IIt was finally cold enough to feel like fall after a long, muggy summer in the Applaches, and the seasonal chill was the perfect backdrop for my fourth and final trip to a haunted house. As someone who, until a month ago, had actively avoided all the things that happen at night, I’m not much of an expert. But nonetheless, I think this hangout could have been the best yet.
About an hour from Pittsburgh, FearScapes is tucked away in Ellwood City, in what looks like some sort of abandoned industrial complex. It has a rural and enigmatic feel, helped by the natural weirdness of its surrounding woods and the gray moonlit sky above.
As you enter the Brentwood Avenue parking lot, you first come to a brown brick building with a spooky, disused facade and towering alien stature shrouded in a green glow. A banner on the front of the structure professes FEARscapes: HAUNTED ATTRACTION, in case the alien hasn’t shown you where you are, and an arrow points you to a small slope towards the action.
Passing a few empty bunkers, you come to a pair of outhouses and a table, where you can grab a bite to eat. PJ’s Deli, Caterer and Bakery before (or after) braving the lair. From there, you’re guided down a tree-lined path to purchase your ticket, take a seat in line, and await your sad fate as a victim of The Void.
I developed a relationship with the pig man. It’s not a line I ever thought I’d write as a journalist, but here we are.
The pigman, clad in a dark trench coat, barbed wire collar, and a bloody septum piercing inserted into his muzzle, patrolled the chandeliers as visitors waited to be admitted into the lair, group by group. Once again, I was coming alone, and the pigman noticed it.
“What is the problem?” he sneered. “Weren’t you able to convince anyone to come with you?” “
âThey were too scared! I responded with an innocent shrug that implied we had to do what we had to do.
âDie alone. It’s sad, said the pigman, and I got the feeling he didn’t feel sorry for me that much. “I bet you thought you were 67 with cats before that happened.”
âOh yeah, at least 10 cats,â I agreed, playing the game partly because I liked the song and partly because I’ve never been silent once in my life. “I only succeeded two.”
“Personally, I would go with 13, but that’s just me.”
âLucky number,â I observed.
After the pig man offered to buy the parents’ giggling teens in front of me for a total of $ 666, he crept up behind me and I quickly turned around. I told him I didn’t trust him and he started to copy my moves. Two could play this game, I thought, so I copied his. We found ourselves locked into a socially distanced act of mime that ended when I mimed a safe box around me and he said he didn’t want to go in anyway.
“You’re fine,” he told me later, before adding, “You know, for a human.”
The line was never too long and the pig man kept things interesting while we waited. Much of the time spent waiting was due in large part to only one group being allowed in at a time – a tactic that seems effective in ensuring maximum fear, especially if you’re stupid enough to fly solo like me.
When my turn came, a slightly transferred construction worker admitted me to the first room of the lair, where a skeletonized corpse explained the principle: FearScapes is a research facility gone awry following a breach in containment, and the plant personnel were trapped inside with all the horrors. were mentioned from The Void. Among these mischievous scares are Krampus and his minions, an evil clown, and a show number called the Stolen stitches.
The experience was absolutely unique; visitors are guided in a box that simulates the trembling elevator ride through the facility, adding another layer to the lair that more traditional tours lack. The stolen dots also provided a memorable vaudeville-esque performance with fire-breathing illusions and the like, and the characters throughout interacted with guests more directly than they had in any of the places other than j ‘had visited.
In one play, you are asked if you think you can defeat The Void, and a mysterious actress offers you a tarot card to predict your fate. Based on her maniacal laughter as she allowed me passage into the next room, my outlook looked rather bleak. In another section, a menacing clown tells you that you must find the red button before you can escape from his lair. (No, I won’t tell you where it is.)
The further I ventured into the bowels of the FearScapes, the more it felt like a descent into madness. It combined the traditional interaction between colored lights and hazy darkness with unique twists along the way and a scenography that was as dazzling as it was diverse. There are jumping fears – it wouldn’t be a haunted house without them, after all – but FearScapes is much more than that. It’s performance art. It’s immersive theater. He manages to combine the science trope gone wrong with supernaturalism, myth and vaudeville without ever feeling disjointed or mixed up together. And at $ 15 a ticket, a much lower price than most other hangouts, it’s definitely worth a visit.
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As I made my way back to the parking lot after successfully surviving this hidden gem, I passed a couple entering. They asked me if it was scary and I assured them it was. They noticed, like the pig man, that I was alone, and joked that they could never do such a thing.
“It’s cool that you do them yourself,” said the man, who told me he was from Ohio but also showed me his Steelers sweatshirt when he noticed the Pennsylvania license plate on my car. âIt takes guts!
They wished me a safe trip back to town and wished them a fun – and scary – night at FearScapes.
As I walked down the dark roads en route to Interstate 79, I felt oddly accomplished. Like the cowardly lion who set out for Oz in search of courage, I was the cowardly writer who set out in the night in search of the same. And although I didn’t know it at the time, I found it, somewhere between ScareHouse in Pittsburgh Mills and a hidden gem in the corner of Ellwood City.
I can still balk at the idea of ââhorror movies and I can still delegate spider handling tasks to my roommates, but at least I can officially say I understand all of this hype about the haunted house. And along the way, I managed to convince a few people that I was brave enough – or maybe just crazy enough – to take on Pittsburgh’s most popular hangouts on my own. Maybe next year I can convince my friends to brave them with me.