Location: 881 Highland Road Newtown PA 18940.
Sleepy Hollow Haunted Acres is a unique place, an almost throwback in some instances to haunted farms of the 1980s and ’90s, yet features shockingly one of the most immersive, fantasy-themed “haunted houses” we have ever visited. Featuring three haunted attractions and a large bonfire/midway, Sleepy Hollow Haunted Acres is a longstanding, popular destination in the Lehigh Valley-Philadelphia area. While at first glance the attraction has a “dated” feel the farm-old school atmosphere adds to the entire package presented at Sleepy Hollow and creates a level of immersion to an era before high-tech props and massively larger than life animatronics. When we first arrived, our expectations were rather low, and we were amazed at the number of people spending their time at the bonfire and in line for each attraction, so it gave us some pause about initial assumptions. Featuring three diverse attractions, a “Haunted Hayride,” “The Field” corn-maze inspired walk-through, and “House in the Hollow”- what quite possibly is the closest to “Disney’s Haunted Mansion” Sleepy Hollow Haunted Acres is a worthy visit, just for the “House in the Hollow” alone which is truly a fantasy brought to life in the deep, dark atmospheric countryside of Newton, PA.
“Haunted Hayride” is a throwback to the classic hayrides of the 1990s that embraced a wide range of themes, yet didn’t rely on giant animatronics, massive scenes or even sophisticated soundtracks. A lengthy but quick-moving journey, most of the scenes are rather generic, but cover all the anticipated themes of the season (chainsaws, monsters, “Headless Horseman,” “sacrifice,” evil-Scarecrow, etc.). Not built on a large scale, some of the scenes were unique such as a “haunted” pirate ship, violent car crash, and demented broken down circus that had come to rest within the cornfield. The hay wagons themselves are “caged,” allowing actors to climb into the wagons and many worked tirelessly to interact with each guest and create jump scares. While not the most technologically or modern attraction, Haunted Hayride pulls off some crazy stunts that border on the insane in today’s industry. In one scene the wagon is “chased” by a car with a crazy clown perched on the roof, and in the finale, a massive military-style vehicle comes dangerously close to the wagon multiple times, flashing lights, speeding up, and creating a sense of panic based on reality. Instead of using massive animatronics or set designs, Sleepy Hollow embraces a “reality” approach to scares, which in many cases is not the norm in the industry today. We found this ending scene to be tense, and effective and many in the wagons were quite frankly shocked at its execution. We would recommend that the attraction does “slow” down during some of the more impressive scenes, such as a sacrifice and scare-crow set, that we felt many guests missed the actual acting going on because the tractors were moving too quickly. Less time perhaps in the chainsaw tunnel and more time in these scenes would add a better balance to this attraction.
House in the Hollow
“House in the Hollow” will leave you speechless; it is a breathtaking, Victorian/Gothic-style “haunted house” clearly inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion. From the perfect outdoor environment which creates an actual “house” on the farm (effectively hidden from the other two attractions), we were taken into an almost fantastical nightmare, an attraction that used magic, 3D special effects, picture-perfect set design and engaging acting to bring to life what perhaps is the closest you can get to Disney’s legendary ride in a walk-through setting. “House in the Hollow” is ALL about the environment and creating a realistic representation of the surreal. While not indeed a full-fledged house, the set design from a massive exterior to scenes ranging from a dungeon to a trip through the house’s basement brings to life such a fantastic attraction that we cannot heap enough praise.
While not particularly scary, the “House in the Hollow” is “magical” for lack of a better word, and each actor tells their story, uses special effects, and in some cases, real “magic tricks” to breathe so much passion into the halls of this masterpiece. A trip through a graveyard that feels as though it is 100% REAL and places guests in a scene inspired by classic vintage horror movies leads into an ominous medieval dungeon, with demonic worshippers, giant (human) guards and an unforgettable escape/ending featuring a massive monster (that dwells in the dungeon’s pit). The entire attraction captures such as a breathtaking experience that we just wanted to keep exploring this perhaps one of a kind haunted attraction. Character, costume design and special FX is first class, and the interactive nature of the show puts guests into diverse scenarios (one guest in our party was “made to disappear”) in a trap box for example, and while there is room for a more intense “scary” experience, the goal is to obviously captivate a guests imagination and use that “power” as the foundation for scares and horror. The use of mirror tricks, CGI generated scenes, and 3D motion effects complement each room’s tragic tales, and the focus on theatrical creates a sense of immersion that really defied our expectations. There is NO comparison quality-wise to the other two attractions, which is not really a knock, but a reality of how unique the “House in the Hollow” is at entertaining and engaging guests in the closest you may ever get to a vintage, gothic haunted attraction.
Upon our first reflection, we thought “The Field” to quite lifeless and just an extensive walk through a cornfield featuring some small, claustrophobic set designs and themes that cater to the general haunt and horror fan. However, after more profound thought we found the attraction to be quite effective at generating simplistic scares, using creepy run-down set designs, shacks, and an eerie atmosphere to build a sense of tension and anticipation. While the attraction could use some more scare-actors, “The Field” is creepy in a sense that one feels all alone in the cornfield, and the scenes presented are slightly gritty and put guests in close contact with those trying to scare. From a disturbing scene filled with “plague” doctors to abandoned houses that hide actors in floorboards and in walls, there is psychological horror at play in “The Field.” No original soundtrack, no massive animatronics, or fancy character designs are needed in this creepy vintage attraction that relies heavily on a few of isolation and the unknown to enhance its realistic, creepy scenes and set pieces that one must escape from along this journey. What we would recommend is an improved timing system as the line for the attraction was unnecessarily long. We waited for over an hour, and once inside group still seemed to catch up to one another. Effective pacing and time management would add to the quality of the attraction and ensure that each group gets to “feel” the odd, strange and freaky feelings associated with this unique, yet vintage haunted attraction.
The Final Word
Sleepy Hollow Haunted Acres is undoubtedly a unique, throwback haunted attraction that upon deeper reflection continues to rise, in our opinion as one of the better attractions we have ever visited. Relying more on “reality” and bringing to life the incredible, must-see to believe “House in the Hollow” makes this place unique, as they have avoided the temptations to become animatronic and prop filled show with no passion. The passion and love for haunting can be felt across the board in each attraction, and the popularity alone in such a rural area is a testament to overall quality. We initially judged Sleepy Hollow as perhaps an attraction that has been lost to time, yet that is actually a positive in an industry that is becoming ever commercialized and reliant on technology to drive fear. Reality and atmosphere sometimes are more powerful agents of horror, and it is a philosophy that is embraced by the attractions featured at Sleepy Hollow Haunted Acres.