Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Old Town Haunt (Pasadena) 2010
What if I told you that one of the very best haunts in southern California was in the bottom of a rather unassuming building in Old Town Pasadena - and that admission will cost you less than 20 bucks? It may sound implausible, but it's true: Forget theme parks and multi-maze affairs - Pasadena's Old Town Haunt has the most heart...and what a blackened, shriveled, evil heart it is!
I've been to quite a few haunted attractions in my day, from the venerable, time-tested Halloween institutions to the rickety yet spirited yard haunts, and - I'm not going to lie - I've loved them all to varying degrees. But I don't think I've ever been in a haunted house that took quite as many risks as the Old Town Haunt.
Fun as they may be, there is one major shortcoming when it comes to mainstream, amusement park-set haunts: They are entirely too safe. You never get truly lost in the mazes. You never think the monsters are actually going to hurt you. The darkness may be intimidating, but it's never absolute. Not so with the Old Town Haunt! This is, hands down, one of the best mazes I've ever experienced. In fact, it actually gave me nightmares. Yes, friends, it's true...I may be a Spooky Little Girl, but I'm also a giant weenie when it comes to mazes, and this one literally haunted my dreams.
From the outside, it's not much to look at - just a table and a couple of folding chairs where you'll buy your tickets, and a line in which you're forced to listen to the Haunt's few house rules (to wit: Don't punch the monsters in the face, and no chicken refunds). Housed in the bottom of the old bank building at the corner of Raymond and Colorado, the first thing you'll do after you walk inside is go downstairs. And it's dark down there. And you won't be alone.
But, fortunately, you'll be close to alone. If you've ever hated the pushy-pushy-shovey-shovey of going through a crowded maze with a bunch of annoying strangers, you'll love the fact that the Old Town Haunt staggers visitors, which makes the maze a much more intimate - and frightening - experience. The setting is incredible - the walls are made of stone, not painted plywood, you're underground, and it has the feel of an actual haunted building. In fact, the (presumably embellished?) backstory of the old bank building provides the groundwork for the Haunt's somewhat loose theme.
Yet this maze isn't about theme or even setting - it's about the close, personal attention you'll get from the monsters. You'll be taunted, tricked, misled and mocked. In the darkness, you'll hear them whispering and screaming. They'll force you onto your hands and knees into a pitch-black tunnel (note: an alternative route will be provided if you're unable to crawl), and just when you think you're almost done, you'll realize that you've been wandering in circles for the past five minutes. How can other haunts hope to compete with that level of commitment?
My boyfriend, who accompanies me to all of these events, is ready to declare this humble little maze the best he's ever experienced, hands down. I'm still holding out to see what the rest of October will bring, but one thing is certain: If you have the opportunity to visit the Old Town Haunt, do. You'll definitely get your money's worth...unless you're never heard from again.
The Old Town Haunt runs now through the end of October. Admission is $14 ($19 Fast Pass) or $16 ($21 Fast Pass) on Halloween weekend. Visit the official website for more information, including specific dates and times.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes to review this event.