LAKE HICKORY HAUNTS

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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE... I’M BACKKK! It’s your one and only Scurryface NC State Rep, Venisha Von Mortis, and once again, I have returned to help all of you goblins and ghouls navigate your way through some of the scariest haunts the South has to offer. My initial tour wasn’t set to kick off until next weekend. However, when the haunting calls, I immediately throw on a pair of fishnets and follow the screams. This week, join me as I take on local favorite, Lake Hickory Haunts.

 

Once described by owner, Ryan Settlemyre as “the little haunt that could”, Lake Hickory Haunts started out as a small, hometown 15 minute haunted trail and in one short decade has quickly evolved into a 12 attraction, top rated favorite of the Carolinas while also gaining national recognition on the east coast. In recent years, this scare attraction has compiled many out of state fans who make the long journey every spooky season to see what terrors Lake Hickory Haunts has waiting for them. While Scurryface is no stranger to this haunt, it has been two years since we last dared to visit Lake Hickory Haunts. In previous reviews, they have always maintained a “Must See” rating with the Scurryface fam, but can they continue this streak while also managing to celebrate their “10 Years of Fear” extravaganza? Only time will tell.

 

Finding Lake Hickory Haunts is easily done. For me, it’s a leisurely 20 minute drive. Simply program the address into your GPS and your phone will show you the way. There are more than enough signs pointing you where to turn. Look for the huge gravel lot on the side of the road and make sure to bring $5 cash for parking. You will immediately see the new massive ticket booth they recently installed this season. It’s a colossal, much needed improvement from the small ticket box guests are accustomed to from previous seasons. Once you walk through the metal detectors and security, you are directed to one of the three lines that best suits your category: VIP/Fast Pass, General Admission and Will Call (for online ticket reservations). Here you have plenty of friendly operators ready to take your money and offer a helping hand. Once these guys get you settled in, follow the dirt path to where the sidewalk ends and prepare to make your way to the main midway entrance of this scare attraction. Judging by the looks of the enormous, floating pirate ship that you soon walk under, its eerie lighting and the misty fog inching its way towards you, one might easily think ghostly claws are pulling you into a terror filled nightmare you may or may not escape from. Prepare to face whatever doom lies for you inside Lake Hickory Haunts...

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CATEGORIES

MIDWAY/QUE LINE EXPERIENCE:

The minute you step into the brand new, mist filled midway, you can feel you are in the ghoulish grasp of Lake Hickory Haunts’ mercy. It’s a strobe lit, fog filled, tub thumping monster party that you’re going to want to stay for! What better way to celebrate “10 Years of Fear” than with a revamped brand new upper midway packed with concessions, crawling creatures, staggering clowns, fun filled games and much more?! The noticeably, evident change this season shows this scare attraction has put in the time, the work and the effort to create something fresh and innovative. They’ve stepped up their game and now, they’re here to show out. The best haunts in the industry are the ones that can create their own otherworldly atmosphere. This is exactly what Lake Hickory Haunts has managed to do. Think Goonies meets Ghostbusters and they had a baby with Killer Clowns from Outerspace...if this sounds insane, it’s because it is, but in the greatest way possible. Upon entering, you will be paired in groups of 10 or less and given a card with a classic monster name - Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. - do not lose this slip of paper. It determines when you will be allowed access to the haunt trail. This year, Lake Hickory Haunts has not one, but two...yes, two pirate DJ’s! On Midway #1, atop the pirate ship balcony you have squash buckling, female DJ Bonnie Nyx cranking out the latest hits and continuing the celebration from his tall tower on Midway #2, there is the notorious and the nefarious, Captain DJ Bone Breaker! Catch him in a less than foul mood and he may even do The Wobble with you. Pay attention when the music stops, once the haunt opens, these DJs will be announcing the next group on deck for the haunt entry line. While you wait, check out all of the games and newest additions both midways have to offer...a coffin ride simulator, axe throwing, an escape room and so much more. If you’re feeling a little bougee, upgrade your ticket to VIP and check out the contemporary VIP lounge, which overlooks a scenic view of Lake Hickory Haunts’ murky, fog covered waters! If you’re a selfie taking Insta Queen, don’t worry. There are several props, original Lake Hickory Haunts themed cutouts (Ryan Visingard, we’d know your distinctive, abstract artwork anywhere!) and the coveted 12 ft skeleton from Home Depot for all the photo ops your little heart desires. If it’s monsters that you came for, don’t fret. Lake Hickory Haunts has a plethora of those roaming around as well. Long time fan favorite, Stretch, the stilted clown, is still meandering throughout the mass of customers chatting them up and of course, the demonic maniac herself...Lillith has once again returned to reek mayhem on unsuspecting victims. She’s opted for a change in looks this season, but never fear (or better yet, still fear) she’s as vile and disturbed as she’s always been! There are a few new midway characters introduced this year as well. We’re avoiding making eye contact with the mutant doctor, but still pointing fingers at him for being an instant audience hit. The actors of Lake Hickory Haunts are great at grabbing customer’s attention square in the face and not wanting to let them go. They are very interactive and truly know how to engage the crowd. To witness this first hand, be there at opening ceremonies, so you won’t miss a minute of the monster parade. Customers get a face to face introduction to the entire cast! They have changed the parade up slightly this fall. With the new midway being above the old one, there are no villainous creations storming down the hill from both sides to close ranks around you, so it doesn’t have the same intimidating factor it once had, but this no longer geographically possible and change can sometimes be a good thing. Once all of the clowns, cannibals and other creatures have been escorted off midway for your safety, you will hear your monster names being slowly called. Once your group is announced, head on down the hill and prepare to join the haunt entrance line. Fast Pass and VIPs have the option to skip the wait and be granted instant trail access. But, if you are a general admissions ticket, you will barely notice a wait time with every thing both midways have to distract you with. One thing, we will warn General Admission of in advance, is the que line. It is outdoors. Some cobwebs and spider exoskeletons of past seasons have been left up for the sake of morbid decor and spine chilling aesthetic. Don’t be startled if you see the real thing crawling around in the decorations. This tends to happen when sets are outside where nature lives. Nothing a broom can’t handle. We recommend being mindful of this, but not so much that you let if deter you from the true danger you are about to face as you step inside THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY...

WALK THROUGH EXPERIENCE:

NIGHTMARE FACTORY: The second you enter the first attraction you are brought face to face with an aggressive Doctor Death, live in the flesh. He’s volatile and rage filled, driven mad by his own experimental, nightmare inducing gas that’s been unleashed inside this portion of the trail. It is guaranteed to bring your worst nightmares to life! This opening sequence packs a sucker punch and sets the mood for the remainder of this attraction. Here you must contend with monsters such as a ballerina death doll and her wax wall of porcelain souls, Zoe the human hunter and even a finger blade wielding Freddy Krueger himself. Be prepared for that “electrifying” ending...the teenage boys in our group were not. Screams are music to a Scurryface reviewer’s ears. 

 

LAIR OF THE UNDEAD: This is a completely revamped attraction that customers were dying to see. What was once a simplistic dirt walkway has been transformed into a massive crypt arena. From the deceased, creepy looking butler’s introduction to the costuming to the intricate caskets lined up from top to bottom, this modern day Lair could reasonably compete with the set design of the Haunted Mansion at Disney. Crowds loved it.

 

SHIPWRECKED: Send in the pirates! These beasts are out for blood, a bounty of booty or both. They are savages and not afraid to show it. If they don’t get you, the voodoo coven below them just might. One cursed voodoo soul made excellent use of double scaring in this segment of the haunted trail. Being in two places at once and cracking a fan for a pop scare can be tricky for some, but this actor pulled off this off with skill. Awesome dialogue from the guy as well. Papa Legba’s sass was sorely missed from his throne in this season, but from our understanding, he now wanders the midway for new souls as well. Life is tough when you’re communicating at the crossroads of the other realm.

 

AQUAPHOBIA: This freshly added attraction was installed last year in the 2020 season. Here you will encounter a once prosperous fishing village cursed by the water demon, Vodyanoi. There are seductive sirens, monsterous sea creatures, possessed fisherman and so much more. They’re all gross, grimy and slimy...exactly how fans like them. This area also includes a unique, floating dock over the dark, bottomless pits of the Lake Hickory waters. We really hope you know how to swim.

 

EXTINCTION: Kluath and his alien experiments have arrived and they are waiting for you at the top of hill where this next attraction sits. Be warned the combination of fog and strobe lights did have several teenagers confused on which way to go. Make sure you are paying attention or the professor might kidnap you to help with his next creation.

 

AFTERMATH: Here we have your generic post apocalyptic world of chaos and fury.

 

SLAUGHTERHOUSE: Southern cannibals are starving for you to stay a while, but once that chainsaw cranks you better start running. Side note: Shout out to the greeter of this house, as one member of our group described your mask was giving off “Shrek/little piggy gone horribly wrong vibes” and she was living for it!

 

DESCENT: If you’re afraid of the dark or better yet what lurks in it, you might want to brace yourself for what lies in wait for you...

 

BIG TOP CIRCUS: Boss the clown and his deadly clown creations are itching to make you one of them. This area starts off high energy and lots of excitement as they lure you into their 3D funhouse, but all fun things must come to an end and before long, so will you. Be vigilant and on the lookout for a hostile, chainsaw swinging Boss at any given moment. Seriously, we swear he was just out on the midway. How does he do that?

 

MANGLER: This closing attraction is also a recent addition to the haunted trail. It’s short themed and we weren’t exactly sure what was going on here...but once we heard the caged victim’s screams for mercy and the chainsaw start up again, we didn’t stick around long enough to figure things out...

 

MONSTER MART (EXIT): After escaping a 45 minute long, terror filled adventure, all guests are required to exit through the brand new gift shop this season. This version of the revitalized Monster Mart is a much needed facelift compared to the tiny building dedicated Lake Hickory Haunts fans will remember. No longer a small scale, overcrowded hut near Dracula’s Dizzy Darts, this spacious store has more than enough area to not only carry all of your favorite Lake Hickory Haunts merchandise, (shirts, beanies, hoodies, keychains, etc) but for fans to be comfortably spaced apart as they browse and shop. Make sure to see Susan and Morgan for all of your marketing needs. These two are always super friendly and more than happy to help answer any questions you may have. They genuinely care about customers and making sure their time and money are well spent at Lake Hickory Haunts. Once you have chosen your favorite, can’t live without it, gotta it take home souvenir feel free to make your escape to the parking lot and exit the haunted attraction. You have survived to visit Lake Hickory Haunts next season. Make sure to tell all of your friends about your knuckle biting experience.

 

Each attraction of the trail flows into the next one with ease. It’s a distinguished, entertaining blend of horror varieties all coming together as one with smooth transitions. Being one of the first few groups to enter the haunt on opening night, our group had no issue with other groups piling on top of one another. There were no conga lines or cattle herding. We went at our own pace and enjoyed every heart pounding minute. The only traffic issue to be noted was the heavy fog and one ill angled strobe light did confuse the two leaders of our group inside Extinction. Although, given that it only heightened several of the teenagers we were paired with’s anxieties and panicked screams, we are willingly to let it slide. It only added to the tension of navigating our way around the infamous, Kluath’s villainous clutches. The Descent sewer area did appear have a slight dead zone capable of greater scare potential. While most Nyctophobics would find walking in pitch black shadows surrounded by complete silence teeth chattering, the outgoing presence of a brutal pick axe toting miner would have excessively contributed to catapulting victims towards the clown house arena in fright. However, it was opening night. Lake Hickory Haunts and its cast have the rest of the season to find the perfect Harry Warden impersonator. This trail brought shrieks, squeaks, laughter and diverting amusement throughout the entirety of its journey. There is excitement to be had for everyone. Given everything Lake Hickory Haunts has to offer, it is definitely worth the admission price you chose to pay.

EYECANDY/VISUALS:

While the makeup at Lake Hickory Haunts is top quality, the earnest effort put into costuming and masks this season is the real crowd pleaser. The team has put forth a lot of attention into rebranding their gothic aesthetic and it radiates through. The new mutant Dr. Issac Carpenter, and his “Thing” inspired mask with matching scientist lab coat was a disgusting, instant hit. Closely followed by a recently unveiled undead caretaker who was in charge of operating the brand new coffin rides with a candlelit vigil backdrop. This was a true showstopper. Lake Hickory Haunts does feature several hi tech, special effect animatronics. A few that experienced haunters might recognize fresh off the Transworld trade show floor. We wanted to get our hands on that realistic Jaws shark puppet, no joke. When it comes to getting the full sensory experience at this haunted attraction, not even smells were unaccounted for. Each attraction has a scent catered to its experience. You have a slaughterhouse that reeks of rotten meat and a psychotic circus permeated with the enticing allure of sweet cotton candy wafting through the air. Little things like this do not go unnoticed. Saving the best for last, the visually stunning setups of the renovated Lair of the Undead and Aquaphobia are what honestly steal the show. The updated, casket lined mausoleum maze is a vast improvement from what once was a basic sparsely lined spider web trail. The decaying, phantasmic fisherman village of Aquaphobia is down right eerie. The innovate combination of vintage filth and grim paired with a decrepit dock overlooking a sinister lake view easily sets you on edge and may haunt your dreams for nights to come. It’s an impressive, reality bending technique. The visual art directors at Lake Hickory Haunts are at the top of their game.

ORIGINALITY/CREATIVITY:

Any fan of Lake Hickory Haunts can tell you the background story of Boss, the clown. A ringmaster of his own circus determined to transform all of his innocent victims into monster clown minions. This idea itself is innovative enough for the general public, but the unorthodox inclusion of aliens, pirates and swamp monsters also brings something fresh to the haunted house genre. Combine this factored with the latest original monster characters Lake Hickory Haunts has introduced and they genuinely may be on the way to becoming new leaders of the craft.

ACTORS:

The actors at this haunted attraction are well trained. They don’t use the archetypal, overused phrases such a “get out” or “boo”. From midway to inside the trail, there is a great dynamic amongst the cast. They all play well with and compliment each other. There is a cluster of scare tactics these actors use. Some are overly vocal. Some are deadly silent. Some contort and crawl. Others opt for the common pop scare from the shadows. No matter their weapon of choice, they each bring their own flavor to the mix. They do an excellent job at pulling guests into their element and making them a part of their monster world.

OVERALL GRADE:  A 

Lake Hickory Haunts has come a long way in not only the past 10 years, but especially the last season. They are bringing nothing less than their best “A” game. They are here to be noticed and they’re making sure of it. For that reason, Scurryface is not only giving them an “A” score this season, but also giving them the retaining title of “A MUST SEE HAUNT!” Make sure you check these guys out! You won’t regret it! Lake Hickory Haunts is the shining example of why you should never never overlook a newbie haunt or the growing potential and possibilities it has. That tiny haunted trail may very well expand into not only a top 3 ranked haunt in NC, but also be a dark horse upcoming phenomenon to beat. Scurryface can’t wait to see what Lake Hickory Haunts transforms into in future seasons to come!

REP PERSONAL THOUGHTS:

This is the section where I get to be as real and transparent as a reviewer can get. Lake Hickory Haunts and I have always maintained a love/hate relationship. There were seasons that I fell in love with the concepts and themes of this scare attraction and then somewhere in the past years, it fell a bit flat for me, personally. I wasn’t sure that they were going to be able to pull themselves out of the platitude I personally observed them in. That being said, I wasn’t sure what lurked in wait for me when I was given the opportunity to officially review this haunted attraction on my 2021 tour. While I’ve never held back from a truthful opinion, I’m not one who likes “to eat crow”, as we Southerners would say...but, someone crank the oven up on high because I’m about to serve myself a huge slice. From the recent overhaul on set designs and costuming attire to the immersive acting we observed, Lake Hickory Haunts greatly succeeded and surpassed my expectations. This new makeover of theirs has definitely been for the better. If they continue keeping the pace of this progressive outlook, they have potential to be in the running for a haunt to beat this spooky season. Congrats, Lake Hickory Haunts, on a job well done!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

GENERAL ADMISSION

FAST PASS: Immediate haunt access

VIP: Immediate haunt access, a tshirt, and access to VIP lounge, which includes cold water, snacks and an special VIP LHH sticker. Games are not included this year’s VIP package

 

ALL GAMES ARE $5

 

GREEN NIGHTS (Least crowded)

* September 18, 24

* October 17, 24, 28

* November 5, 6

Online

* General Admission: $26 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $41 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

On Site

* General Admission: $30 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $48 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

YELLOW NIGHTS (Less crowded)

* September 25

* October 17, 24, 28

Online

* General Admission: $28 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $46 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

On Site

* General Admission: $30 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $48 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

ORANGE NIGHTS (More crowded)

* October 2, 9, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, 31

Online

* General Admission: $33 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $48 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

On Site

* General Admission: $35 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $50 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

LAKE HICKORY BLACK OUT (Lights out - Total darkness)

* November 12 & 13

Online

* General Admission: $25 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $40 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

On Site

* General Admission: $26 (plus tax)

* Fast Pass: $41 (plus tax)

* VIP Pass: $65 (plus tax)

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