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2002 Portland, Oregon Haunted House guide

Explanation of ratings

Click on the title for location and review details.

Dr Saito's Screamland - Shock Treatment
Dr Saito's Screamland - Screamatorium in 3D
Scream at the Beach - Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors
Scream at the Beach - Curse of the Mummy in 3D
Haunted Playhouse 3D
Haunted Playhouse
the 13th Door
Scream at the Beach - Forbidden Castle
Hoffman's Haunted Barn
Spooky Town
Scream at the Beach - The Keep
Catacombs of DarknessNot Yet Rated
Murder at the Valley TheatreCanceled

These have all been verified for 2002.
Click on the titles above for details and click on the titles below to visit their web sites for schedules.


Click on the name for info on each house.

The 13th Door
Beaverton: Washington Square Mall. Cost: $13. Half-off coupon on web site (good until Oct 20).
This is an ambitious first year for this haunt, covering a lot of territory. They were running late working on it and some of the construction towards the end remains unfinished. The theme behind this haunt is a haunted old mansion, reminiscent of old black and white horror films such as "House on Haunted Hill". The elevator was a nice effect, though this haunt concentrates more on general spookiness than fancy effects. Some scripted acting to go along with the theme would have carried the spookiness further.


Catacombs of Darkness
Albany: Corner of Ferry and 25th. Cost: $5


Dr Saito's Screamland
Portland: Oaks Park. Cost: $10 each, both for $18, discount coupons available at Coke displays in grocery stores.
Shock Treatment
Screamatorium in 3D
Screamland has become a staple of the Portland haunt scene and is now in its second year at the Oaks Park location. The story goes that the lunatics have taken over the asylum. I enjoyed the mayhem and madness and feel that this is the best Screamland ever. The delousing room was a first and many of the lunatics were pretty freaky. In the Screamatorium in 3D, I was awed by the professional artwork by Stuart Smith and the vomitorium was hilarious, in a twisted sort of way. The tour guides would be better if they were in costume and part of the show, perhaps dressed as doctors pretending like they are trying to hide from the lunatics, and I wish they did something a little scarier with the teddy bear. Overall Screamland is active, full of chaos, and has more live actors than any of the other haunts reviewed thus far. I recommend planning on spending an evening there as there may be a bit of a wait in both lines. Screamland contains a lot of gore and is not recommended for children under 12.


Haunted Playhouse
Portland: Pioneer Courthouse Square. Cost: $7.50 each or both for $12. $1.50 off with 2 food cans.
This is a new haunt this year and the only haunt located downtown. Like so many haunted houses these days, this one features two attractions - one "normal" and one 3D. On the 3D side is a killer clown theme running throughout and killer clowns are always a plus! Odd use of windows inside the haunt was unique and added to the 3D effect. An excellent killer clown facade painted by local artist Extremo the Clown tops off the 3D side. There was no particular theme on the normal side. A highlight was a deep pit you have to walk across on a board. The people in front of me stopped and had to be coaxed to "walk the plank". The only thing that would have topped that off was if the board started shaking when people are halfway across. Of course they didn't do any drilling in Pioneer Courthouse Square, but the illusion is fantastic. The haunts are fairly short but are worth a view.


Hoffman's Haunted Barn
Canby: 6815 S Knights Bridge Rd at Hoffman's Dairy Garden. Cost: $8
Hoffman's has been doing haunts in the old barn for many years. It doesn't have the mayhem and madness of Screamland or the detail of Scream at the Beach, but is a nice country haunt for the family with a more home-grown feeling. There's no gore and the 3D is not as good as the others, but the actors were enthusiastic. They have live animals and a corn maze as well. The country store and pumpkin patch are open during the day.


Murder at the Valley Theatre
Beaverton: 9360 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Cost: Canceled
This haunt has been canceled for 2002. Check back next year.


Scream at the Beach
Portland: Jantzen Beach Mall. Cost: $7 each, 2 for $10, 3 for $12, $3 for Goolo's.
Forbidden Castle
Curse of the Mummy in 3D
The Keep
Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors and Petting Zoo of the Unsettling
Now in its second year, what began as a small but well-executed haunt last year has grown into three haunts, each as big as last year's, plus a bizarre museum walk-through. The highlight of Scream at the Beach is the artwork and detail that went into the construction. As you approach the three main gateways, you get the feeling you're in a permanent attraction in a theme park, rather than a temporary haunt built in a few weeks. I enjoyed Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors for its sheer twistedness and Curse of the Mummy for its detail and effects. The Forbidden Castle came with a cheesy story line aimed at kids, but was still entertaining and worth visiting as long as you're there, especially if you are with children. It could benefit from a more climatic ending. My least favorite of this group was The Keep, which was basically a dark maze. I prefer to see cool stuff rather than feel around in the dark and would have preferred to see this as a couple rooms of one of the other haunts rather than a stand-alone, but your desires may vary. At $15 for all four attractions, you may as well go for the whole shebang. Each of the attractions by themselves was fairly short, but provide good value as a group.


Spooky Town
Hillsboro: Movies on TV, 234th & TV Hwy. Cost: $6, $1 off with canned food donation
This is the fifth year for this pyrotechnics extravaganza by a movie special effects company. It's the only haunt in Portland featuring special effects with real fire. Normally this haunt includes cheesy stunt shows with pirates and mummies, but this year is scaled back and is more the traditional haunted walk-through. Dare I say I miss the cheesy stunt shows? They were unique to this haunt in previous years. One thing new this year is a room where the exploding fire surrounds you - an excellent effect, especially on a cold night. Although this haunt doesn't get the highest general rating, the fire effects are worth seeing.


EXPLANATION OF RATINGS

What makes a haunted house good or bad? Here are a few things:
GOODBAD
Original ideas and design.Anything seen in many haunted houses.
Surprise and misdirection.Everything happens just as you expect.
Good acting with real characters that don't just jump out and scream.10 year olds in Freddy Kruger masks going "AHHHH!"
Cool mechanical effects and surprises.Someone shaking a can of beans.
Cool electrical and lighting effects.Oh boy, a strobe!
Detailed scenes.Sparse rooms and empty mazes.
Convincing makeup effects.Some rubber limbs and costumes from the local party store.


Who am I to say what is good or bad?

I have not gone through any special training on haunted houses and I am no more an expert than anyone else who has been to way too many haunted houses. I have simply seen a lot and I know what I like. If you agree with my Good and Bad criteria above, you are more likely to agree with my reviews. If you are considering haunted houses for small children, note that I am not a small child so your child's opinions are likely to vary from mine.


Ok, so why do we disagree?

I get emails sometimes from folks who disagree with my ratings, and sometimes they are not one of the haunted house owners. :) If you agree with my method but not my madness (you agree with my rating system above but not with my rating), it is likely we did not have the same haunted house experience. I generally go to haunted houses early in the season. Some houses are at their best because their actors haven't gotten sick of doing it yet, while others are at their worst because they are behind schedule and generally not ready to open yet. Some haunted houses invite me to a "press night" where they are being extra careful to put forth their best performance for the press. If this performance is not consistent when open to the public, your mileage may vary. Generally speaking the best time to go to a haunted house is their SECOND weekend. In theory they will have fixed the bugs by then and the actors won't have grown weary yet. If you go on a night where they have so many people waiting in line that they have to rush people through faster, you will not get the same experience as a "normal" night. Then again if you go on a night where the actors aren't prepared because it's been so dead they didn't realize there were people coming, you also will get a less than perfect experience. I get that a lot since I tend to go opening weekend to most houses. A good haunt should be ready for a perfect tour during all posted operating hours.

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