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 weekends during their operating season, we were in.
All the Haunted House Designs, None of the Frights
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 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 one room where the effects are on for explanation purposes (that one is kind of eerie still, I will admit), you feel more like you are on a movie set versus in a house of horrors.
Perfect for wimps like us.
Going further, instead of rushing through in about 30 minutes you get to spend one or two hours 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 haunt works itself, 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 Infernal, for example, there is a nod to Hocus Pocus and many of the props came from the Pittsburgh shot movie The Last Witch Hunter. (Ironically, even having recently 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 haunts 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).
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.
Our guide went into great detail about how walls are built and given layer after layer of effects to look “grunged,” how in-depth set require months of build time, and how some artists may spend days painting a single effect guests will see for all of fifteen seconds (if at all!).
In a kitchen scene of The Sunset Lodge there is a freezer that is stocked with food boxes like “Ego” waffles and “Ninos Pizza”- named after a team member with his face superimposed on the box as the chef. Later on in that same scene the kitchen has orders on the wall which include references to the very same products on the shelves!
In Nocturnia 3D there is a scene where you are walking through a simulated outdoor environment with wood fencing, and each grain on the wood was hand painted by an artist. It looks real, but you only notice the details until you get close.
In other parts of the haunt you 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 haunt. Well, unless you stare at your feet the whole time, at least.
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 truly open for five or six weeks each year.
Maybe next year we'll go for the real thing? We'll see.
ScareHouse is located at 118 Locust Street in Etna, PA. Behind the scenes tours are conducted on Saturdays and Sundays (or by appointment) during the day throughout the operating season. Images were taken by us with permission when we arrived for the tour.
Looking for more things to do in Pittsburgh in October? Click the previous link for more recommendations!
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