Jason’s Woods (Lancaster, PA) is considered one of the forefathers of the haunted attraction/Screampark industry. This template has inspired and emulated some of the most popular shows in the country. For years we would see endless stacks of pamphlets at practically every convenience store in the northeast advertising this legendary attraction. This was the “premier” event in the country for all media purposes. However, over the past few seasons, the legendary Jason’s Woods seemed to fall victim to negative reviews and has become, in some respects, eclipsed by larger, modern haunts in the region, and it fell off our radar. Despite some initial reservations, we decided to visit this genuinely historical attraction, one that has had an impact spawning numerous now-competitors and see if it still could be a dominant attraction in the industry.
Upon arrival, the scene was very much reminiscent of those we have viewed online and those years past, and an “old school” vintage Halloween “Scarepark” vibe could be instantly felt. A festival-like environment of sorts, we immediately understood that Jason’s Woods was designed to give customers a whole night of horror entertainment, featuring food options, bonfire, live music, short escape rooms, and even a bungee jump in addition to its five “haunted” attractions. Loud metal and mid 80’s music filled the country air, and we had finally arrived at one attraction we had never visited before. Jason’s Woods is undoubtedly old school, it’s brash, and it gives a “feel” of horror that is in your face and not for those looking for a “Disney-Light” experience that is more spectacle than emotion.
Cautious with anticipation, overall, we must say we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Jason’s Woods as it far exceeded our expectations. There is evident passion and love for horror and the season felt throughout each attraction and potential for exponential growth for years to come. So much so, we went through each attraction TWICE, enjoying it more upon a subsequent visit for its old-school gritty design, a clear passion for the season, and unique nature that has been lost by some of the larger, more “standardized” major attractions that all seem to feature the latest and greatest “trade show” props and animatronics. Jason’s Woods has very much held onto its classical approach to scares, focusing on smaller scenes with a smaller budget and atmosphere over expenses, as much of what you will see is unique to this Scarepark. With a larger budget, perhaps more actors, operations modernization, and revamped media/marketing, there is simply no reason that Jason’s Woods can again rise to be considered one of the premier scare parks in the tri-state area.
From an operations standpoint, the layout of Jason’s Woods is somewhat confusing compared to similar scare parks. Upon arrival, it is rather challenging to determine where each attraction starts, and some better management of lines can help improve the customer experience. Even on smaller attendance nights, we encountered other groups in the walk-through attractions, and with better pacing, this can allow customers to enjoy a more personalized show. Furthermore, with a larger budget, the already disturbing scenes could be slightly modernized, and more performers added to cover such large spaces. Jason’s Wood’s relies heavily on the passion of its gritty-vintage style and the hard work of its performers. With an increase in budget and some modernization of how it is organized, this passion can reinvigorate this Scarepark for years to come. Despite minor critiques, there is so much potential for new growth, embracing mature/adult themes and tying in the atmosphere with strong, passionate character performances that give us hope that Jason’s Woods will hit its stride and become competitive in the ever-aggressive market dominated by larger, bigger budget shows.
Jason’s Woods scenes are not always the largest nor the most detailed but, by and large, are innovative and unexpected amongst haunted attractions. For example, there’s moments that stick out in our memory which speaks to the uniqueness of the attraction. The dialog alone in some scenes is entertaining as monsters direct their minions to “kill all” and that no one survives the “wrecking machine” the banter is somewhat campy and fits the old school style of Jason’s Woods that haunt and horror fans will appreciate.
Horrifying Hayride “Twisted”
The “centerpiece” attraction at Jason‘s Woods is the “Horrifying Hayride,” a lengthy journey into the dark woods featuring numerous scenes and themes unique to this attraction. Jason‘s Woods advertises a unique feature called “IMT-INTEGRATED MOTION TECHNOLOGY,” a special effect in many scenes that moves, twists, and bends the haywagon itself. Featuring new scenes in 2022, such as “earthquake and “grinder,” some set designs range in quality, and a certain campiness and old-school horror are felt at each stop along the lengthy journey. The hayride opens with a simulation of an “earthquake” followed by the dominating command of a bandit leader that tells his minions “They caused” this earthquake and to “take everything leaving no survivors.” The sound and vocal track used in some of the more impressive scenes are directed at scaring guests; a mad doctor commands death upon his victims as he “shakes” the hayride just by his touch absorbing “life energy,” werewolves “twist” the actual wagon itself, a butcher torments guests bellowing that “no one survives the grinder,” “the wrecking machine” comes close to smashing the wagon and an encounter with the devil himself is featured along this journey.
Some scenes and costumes can undoubtedly use a budget upgrade, and sound systems are somewhat outdated. Still, the grittiness and uniqueness of this entire attraction simply work and is a welcome throwback to the haunted hayrides of years past that made you “feel” fear, “feel” a sense of uncertainty, and unnerving terror. While some of the scenes can be upgraded, there is some true greatness in this hayride, from the atmospheric lighting to the passionate performances of the scare performers. Despite not having the most elaborate of costumes, several unique demons, “Leatherface,” “Freddy Kruger,” and of course “Jason,” work tirelessly to breathe life into their respective characters. In a simple yet unique homage to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre, “Leatherface” goes all out in his performance, including his iconic “saw dance,” and the epic showdown between “Jason and Freddy” is carried out with a final battle in which one emerges the winner. Performers pour their hearts into each scene, and while some performances are over the top (Michael Myers, for example, bolts around the hayride like he has consumed too many energy drinks), overall, they are the high point of a hayride that is well worth a trip to Jason‘s Woods!
The first attraction featured at Jason’s Woods, “Zombie Apocalypse,” has several scenes that fit the general theme of a mass zombie infection and experimentation. A common theme among many attractions, the scenes featured are unique in their design and lower-budget, more realistic style. Furthermore, this attraction features extensive “pitch black” mazes, building up anticipation from scene to scene. A solid attraction, a larger budget, and more scenes would add a lot of depth and quality to what primarily serves as an escape from a dark maze. The featured scenes and characters are intense, and it just needs “more” to amp up its intensity level, as there is too much time lost in the dark versus escaping the undead.
Carnival Of Fear
“Carnival of Fear” is a violent, filthy, metal-infused take on the traditional “clown” or “circus” concept used by many attractions. Filled with aggression, this funhouse-style attraction is aimed at assaulting the senses and tormenting one’s mind. Moments of pitch black are juxtaposed by all-out clown chaos, and a disturbing sense of “reality” comes with the clearly custom-designed scenes and mazes. A fast-moving, intense walk-through, the feeling of constant pressure is augmented by a soundtrack that combines twisted carnival themes with modern metal music. “Carnival of Fear” defies the traditional “circus “theme conventions by being more grounded and not afraid of feeling “homemade” in many cases, which gives the guest a sense that what they are experiencing is very real. The performers featured in a twisted maze of pure chaos do a fantastic job at working multiple scenes, utilizing traditional jump scares to create moments of pause that ramp up to unleashed chaos.
Chamber Of Horrors
“Chamber of Horrors” is a classic haunted house starting with a trip through an eerie, fog-filled bizarre, detailed funeral scene into the abyss of numerous scenes of horror and the macabre. Each scene is complex, the animatronics is classic yet gritty/gruesome, and this is very close to classical haunted house attraction as one could imagine. There is not one set story or theme, and this works perfectly for the diversity of scares featured in the “Chamber of Horrors.” One of the strongest attractions featured, we thoroughly enjoyed the twisted take on “robotic” horror, a bus ride from hell, rooms filled with murder, and performers that are filled with creepy aggression.
Lost in Jason’s Woods
“Lost in Jason’s Woods” is a lengthy outdoor “haunted trail” that winds through the deep, dense forest partially shared by the hayride attraction. Taking the approach of “less is more,” there were not many scenes along the journey but just enough to create a sense of tension and creepiness. Atmospheric lighting and moments where one feels “stalked” give a great sense of being truly “lost” along this long journey. Some of the creepier scenes include a homage to Hellraiser featuring the iconic “Pinhead,” but by and large, the trail relies heavily on the “eeriness” of the woods itself. With some more significant scenes and more defined acting, “Lost in Jason’s Woods” can be one of the more terrifying haunted trails. A lengthy attraction, the greatest scares seem to come from one’s imagination, focusing on psychological fear over upfront scares.
Jason’s Woods was a pleasant surprise as we did not know what to expect during our visit. A clearly “old school” attraction in many ways, with a slightly larger budget, some modernization, and continued focus on “real fear” versus spectacle, this iconic attraction now celebrating 37 years can grow and prosper for years to come. The gritty nature of each attraction, with custom designed and, in some cases, genuinely classic props/scenes, is more effective in today’s market as so many attractions feature “the same” in their respective shows. Hairband music and loud metal anthems fill the chilling air, and the atmosphere is perfect for a vintage yet effective haunted Scarepark. There is an evident passion for keeping this longstanding attraction a success, and Jason’s Woods is moving in the right direction.
With continued modernization, an increase in marketing budget, more performers, and upgraded costume designs, Jason’s Woods can quickly reestablish itself as one of the premier scare parks in the region. It is hard not to enjoy the vintage nature and the grittiness of this longstanding haunted scare park. Jason’s Woods is focused on having fun with the season, a show with so much diversity, and does not shy away from its roots. Old-school classic scenes featuring props and animatronics that are not readily available anywhere else are enhanced by innovative new concepts such as IMT that add excitement to scenes and a sense of horror-infused fun and excitement.
Unique IMT scenes in the “Hayride of Horrors”
Length of each attraction and atmosphere
Performers work extremely hard to generate scares, act out entire scenes, do not break character, and are focused on working hard to engage each guest
Effective use of lighting to create a chilling atmosphere in outdoor attractions
Unique Dialogue among characters in hayride attraction that pays homage to 80’s horror and iconic slasher films
Large midway with additional entertainment and food options
Room for Improvement
“Zombie Apocalypse” and “Lost in Jason’s Woods could use more scenes and less pitch-black style maze or space
All attractions would benefit from an increase in the design budget
Actor’s costumes (not all) could use an upgrade
Better-defined directions to each attraction and pacing of groups