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2004 Portland, Oregon Haunted House guide

Explanation of ratings
Passing Fads

Haunts with the same rating are considered equal

Click on the title for location and review details.

Screamland - Trilogy of Terror
Scream at the Beach - Elshoff Manor
Scream at the Beach - Forbidden Temple
Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors
Milburn's Haunted Manor
13th Door
House of Midnight - Castle Bloodmoor
Scream at the Beach - Alien Invasion
House of Midnight - Exaquaria
Nightmare on Sunnyside - Victorian Mansion
Nightmare on Sunnyside - 3D Clown House
Hoffman's Haunted Barn
Screamland - Double Dare
Nightmare FactoryNot Yet Reviewed
Quicksilver Haunted HouseNot Yet Reviewed

Click on the titles above for details and click on the titles below (listed alphabetically) to visit their web sites.
Schedule and cost info is subject to change. Some haunts offer discount coupons on their web sites.


13th Door
Beaverton: Washington Square Mall, next to TGI Friday's.
Oct 1-3, 7-10, 14-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat through Oct 9, 7pm-12 Fri/Sat Oct 15 on, 7pm-10 other nights.
$15 per person.
$2 discount on web site
13th door returns this year as a haunted cruise ship. It begins with a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. The maze could use more action, but things pick up once you hit the boiler room, which was my favorite room in the haunt. They raised the temperature in the room and everything looked like it was made of metal. Note that the maze gets fairly narrow in parts - which is cool, but some weighty folk may have difficulty.


Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors
Portland: Jantzen Beach Mall, next to Toys R Us (at Scream at the Beach).
Oct 2, 7-9, 14-16, 19-31.
7pm-11pm Fri/Sat and Oct 31, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 per person.
This haunt is the poster child for the bizarre. Now in its third year, the Baron offers more strangeness than ever. They broke things up a bit this year with a more detailed museum section complete with placards, plus other areas not directly related. However, the experience did seem a tad disjointed this year, as the "Wayward Girls" theme seems kind of thrown in. If you thought the doll collection was evil, wait until you see the maternity ward.


Hoffman's Haunted Barn
Canby: 6815 S Knights Bridge Rd at Hoffman's Dairy Garden.
Oct 15/16, 23/24, 27-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 per person.
$1 off coupon on web site
Hoffman's has been a family tradition for years and is the longest-running of all the haunts reviewed here. Like most out-of-town farm haunts, this is done on a smaller scale than the big city haunts. Most of the scares are "startles" (someone jumping out). It may have been missing some volunteers when I went through, as parts of it seemed more quiet than normal. This haunt offers 3-D and non-3-D sections for one price. Hoffman's also has other Halloween events during October including a pumpkin weigh-off and a corn maze. Check their web site for details.


House of Midnight
Wilsonville: Bullwinkle's Family Fun Center
Castle Bloodmoor
Exaquaria
Oct 6 through 10 7pm-10pm, Oct 13 through 31
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 per person per haunt or $14 for both haunts.
$1 off coupon on web site
Castle Bloodmoor: This haunt is back from last year with new scares and some cool effects. Gone (thankfully) is the cheesy background story. One particular scare in this haunt triggered three different events simultaneously to great affect, something I rarely see.

Exaquaria: Exaquaria is a sewer-themed haunt of sorts and a departure from the usual haunted fare. Unfortunately, many of the automated scares were not functioning properly when I went through and the fog was so thick I likely missed some of the décor. These things will likely have been fixed by the time you read this. I found the dark foggy atmosphere to be fun for a couple rooms, but not for a whole haunt. Once working, there are some good small-scale animated creature effects.


Milburn's Haunted Manor
Hubbard: 11503 Broadacres Rd NE. (about 20 miles South of Portland)
Oct 15/16, 22-31.
7pm-12 Fri/Sat, 7pm-11 Oct 31, 7pm-10 other nights.
$7.50 per person.
This is the second year for Milburn's, and they have made many improvements. The outside of the greenhouse has been dressed up to look more like a house, and the plastic sheeting inside has been replaced with walls. They have some unique effects and the actors are very enthusiastic. It's all done on a smaller scale than some of the big haunts, but it's definitely worth the trip to Hubbard, about 25 miles south of Portland.


Nightmare Factory
Salem: 999 Locust Street NE
Oct 22/23, 27-31.
7pm-10 through Oct 28, 7pm-11 other nights.
$7 per person. $1 off with 2 cans of food.
Not reviewed last year.


Nightmare on Sunnyside Road
Clackamas: Clackamas Town Center, SouthEast parking lot.
Victorian Mansion
3D Clown House
Oct 14-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 Mon-Thurs.
Web site is unclear about Sunday schedule.
$12 per person for both haunts.
This haunt is in its third year and has not changed a lot from year to year. It's a funhouse-style haunt and certainly worth visiting while at the Clackamas Town Center mall, though does not have the big special effects or large scope of some of the larger haunts. One side is 3-D with clowns; the other side a more classic haunt.


Quicksilver Haunted House
Vancouver: Clark County Saddle Club, 10505 NE 117th Ave. Orchards, WA
Oct 29-31.
6pm-11 Fri, 5pm-11 Sat, 5pm-10 Sun.
$5 per adult, $2 per child.
Not reviewed last year


Scream at the Beach
Portland: Jantzen Beach Mall, next to Toys R Us.
Alien Invasion
Elshoff Manor
Forbidden Temple
Oct 2, 7-9, 14-16, 19-31.
7pm-11pm Fri/Sat and Oct 31, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 for each major attraction or all four attractions (includes Baron Von Goolo's) for $20. $3 for Nigel's Playhouse (kids 4-7).
$2 off coupon on web site - valid on one individual haunt
Alien Invasion: Alien Invasion is an improvement over last year's Alpha Station 13. A spaceship has been invaded by alien creatures. It's still a tad short and missing some scare opportunities (alien eggs but no scary animated face huggers?), but it has a ride at the end and makes good use of some old OMSI exhibits. I would venture to say it is better than the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, though admittedly that is not saying a lot. Some of the big effects have crept in this year and it has a bit of a story rather than just actors startling you.

Elshoff Manor: Elshoff Manor is a classic style haunted mansion with a good mix of scares, effects, and general spookiness. Secret panels and moving walls are a plus. There is a ghost story to go along with it, including paranormal researchers who convey the history of the manor. Attention to detail is excellent and this haunt has a good balance of effects and actors.

Forbidden Temple: The Forbidden Temple is basically an expansion of last year's haunt with some of the old scares, plus some new ones. It seemed a tad more static than normal. Perhaps it was a low night for volunteers and at least two items I was pretty certain were supposed to move did not. Technical difficulties should be cleared up by the time you read this. Some of the new special effects are their best yet, continuing to rival major theme parks in scope.


Screamland
Portland: Oaks Park.
Double Dare
Trilogy of Terror
Oct 15 through 31.
7pm-10 Sun-Thurs, 7pm-midnight Fri/Sat
$18 for Trilogy, $10 for Double, $20 for all.
$2 off coupon on web site
Double Dare: I was surprised to find this attraction almost the opposite of Trilogy of Terror (see below). Double Dare includes 3-D and a dark maze sections, neither of which had much going on. The 3-D artwork is nice, but 3D art alone is not enough. The dark maze section has furry and rubber things hanging from the wall and ceilings, and not much else. Then again, as noted, I am not a fan of dark mazes.

Trilogy of Terror: Screamland is action-packed with something - or someone - moving throughout. It's a good long haunt for your money and there's never a dull moment. It had a couple glitches with animation-activation, and the maze at the end was unnecessary, but overall this was the biggest thrill-ride of the bunch. It's a good balance of actors and animated effects without long, boring parts where nothing happens - except for that maze at the end. Screamland has also added some of the large-scale animated creatures previously found only at Scream at the Beach.




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.
A group of scares that work well as a whole or tell a cohesive non-cheesy story.Disjointed unconnected themes or cheesy kid stories.


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.


Passing Fads

There have been many "fads" in haunt history. You see them in one haunt, then two, then almost every haunt, then back down to one or two. They are interesting when first encountered but quickly grow dull and repetitive. I am speaking of things like the vortex tunnel, 3D artwork, and the dot room. This year a lot of the haunts include a "dark maze" - a section of rooms you walk through in total darkness with an occasional rubber spider hanging from the ceiling. Hopefully this trend will die soon. There are no special effects, nothing to see, and more often than not there are no actors. I can create this effect at home by turning my lights off and feeling along the walls - and my house has real spiders! Of all the haunts with dark maze sections, the only haunt to use a dark maze properly was Milburn's Manor. The dark section covered a short area just long enough to get your eyes used to the dark before hitting you with a light-related effect. Also, an extensive dark maze tends to render a haunt not wheelchair-accessible.

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