Shocktoberfest, Sinking Spring, PA, continues to be one of the most intense, unique, and genuinely terrifying haunted attractions that have become an annual visit. A “scream park” style destination attraction, Shocktoberfest features numerous “attractions” that embrace the diversity of the Halloween season and give guests their money’s worth in terms of pure horror-inspired entertainment. Shocktoberfest’s attractions are unique, and each offers a memorable experience that combines to create a diverse package that is nonstop action and horror infused entertainment. Logistically, it is easy to get “lost” between each attraction, as directions are not always clear. It is sometimes challenging to find the staff to help make sense of the large “scream park,” but the attractions and grittiness that stand out amongst general competitors give Shocktoberfest an added layer of fear. Grittiness and a sense of anxiety can be felt as soon as one enters the property, and year after year, this popular attraction continues to get even better.
“Unknown 2.0” is a classical haunted attraction that aims to play on each guest’s fears and phobias. Using immersive sound, smell, and lighting effects, each scene subjects’ guests to the common most fears such as “clowns,” “snakes/reptiles,” “rats,” “bees,” “dolls,” etc. Each room is richly designed, and the focus on sensory assault caused even more tension as we had to carefully explore each room. Shocktoberfest puts a great deal of effort into developing a first-class “sound system,” and the lack of light augmented each little noise and, in some cases, “smell” in each of the “phobia” themed rooms. What is enjoyable about the “Unknown 2.0” is that while it is a traditional haunt, there is an entertaining almost “Disney World” like the storyline is interwoven and truly utilized to its full potential in this attraction. A mad scientist is in “charge” of the experiments to force patrons to “face their fears” and set designs to complement each phobia and add a sense of purpose to the entire attraction. Sensory scares are heightened in the dark, and we still can distinctly smell the “cotton candy” as we recall entering the evil “carnival/clown” scene and the creepy sound of snakes hissing as we made our way cautiously through the “snake room.” The level of darkness creates a real sense of horror-immersion; scenes such as the “creepy doll” scene lit by the flickering light created a disturbing atmosphere that an otherwise typical setting would likely be ignored. Shocktoberfest’s ability to balance the “dark” with what guests should see added to the entire attraction and really helped augment the fear factor during this special evening.
“Unknown 2.0” was perfectly balanced in terms of periods of darkness and visibility, adding a sense of being lost and at the mercy of the doctor and his experiments. Sensory assault is vital, robbing one’s sense of vision, bombarding auditory senses with the smells of cotton candy, grotesque abominations, and immersive use of sound effects that disorientate and create times an overload of fear. Despite not having many scare actors, the theme’s and audio-visual insanity created by the “Unknown 2.0” started moments of feeling genuinely uneasy, and the narrative created by the “storyline” built anticipation towards each “experiment.” A high-intensity experience, special effects, animatronics, effective jump scares, and a sensory-immersive experience makes the “Unknown 2.0” a funhouse inspired laboratory of madness and fear.
Prison of the Dead
Many haunted attractions claim to create “immersive” experiences that place the guest in realistic scenes or horror sets; however, most generally fall slightly short of such a daunting goal. “Jail/Prison” themed attractions are somewhat familiar in the industry and usually account for a few scenes within a more immense attraction. Exceptions to this style do exist; haunts such as Eastern State Penitentiary’s “Terror Behind the Walls” operate in former operating, now abandoned detention facilities; Shocktoberfest has built a “model” abandoned prison from the ground up. “Prison of the Dead” may be one of the BEST indoor haunted attractions we have ever visited and continues to get longer, more authentic, and more detailed each season. Seasons ago, the attraction served as a “flag tag” type experience, but on our last two visits, this attraction has focused more on a traditional “scare-focused” approach.
“Prison of the Dead” is so authentic that it rivals “real” abandoned prisons and facilities in design, scenery, and environment. From small rusty prison cells that rattle upon every step to a creepy 1940’s era soundtrack, the entire experience is awe-inspiring and times too terrifying (the attraction MASTERS the rather unclassified art of “urban decay” to create a period specific-abandoned feel to the structure). While the attraction itself is highly detailed, the actors themselves do a great job telling mini-stories and going beyond the “zombie” style grunts and moans featured during the hayride. At times we were plunged into complete darkness, and at other times, candlelight flickered and lit each scene, creating an even more intense effect while maintaining the integrity of each detailed set. 1940-1960s era design can be felt around every corner, and the scenes themselves feel alive and real. Walking upstairs on rotting, rusted stairs only to be stalked by a hulking-prison guard is an intimidating experience, and Shocktoberfest has created truly an unusual, truly immersive attraction that rarely gives away its secrets. From the moment the old “prison bus” drops guests off to the ending sequence, which features a long sewer/outdoor escape experience, the entire environment is transformed and genuinely builds anticipation and fear. Not enough praise can be heaped on this attraction, its aggressive and talented actors, and the overall almost near-perfect recreation of a hellacious prison that is correctly named “Prison of the Dead!”
While practicing social distancing and safety protocols, we found the actors in this attraction to be far more aggressive with each other and able to hide in the most unexpected places, which always kept us on edge. It is important to stress how “real” this abandoned environment is. The entire sensory experience using sound, lighting, interactive rooms that force guests to crawl and duck, and a design, unlike any other, transforms the whole experience. The way actors “interact” with their environments and guests is, at times, genius, and some of the most talented performers are featured in the “Prison of the Dead.” As we entered the “shower” area and off-color inmate wanted to “drop” the soap and appeared at times out of thin air as slow strobe lights and moments of flash lighting obstruct vision, creating constant disorientation. Some of the actors reached out from inside brick walls, others blocked “escape” routes outside, and each did their best to engage small groups while playing out their twisted characters of undead inmates and escapees.
Psychological fear is built by the overall design and diversity of each area and strict adherence to “realism” featured by this custom-built “prison. “A “sense” and desire to “escape” from the undead prisoners, guards, and demented staff drives aggression, and even moments where we were outside in the “yard” it felt as though “something” was regularly breathing down our backs. “Prison of the Dead” is an incredible, terrifying, and realistic experience the is relentless in design and is long enough to be its own stand-alone attraction. Each year the facility seems to get more extended, more interactive, and the ways actors hide and their mature, twisted performances constantly are oddly engaging yet designed to create pure terror. Not enough praise can be heaped upon this one-of-a-kind attraction, which we feel is the centerpiece and most innovative attraction featured at Shocktoberfest.
Zombie Safari Haunted Hayride
Shocktoberfest transformed its lengthy “Zombie Safari” hayride into a lengthy outdoor walk-through trail due to pandemic safety operations. From the moment we entered the gates, we were taken back by the size and scope of this “Jurassic-Park” meets Zombie Infestation attraction. Larger-than-life sets, pyrotechnics, and for the most part, “believable” zombies completely engulfed the atmosphere surrounding this lengthy attraction. Often, we felt completely isolated, in larger-than-life structures, watching horrific acts of the strange; in one case, an “actor” was eaten alive by a mutated “plant,” and in another, we were locked within a giant containment facility at the mercy of the undead. Traditionally the hayride itself we always found to be rather dull, but in this case, the new experience of walking through desolated towns, post-apocalyptic wastelands, and mutant containment units made for an incredibly interactive, engaging experience.
Due to the large and expansive nature of a traditional hayride, some downtime moments seemed to influence a few actor performances. While these problems were minimal by and large, we did see some performers on cell phones and out of character. However, while this usually would be an immediate “death knell” regarding our enjoyment, overall, the entire attraction was well executed, and some of the minor instances in which we caught actors off-guard were likely due to the fact we were the only guests on the entire massive hayride trail. It is important to stress how immersive the “Jurassic-Park” inspired zombie scenes are from a walking standpoint. Really, we left impressed at how we genuinely felt isolated and at the mercy of the hordes of undead.
“Ground Assault” is a fun “laser tag” style game that adds an additional level of quality and length to one’s visit at Shocktoberfest. Teams are split up, and various “zombies” roam the grounds trying to “assault” and feed off each guest. A fun interactive “attraction” we enjoyed the team-based combat as well as the “zombies,” which added a layer of challenge to the experience.
Midway Massacre-Scare Zone
“Midway Massacre” was a “new” outdoor “carnival” themed attraction featured this year, a brief carnival-style attraction featuring clowns, barkers, etc. A diversion, the various carnival freaks, and clowns did a fantastic job at “stalking” us as we cautiously made our way through the mini-midway. While relatively short, the attraction itself again added to the level of diversity and quality offered by the entire horror package presented by Shocktoberfest.
The Final Word
Shocktoberfest continues to improve each season and genuinely embraces the “scream-park” nature of haunted attractions. In speaking with owner Mr. Patrick Konopelski, we discussed numerous topics. He shared some exclusive “historical” images associated with the monstrous construction now known as “Prison of the Dead!” Konopelski is committed to pushing the envelope each year, providing a safe but scarier show, and is never resting on prior seasons’ success. New ideas and a desire to “scare” and continually investing in each attraction keep guests coming back for more. We have witnessed this attraction drastically improve over the past few seasons. While there may be hiccups in some areas, the overall size, scope, and diverse style of each attraction give each guest a fantastic value. Shocktoberfest continues to once again stand out as a must-see mainstream attraction that is not afraid of embracing mature, dark themes as well as catering to a wide array of horror fans.