Updated: Jun 25, 2018
BIG FLATS, NEW YORK - As humans it is in our nature to always assume we know what to expect before we witness it ourselves. You know that saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well in the world of haunted houses many of us assume an attraction will be scary or dull by the design of their website and the physical appearance of the haunt. Joe and myself are guilty of this, one hundred percent! There have been many times we have concluded that our future experience at an attraction would fall flat or knock our socks off from those two aspects mentioned above. While on some of these occasions we have been correct, other times we have been thoroughly surprised. Our most recent experience at our fourth haunt on our 2015 FrightTour fell under the latter.
Tagsylvania is a brand new, never experienced attraction for us! From the website and the actual appearance of the haunt as we pulled onto the property gave us doubts that we were about to experience a decent haunted attraction. However, as passionate as we are, we never turn down a haunt because lets face it, you never know what you are getting yourself into. Considering this is our sixth tour, we work with that in mind every time we experience something for the first time. As reviewers of haunted attractions the only way you know, is to do. Once we parked, grabbed our tickets and made our way onto the main midway our minds began those presumptive thoughts. It was quiet, very clean and not very bright. The overall atmosphere was a little lack luster compared to other haunts we have been to. The fact we were there on a Sunday night at opening could have been the main reason, but being four hours from home we were sort of on a time constraint. But not letting our presumptive thoughts work too deep into our minds we made our way to the first attraction of the night, Jerkus Circus.
If you have been following us since our start in 2007 then you know our feelings on 3D attractions. Jerkus Circus is another 3D house to add to our ever growing list of the overused genre. Most of the time 3D attractions seem like walls with splattered neon paint with a mixture of rooms and actors that never form a cohesiveness theme. While Jerkus Circus has been added to the “typical 3D house” list, it is an attraction near the top of that list to experience. At first I wondered what was the point in wearing our 3D glasses because the first room we entered had no 3D theming. I actually said out loud, “How is this 3D?” Then as we made it deeper into the space the lights flickered on to off and our eyes were flooded with eye popping visuals. It was the most unique introduction to a 3D house we have ever experienced! At that moment we both knew we were wrong in assuming Tagsylvania was going to be a mediocre haunt.
The visually pleasing Jerkus Circus was refreshing, creative and haunting! There are so many positive aspects of this house that make it one of the best 3D attractions we have walked through. See, unlike many of its kind this circus refrained from using stationary props and animatronics to execute scares. It was far from a mess of neon painted hallways nailed together. There were some unique touches inside that executed brilliant and effective jolts. Most memorable was the final space of the house where you enter into a room of doors surrounding you. At first you stand there wondering what will happen but then it becomes obvious… you are now in control and must find the correct door. Lets just say I almost fell to the floor while Joe stood there laughing at my uncontrollable shock. Of course I cannot give this scare away, but it was the highlight of this house! While Jerkus was a perfect opener to the night we did feel it needed some music, fog and real estate. It was very short and when our faces hit moonlight it was obvious we were wanting more. With these desired additions it would be a horrific attraction. As of right now it is short and simple but very effective!
Hoping the remaining two attractions followed the same path as the first, we made our way across the midway to our second attraction, Lecter’s Lair. From the outside it was obvious what type of house we were about to enter. The lair is your typical creepy, dusty, rundown haunted house. Unlike Jerkus Circus, this house needed an actor intensity boost. While the rooms and hallways were a sight to see regarding the attention to detail the actors were very subdued. Delivering their attacks on queue, majority of them lacked that little boost to bring the scare home. Still, the use of animatronics was minimal really allowing the focus of the attraction to take shape around those with heartbeats. Again what delighted us about this haunt were the rooms and hallways we made our way through. We loved the upside down room and the bathroom where we again became part of the show while searching for something. There was no use of disorientation, fog, darkness or optical illusions inside which can add a whole new level of scares to the mix. Was it entertaining? Yes it was more of a pleasing rather than scary attraction. Give it a few more actors, give each actor a can of Red Bull, fog the house out, dim the lights and add some disorientation and you have another top notch haunt. In our opinion until these changes are made Lecter’s Lair is another attraction that fades in with the many we have experienced over the years.
Keeping with the flow of the night we immediately exited Lecter’s Lair and took our spot in line for the final attraction of the night, Psycho Swamp. This outdoor wooded trail looked absolutely huge from the outside. Usually wooded trails can be hit or miss with us. There are so many aspects that can influence the overall outcome such as moonlight, weather and terrain ultimately making or breaking the attraction. Psycho Swamp suffered from none of the mentioned negative influences. The woods were dark, the terrain was manageable, the weather was perfect and the moonlight was non-existent. Instead it suffered from a lack of actors. Due to the sheer size of this attraction we were walking for extended amounts of time without any actor interactions. In fact it could have been done with the amount we encountered if the four actors in the church scene would split up wait till after their shift to talk about taking a pee. There was no need for four people inside that one church, aside from talking about going to the bathroom, there was way too much going on for the scare from above to be effective. I would split the four up and relocate three of them to one of the many dead zones throughout the trail.
Keeping with the theme of the night there was no use of disorientation or fog throughout the entire attraction. No fog in a swamp? It sure smelt and looked like a swamp but the fog would have just sealed the deal. Unfortunately this was the most disappointing attraction of the night. Which was upsetting because the look of the swamp was outstanding! The sets and scenes along the trail were executed perfectly and in a haunting way the entire appearance of the attraction was gorgeous! Yes haunted attractions can be gorgeous… we promise we’re not weird… well ok maybe we are! Back to the review, Overall it just needs some follow through, better actor placement and added effects and our thoughts would have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. Definitely hit this up first for the night.
As we made our way back to our car, our fourth haunt of the tour had come and gone. About two hours prior we were skeptical of Tagsylvania, but after experiencing it first hand we had come to the conclusion it is a hidden gem off the map of decent haunted attractions. While it wasn’t one of the most terrifying experiences thus far on our tour, we highly recommend visiting Tags if you’re looking for a good scare. Unfortunately it never hit that “OMG" or “Get me the hell out of here” status. It could because this venue has an immense amount of potential to what was it called, “rock your socks.” But as for our visit it just fell short for us. However, this is our review of our experience… You will never know what it’s like until you experience Tagsylvania for yourself.