13th Hour Haunted House (Wharton, NJ) is one of the most interactive, innovative indoor “scream park” style event-based attractions that continues to add new scenes and scares each season. New surprises and sets that you will not find anywhere else are the norms at 13th Hour. The sheer diversity in design and themes, coupled with quality scare-performances, make this one of the premier attractions in the region. Every season upgrades never fail to impress, and several new rooms were added this season, including an encounter with “grim reapers,” a “haunted library,” and numerous others that blend in acting with interactive props/antimonic creatures that seem to strike from all angles. The element of surprise is mastered at the 13th Hour as what is “above” and “behind you” is sometimes as startling as what is right in front of your face. Performers work within each scene and bring to life a story of a family “the Hayden’s” that thrived off sheer brutality, cannibalism, and the phobias of each of their victims.
Returning this season is a more aggressive performance style and an impressive “special effects-infused opening” scene, a theatrical “time machine” that transforms the warehouse environment into a 1970’s era farmhouse of hell. 13th Hour relies heavily on scenic design with immersive animatronics, special effects, and sound, giving the scare-performers a stage to engage each guest. While sometimes we felt some rooms could use “more” performers, the performances of each “actor/actress” were strong and as disturbing as ever. From “reapers” to “hillbillies trying to get us to eat their dead roadkill,” a twisted “cross-dressing” “superstar,” human butchers, operators of a “flesh-filled” carousel, and satanic nun, the performances, as well as the gritty yet modern nature of each attraction, create a hellacious experience. Some rooms are downright disturbing, boasting chilling imagery and genuinely strange sets, twisted human dolls, infected monkeys, werewolves, and a psychotic circus await those brave enough to transcend the two stories of the “Hayden” household. Demonic/satanic themes are intertwined throughout, and there is a constant focus on fear and making the guest feel disturbed.
13th Hour Haunted House features three core haunted attractions and various “escape rooms,” off-season and special events. The three core interconnected attractions are the “Hayden House of Nightmares,” “The Attic,” and “The Darkside of the Hayden House.” Despite its industrial location, the entire attraction is entirely immersive, with massive scenes, large-scale animatronics, and props and special effects that help guests forget they are within the confines of a larger industrial building. Outside of the attraction is an expanded “midway” with merchandise, food, and photo opportunity options rounding out an entire “scream-park” experience within the confines of a warehouse complex.
“Hayden House of Nightmares” is the first floor of the core structure and really is a throwback to the ’60s, 70’s theme-wise, a mixture of the indoor “farmhouse” and outdoor scenes featuring rich detail and intense scenes of “grindhouse” inspired horror and bloodshed. Bizarre family members and their victims are around every corner and command attention. For example, a conveyor belt of human parts is designed to simply disturb, a plunge into the “Hayden Swamp” results in a less than pleasant encounter with a twisted family member, and even a “shopping cart” will make one feel uneasy and crippled with fear. The first floor also features one of the most twisted scenes in any haunted attraction, “The Carousel,” a gory/bloodstained merry-go-round experience filled with guts and gore that adds a sense of torment to the attraction, in which the twisted family enjoys playing with their helpless victims. Filled with brand new scenes as well, pay close attention to a “tribute” to a famous scene from the iconic 80’s hit “Ghostbusters!”
“Attic.” the second floor, “The Attic,” has received extensive upgrades over the past several seasons. Scenes such as an encounter with infected monkeys/animals, a hallucinogenic sideshow circus, and one of the most disturbing “human” doll scenes we have ever witnessed are housed within the confines of the “Hayden” family. “The Attic” is designed to create nightmares and highlights the darker, more diabolical overtones infused throughout the attraction this season. Brand new scenes of Satanic Sacrifice/Worship (featuring Satan’s Goats) and an animatronic/interactive “exorcism” left us absolutely in shock as they are unlike anything we have witnessed at ANY haunted attraction, both large or small. Combined, both attractions create a house of horrors that challenges its guests to even finish and has become a far more sinister attraction, focusing more on the “horror” and targeting a wide array of phobias cultivating genuine fear. As a package, both attractions complement each other while maintaining a “storyline” associated with the “Hayden Family” and their sadistic acts of depraved horror.
“The Darkside of the Hayden Household” is an effective “dark maze” challenging guests to escape the pitch black, sensory assault of this lengthy “finale” attraction. Unlike many of these similar “dark” mazes where simply following the “wall” will lead you to escape, 13th Hour prevents this “easy” way out, leaving guests in wide-open spaces in complete darkness with little to no hope at times at escaping. It is impossible almost to see what is in front or back of you except for the occasional animatronic prop or actor with a light/loud noise (startle scare). Pure isolation and tormenting actors that appear out of thin air create an atmosphere of tension. Unlike so many of these similarly styled attractions, isolation is the key to fear. “The Darkside of the Hayden Household” is almost designed to trap guests, and the actors, unless necessary, do not give hints or give away a position which is vital to escape (actors will flash bright lights with horns from time to time to keep pacing). An unforgiving take on a familiar attraction theme, “The Darkside of the Hayden Household” is a scary, lost-in-the-darkness attraction where you feel completely alone and at the mercy of the “Hayden” family. ” The Darkside” attraction is unique from most “pitch-black mazes” as it embraces openness and isolation, at times pure silence, to create fear. All of the attractions featured are designed logically, tell a “story” without defining the details and allow the “guest” to experience horror created by interactive scenes, world-class animatronics, and scare actors hidden effectively within the madness created throughout one’s journey.
The Final Word
13th Hour is one of the most intricately detailed indoor “scream-parks” you can EVER visit, featuring three core “haunted attractions,” industry-defining escape rooms, Virtual Reality Experiences, ax throwing, and hosting numerous off-season events. 13 Hour features rooms and hallways filled with unique items, interactive animatronics, and strange oddities that are the perfect set up for endless distraction scares. From an attraction and thematic standpoint, 13th Hour masterfully combines “traditional” scares with interactive animatronics and a sense of realism that creates a story of being trapped in a house of unspeakable terror.