Extreme haunts and immersive horror experiences are catching the interest of mature horror fans across the country. A groundswell — perhaps even an underground movement — is beginning to push the industry into new directions that cater to horror junkies looking to experience true psychological and physical horror in a controlled environment.
Endless fan pages, discussion forums, and groups are dedicated to the craft of immersive horror. Impassioned opinions and debates centered around the execution of mature “extreme” horror events ask whether these experiences are haunted attractions or merely torture shows.
Even large-scale and general mainstream haunts have begun to take notice of this developing trend, borrowing elements innovated by so-called “immersive haunts” or “extreme haunts” to freshen their traditional shows, indirectly acknowledging the impact this trend is having on the industry. In general, innovation in the haunt industry tends to get glossed over, and major mainstream haunts rely upon large vendors and trade shows to purchase so-called “innovative” concepts that adorn their web pages and advertisements. True innovation, however, is driven by passion and results from years of hard work.
While many argue that extreme or immersive horror experiences are dangerous, one attraction — possibly the only such attraction in the country — has successfully fused the traditional concept of a haunted house with immersive, extreme horror. Halls of Horror, located in Palmerton, PA, has mastered the art of creating a psychologically terrifying, physically exhausting and truly immersive/extreme experience within the context of a traditional haunted attraction. No other entity has ever reached the fear level generated by the macabre designs and insanity of this hidden gem.
Immersive haunts and theatrical horror shows argue that it’s impossible to inject a true “horror-movie-come-to-life” experience into a traditional haunt framework — yet Halls of Horror has continuously pushed the envelope, creating an adult-themed show that breaks down psychological barriers in a manner that one must experience to truly appreciate. While other attractions host so-called “extreme” or “touch” nights, they all fail in comparison to the nightmarish Halls of Horror.
Founded in 2008, HOH is built in an old, abandoned union hall once operated by the New Jersey Company. During the clean-up and building process, a variety of historical artifacts and odd belongings inspired the creepy tone which lives within the attraction’s presentation. Old protest signs, grievance letters and worn-out relics from the past guided the early development of Halls of Horror.
Development itself is a long-term process, with creative designs and plans outlined for years to come, all driven by a certain demented creativity. Added emphasis on fun and a passion for haunting ensures that the entire team is focused on growing HOH indefinitely. Future expansion plans are in place to enhance the show next season — incorporating fear, disgust and a touch of comedy.
Halls of Horror is unapologetic in its presentation, stressing to potential guests that the attraction is for adults only, and not for those who are easily offended. Regardless, every aspect of the haunt is executed in a controlled, safe manner, deliberately designed to induce psychological horror in an aggressive setting. HOH also offers a tamer (yet still excellent) base attraction, but the “Blood Experience” is a must-visit for those looking to confront their innermost personal fears.
The “Blood Experience” is an aggressive, mature version of the traditional show, incorporating physical horror and graphic gore into the attraction’s presentation. Guests are provided a special shirt and goggles, and are then unleashed into the dungeon. Scare actors then intensify their performances, soaking each guest in “blood” while using a variety of disturbing strategies to target inner fears (the “blood” itself does not damage one’s clothing, and it easily washes off), injecting a new level of physicality into their already mind-bending show.
During our last visit, it did not take long to understand that this attraction is designed for mature fear — as they radioed the actors to quote “fuck us up good” prior to our descent.
The first scene clearly establishes the extreme nature of the show — a musty damp room with a twisted young scare actor pointing a gun to our foreheads in a twisted manner. From there, every single scene builds on that sense of tension and anticipation. The entire environment is surreal, bathed in insanity, with splashes of twisted humor designed to break each guest down to their core.
Actors hidden throughout the darkness bring a level of unparalleled aggression in creating personal interactive experiences — we were grabbed viciously from virtually all directions, constantly taunted, slammed, thrown and pinned against walls, and forced to play twisted games with the insane freaks and monsters that besieged us. The detailed set designs are straight out of an R-rated horror movie, and the sound design further enhances the effect, with a booming metal soundtrack underscoring an atmosphere of constant paranoia. It is almost impossible to escape each insane scare actor as they will relentlessly stalk and hunt down guests until they achieve the intended result of garnering genuine reactions.
The interactive scenarios displayed by Halls of Horror are not for those who are easily offended or unable to complete a physically demanding and psychologically disturbing haunted attraction. For example, it’s hard to forget the mental imagery of a disturbed pregnant woman ejecting her fetus into a pile of empty pills and beer cans, and a twisted clown who had us play a nefarious game in a twisted ball-pit scene. During one visit, we were force-fed “feces” from an insane mental patient; we were also forced into a game of “Milk the Pig” (which could best be described as grabbing the nipples of a large pig-faced butcher with a feminine voice); we got painted in blood by a demented clown brandishing a gory ice cream cone; we slapped the backsides of hanging body bags, then got “strangled” by a butcher’s entrails. These obscure, twisted scenes of depraved violence and pitch-black humor are unlike any other in a haunted attraction.
The Final Word
Halls of Horror is exhausting on all physical and psychological levels — conjuring feelings of dread, vulnerability and genuine fear unlike any other haunt. Very quickly guests are subjected to an experience that places them in the hands of demented masterminds, and every single aspect of this haunt is inspired by creating real, legitimate personal reactions that strike at one’s innermost fears and phobias. Structural and scene design presents a gritty, vicious take on horror-inspired entertainment, creating scenarios ripped right from extreme horror movies. The “guest” is the show, and each actor uses their respective characters and scenes to torment and create nonstop paranoia.
Despite the extreme adult orientation of this attraction, HOH still stays true to the core elements of traditional haunted attractions: guests can leave if they cannot handle the haunt, and each interactive scene encourages guests to experience a diverse journey, implementing a variety of characters and one-of-a-kind horror. Dark humor and mature themes that go beyond traditional horror boundaries — such as minor sexual innuendos –create uncomfortable yet entertaining interactions that masterfully transform an unassuming building into a tribute to terror.
If you are a mature, adult haunt fan looking for the ultimate immersive horror experience in a safe, traditional haunt setting, you need to see what has been created here. You will laugh, you will be punished, you will be pushed to your psychological limits… yet at the end, it’s likely you will leave with a smile and a sense of accomplishment.
Halls of Horror is a special place — innovative, extreme and always fun — allowing you to experience a tailor-made horror show that will forever remain etched in your nightmares.