Haunted Acres is New England's Best Halloween Venue (5 stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
Only an hour's drive north of Boston is the best Halloween attraction in New England. Haunted Acres has it all.
They even have attractions in the daytime. If you arrive during the day, you can go for a rough ride in an Italian army truck and walk amongst the trees in a three-part ropes course. They've assembled rope and rood walkways 15 feet off the ground (for most of us) and 30 feet off the ground (for the brave) with a safety line so you can't fall. Then you get to walk around and explore from above. At the end, do a quick controlled fall to the ground.
Then take a ride on the zip line, which I believe is also under different management. They have two parallel wires that stretch over a pond so that you and a friend can race to the bottom. It's great fun to hoot and holler as you zoom through the night air, zipping right over people waiting in line down beneath you. And they say they may try to add a scare next year. Make sure to go there first, because it closes first.
Walk up the hill and into the forest and you'll find yourself in a haunted clearing, the central zone of Haunted Acres. From here you can get an inexpensive dinner of chicken or hamburgers, or buy a memento from the gift shop. Sit around one of the two bonfires and just enjoy watching other guests shrieking and fleeing from the five attractions around you. Scary clowns and other monsters prowl up to the bonfires and entertain you, too.
See the jerking hanging man, get them to activate the giant flame that roars into the air, and you really have to try the middle toilet, the one with the big door. (Let's just say they have really great toilets. Trust me.)
So you're already having a great time, and you haven't even entered one of the Haunted Acres experiences yet! There's nothing quite like sitting by a bonfire in the woods with your friends. It's also a great place to pluck up your courage.
Each of the five attractions is excellent, but start with the maze, which is perhaps the least of them. The haunted maze is made from black plywood, which you can wander through and get lost in. In a previous year we had a great time because the monsters all wore the same mask, so there seemed to be so many of them. And I learned that there was a great trick to it, which I won't spoil for you, but this year the actors seemed few and the trick was not deployed. This year, it seemed to lack actors, leaving the undecorated halls less exciting. Kudos to the guy who startled us from way above. Don't fall and hurt yourself! Maybe they should build a seat for him or a bar he can grab onto.
Haunted Acres has the best 3D attraction of any Halloween venue I've been to in New England. At a less theatrical venue, such as Witch's Woods or Spooky World, you put on 3D glasses and travel through basic plywood corridors that someone has painted with graffiti. It's not very artistic, nor does it set a scene. At Haunted Acres, the 3D attraction, themed as a nuclear accident, is an entire building that comes with built out props and protrusions such as pipes and barrels. The actors know exactly where to hide and how to surprise you. The patterned room (with actors dressed in a similar pattern of costume) was especially impressive.
We did not see the VR Occulus chair this year, but the space is there, making me think that it may be active on some nights. You get to try a virtual reality headset and they play a spooky movie for you. While you watch, the may startle you with a feather to your ear. Not fantastic but definitely worth a try if you haven't checked out a VR headset yet.
Now the attractions are just getting better and better. In the cell block, you'll get lost in a jail, which is designed to confuse you and make you lose your way. Our favorite actor was a teen girl who just enjoyed the hell out of scaring us out of our wits. Wow, she was really scary! She and the monster next to her (her real-life dad) have a whole scene that they act out for you.
This is typical of the creativity of Haunted Acres. It feels more like a theatre show than other Halloween attractions. The sets are original and come with great set design and animatronics. The costuming and especially the makeup was professional grade, like you're on a movie set. It's good when the actors wear masks, but at Haunted Acres, they use great makeup, which is even better.
Our friend was so distraught by a spooky clown stalking us that we almost fled as a group from the attraction. We loved the gal with the messed up eyes makeup and the gal with the big fang mouth, too. Most of the actors have something creative to do, not just jump out to startle you.
On top of all this, Haunted Acres has not one but two woods walks, where you walk through the woods at night (which is naturally spooky) and of course creatures come out to startle and delight you. Each is a good 15 minutes' long. Find dead pirates and haunted porches. Both woods walks come loaded with animatronics. You'll find a 12-foot animatronic gargoyle, a large flying demon, a tree that almost falls on top of you, a wolf that rushed out to bite you, and a lot more. There's also a giant alligator on site, but I won't tell you where.
Then there's the fog! You'll find fog effects all over, especially in one place with a laser that makes a cone effect in the fog. You really can't see anything and of course monsters make use of that to surprise you.
The attraction was not completely perfect. In some places you need to watch your step, both indoors and on the woods walk, but not in a way that was truly dangerous, just an unlevel transition here and there. I think we saw maybe one genuine rock in the woods walk path. Also on the zipline (and I must repeat that it's under different management than Haunted Acres), the guide forgot to tell me to lean back. So I whacked my head on the brake block, which didn't hurt as I was wearing a helmet, but still, that's not good. And they should tell tall people like me to life their feet. I whacked my ankle on the ending platform hard enough for it to bleed and still have an inch-long scab 9 days later. So watch that, guys.
Haunted Acres is a very big attraction where you can spend all night. You can buy VIP tickets, which are highly recommended, to zip past the long lines, and make sure to eat dinner on site. While it's hard to compete with full theme parks, and last time I did a ranking I called Lake Compounce the #1 Halloween attraction in New England, this year the #1 Halloween attraction in New England is Haunted Acres. I'm thrilled to give it 5 stars plus.