Closing out its 44th Season of Fear, the legendary Elysburg Haunted House (Elysburg, PA) is a must-visit “old school haunted house” experience for those who love the spirit of Halloween. Despite serving as a “charity haunt” and not having the most massive construction/marketing/performance budget, the Elysburg Haunted House is a regional tradition and one of the most legitimately terrifying attractions anyone can visit. Authenticity, reality, and custom-designed nightmares are brought to life in an abandoned farmhouse that sits along the ominous “haunted trail.”
The Elysburg Haunted House is vintage in design. It is one of the most enjoyable, intense, and insane attractions one could ever visit, with scenes, themes, and a sense of realism unmatched by “mainstream” haunted attractions. Featuring a massive midway with numerous food and merchandise items, the sound of heavy metal carries through an enormous field, and the “atmosphere” itself is discernibly “old school.” It likely has gone unchanged for the better part of the past 44 seasons. What is unique about this destination is the level of creativity, the interactive scenes, and at times pure chaos that takes place within the confines of a genuinely disturbing “haunted house” as well as two lengthy walking trails. Taking risks, embracing dark themes such as murder, satanism, and then creating unique scenes that will leave you questioning what just occurred is part of the pure horrific joy created by this longstanding Halloween event. Sets are custom designed, and passionate volunteers (which does lead to the occasional actor mistake, but this is rare), and there is legitimacy in the interactive nature of the entire haunted attraction.
Rooms collapse, doors slam in victims’ faces, guests can be trapped almost at any time, and props/animatronics actually interact with those who come close (such as a series of snakes in a relatively brief but crazy swamp scene). Not embracing one theme per se, the entire experience is best described as a journey into one’s nightmares, targeting every potential phobia and generating nonstop action, chaos, and excitement throughout the outdoor and indoor portions of the haunted attraction. The Elysburg Haunted House is not for those looking for massive trade-show purchased animatronics but is the place for those that actually want to be disturbed, scared, and gritty. The perfect combination between a “funhouse” and modern indoor haunted attraction and the product of 44 years of dedicated passion for haunting the community.
The attraction layout and design itself is far different than most houses and hayrides, with the initial portion serving as a primarily outdoor trail with numerous scenes of terror and themes along the journey. Some of the more elaborate scenes include a disturbing “Satanic” church, highlighted by darkness, bathed in blood-red light, and featuring imagery straight out of a horror movie. Elysburg Haunted House uses sound and theatrics to amplify experiences, relying heavily on heavy metal (bands such as “Ghost,” “Avatar,” “Metallica,” “GWAR” were some notable inclusions featured. Outdoor scenes such as a graveyard, toxic waste dump, and other themes served as a significant buildup to the core attraction of an old abandoned farmhouse that is the legitimate “haunted house,” the centerpiece of the lengthy attraction. The “haunted house” starts off rather auspiciously as a group of guests is entered into an “elevator,” which features an interactive drop-floor and video similar to other larger haunted attractions. However, as soon as the doors of the elevator open, innovative, vintage madness takes control. We walked into a nightmarish representation of “Freddy Kruger,” who actually had multiple “arms” projecting from each side, a scene ripped right out of the movies, and one that left us questioning “how” the magic was created.
Immediately the attraction takes a sinister turn, as guests transverse into the horrific moldy basement, a dirt floor, dimly lit, creaking basement, featuring an actor portraying a demented “mother” who wanted to be bathed. The twisted characters featured and tight, almost crawl spaces made for a genuine sense of fear and uncomfortable, and again, this is a “REAL” basement; the atmosphere is not created, and legitimacy helps build anticipation as well as anxiety. Subsequent floors feature various absolutely insane set pieces and designs, none of which you will see in modern mainstream haunted attractions. For example, as soon as guests feel as though they may be escaping a “room,” it collapses, trapping guests and leaving them at the mercy of actors who, by and large, do a great job at taunting and scaring while maintaining “social distancing.”
Disturbing themes and scenes are obviously created in-house, and some of the ideas presented left us in complete shock. For example, in one room, a hulking actor slit his throat (spewing “blood”) while a child with a bunny mask was laughing gleefully poking guests with a “chainsaw” outside of a cage. A psychedelic circus featured a climax with a suicidal clown, and each scene features disorientating sound, music, and moments of pure shock that create nonstop action and intensity. Another set involved a twisted doctor and a “lights out” illusion that revealed an assistant yielding a hulking chainsaw. Each room is interactive, encourages exploration, is “real,” and creates constant paranoia and insanity. Once outside the confines of the house, the attraction does slow down and gradually becomes “calmer.” A fun, somewhat amusing, and slightly off-color visit with a group of witches leads to another outdoor trail that features carnival themes, a twisted dollhouse (with trapped victims), and various other scenes. What is important to stress that each setting is unique, well developed, and tells a “story” without having to rely upon serious acting or performance-based interactions.
The Elysburg Haunted House is genuinely terrifying; it leaves a constant sense of paranoia lurking and exceeds any expectations that local haunts cannot compete with the mainstream. We wish we could just explore the entire house of horrors alone; it is genuinely disturbing, real, and so creatively well-constructed that it is impossible not to be left impressed and perhaps speechless. From the sound effects to horrific scenes of gore and intense/crazy acting, the Elysburg Haunted House is pure horror and an absolute thrill ride of old school haunted attraction fun. Yes, some of the actors may not be as strong as those in more massive haunts; at times, some are out of place, and no, you will not see the latest largest animatronic from a trade-show, but you will experience fear and fun in an attraction that will celebrate its monumental 45th year in operation in 2021. We wholeheartedly recommend the Elysburg Haunted House, a regional hidden gem and one that deserves a larger spotlight!