For the first haunt of my season, we took a little trip to Vinemont, AL to The Haunt at Camp Liberty. It was quite an easy drive there. Head out of Birmingham up 65 North, take exit at 310 and turn left onto Alabama Hwy 157 and drive about 10 minutes and you’ll see Camp Liberty on your left. The main office/ticket booth for the haunt is visible from the road and the entryway is well lit and marked well. On an average day, Camp Liberty is a military youth camp, but every year in October it transforms into something quite different!
The drive up, was teeming with excitement, mixed with a bit of nervousness about what to expect; as we had been warned on the website, The Haunt at Camp Liberty is not your typical “conga-line” of jump scares type of haunt! It’s a much more immersive experience than your typical haunt. Word to the Wise – leave your pumps and your snakeskin boots at home and slip on those old tennis shoes, you know, like the old New Balance sneakers your dad cuts grass in. Slap on some old jeans and a hoodie that doesn’t matter to you anymore. Because whatever you wear in, may not make it out alive….assuming you even make it out alive!
Customer Service: 10
The hospitality there was outstanding! From the moment you walk up, you’re greeted by a quite entertaining soldier to fill you in on the rules, what to expect by informing you that you will get wet, dirty, slimy, and stinky while in the haunt, help you complete a liability waiver and help you decide which ticket package you’d like to buy, then he will fill you in on the backstory of the haunt. Once you’ve settled all that and head in, several actors milling around in the Midway area will introduce themselves, learn your names and interact with you while you wait. They have a unique way of making you feel like part of the family while they entertain you.
SECOND SCORE - 9.8
THIRD SCORE - 10
They have created a very fun and entertaining atmosphere, including a bonfire to hang out around and warm up on cold nights, and a midway with some not-so-normal carnival games to play, an outstanding and captivating fortune teller. My kids had a blast watching me cringe as I played Nurse Constance’s “Bloody Mary” game. They also have a local hot dog vendor on site some nights to fill your belly while you wait.
While you enjoy your time in the midway, the trail entrance kind of taunts you. You see it down there, but can’t really tell what’s awaiting you once you go in. Then, behind you, you’ll hear some blood-curdling screams, moans, and bangs coming from the indoor portion of the haunt that really get you wondering what you’re about to walk into. By condensing the haunt area from the previous year’s spread-out version, they have managed to add a lot to the atmosphere.
SECOND SCORE - 8.5
THIRD SCORE - 8.3
Special Effects: 6.5
This is one of their lowest scoring areas, but it’s not due to poor use, it’s simply for a lack of special effects. They used very minimal special effects, but did it very effectively. Don’t come in here expecting animatronic monsters and tons of fancy lighting effects. Instead of using fancy mechanical special effects, they use some much simpler methods of effects that play on your senses – the sounds, the smells, the textures that touch you and that you have to touch, and sometimes even managing to take certain senses away from you.
SECOND SCORE - 7.7
THIRD SCORE - 8
Due to the nature of the theme and background story of the haunt, costuming and makeup is simplistic, but very well done and appropriate for their characters. One thing that usually turns us off in a haunt is when a lot of actors simply throw on a mask instead of taking time to do makeup. There were very few masks used and they were appropriate and added to the character in a way makeup wouldn’t have done. I saw some very authentic costumes on certain characters. While hanging out in the Midway, you’ll notice their costumes have this mixed vibe of creepy and fun at the same time, which is pretty hard to pull off, but they did it wonderfully.
SECOND SCORE - 7.9
THIRD SCORE - 7.5
This is definitely a make/break category for any haunt. You can spend a million dollars on fancy special effects and throw in the wrong actors and ruin everything. But you take a handful of passionate actors and place them in a simple setting and create magic. This is where these guys worked some magic! These aren’t even professional actors! It’s mostly friends and family who just have a passion for the haunt.
As I said before, don’t expect conga lines of jump scares, you are immersed in the storyline so the actors can’t simply rely on timing or hiding spots. They have to really work to get inside your head. My daughter will probably shoot me for telling you guys this, but she’s been in the haunt industry since age 7, she’s now 13. She’s a cute little blonde, you know the one many haunt actors like to single out because they are usually the easy target. Well, bless them, actors always find themselves disappointed because she is unresponsive and unphased by them. Well, one particular character seriously got under her skin. When she started reaching out for me and trying to hide behind me, I knew we had found a gem of an actor.
The actors didn’t just jump at you then run away, they played mind games with you. You actually kind of feared trying to move along past them. Some of them captivated you and enthralled you so much that you simply couldn’t look away. If the actor didn’t scare you, they entertained you! Huge bonus points for that!
Another area where these actors excelled at was something you don’t have to think about at most haunts. The Haunt at Camp Liberty does allow their actors to touch you. Sometimes in haunts that allow touching, the actors apparently think this means to sexually assault patrons or beat the crap out of them. There’s none of that foolishness here. They have learned the appropriate way to touch and interact with their patrons. They use touch to simply pull you into their world and make you realize that you are a guest there and they are in charge
SECOND SCORE - 8.5
THIRD SCORE - 8
Is it Scurry?: 8.5
With a combination of their use of affecting your senses and actors that truly find ways to make you uncomfortable enough to question what you think your next move should be, you betcha it’s scurry!
SECOND SCORE - 8
THIRD SCORE - 8.7
The theme is sort of wonky, all over the place, and fantastically creatively tied together! If you just saw a lineup of the characters, you’d be thinking “what in the world?”, but after hearing the backstory, it all makes complete sense.
As I said before, as you purchase your tickets, you will be filled in on the backstory, sent on your way to spend a little time playing games in the midway, if you chose, until you decide it’s time to brave the trail.
At the beginning of the trail, you are actually given a mission. This makes for a unique aspect compared to most haunts that you just walk through. You’re suddenly part of the story! So the entire time you’re making your way through, not only are you watching out for what lurks around the corner, you’re thinking about how to accomplish the mission given to you.
The first portion of the trail is outdoors. Although, one perfectly timed and pretty hilarious incident on the trail caught me so off guard that I spent several seconds in shock that I even allowed that to just happen, overall, this was probably my least favorite part of my visit. Most haunted trails are through woods and more closed in giving you a claustrophobic feeling. This one is more of a very wide trail, about the width of a one-lane road, cut through tall grass. There wasn’t a whole lot of action on the trail. Don’t get me wrong, the few actors that were there, did a great job; it was just lacking in activity. I did learn that they were short staffed on the trail that night, which could have accounted for that fact. I just feel like there is some missed opportunity for some creativeness on the trail.
Once you reach the end of the outdoor trail, you are pulled into the story, invited into their world, and start hoping you can survive their world. It suddenly dawns on you, “ok, I’ve made it to my destination, now I have to start figuring out how to accomplish that mission they gave me.”
Most decorations throughout here were simplistic, but accurate for the scene. The transition from one particular scene to the next was quite unique and creative. I remember standing in that particular room thinking, “man, I don’t see a way through here, how the heck do we get out of this pla….ooooooh, that’s cool!”
There was quite a bit of thick fog used in a couple of scenes. While this did an excellent job of disorienting you, for someone with any breathing difficulties, such as asthma, it could cause an issue, so be aware before entering.
Remember when I said don’t wear good clothes? Yeah, this is the part you’ll be thankful you’ve got on old sweats and grass cutting shoes. It gets pretty messy in there and, there’s no way to avoid it. But trust me, it adds to the fun!
SECOND SCORE - 8
THIRD SCORE - 8.3
Bang for your buck: 7
You have two options to purchase. Just to go through the trail is $16. Or, for just $4 more, bringing your total to $20, you can add 6 tokens to play games in the midway, and you get a small souvenir - an “I survived the Haunt at Camp Liberty” dog tag! Not many haunts give a souvenir included in the price.
I’m going with a 7 on this simply because I kind of wish it lasted just a smidge longer than it did. Maybe it’s just because I was having so much fun being entertained that I didn’t want it to end, but it felt like it went a little quickly.
SECOND SCORE - 8.5
THIRD SCORE - 8
Overall, we had a blast at The Haunt at Camp Liberty! They have done a great job creating a haunt that is unique and memorable. The cast and crew are all super friendly and very passionate about making sure their patrons are having a good time.
I must note, although, they offer a family-friendly environment outside the haunt and in the Midway, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one as the first-time haunt or for most younger kids. It just gets a little intense for most kids.
This is only their second year and I cannot wait to see what happens as they grow each year!