A visit to Triangle haunted houses with Josh Shaffer

Shaffer reviews the haunted houses, farms and corn mazes in our region from Snow Camp, to Garner and Oxford to Middlesex.
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Shaffer reviews the haunted houses, farms and corn mazes in our region from Snow Camp, to Garner and Oxford to Middlesex.


The best haunted houses in the Triangle: A survivor’s guide

By Josh Shaffer


October 24, 2017 11:45 AM

Two weeks ago, on a wet Saturday night, I stepped into a Franklin County forest that was teeming with ax murderers and darker than a broken light bulb – determined to walk out with dry britches and sanity.

At one point, I found myself lost inside a haunted school bus, pawing at the walls while a demon-child banged on the roof with a hammer. I pushed on through green fog and fake blood, nerve weakening.

But after six harrowing nights, I survived every haunted house in the Triangle. Along the way, a man in a pig mask chased me with a chainsaw. A clown wearing a rainbow-colored fright wig screamed in my face. I crawled on hands and knees through three giant drainpipes.

And now, from a safe distance, I rank all six in order of ghastliness, assigning each house a Scare Score of 1 to 5 hockey masks. This grade doesn’t measure overall quality – only frights. Use it as you would a chili pepper rating in a Thai restaurant. A Thai restaurant that serves human fingers.

Fear Farm, Clayton

Scare Score: 4.5 hockey masks

This one ranks highest for me partly because of the variety: a hayride, a walk in the dark, a slaughterhouse, a demented farm shack, a haunted schoolhouse, a black hole – all of which raise hairs. But Fear Farm delivers more than the staple butcher shops and lunatic asylum scenes. They’ve done the most creative thinking on how to inspire dread. I found myself climbing ladders, sliding down tubes, crawling into tunnels, navigating coal-black barns – knowing the monsters were lurking there unseen. Worst, I stumbled down a dark hallway into a lumbering beast that turned out to be my own reflection.

Fun fact: Fear Farm boasts a haunted library.

Panic Point, Youngsville

Scare Score: 4 hockey masks

Only a notch less frightening than its cousin in Clayton, Panic Point makes the most of its expansive and spooky woods. Its haunted forest stretches for 2 miles through the trees. After three weeks of touring haunted houses, I’ve seen a lot of cars that honk and flash lights on their own, machines that clatter and whir by themselves and smoke-filled rooms with strobe lights and death metal soundtracks. The people at Panic Point are masters.

Fun fact: I’m pretty sure one of the many, many ghouls here was the reanimated corpse of Michael Jackson.

Granville Haunt Farm, Oxford

Scare Score: 3.5 hockey masks

Out of all the attractions I attended, this is the only one I found that involved dodging monsters inside actual rows of corn. Corn is especially frightening because it rustles, an eerie sound that means something is stumbling in your direction. But Granville wins its honorable mention for allowing visitors to fight back, equipping all comers with paintball guns to mow down the zombie hordes. They spring out from behind gravestones and trees and die in a hail of fake bullets.

Fun fact: Granville Haunt Farm offers a virtual reality zombie room for an extra charge.

This green-faced horror movie artifact greets visitors at Hollywood Horror Show in Snow Camp. Along with a maze of spooky buildings, the haunted attraction features a museum of memorabilia collected by Dean Jones, one of a pair of brother-operators, who has won Emmys for his makeup work.
Josh Shaffer jshaffer@newsobserver.com

Hollywood Horror Show, Snow Camp

Scare Score: 3.5 hockey masks

In this maze of haunted buildings, much care is taken to present authentic horror artifacts. Nuns in full habits guide visitors through the tour. The mad scientist carries some sort of magnifying glass, and the corpse he is examining has what looks like an actual icepick jutting from its innards. The cemetery outside features freshly dug graves yawning open at the headstones. This mania for realism stems from its owners’ connection to the movie business. Dean Jones, half the team of brothers who operate it, has won Emmys for his makeup work in “Star Trek,” and an onsite museum shows his collection of twisted memorabilia. But despite the emphasis on props and makeup, the show never feels very scary. To see all the cool stuff, you’ve got to keep some lights on.

Fun Fact: The museum contains a Bubba Gump shrimp hat from “Forrest Gump.”

Darkside Haunted Estates, Middlesex

Scare Score: 3.5 hockey masks

Darkside benefits from being in the middle of nowhere, where the cornfields are too isolated for effective screaming. This hayride and slaughterhouse combo capitalizes on its rural setting by dressing the haunts in beards and overalls and arming them with shotguns, giving the place a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” ambiance. A visitor meets attack possums and a rocking-chair granny who communicates with the dead. While the theme is consistent, it feels funny more than frightening – horror safe for a middle-schooler.

Fun fact: Skull candles for sale in the souvenir shop.

Harvested Farm Nightmares, Garner

Scare Score: 3 hockey masks

A sturdy fifth-grader could weather this haunting. A single 15-minute attraction leads through a series of houses with ghosts on the Casper level and props that look purchased from Target. Adding to this low-level field of screams is a stuff-the-scarecrow attraction and a kids’ knee-high maze.

Fun Fact: In the adjoining corn maze, which costs extra, a sign warns, “No Bad Language. our corn has very tender ears.”