Scarowinds: Went In a Coward, Left a Slightly Less Coward

As I have previously mentioned: I am a giant chicken, am scared of my own shadow, a frequent patron of Super Weenie Hut Jrs and a wimp. I also have a big fear of haunted houses and Halloween events not involving trick or treating. But after years of being this way, I decided that I would try to change that a bit. And what better place to do it than at the site where it all started for me; Scarowinds. An annual event held at my childhood theme park, thus my favorite park, Carowinds. This event featured 8 scare zones and 5 mazes. So I did it last weekend to overcome my fear. So how did I do?

Before I talk about my experiences this, a bit of a back story. I have always been a giant coward and scared of haunted houses. I used to be dragged to the Jacksonville Zoo for their Halloween event, and hated it and buried my face in my mom crying begging to leave. But when I was a preteen, I always wanted to go to Scarowinds. I don’t know why as I hated events like this normally. But part of me wanted to conquer my fear. So how did I do? I made it through 2 houses before wanting to leave crying as a 13 year old teenager. From then on I have never even wanted to go to an event like it again. But recently, I have been feeling like I needed to try and remedy this again. Part of it has been FOMO related with most of my friends going to Halloween Horror Nights and I want to experience that. So I went to Carowinds with my horror fanatic sister to try and do at least 2 houses and not leave sobbing as a grown adult. So how was it?

I did all 8 scare zones multiple times and did all 5 houses. The event is 100% worth it ($40 for what you get is pretty cheap). I was always on edge and even got some good scares. But at no point in the event did I feel overwhelmed and like it was too much. Granted, could be years and years having worked in theme parks before and seeing the craziest things that nothing surprises me anymore. It could be that doing the Halloween Horror Nights Behind the Screams Tour (my thoughts on last year’s tour can be found here in this cheap plug: taught me tricks and tips to know how they pull off some of the scares. But the entire time I went through the mazes I was always on edge and marveled at the design of them. But how did my night go?

I got there at 6:00 PM for a 7:00 PM open. I would advise doing this as they let you into the park early but hold you at the main hub area until 7:00. From there, at the request of my sister, we did Dark Harvest first. And we were the first people that went into the maze. So I had no way of seeing anyone getting scared. We got the purest terror of walking through a field of corn and having ranch hands jump out of their hiding spots in the corn. It was a neat idea and the scares were good, but never overwhelming. There was also some light out and this was the only outdoor maze. So if we went at night, it would have been a lot scarier. But then I also probably would have cried. Dark Harvest at dusk was a great way to get started.

The second house I did was Urgent Scare (I could make an American healthcare system joke, but that would be too obvious, so I’m gonna do it) which is a good representation of the American healthcare system for the last 20 years, am I right? But obvious jokes aside, this house was light on scares but dripping with atmosphere. It had some pretty good set design and was filled with scareactors portraying mental patients or scary doctors. Two sections stood out to me though. One was a room with a strobe light and mirrors on all sides which was disorienting. The second was a part where you have to push your way through two large airbags. It also provided a sense of terror since you could not see what was at the end and wouldn’t know until you just got done pushing through. Only complaint is that there was no pay off after the airbags. Not sure if the scareactor was on break, just got done scaring or there wasn’t anything there. But even without that, still a fun house to go through.

Next up was Slaughterhouse. For starters, the queue line has cattle herding fencing like a normal slaughterhouse for switchbacks which I thought was a nice touch. It leads you into the Red Ribbon Meats slaughterhouse which had more scares and atmosphere than Urgent Scare. It also had a great soundtrack with Ring of Fire playing in the first few rooms. You descend through the meat preparing process including grinding, draining fluids to make jerky, a meat locker all while deranged employees come at you with hooks, body parts and even a chainsaw at the end. They even have a full sized car that honks and lights turn on inside the house to throw people off. All in all, this was my second favorite of the evening.

My number one was the fourth house I went in, Silver Scream Studios: Condemned. This is one of two houses that are pretty much pitch black. I waited almost an hour for this because they were handing out blue light flash lights just for people to be able to see so it took a while to get through since they needed to get the flashlights back before they could let more people through. The flashlights added a sense of terror. Because even though you could see, blue light doesn’t light up a room that much, so you can see maybe 2 feet in front of you while also alerting the scareactors. It was slightly interactive and unnerving. And I wish they had raised the lights a little bit because even without the flashlights, this would still be my favorite. The level of detail in this house was outstanding. They had props from several different horror genres throughout the house. They even had a tunnel that spins around you to throw you off your balance. This house got me scared so many times, but it was too much fun that I didn’t even mind. Bonus points for the plaque I saw that had a Weeping Angel face and scared me.

So I was on a roll and had one house left, Depths of Madness, and thought, “These have all been quality houses and there is now way they can mess this scare train up,” and this house promptly did that. It wasn’t bad, but compared to the other ones, it being mediocre in a line up of solid houses lowers its value that much more. This is another house that is almost pitch black, but you got no flashlight since it did have lit up show scenes. The scares are almost not there. There is only one part where I felt on edge, but even then it wasn’t bad. There was a great opportunity for a big scare at the end involving a giant puppet, but the placement ruins it. Rather than having it placed to the side, it is placed at the back. So you would have to turn around entirely just to see it, which if it scared you your natural instinct is to go forward and not look back. So most people missed the puppet. And it is a big and scary looking puppet, but it is placed horribly. It was a maze with some cool ideas with a terrible execution.

How was everything else? Really cool. The scare zones were plentiful and there really isn’t anywhere in the park you can hide outside of shops and bathrooms. But let’s say you want to bring a child to this event or someone who doesn’t want to overcome their fear of being scared, Carowinds found a way to make it happen. They will sell you a $12 glow necklace called a, “No Boo Necklace.” As long as the glow is on, scare actors will not even attempt to scare you and most will even take pictures with you. It’s a neat way for people who may like the production design of these types of events but don’t want to be scared. I didn’t see anyone go through a house wearing one and given the logistics behind it, not sure if it prevents scares from inside the house. But wearing a shirt that says, “Don’t Scare Me I Fart Easily,” also does the trick for the scare zones.

But also make sure you stay until the very end. You may think leaving after doing all 5 mazes is the smart thing to do, but trust me that it isn’t. What you save in drive time you miss out on one final scare. Towards the end of the night, 11:40-ish, all of the scareactors from the scare zones and some from the mazes will come out to the front of the park. So if you want to leave, you have to make your way through a field of 50 some odd scareactors with knives, hooks, faces and chainsaws to get to your car. It is incredibly terrifying and good for some scares for the drive home. I loved it and I’m not sure if other Halloween events do it, but they should.

Scarowinds was a fun event that I am glad I did after not ever wanting to step foot inside another haunted event or anything like that since I was 13. It just the right amount of scares, uneasiness and tension for me to have fun and lots of others from what I saw too. If you’re in the Charlotte area this weekend, hop on this and get tickets to this wonderful event! Just don’t do Depths of Madness unless you only have to wait 10 minutes or less.

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