no The Pittsburgh Haunts series would be complete without a visit to the Halloween celebrations at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin.
The infamous Phantom Fright Nights started in the early hours of the morning, but this year things looked a little different: rebranding than Phantom Autumn Festival, the park opens earlier in the day for family-friendly fun, including fall food, decor, and of course loads of rides. But as soon as the sun goes down, ghouls roam the park in four “Scare Zones”, which are located between five haunted houses: Villa of the Vampire, Voodoo Bayou, Kennyville Cemetery, Dark Shadows and Shady Grove (not to be confused with the Shadyside restaurant).
Fright Night – excuse me, Fall Festival – is the one local Halloween Shindig I’ve been to, albeit many moons ago. Still, I’d never done the whole haunted house thing; I’ve only ever been there for the roller coasters. (I may be a fearful cat, but I am a fearful cat who likes thrills because nothing will jump on me and say “boo” halfway through a double helix.)
I found that the Fall Festival was downright campy at times, with spinning chainsaws and theatrical characters sneaking around under a fog of neon lights. There were moments of real creepiness too, compounded by a thick fake fog and the actors’ dedication to the dentition. I never thought I’d be scared of a rubber chicken until a killer clown followed me with one and blew the thing menacingly as it got closer and closer.
But as always, Kennywood does what it says on the tin – unforgettable fun with a few horrors along the way.
This time I didn’t fly alone; I brought my roommate and longtime friend Laura, another self-appointed fearful cat who had politely declined invitations to Scarehouse and Hundred Acres Manor.
We started at the Villa of the Vampire, where you will be guided through the Kennywood arcade by a vampire circle who will lead you to the master (who may or may not turn you into a creature of the night). There are plenty of jumpscares to keep you busy, and somewhere in there is a vampire king lurking.
It’s worth noting that if you’re a hardcore horror fan who wants to fit in all five haunted houses, then it would be wise to go for one VIP pass. Laura and I opted for general admission, and we were only able to tackle two of the five themed attractions because the waiting times often approached or exceeded the two-hour mark.
We arrived at 4:30 am to take the drive and get our square ice cream from the Golden Nugget before dark, and we joined the queue at the Villa of the Vampire at around 6:00 am. It was about 7:30 a.m. before we got there? the front.
The children spent the time gathering in a grassy clearing across from the stanchions. They played catch with a Thomas the Tank Engine plush toy that one of them won in a Mardi Gras game, and catch quickly turned into a baseball game when a player introduced a plastic lightsaber. The adults spent the time watching the game and placing bets on whether or not Thomas got stuck in a tree. (Surprisingly, he didn’t.)
The long waiting times were not spent in boredom, but spent in line. With creepy stuff planned on Saturday from dusk until the park closes at 11 p.m., a window of roughly five hours won’t leave enough time to see all five locations, take a few rides, and grab a bite to eat.
Some of the park’s largest rides were also out of order. The Steel Curtain was closed for maintenance, the Thunderbolt was dark, and the Bavarian Wave Swinger seemed inexplicably missing. (Nick Paradise, Kennywood’s director of corporate communications, told me it will be dismantled every fall for off-season inspections and maintenance and will return in the spring.) But all of this resulted in fewer options and longer queues at the rides and attractions that became in service.
It was a fine facility for us cowardly – and patient – amateurs, but more seasoned haunted lovers may find it worthwhile to indulge in the special passes that allow you to bypass the line.
The other hangout we managed to capture was Voodoo Bayou, which immediately caught Laura’s attention. He used the environment that was already available to him in the Raging Rapids, strong, drained, but constantly damp and lined on all sides by leaves and rocks. There was something naturally sinister about it – and a lot of things that were unnaturally sinister. As you go through, camouflaged creatures and voodoo priestesses summon the dead to prey on the living – or, more precisely, to steal them she.
I pointed to a facsimile of a skull mounted on a stick and began to sing, “Sacrifice, sacrifice!”
What began as an attempt to sneak out on Laura quickly backfired when one of the creatures appeared above me and I suddenly volunteered to become a victim myself.
“Sacrifice!” the creature trudged towards me. “A victim!”
“Oh no, it doesn’t matter. No thanks! “I traced.” I think there was a misunderstanding. ”
And that was an understatement.
“Victim, Victim!” The ghoul pointed to a makeshift skewer on which she was roasting what looked like human remains. “Victim, Victim!”
Even after clearing this section of the haunt, we could hear the creature attacking other guests with a savage plea: “Sacrifice, sacrifice!”
Laura turned to me, laughed and said: “Shut up next time.”
If you take a trip to voodoo bayou and are asked to make a sacrifice – or worse, become one yourself – you know who was to blame for bringing that idea to the priestess. I’m sorry for that.