The midway mark on my official haunt tour 2019 has arrived this week. I’m having a real scream navigating you goblins and ghouls through the many haunts in my home state of NC. As a spirited adventurous girl, I like adding variety in my life, so my haunt tour is no exception. This week, I’ll be traveling to Pinhead’s Graveyard. It’s an all outdoor haunted trail hidden away in the rural mountains of Canton, NC...and a total change of pace from the indoor, prop driven haunted attractions that I and so many others have become accustomed to! It’s centered around famous horror icons and the victims they are seeking to claim. I can’t wait to see what, or better yet who, is waiting for us in the shadows this week! Pinhead’s Graveyard has been in business for over 20 years and while it has gained major popularity locally, it is still somewhat unknown in parts outside of its region of WNC. The price of admission is $25. Parking is free of charge. Trust your GPS to show you the way there. As sinister as that backroad after you turn off the interstate may be...and believe me, the eerie Wrong Turn vibe is real on this one...Siri and Google maps will guide you to it. Keep an eye out for the big field with the dimly lit, hand painted signs and you’ll be just fine! Stepping out from the safety of your car and into the darkened parking area immediately gives you a troubled feeling in your gut. Following your way to the crafted entrance sign, which leads into a more caliginous environment known as the ticket line, you begin to get the uneasy sensation you could be headed straight for an unpleasant run in with the Firefly family and their deformed sideshow followers...honestly, don’t be surprised if this actually happens. Combine that with a possible celebrity guest appearance...this weekend it was David Howard Thornton aka Art the Clown...and you’re in for a real “terrifying” experience.
The haunt’s rural location tucked away in the backwoods mountains of western North Carolina plays to its advantage. It comes with a creepy lost in the middle of the dark forest with an unknown danger type vibe. The entertainment seemed to be lacking while standing in the ticket line. Placing a few characters outside of the trail and allowing them to mingle with guests would have attributed to keeping the energy level and mood of anticipation up. However, standing in the dark with a sense of uncertainty of what is to come and only random strangers to create small talk with could possibly be scary enough for the average anxiety ridden millennial. We would have liked to see what this area would have been capable of with more focus and development.
Pinhead’s Graveyard is exactly what it advertises itself to be. It’s a haunted outdoor trail ruled by Pinhead himself and he’s brought along all of his murdering villainous friends to help him claim new unlucky souls for his Hell. From the moment you step onto the trail until the end, you become immersed in your very own horror movie. The actors do a believable job at pulling you into their world and making you realize you’re trapped in several iconic scenes from the infamous films throughout the years. One thing that I do feel the need to point out: be careful as you travel along with dirt pathways and occasional rickety staircase. Keep in mind it is on the side of a mountain and while there may be black tarps along the sides, one clumsy misstep near the edge and you may end up sliding down an embankment. Make sure to follow the dimly light trails and you should be good to go.
Pinhead’s Graveyard is a volunteer based haunt. These actors aren’t here for a paycheck. They’re here because they want to be. They have an obvious love for haunting and it shows. There are no jump scares or unnecessary screaming in the customers’ ears at this haunted trail. Just actors with old fashioned inventiveness which they use to bring horror movie scenes to life...and it works! The opening scene with Michael Myers was phenomenal! The rage displayed as he viciously picked up his teen victim in what appeared to be a “choke hold” and carried her out of sight, literally kicking and screaming, was a very creative intro. It was brutal, raw and packed a punch! The way he maliciously yielded his knife at our group, in front of an abandoned cop car, we all may have considered checking our phones to see if we had Dr. Samuel Loomis on speed dial. It was believable and very convincing. We encountered a slight dead zone along the trail near the Camp Crystal Lake area. Jason Voorhees was late on his cue. This scene could have benefited from a well placed victim to help fill the void. However, when you’re short staffed this happens on occasion. On another note, the chainsaw showmanship from both Victor Crowley and Leatherface was excellent! They do an amazing job of blind siding groups, running towards them from what appears to be out of nowhere. Scaring from the front to back to front again. They really knew how to work the crowd. It was a great use of scare tactic! The customers loved it!
The attention to detail on their horror icons and costumes are spot on, in most areas. Ninety percent of their villains are wearing masks and their infamous slasher gear costumes. There were two characters we crossed paths with where the lighting was too dark and we were unsure of who exactly they were supposed to be. We were slightly disappointed by this, but still excited with the rest of the “killer” aesthetic we were able to take in with lots of other characters. Whoever designed their Nun costume and mask did an excellent job! One of the most realistic, lifelike versions of Valak we have personally seen in a North Carolina haunt this season! Although, I will point out we also noticed preteen Jason Voorhees hadn’t quite hit his growth spurt yet, but don’t worry little guy, we’re sure sooner or later, you’ll grow into that hockey mask and make Mommy Pamela proud! Another awesome tidbit we noticed, the villains used metallic props for more believable performances. No cheap plastic for these mass murderers. Every time they stab at the ground or drag their weapons against a vehicle, you can hear the impact and it makes for an even better scare! Pinhead’s Graveyard has a great visual concept of what a horror villain should look like and the aesthetic it takes to create them.
Special Effects: 3
Besides two startle props and a strategically placed boombox (yes, I said boombox...you can tell they really love the 90's) along the trail, Pinhead’s Graveyard doesn’t rely on special effects to carry their show. That’s what their actors are there for. They keep it simple and that’s something that surprisingly plays to their advantage. They do a great job at proving you don’t always need modern technology and 3D projections to create scares. Sometimes all it takes is one very realistic Freddy Krueger and a blood curdling scream from one of his victims.
Customer Service: 9
The customer service at this haunted trail is very satisfactory. The ticket operators are all cordial, down to earth and fervent to strike up a casual conversation with customers to pass the time as we waited in line. The parking area could have certainly benefited from having guides to help with directing traffic in and out, but, again with it being a volunteer based crew, you have to work with the amount of people you’re given. They appeared cheerful to guests and wished them a fun time during their experiences.
Is It Scary: 7
For a smaller haunt, this trail has several innovative moments when it comes to creating scares. They keep the groups small, so everyone can get an opportunity to become a part of the story and still leave room for them all to receive at least one spook. Freddy Krueger got me in the departing moments of his scene and that rarely ever happens. Maybe it had something to do with his mattress splitting entrance or the fire pit he was playing with, but I jumped. Another girl in our group had everyone else dying from laughter at the end of our trail experience. Leatherface chased her screaming bloody murder all the way to the end of the field parking lot and back up again until she literally leapt into her boyfriend’s arms for safety. There are scares to go around Pinhead’s Graveyard all throughout this haunted trail.
Bang For Your Buck: 7.5
The entire trail took us around 30 minutes to complete. The price of admission for all is $25, parking is free and part of their proceeds are donated to charity. It’s for a good cause and the experience alone is unique in itself, so it’s worth the price. Definitely check this place out if you are local or have a lot of love for old school horror films.
Pinhead’s Graveyard stays true to their southern, old school slasher genre roots. They don’t try to be something they’re not. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and they’re okay with that. It’s a combination of simplicity, horror and a general passion for the craft at its finest. Definitely a recommendation for those customers looking for a beginner haunt as a introduction to the world of haunted attractions and trails or to anyone who is a dedicated 1980s-90s horror fan! Pinhead’s Graveyard is a great representation of a vintage haunted trail experience before technology, special effects and animatronic props invaded the industry. If you’re local or within reasonable driving distance, make sure you check out this creative experience. I’m excited to see these guys progress in future seasons...I think they’re on to something really unique.