I was fortunate enough to visit The Dark Manor haunted house in Norwich, CT on its opening weekend. Voted Connecticut’s number one scariest haunted house, the Dark Manor promises terror, chills, and screams so intense that nighttime visits are not recommended for children under thirteen years of age, pregnant women, or those with heart conditions.
Given that haunted houses with traveling carnivals come complete with the same warnings, but often boast no more than a couple of cardboard cut-outs of movie monsters and a few paper mache zombies once inside, I admit to having had a bit of a “yeah right” attitude.
I am pleased to report that, unlike those slapped-up-in-a-day carnival haunted houses, The Dark Manor did not disappoint.
First, the actors working the line were just about as personable as a ghoul and “blood” covered goth chick can be. They did a great job keeping up the energy, straddling that line between creepy and fun-loving. They read and handled the people in line perfectly; from the little pre-pubescent girl who wasn’t sure she wanted to go inside with her friends, to my companions (The Fiancé and The Chickster) and me who were doing the time warp in line. After all, “It’s just a jump to the left…”
The actors inside continued that energy, although they were (as should be expected) less fun-loving than just plain creepy. In the interest of keeping the walk-through tour a surprise and not giving any spoilers, I won’t go into specific roles or scenes, but it wasn’t hard for me at all to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride (walk).
While I’m on the subject of actors, I have to give a huge “kudos” to the casting director for casting actors of various shapes and sizes. One of my “tricks” on a tour like this is to assess the size of what it is I am looking at and decide whether it’s a puppet or a human who will jump out at me and/or chase me. At one point, I was convinced that the ghoul in front of me was just a bit too small to be a human and I proceeded with little caution. Boy was I wrong! When that person jumped out at me and shrieked with a real voice, it shocked me good!
On the other side, I have to give a shout out (scream out?) to the special effects crew for the realism and the animatronics that were so well timed and well executed that I thought I was running from a person just to look back and see the crank pull the puppet quietly back into the shadows.
What really set The Dark Manor apart from other walk-through haunted houses I have visited previously is the creators’ ability to foresee certain human reactions. As mentioned briefly above, I have tricks for getting through these types of attractions. My efforts were thwarted repeatedly. In the sections in which I would normally press myself head to toe against a wall and walk through like I was on a ledge, the ceiling was unnaturally low and I had to duck. I would often be so busy looking behind an exceptionally creaky door that I would be frightened by something that was situated within plain sight in the room. The creators are incredibly skilled at misdirection, camouflage, and obscuring the line of site. I cannot say enough good things about The Dark Manor as a whole.
By now the reader who is familiar with me, my love for horror, and the other creepy things I enjoy, must be wondering about my reactions going through the tour. While I still had my voice the next day, The Chickster commented during the tour that I had “a nice scream” and that perhaps I could be a scream queen. Slightly shamed by my lack of toughness, I replied, perhaps a bit sharply, that I was auditioning. But then I figured, Screw it. I paid for a creepy good time. I’m gonna scream! And I got my money’s worth! The way I look at it, a comedian loves laughs, a musical theatre performer loves standing ovations, and so a haunted house actor should love a good scream. I hope I satisfied the actors as much as they satisfied me.
All in all, I had a blast. It was completely worth the trip, the ticket price, and the time spent. If I had to come up with anything negative to say, it would be that the time went by too quickly. But even that could be considered a testament to The Dark Manor. After all, you always want to leave them wanting more…and I do! I might even go back this season.
For hours of operation, ticket price, and directions click here.