Review: The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT (5 stars)
Last year, the team from Events INSIDER went on a 10-day Halloween blitz! In October 2013, I visited 28 attractions to bring you reviews and information on everything Halloween in New England. We went indoors and outdoors as far north as New Hampshire, as far south as Rhode Island, and as far west as Connecticut. Don’t forget to visit http://EventsINSIDER.com, where we list more creative October events than anyplace else!
The Haunted Graveyard isn’t just a standalone attraction. It’s based in the oldest amusement park in the United States, Lake Compounce! The location is extensive and, except for its water rides, is completely open in the fall. The Boulder Dash roller coaster was voted the #1 wooden roller coaster in America as listed in USA Today in 2004 and 2014. It’s a very long ride that’s built into a hillside, with lots of twists and turns but none of those newfangled upside-downy scares. So it’s safe for moms and dads, and we loved it. We had a fantastic time on the bumper cars and just strolling the lane, where dancers perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We were so pleased to see that, unlike at Canobie Lake Park (which we love), you can get a decent meal at Lake Compounce. They had hot cider, a stand with soup and bread, and even a Johnny Rockets serving hamburgers and french fries that left me feeling wholesome, not grossed out.
The attraction is extensive and will take you at least 45 minutes to walk through, with no breaks. It just goes on and on! My favorite was a green laser in the fog that created a horizontal plane, just like a lake of water creates a horizontal surface. Then creatures break the surface and spook you as you seem to descend into hell. I’ve seen lasers in other places, but not used in quite that way before. Special effects included three “vortexes” where the room appears to spin, at least two fog rooms, and one of which had bright eyes popping out of the darkness. Then the displays! There must be 200 displays in The Haunted Graveyard, my favorites being the demon feast and sacrifice with goat heads. But I also loved the werewolves, the jungle path, the ancient Mexican adventure… it was incredibly extensive.
The attraction isn’t consistently 100% high production value, but some elements such as the moat and castle are almost worthy of a set on a TV show. And there is definitely a floor of quality that The Haunted Graveyard never descends below in terms of staging. A lot of attractions put up plywood to create an inexpensive maze, but it’s clear from the thin wood, even if it’s painted, that it’s not a house, but rather a temporary construction, and it breaks the suspension of disbelief. At The Haunted Graveyard, the halls have archways overhead and embellishments such as stonework, so it feels like you’re really in a building, even if for fire code reasons there is no ceiling.
We did find a lot of the actors moving backwards, having gotten too far forward somehow, or standing idle, having a bit of difficulty perhaps managing such a constant stream of people. But really, there is nothing not to love at The Haunted Graveyard, and its setting in a great amusement park just makes it all the more attractive as a destination.
I got a chance to interview owner Ernie Romegialli.
Events INSIDER: How long have you been doing this haunt for? Does it stay up all year?
Romegialli: This is our 23rd year. It’s our 13th year at Lake Compounce.
Events INSIDER: Is it permanently up all year?
Romegialli: 90% of it stays up. The queue line comes down. The last 16 feet of the endless hallways come down. All the props come out. The two houses on the road, the demons with the stretchy walls.
Events INSIDER: You clearly have a passion for it. Do you have a theatre background?
Romegialli: Nope, no background in theatre whatsoever. If my daughter had never gotten diabetes, I would never have done this. I never even liked horror movies.
Events INSIDER: Oh, is this a fundraiser? Is she okay?
Romegialli: It’s not a fundraiser anymore. It’s just too expensive [ to run it non-commercially ]. She’s doing okay. She’s 27 but she’s still my little girl.
Events INSIDER: Have you got a favorite in the maze?
Romegialli: I think every time you add something new that it becomes your favorite, like the facade of catacombs. We did the banshees over this year with glitter. And then the mist, I’ve always loved the mist. We threw that up when I got upset at the world that day. I was throwing spider panels around like I was a wild man. It was a junk house, a filler house, and I didn’t feel like doing it any longer. Everybody hated my guts because we did that in a couple of days. Then the barn, the dairy…
Events INSIDER: Yes, the display with the cows. Haunted cows? What’s the deal with the cows?
Romegialli: Nothing. Just every farm needs some cows. I spent a couple thousand dollars on [fake] cows. I built that entire scene around the milk truck because I loved it. I thought, “That’s so unique I have to buy it,” and we built the barn in a couple of days.
Events INSIDER: How many actors do you have, if that’s not a secret?
Romegialli: We have over 200 actors.
Events INSIDER: I’m especially fond of the cemetery because it’s open. There are a couple of places that have a dip, where the ground gives in under your feet. That’s intentional, right?
Romegialli: You know what those are? Mattresses [buried just under the dirt].
Events INSIDER: Thanks for your time today. If I was the only person in there I would definitely still be inside admiring your displays. Would you like to add anything?
Romegialli: You’re welcome! We were on the Travel Channel, and they rated us one of the best haunted attractions in the country.
The Haunted Graveyard clearly deserves a 5 stars PLUS for amazing value and an amazing location. But is it still the best haunted attraction in New England, as I named it in 2011? Well, with two of their lasers having burned out, and with some of the actors a touch clueless (we got mostly screams and snarls rather than thematic lines of dialogue), I am not ready yet to make a judgment. There was some very strong work by Haunted Acres, Haunted Overload, and others this year. We will just have to wait until after Day 10 and I will give out some awards then! I have no hesitation in calling The Haunted Graveyard a must see location. What are you waiting for? Go there now!
This review was from Events INSIDER’s 2013 10-day Halloween blitz, where we visited 28 attractions across New England. Visit http://EventsINSIDER.com, where you’ll find more fun Halloween and October events than anywhere else!