 Haunted Attraction Review October 26, 2019 Location: Cherry Valley Rd, Saylorsburg, PA 18353 Web Page: http://www.hotelofhorror.com Introduction Numerous haunted attractions use social media and advertising to promote their haunts as “horror movies” come to life. Often, even the best haunts fail to achieve this lofty goal, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from variable actor quality, and ineffective structural designs that fail to convey any sense of “realism.” Several years ago, we became tired of the traditional “haunted house concept,” which generally can be described as a variety of mazes filled with fake-looking animatronics and actors who did little to create any sense of fear. Many of these haunts advertised themselves as “extreme” experiences, but all fell short of their goal. Around this time, we first came across advertisements for the Hotel of Horror attraction. Our first encounter with the dreaded Lake House will always be etched in our minds because it proved to us that haunted attractions could genuinely bring nightmares to life. Hotel of Horror was one of the first haunted attractions in the tri-state area to take on a gritty, mature, adult-themed approach to scaring guests, using its one of a kind environment to serve as a backdrop for scare actors to create legitimate scenes and storylines. Insane scare actors and the ominous “Lake House Hotel” created an experience that struck at our inner psyche, inspiring a passion for haunted attractions that have grown exponentially. Hotel of Horror, at times, is a grim experience that in spurts makes you forget you are in the confines of a safe haunted house. Being lost among the vicious inhabitants whose sole job is to target your innermost fears is terrifying, and combined with disturbing imagery around every corner and disorientating use of sound, it is impossible not to fear what is next. Even standard rooms or scenes are enhanced by twisted new characters, and this dark sense of creativity allows for characters that explore one’s personal limits. Seeing the pictures of those “missing,” cautiously exploring a very realistic “Satanic” mass/Party Scene and encountering “Dante” in a chaotic grand finale scene that is almost indescribable, every single aspect of this haunt is built to embrace evil and use that energy to create constant tension and terror. Hotel of Horror is one of the few genuinely theatrical yet serious haunted attractions we have ever visited, and we continue to be impressed each season and at times left in shock by the characters featured, custom designed from their innermost sickening dreams and nightmares. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are once again among the few attractions that can generate genuine fear, tailoring its show to target the personal, inner phobias of all guests that enter its imposing doors. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares embrace twisted creativity and bring to life scenarios that will forever remain scarred in your memories. Performance art and creating fear without touching is complicated, and this season, the attraction has perhaps assembled its most exceptional crew of purely terrifying creatures come to life. Hotel of Horror/Altered Nightmares is for mature audiences but does cater to a broad base of personalities and has always been a character actor-driven show. Theme wise scenes are twisted filled with dark humor and a pure sense of evil. Seeing a room of ‘missing persons” or a nightmarish interpretation of Christmas and a demented Easter bunny convey a sense of the odd and strange and traditional haunted attraction aspects such as long dark hallways lighting and fog effects create an engaging atmosphere. From a design standpoint, both connected attractions feature rooms that are detailed with real objects and oddities that are not found in Halloween stores or conventions. Custom designed scares from both a performance and design perspective make the attraction a special place. It is important to stress that this is a mature-themed attraction that is designed to target phobias fears and is not afraid of offending. History Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares haunted attractions are located inside the infamous abandoned Lake House Hotel in historic Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two hundred years and serves as the backdrop for the sinister haunted attractions brought to life within its confines. The tales begin with the original stagecoach stop, circa the late 1700s whose foundation only remains, sheathing the walls of the furthest basement rooms under the encapsulated Victorian mansion. The destruction of that original stagecoach stop gave birth to a tavern referred to at the time as The Saylorsburg Hotel, an Inn for Travelers, built by Charles Saylor in 1847. Over the course of the following 53 years, it saw much expansion and construction. The first “rebirth” of the Saylorsburg Hotel came around 1882 to 1888 with the coming of the railroad, removing the roof, building a third story, and renovating the exterior to celebrate the magnificent architecture of the Victorian Era. This remarkable mansion still exists inside the grand hotel addition built sometime between 1894 to 1900 and remains the same in size that you see today. The Hotel hosted the entire Monroe County Battalion of six companies of soldiers during the Civil War and was also used as a residence seeing its share of births and deaths. The local mines and railway used the Hotel at several points in its early history to house their business operations as well as the infirmary and place of “pick- up” for the next of kin when tragic accidents would occur. It is recorded that many men died on its front porch waiting for a family to arrive after suffering significant injuries in those local mines and railway construction. In October 1918, the local press reported that the Spanish Influenza had arrived in the Pocono Mountains, bringing sickness and death. The recently built county hospital was inadequate, and temporary hospitals were established in local resorts surrounding Stroudsburg. Then in 1929, again in October- just a few days before Halloween, investors in New York City began to panic- stocks bought high started to drop, and so the Great Crash of The New York Stock Exchange devastated the economy. Guests of the Lake House, having left New York in shame and despair, not knowing how to provide for their families, checked into the Hotel, had drinks in the bar, dinner in the dining room, and saw their final night on earth in the guest rooms on the second and third floors. It was at that time that Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, became known as “The Place to Hang Yourself.” In the late 1940s and 1950’s the basement area housed the Vickie Lee Blouse Company, employing ladies who worked on original textile equipment with minimum safety precautions. It can only be imagined the injuries suffered in the lower level of the Lake House Hotel during this time. After the close of this company, the lower level saw use as a barbershop, and then a state liquor license permitted the serving of alcoholic beverages in this same lower level, in addition to the first-floor bar. The basement was turned into a marine-themed bar, and in 1985 a failed robbery attempt left the owner of that time entirely incapacitated and resulted in the hotel closing for good. It was purchased in 1990 and turned into an Antique Co-Op, and then in 1992 saw its first haunted house attraction. Attractions Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares coexist within the confines of the infamous Lake House Hotel and perfectly complement each other. Stylistically, Hotel of Horror is a sinister attraction that celebrates the dark energy conveyed by the Lake House Hotel, while Altered Nightmares uses environmental scares to prey on inner fears using mature themes to create a twisted, adult-themed attraction. Hotel of Horror has once again developed a memorable, sophisticated horror movie quality show that brings to life horrific freaks, monsters, and violent inmates. An emphasis on providing a story-driven show that embraces controversial themes ensures that haunt fans looking for more than a traditional “boo” haunt will leave you at times questioning if the haunt has gone too far in using custom characters to create fears that strike at one’s deepest, darkest fears and phobias. Perhaps better than ever, the odd characters and memorable set designs of this attraction set it apart from traditional “haunted houses.” Structurally, each of the two attractions is designed to generate anticipation, fear, and trepidation using sensory triggers, immersive soundtrack, and unpredictable scenes of horror designed to create personal reactions. Gore and horrific imagery add to the realism of each attraction, helping guests forget there are in a “safe” environment. The transformational design is a strength of each attraction, allowing the fantastic character’s custom created by each scare actor to target each guests’ innermost fears, stripping away any sense of reality. Hotel of Horror has achieved monumental success in creating an adult-themed attraction that doesn’t venture entirely into the realm of “extreme” haunts yet never waivers in its mission to provide guests with a horror movie quality experience. Both Hotel of Horror and its coexisting haunt, Altered Nightmares, are unforgettable, actor-driven experiences that have returned to their rightful place as one of the top tiers haunts in the country. A completely non-touch haunt, Hotel of Horror/Altered Nightmares, has somehow mastered the art of creepiness and fear, using the environment as well as disturbing actors make one’s skin crawl. A variety of crazy and evil characters such as the imposing “Dante,” actors who crawl on walls, a disturbingly demented Spiderwoman, the evil Easter bunny, and two psychotic actors hidden within the confines of a padded room are just a few of the memorable nightmares featured at this attraction. Theme wise scenes are twisted filled with dark humor and a pure sense of evil. Seeing a room of ‘missing persons” or a nightmarish interpretation of Christmas and a demented Easter bunny convey a sense of the odd and strange and traditional haunted attraction aspects such as long dark hallways lighting and fog effects create an engaging atmosphere. Hotel of Horror Hotel of Horror’s 2019 theme “Revenge “loosely features an “asylum” or medical ward/prison escape-based theme; “They’ve been strapped, sedated, tormented, and tortured but now it’s time for the inmates to get even!” Hotel of Horror focuses more on the grittier, darker aspects of haunted attractions with character designs that convey a sense of violence set upon the backdrop of scenes that feature the most intricate of nightmarish details. Extensive work has been undertaken to add a new level of complexity to the interactive mazes found within the Hotel of Horror. Each scene is themed almost entirely, allowing twisted scare actors to create unique personal interactions with guests. We had several encounters with truly disturbing freaks, who use personal reactions to drive their character’s directions. Hotel of Horror prides itself on creating situations and interactions that are borderline disturbing, uncomfortable, and psychologically memorable. Hotel of Horror is not an “extreme” haunt per se as they do not “touch” guests but instead use methods that aim to strike at one’s’ psychological core. Grotesque imagery, closeness, and demented characterizations are used to create fear without touching on a mature level. We were taunted, cursed at, forced to crawl, and at times came eerily close with the horrific inhabitants of the Hotel of Horror and enjoyed every minute of it. Additional scare actors hidden throughout the dark corners and in various rooms added additional “jump” scares to the theatrical presentation expected by the attraction. Structurally, Hotel of Horror’s atmospheric soundtrack, lighting effects, and diversity in maze/scene design allow for a constant build of tension, anticipation, and cautious exploration, which enhances the overall experience. Hotel of Horror’s design coupled with the violence cultivated by its insane scare actors creates a mature haunt that is once again at its very best. Hotel of Horror creates an ever-dominating sense of paranoia, dread, and apprehension, which is the result of excellence in set design and structure. Periods of darkness, a disorientating soundtrack, and disturbing scenes create legitimate fear without actors having to touch to garner a reaction. Use of slow strobe lights, periods of pitch black and chilling sounds of horror fill each corridor, building excitement, and a sense of being isolated from reality. Memorable scenes include a “padded room” lit with slow strobe light effects that hide actors perfectly, the dressing room of a “cross-dresser”, a creepy room filled with antlers, twisted take on “Christmas,” surgical areas and a moving hallway filled with crypts and a child’s playroom with a disturbing creature that hides within stuffed animals. What augments fear in each room is the booming sounds of an ominous, satanic-infused soundtrack, periods of complete isolation, and a sense that someone is always looking over you. The sensory attack is used effectively in this attraction and continues to create a sense of immersion, and the level of overall set detail is second to none. Some of the characters featured in the Hotel of Horror are almost indescribable. For example, we encountered a “mother” who gleefully showed us her mutated “conjoined” twins and were dominated by a rather imposing butcher that seemed to be unable to avoid. Each character uses their innermost fears to project fear on others and create unworldly abominations. The noises and sounds made by this character haunt our memories to this day, as this was not a design typically featured by many mainstream haunts. Other insane characters include numerous “clowns” who stalk throughout a chain-linked basement, throw themselves violently against walls, and portray a sense of insanity. A disturbing “Black Mass/Party Scene” encourages guests to join Satan and a variety of straight-jacket bound “inmates” roamed each floor. The entire experience was, at times, mentally exhausting and mind-bending experience. While we were genuinely disturbed by most of the attraction, we did find that some of the rooms and mazes found in the attraction felt somewhat familiar. Furthermore, we were sad to see them remove the once terrifying “basement” area of the haunt for a new line for guests to enter Altered Nightmares. Despite these minor issues overall, this was a strong attraction and one you must see! Altered Nightmares Altered Nightmares’ 2019 theme “The Other Side” embraces the sinister “magical” side of horror, with an emphasis on demonic, dark themes; “The Other Side – What really happens when it’s time for your journey through the gates?” While like previous seasons, featuring voodoo themes, dark seances, and twisted clowns, there is a distinct sense of insanity that permeates each room, and in reality, the attraction has evolved into a surreal horror experience. Representation of nightmarish scenes is not an understatement, “Spellbound” at times is not only terrifying but a mind-numbing experience. Scare actors are relentless, and perhaps even more aggressive in this attraction in comparison with Hotel of Horror. As was the case of the Hotel of Horror, the scare actors and creativity in character design are what makes this attraction standout. Visions of child abductions, torment were stricken across each room, and this attraction utilized sensory assault to augment fear. “Dante’s Inferno” is the grand finale of the show, an almost indescribable character so terrifying from imagery and acting standpoint we will likely never forget its unholy creation. “Altered Nightmares successfully transforms the entire hotel environment into a living, breathing nightmare, challenging guests to escape. Final Word Hotel of Horror is the perfect haunt for those looking to “grow up” in the haunt industry. This is a severe and mature-themed attraction that combines classical/traditional haunting with such a dark, sinister, at times evil twist we cannot praise these attractions approach enough. As one cautiously explores each room, sick and sinister imagery dominates the scenes and creates such an uneasy feeling that it is best described as a never-ending nightmare. Atmospheric sound, periods of complete darkness, blinding lights give way to scenes of graphic horror and characters that are all so very real in their vision and execution. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares feature some of the strongest scare-actors in the industry, with custom-designed costumes and world-class make-up that adds a sense of realism to the surreal. Once again, this season, several scare actors stood out among their contemporaries and completely dominated their respective scenes and mini-theatrical presentations that exist in each haunt. The quality of characterizations on display in Lake House Hotel are so reliable that they can be interconnected to create an entire horror universe, one that is so well scripted and created it can serve as its own media show. Not many haunted attractions, if any, are on the level of the infamous Lake House Hotel, and we love every season as it truly is an exclusive haunt. While we do miss the basement, which now a wait-line inside of the Hotel of Horror (it was at one-point terrifying), we understand the need to change and manage lines better in between both attractions. Furthermore, our disappointment in the basement’s removal was reduced as this year we found several of the actors to be way over the top and perhaps the best in the haunts industry. “Dante” the “finale” character of Altered Nightmares was hauntingly disturbing in every single way from mannerisms to his altered voice and the scenery surrounding him; it created such an unsettling feeling we had to leave. Another strong actor was what is best described as a “Pig Faced” Demon that was featured in a “Black Mass” Cult Scene. The creature is best described as a pig-faced demon with wings that makes some of the most inhuman vile noises one could ever hear. The creature itself made us feel comfortable and complimented such a dark scene that we still were disturbed by the performance after leaving. Evolution of haunted attraction design and presentation is starting to take on a more visceral, psychological approach aimed at targeting the innermost fears of veteran haunt fans yearning for a personal, immersive experience. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmare’s Haunted attractions have mastered the art of using psychological triggers to spur real “fear” that goes beyond the traditional expirations associated with what is best described as a “boo” haunt. Traditional tenants of haunted attraction design, coupled with sensory-based triggers, augment a twisted, nefarious approach to attraction design, allowing one to live out their darkest fears. One must let go of preconceived notions and open themselves up mentally to an immersive experience aimed at inspiring real-life nightmares challenging social and cultural norms. Both attractions housed within the confines of the Lake House Hotel are unapologetically mature, and at times downright brutal. A constant sense of paranoia spawned by disturbing artistic and theatrical designs compliment the demented scare acting, as well as the exploitive nature of this gritty, “real” horror attraction. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares, thrive on psychological horror, encouraging careful exploration while challenging one to confront one’s innermost fears. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are character-driven nightmares that are ideally housed in the dark atmosphere that permeates throughout the Lake House Hotel. The attraction has spent the past few seasons developing its show to focus on creating a haunt that once again stands out among many of the local and national haunts visited this season. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are on track towards creating an innovative show that is engrossing and terrifying. The historical backdrop of the Lake House Hotel adds to the “realism” of this gritty attraction, which aims to continually create situations that are creepy, sometimes uncomfortable, and pleasurably unsettling. As mentioned previously, what drives the success of each attraction is the creative design that aims to strike at mature themes and incredible scare actors that play innovative roles that are unlike any other haunted attraction. Scare actors stalk, they breathe down the guest’s neck, they use adult language and play of personal responses to interact with guests on a real level. Make-up and costume design are top-notch, and each strives to garner genuine reactions from each guest. These scare-actors “believe” in their characters, which feature exquisite make-up and costume designs that are not purchased from local Halloween stores. The attention to detail (even the most minor) needs to be witnessed to appreciate, as each room features set pieces that are unlike any other found in most major haunted attractions. Exploration of each set design is used as a misdirection tool, and we often admired the disturbing details of the attraction only to be confronted by an insane scare actor. You will see scenes of satanic worship, demented clown rooms, a witch “dinner,” grotesque bathrooms, and many sets that embrace violent imagery. In between each room/set design, sensory triggers such as periodic darkness, blood-stained walls, strobe lights, fog, visual effects, and incredible soundtrack built a constant sense of paranoia that increases from scene to scene. Hotel of Horror is not for those easily offended by scenes of gore, crude humor, and disturbing themes are hallmarks of this terrifying attraction. The Lake House Hotel is the perfect backdrop for a horror movie quality experience, and the quality of acting and inter-scene experiences have once again brought this attraction back to the point of being a horrific mature experience. As you visit the Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares this season, please be advised that they let only small groups into each attraction to experience the full effect of each “show. An emphasis on close actor/guest interactions add to wait times, and VIP upgrades are available. Furthermore, it is essential to note that each attraction is rather lengthy, roughly a half-hour or longer, so this is one attraction that provides value for its prices. Visit the Lake House Hotel this season and experience one of the most disturbing and mature haunted attractions from a design and acting standpoint visited this season, with a renewed emphasis on using innovative concepts and mature themes to cater to adult fans looking for a dark, horrific experience. We would like to express our continued gratitude to the actors and staff of the Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares. Furthermore, we are especially thankful to Marlo Ambrosio for her continued creativity in bringing to life this beautiful, yet horrific attraction as well as the detailed insight into the rich history of the Lake House Hotel.