Last Updated on September 27, 2022 by Jeremy
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Note: ScareHouse is now located in the Pittsburgh Mills shopping mall. We were invited by ScareHouse for a behind-the-scenes tour in 2021 to update this article, but have paid for the tour in the past as well.
If you're looking to get scared silly during Halloween in Pittsburgh, the city has a number of options for you.
But we have to be honest in saying that we're not ones to get excited about haunted attractions. We can appreciate the work and attention to detail that goes into making a haunt, but we're not rushing to get in line to get spooked, either.
So when we found that ScareHouse offers behind the scenes, lights on tours on select days during their operating season, we were in.
ScareHouse With the Lights On
Whenever we visit haunted attractions, we often leave with the same thought in mind- we simply wish we had more time to stop and appreciate the beauty and ingenuity of the designs.
When you're rushing through room after room and getting spooked, you really can't take time to appreciate the ambiance. But on the behind-the-scenes tour, you get just that. The lights are on, the actors are gone, and aside from a few rooms where the effects may be on for explanation purposes, you feel more like you are on a movie set versus in an active house of horrors.
Perfect for horror wimps like us.
Going further, instead of rushing through in about 30 minutes you get to spend a great deal of time looking over every inch of the attraction, with a guide who lives, breathes, and sleeps all things haunted houses.
Not only do you get guidance on how the scares work themselves, but you also get a great dive into all of the subtle nods the creators give to horror films or pop culture references that they like. In some of the scenes, for example, many of the animal bones came from the Pittsburgh-shot movie The Last Witch Hunter. (Ironically, even having watched this movie we had no clue what scenes they were from!)
I have to admit that I found these details to be much more interesting than how the frights are constructed themselves as those who have been through haunted houses know about many of the standard shocks, scares, and surprises that could be in store when you visit. (But a few, which will remain nameless here, are priceless- you'll have to visit to experience those. We can't give away the secrets outright).
The Dedication of the ScareHouse Team Shows
One of the things that we really loved about the behind-the-scenes tour was learning about how dedicated the build teams are at ScareHouse.
My guide on my first tour went into great detail about how walls are built and given layer after layer of effects to look “grunged,” and my second tour pointed out how sets from earlier shows were repurposed to give new and even more robust specific effects. They really get into it here as some sets may require months of build time and some artists may even spend several days working on effects that guests will see for just a few seconds (if at all!).
In the Demon Hour section (in 2021), you enter a grim mansion whose clock at the door chimes 3 AM as you enter. As you explore this section of the story you hold flashlights that trigger scares and shocks depending on where you aim it. Be on the lookout for a few reverse triggers as well that only operate when a light is not shined on it!
In a kitchen scene here, there was also a freezer that is stocked with hilariously misname food boxes like a “Coconut Scream Pie”. In End of Days, you find interesting sticky notes on the shop wall for rationing during the zombie apocalypse. (Speaking of apocalypses, be on the lookout for what appears to be biohazard-tagged bags containing COVID-like swab test kits in the Oblivion section. Real horror there!)
In other parts of the tour, you may learn that the floors are designed with the most terrified guests in mind, as they are given details for those who stare at their feet the whole way through! But you'll never see these when going through the themed zones. Well, unless you stare at your feet the whole time, at least. This is why having the extra time in a behind-the-scenes tour is worth it.
From there, you may learn about subtle artistic details, like how scratched plexiglass helps reflect light in a really interesting and frightful pattern. We have to admit, we would be intrigued to see this one with the lights off, but the actor that runs around the scene too is what really will pull it all together. Of course, we're keeping that secret for us!
Overall, the behind-the-scenes tour at ScareHouse is a neat experience for a different look at how haunted houses work. You won't be scared here, but you will walk away with a greater appreciation for all the hard work that goes into operating an attraction that is only open for five or six weeks each year.
Maybe next year we'll go for the real thing? We'll see. We have been saying this for a while now, so maybe we should.
ScareHouse is located at 461 Pittsburgh Mills Cir at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills near the movie theater. Photos were taken with permission. We were invited on the tour by ScareHouse to update this article. As always, all opinions are our own. The haunted house is open from late September through the first weekend in November and behind-the-scenes tours are available on limited dates during the season.
Looking for more things to do in Pittsburgh in October? Click the previous link for more recommendations!