Slaughterland Screampark (Slaughterland)is a massive undertaking, a brand new developing haunted attraction outside of downtown Binghamton, NY, that has perhaps endless potential to improve and the foundation to do so. In its first year, the attraction features a lengthy outdoor trail and four distinct themes that cover a wide array of horror-themed entertainment. While not yet at the level of regional and national competitors, there is a clear framework for success and ideas in place that, with the proper execution, development, and only time can turn this attraction into a must-see experience. We visited Slaughterland with minimal expectations knowing the challenges associated with operating a first-year haunted attraction on such a large scale. When we left, we were pleasantly surprised at the embryonic show that has improved vastly, even reports we received on week one. Now there is a great deal of room for improvement and growth, but that is partly what makes this attraction so exciting as rarely do attractions “start” with such a solid foundation. Set upon over a vast stretch of land, trails are prepared and the core attractions themselves are well ahead of most first-year haunts in terms of infrastructure and quality design. Starting a massive “scare-park” in one season is not an easy task
The potential exists to build a fantastic show, and with a season under their belt and available resources, Slaughterland Screampark has serious potential to be one of the premier haunts in the region. In its embryonic stages, Slaughterland has already used guest feedback, reviews, and advice from fellow experts to improve its core starting show, and rarely does one see a first-year show improve at all during the season. While we will be critical with some of our points in this review, overall, we left completely surprised at how strong the attraction was for its first season and the simple logistical challenges associated with constructing such a massive event over such a vast space of open land.
Slaughterland features four core attractions (and a fantastic midway with so much activity, food options, and beer from a local brewery), each which is overall unique and for a first-year attraction are surprisingly large-scale in size and for the most part effective platforms for scares. What hinders the attraction’s in terms of public perception is their somewhat similarity to other “haunts” within driving distance. Furthermore, operationally, guests should NEVER be reminded of the competition or other places, and the focus should always be on the show itself. We were dumbfounded when staff members would ask after an attraction, “Did you enjoy the attraction?” and when some guests yelled that it was not Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Attractions, the staff members actually APOLOGIZED for the show and said they were trying to improve. While this may sound trivial it hinders the perception of the larger show, reminds people of “other” attractions, and is entirely unnecessary.
Another challenge is associated with the overall size of the property. A lengthy (and creepy) trail connects the three core attractions. So much opportunity is available to add mini-scenes, light up some of the almost invisible set pieces and hide actors which do more than stand in the pathway which was the case with many of the “characters” we encountered on our evening (many of the scare actors seem almost timid or afraid to engage guests, some would just stand in spots or try to block guests from moving forward, but others were effective at performing their roles). Size, while a positive in some regards, is a challenge from a design standpoint but also an opportunity for almost endless growth, and Slaughterland is poised to employ its resources to augment and enhance its already solid foundational show.
“Dark Magic” is a “voodoo-themed” bayou inspired “pitch black” style maze and perhaps the most intense attraction at Slaughterland. Featuring an impressive facade, and brief indoor haunt that embraces its “theme” the sound of loud banging drums (which is overdone) leads guests along the journey of a mostly completely dark maze. Several scenes intertwined between the dark corridors feature skeletons and bones, all in line with the “voodoo theme” of the attraction, and the maze itself is lengthy and designed to build fear. Isolation is used effectively, and while not a total assault on one’s senses, it is incredibly challenging to navigate this attraction, which causes a natural sense of paranoia. “Dark Magic” features one of the most effective “scare-actors” of all the attractions, a creepy voodoo priestess who guards the entryway into this submersion into darkness.
“Frightmares 3D” has a fantastic opening facade and set-piece that stands out when viewed using 3D glasses. Once inside, a booming metal soundtrack and funhouse style is effective initially at generating reactions. However, the scare-acting and performance of the “clowns” in this funhouse rarely goes beyond simple yelling, and many of the scenes/walls look the “same” over the course of the journey, which reduces the initial “wow” factor associated with the 3D immersion. There is an opening dream-nightmare sequence that did not play out as planned but overall the attraction could use more “action” inside of its walls.
“Wendigo Woods” is the long trail that connects “Frightmares 3D” to the immense carnival attraction. Featuring a few scare-actors that block the pathway, and an eerie soundtrack, the trail is enjoyable for a sense of isolation. Several smaller scenes, such as a dollhouse theme, appear, but really most of the trail is to serve as a connection between “Frightmares 3D” and the “Fallen Carnival.” Some compelling scenes were featured during this excursion, including a solid tribute to “Leatherface,” an odd character bound by his neck, and a mini village with a devilish church. Each of these smaller scenes can be the inspiration for the low points along the trail and really add character to a themed trail that most people would not otherwise pay attention to.
“Fallen Fairgrounds” is the MOST disturbing attraction at Slaughterland as we did not expect the attraction to feature such a decrepit rundown representation of an “abandoned” carnival (well done!). Once again, many customers seemed to compare the attraction to another haunt, but the style of “scaring” is by and large diverse from that famous attraction (Lost Carnival at Reaper’s Revenge). Clown “actors” are undoubtedly creepy, and while they seemed to only focus on females (who were easy scares), they did use unique lines and had a feeling of being rather evil than lost in time. The carnival itself is built shockingly realistically from a standpoint that it feels rundown, gritty, and a junkyard for old rides and amusements that now is home to the insane. A broken-down Ferris wheel gives way to a rather odd ending, where a masked monster propositioned guests to “have fun with them” in his trailer, and upon deeper reflection, the off-color ending fit the derelict, almost “trashy” feel to the “Fallen Fairgrounds.”
The Final Word
Slaughterland ‘s development is the foundation for potential “haunt” greatness, and the talent behind this attraction has the experience and knowledge to make this haunt a long-term success. Social media and online hype initially hurt customer perception, but over the season, the attraction has taken the necessary steps to improve its show and always put the “customer” first. A quality show is dictated by the way people are treated, and we know that that the development team is focused on providing a first-class show. The 2019 season is indicative of how an attraction SHOULD use customer feedback and negative reviews to improve a show. Challenges logistically, and bad luck (damage to sets via fire and a late start in development) held back the show in some regards, but overall its rapid growth and popularity already in the region is an indication of its quality, and the understanding that supporting now will fuel the potential for further growth is evident.
Slaughterland is from a design standpoint solid, and from what we have digested, the quality of “acting” has vastly improved throughout the season, with room for improvement still evident. Building a massive large-scale “scare-park” with so much open space is a daunting task in less than one year, and what has been constructed is impressive for a first-year show. What is important to stress is that significant plans are in place for future growth, and the entire attraction already is ahead of many in terms of show quality, structural design, and overall atmosphere. Review scores and public feedback, which we monitor on many attractions, and as the season progresses most scores drop (people complain about lines, actors being tired, etc.). In the case of Slaughterland, reviews and feedback have risen, which is an indication of improvement and a testament to the hard work and dedication to the art and professionalism of the industry held by the management and staff of this embryonic attraction. Slaughterland has the hype, marketing, and the structural foundation for excellence in its favor, now just needs to really make an impact next season, differentiate from any potential competitors, and establish itself as a premier, haunted attraction destination.
Topic Five Suggestions
Enhance scenes, go more substantial (larger than life build sizes-get people to “look upwards”), more detailed, and more gore. People expect “slaughter” and “family-friendly” haunts are way overdone. Marketing depicts an intense, mature experience…give it to them!
Vastly improve scare-acting, build in (long-term) a make-up/costume division, allow touching, perhaps host “extreme” or “intensity” nights to get repeat customers! Consider “extreme” but safe adult-themed options, abduct guests, use mature language, etc. Also, make sure actors work hard to get reactions, stay in defined “characters.”
Ensure professional standards are maintained across the board. No one should be stuck outside the haunt in a massive line longer than the attraction’s lines themselves.
Differentiate from other haunts. Don’t have staff members remind people they are at Slaughterland and not another haunt. It must be about Slaughterland!
Implement long-term and short-term growth, marketing, and partnership plans. Keep up the local sponsors and partnerships as well as look to explore national outlets. Build the Slaughterland brand!
It is not often that we can call someone a “legend” in the haunt and entertainment industry, and it is not often we get to speak and learn from those few that are in this category of excellence. Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses is owned and operated by a true legend, an innovator, and icon in the industry Mr. Michael Jubie. In this special edition of the “Electroshock Spotlight, we were honored to sit down with and interview a true pioneer and owner of one of the most popular and finest attractions recognized across the globe! Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses is one of the BEST haunted attractions in the country and an all-time favorite of ours. It is a sincere honor to have Mr. Jubie’s time, and we hope you enjoy the insight into the industry from someone who has built a haunted scare-park that perfectly celebrates and embraces the Halloween season.