Fearing the Reaper

It took us a few hours in a rental car to travel to the backwaters of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  We parked in a dark and dusty (yet oddly heaving) car park.  As we walked along the path, an eery mist floated over the pond on our right, accompanied by the fitting song, ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’.  On our left was a fence covered in bushes and vines.  In a flash, one of the vines sprang to life as a costumed fiend jumped out and growled at us. Thus began our visit to Reaper’s Revenge, and this was to be the first of many scares that we’d encounter that night.

Reaper’s Revenge is a sort of Halloween-time haunted house, located way out in the sticks.  It’s regarded as one of the best in the whole east coast.  Scranton, PA is already a backwater, so driving further out of town and then being ushered into the deep, dark trees by ghoulish spectres is the perfect setting for this sort of super freaky experience.

There are 4 main acts to this experience and first up was the hayride, which I enjoyed the most.  28 of us were bundled onto a ricketty, long trailer where we sat on tufts of hay.  A tractor towed us through a dark forest for about half an hour through a series of themed scenes with scary actors and scenery evoking horror movies like Jason, American Horror Story, Poltergeist, and lots of rednecks (because moonshiners are way scarier than phantoms from another dimension).  The girl from ‘The Ring’ climb out of a well, and then creepy-crawled up onto our trailer with freakishly disjointed limbs.  The spookiest scene had scores of bodies hanging from ropes above our heads.  Every actor was perfect and every small detail was complete.  This hayride was like a Warner Bros. or Universal Studios tour, but with horror dripping from every pore.

Next was the carnival, which was a series of small, wooden houses.  Each had a slightly different theme and forced us to twist and turn through their varied rooms as fully committed actors gave us every persona: the morbid, the crazy, the obsessed, or the overly friendly routine.  The one time that I got startled was when a dude in a fluffy horse outfit was hiding in a wall full of other stuffed animals and then jump-scared me.  Whinnying bastard.

The third and scariest section, named ‘Pitch Black’, was a maze of tiny, twisty corridors leading through a large and completely dark house.  We couldn’t see our hands in front of our own faces.  There were plenty of dangly, moist objects and walls at odd angles.  I frequently headbutted the wall, and all of us kept bumping into each other like lost lemmings as we groped through the pitch black.  Invisible hands grasped at our ankles like grabby tendrils.  It was mostly silent except for the repeated, shrill screams of the woman in our group.  We put her in the front to give her all the best scares, which turned out to be a useful sort of a beacon or compass for the rest of us to follow.

We all agreed that Reaper’s Revenge blew our minds. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed at any other haunted house that I ever visit throughout the rest of my life.  Nothing else will be this good.  Reaper’s was like a scary Disneyland, where every little detail was designed perfectly to make it feel like a different world.  The whole environment gave us total immersion and we never once saw an actor look out of character or bored.  The effort and execution was just phenomenal.  Heck, the dude hiding in the vines near the carpark was still lurking there and scared us on our way back to the car.  We all agreed that it was amazing and we’d come again.

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