Come little children, goblins and ghouls, I once again have returned to take you away into a land of enchanted haunts and hair raising frights! It’s official…fall is upon us. There’s a slight, hushed breeze in the air, carrying with it a lingering anticipation of all spooky things yet to come this season and we couldn’t be more excited for it. This year, I’ll be embarking on my largest Scurryface tour yet, so brace yourself and get ready to run away with me to some of the most spine chilling, show stopping haunts that North Carolina has to offer. For our first stop this haunt season, I hope you remembered to pack a sassy pet parrot or that pink flamingo pool floatie you keep hidden in your closet. These may come in handy for protection later when we encounter the infamous pirate crew of Lake Hickory Haunts in Hickory, NC!
Any long term fans of Scurryface will recognize this haunted attraction is no stranger to several of our past haunt tours throughout the years. Each season, Lake Hickory Haunts continues to grow and expand on acting, set designs and its spacious surroundings nearby. It’s always an intrigue of mine to guess what new attraction, owner, Ryan Settlemyre and his creative team are going to brainstorm up and what new area they’re going to place it in next. Previous visits never failed to impress Scurryface, so I was curious to see what surprises lay in store for us this year. I was not left disappointed.
For the newcomers who haven’t experienced a visit with Lake Hickory Haunts, allow me to set the opening scene for you. It’s dusk with a crimson red and deep purple sky for a fitting backdrop. The minute that you purchase your ticket and make your way towards the haunt entrance, you’re greeted with tub thumping terror tunes (think Mickey’s Halloween Dance Party) and instantly wrapped inside a wave of rolling fog that blankets the area. Distant multi colored strobe lights can be seen wandering the sky above. You’re still slightly unsure of your surroundings, the eerie mist pulls slowly back from your vision and you see an enormous pirate ship shaped DJ booth hoisted in midair. It’s adorned with a distressed skull and bones flag, ghastly skeletons and tattered robe wearing reapers holding dimly lit lanterns. It’s almost like their heralding an unfortunate and foreboding voyage for any customer who dare enter their gates as you pass underneath the ship into Lake Hickory Haunts’ upper Midway of Mayhem. It’s a pleasurable visual setup and does satisfying job of creating the imagery of the monster world this haunted attraction strives for.
Lake Hickory Haunts’ Midway of Mayhem is a vast, spacious area with not just one, but TWO levels. Both of these are packed with diverting games like a Buried Alive coffin ride, an escape room and axe throwing challenge to name a few. There is also a concessions stand fully stocked with fairground style food, in case you need a snack while you wait for your group to be called. But, don’t let me forget to mention my personal favorite, this arena is crawling with nefarious monsters…some who are even carrying real life snakes and spiders! Here you will see the haunt’s premiere characters such as Boss, Lilith and several of their ghoulish fiends lurking around. These actors give an amusing production at working the crowd and pulling haunt fans into their mythical world. A beloved pastime of mine is to gather next to a nearby strategically placed cornstalk and watch the creatures “stalk” their victims. Maybe it’s the bullied inner child in me, but hearing teenage cheerleader screams and watching them go catapult running through the midway cracks me up every time. All in good fun, of course…no actual kids were harmed in the making of this haunt.
Lake Hickory Haunts is a 12 attractions in 1 style maze. It’s an action packed, over stimulating thrill ride from start to finish. While it does contain several of your classic haunt themes such a Nightmare Factory, a Slaughterhouse and a Big Top Circus, this haunted attraction also dabbles in a few fresh, newly explored concepts as well. There’s Extinction 2.0, their recently revamped alien themed maze, as well as Aquaphobia, a ghost town by a lake, which was cursed by a monstrous water demon. This area features a bridge that extends out over the haunt’s very own misty pond. An interesting and inventive idea that you don’t see at many haunted attractions. The most recent edition to this season that I was most excited to explore was the Voodoo Bayou. It’s a 15-20ft treetop maze! The attention to details in these areas is astounding. It’s voodoo relics and hexes wall to wall with more dangling bottles and animal skulls than you could count. I guarantee that you could walk through this trail multiple times and still manage to see something new that you missed beforehand. Between the set designs, makeup and scare actors popping out of each corner and crevice you encounter, there’s not a dull moment.
The cast of this attraction are adequately versed in their trade. There’s a noticeable significance in the execution of their scare tactics. It’s obvious they have an enjoyable time using their sets and surroundings to their advantage. Often times, playing off both the audience as well as their scene partners. If one creature doesn’t get you, the monster hiding in the shadows of the opposing dark corner will. Hope you’re staying focused because they’ll be the first to notice if you get distracted. Scares like these were especially commendable in the new Voodoo Bayou attraction. Papa Legba and his witchy swamp coven used techniques that combined 50% fright with 50% sass and the customers loved it. These high fueled characters were awesome at keeping the energy pumping and the crowd flowing.
Once you’re inside the Lake Hickory Haunts’ trail, it’s as if you were submerged into a freakish outworld of villainous creatures and ghouls. The attention to detail is rather intoxicating. This haunt uses a plethora of strategically placed fog machines laced with scenery based smells, a variety of electronic props and puppets, visual projectors, canons and even old fashioned chainsaw runners as a variety of tools to stimulate their customers’ five senses. It’s a lot to take in at once. I personally took my time on my journey through, so I could try to get the full effect.
I would personally like to add over the past two years. Lake Hickory Haunts has greatly stepped up their game on set design and backdrops. With the help of their current main builder, Brandon Ford, and the distinct artwork of their artistic director, Ryan Visingard, this haunt is making itself known and telling everyone they’re aiming to be a main contender in the haunt industry. With this continued progress, I see a long lived spooky future for Lake Hickory Haunts.
This will be Lake Hickory Haunts’ eleventh season in operation. This attraction always packs a scaretacular punch and never fails to bring the entertainment. It is what I personally would call a “preteen’s haunted dream” in the industry, but there is fright and fun to be had by all ages! We visited on their opening night and based off what I’ve seen, I can only see the performances getting better throughout the rest of the fall season. From what I’m told, Lake Hickory Haunts has a lot of exciting events planned this year as well…including a visit from the Jeepers Creepers truck, live bands and more, so make sure you stay tuned and don’t miss out! If you’re in North Carolina or the surrounding states, this is a “Must See Haunt” that you have to experience at least once in your life!