For our first time here we opted on the VIP ticket and to spend the extra $12 was worth it. We only waited in line maybe five minutes max, and by seeing the general admission line that was definitely an hour or longer wait. From the ticket booth to the queue line we had saw at least three wandering actors and another four interacting with guests in the GA guests as we entered the line.
After the short wait, we immediately stepped forward in the forest. This walking path is dimly lit but the guide lights were very distinct and easy to follow through the path. Random pillars of natural sandstone are dramatically up lighted to add to the heavy foliage all around the path. Characters will leer at you from the cover of the trees. Others will leap out and get in close proximity. The walk is brief and with a few checkpoints of local grave diggers asking for your assistance since they are low on man power or warning you of the dead that seem to crawl out of their graves, the walk does seem quite a bit longer.
As we come to the clearing around the corner we see the HellsGate mansion behind the wrought iron fence entrance. There we see a few more random characters a few zombies and man/animal hybrids. A witch or two also hiding around a pillar or building corner. As we approach the house we are guided to the side in another line to be sorted and escorted to the front doors.
Here we are sorted in multiple rows to form a large group this has been a proven method for Zombie Army's crowd controlling scheme. As we wait at the front entrance we are kept entertained by a group of creeps and freaks. Some zombies, a horror clown, mansion staff and specters, which are either interacting with each other, or the guests in the formation. As our group gets ready, we enter the mansion and into the Study. This is the room to introduce the concept of HellsGate. It's a small production to get you in the mood and a little background of the haunt the demonic twins tell you about the darkness that has taken over and you have been warned. The story and effects have been done very well. After its ending you escape through the fireplace and into the Library. This is the rule room, and once again put into formation as a group and enter the secret bookcase door line by line. This is how they will send smaller groups of around four in a timed fashion. While waiting for your line to enter you are told the rules of the haunt, you are also entertained by the family members in this room. The father which is your host in the room, the wife who comes in and out of the room from another door and their zombie son (large puppet controlled in the corner) They banter between themselves and with the guests in the room. Once again a method to keep your mind off the fact that you are just waiting in line, yes effective. I'm not going to walk you room to room in their order I may skip around a bit. I will also be giving them a name that seems fit not knowing if that the official name of the room or not.
When it's your groups turn you enter the bookcase and into the hall, here you immediately enter the kitchen and into the walk-in freezer, one of the most noticeable smaller rooms but their actors here (and the rest of the house) make your adventure memorable. As you re-enter the hallway you make another turn into the Ballroom, this room designed with great detail and actors who interact with you and themselves fitting for the particular room they reside in. When we entered the trophy room things were starting to get interesting with larger and more impressive props. The game hunter taking pride in his conquests also acting a bit deranged, while many of the prizes come to life. We entered one of my favorite rooms the Playroom, dolls and toys everywhere the design and feel of the room was just enough to keep you looking around, large mannequins and life sized dolls (real and stuffed), but it wasn't till we entered into a large sized Doll House which seems to transport you into a more of an alternate dimension that seemed more evil in a sense. I would like to have seen more actors in this room. Compared to the other rooms in the house it seemed a bit bare. The Attic was highly detailed and there are plenty of places for actors to discover their scare. We were ushered by a host to get in one of the crates, another slick tactic to jumble up your party.
Here we hit the slide to the laboratory. Electronic whizzes and pops all around you to fill your senses. Experimental equipment everywhere for various nefarious purposes, some to dismembered corpses, some to keep human subjects alive, and quite possibly some to raise the dead. The surgeons, scientists, and practitioners of ill gotten medicine are all around and threaten you to be their next victim. The crate room is where the game begins and you have very few precious moments to look for the hidden key. Your host will let you know when the timer starts and when the game is over. There are actors abound crawling around on the boxes only to disturb your search and break your concentration. If you find the key and release it from it's hidey spot your money for your ticket is refunded. So get to searching!!! But don't take too long. And if you think the task is impossible, After your visit in the Gift Shop they have photos as proof of those that did indeed find the hidden key.
Now to the newest addition and most elaborate, the Dragon's Den. Under the house (or so it feels) is a cult of dragonmancers. I'm allowed to make up words, by the way... these dedicated followers of dragon lore whispering their mysterious incantations as you are looking for the path out. Are they reviving all the dragons in the cavern? Are they healing the ones that are perched around you as you escape? Or is there an unknown / unseen threat that has not yet been revealed?
Overall this house has well placed actors, and in most rooms plenty of them. I can see a lot of money has been poured into this production. The props and scenery have been utilized well, not just placed and lit up haphazardly. Lots of thought has gone into this production and they are doing it well. The actors were in their world, not bothered by the outside intruders. Most all the actors were in costumes and makeup to the fit the character. And the ones wearing masks were because if necessity, and not because of laziness. The costumes I was able to see seemed to be custom to the room and actor once again nothing you would see hanging up at a rummage sale.
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