Hundred Acres Manor Haunted Attraction
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (1 Hundred Acres Drive, Bethel Park PA, 15102)
Dates: September – November (Select Days)
The experience of haunted attractions has intrigued me for the better part of twenty years. In my younger days kitschy beach-side spook house’s elicited whiny pleas to my parents, begging for my share of the “vacation allowance.” Back home Laugh-in-the-dark-type rides were a must do at our local amusement park. Still, best of all, in October haunted hayrides and terror filled walk-through experiences popped up annually. With these key ingredients at play, an almost life-long love affair has manifested. Forcing me down darkened corridors, and through macabre set pieces, screaming like a girl into my thirties.
Thanks to some guerilla networking with Hundred Acres Manor at a recent horror convention CCH was invited to experience the attraction. While we waited for our host Tyler ???? at the entrance I surveyed my surroundings. Here a stone work facade with a beautiful stain glass foyer window beckoned guests to enter. To the right towered an animatronic demon occasionally speaking to the parking lot in a deep menacing voice. ScareActors in Victorian attire chased young kids around the grounds as a queue-line began to form outside the front door. Tyler emerged from the recesses of the building, apologizing for last-minute opening preparations that had briefly held him up.
CCH: Can you tell us a little bit about your role with Hundred Acres Manor.
Tyler: I am the Director of Marketing and Customer Relations. Basically I help get the customers in the door through various marketing campaigns and ensure they have a scary good time. But I am not a hands off type of person. None of us are. We all ensure the safety of our patrons, actors and staff nightly. We all make sure everything is working and safe before we open the doors to the public nightly.
We were escorted to the entrance where a very talented actor relayed the rules of the manor. Compulsory items like “don’t touch the actors” were delivered totally in character. Behind this tuxedo clad gentleman a marble bust occasionally came to life peering into the crowd. After being given the option, we decided to experience the attraction with a group. As we made our way to the next merge point another ScareActor, this time a woman in a long dress with terrifying eyes, began interacting with the crowd. Preparing us for a most unusual opening to the manor.
CCH: Where does Hundred Acres Manor find it’s talent?
Tyler: We find them in dozens of ways. But mainly through local colleges and on Facebook. It’s kinda funny when it comes to our actors. We have some who have been acting in haunted houses for 10+ years while others are afraid to even step foot into the haunted house. YES, you did hear that right they’re afraid of the haunted house. Getting into their spot before opening and after the final victim (patron) leaves the house they won’t enter if the props are on and lights are off. But those are some of our best actors. We have people of all ages and skill sets and our actor manager Terry Peyton works hard to find the role/spot that best suites their skill set and their talents. Everyone is different so it does take a little time to get that new member of the Hundred Acres Manor team into the right spot.
We boarded a dingy and ancient looking elevator. The actress stepped aboard to man the controls. Going down? As the lights began to flicker the lift sprang to life. While it was bouncing around and jerking, delighted screams arose from the group. An impassioned performance from our deceased dame rocked the eardrums of the passengers. This was close quarters, and there was to be no escape until she opened the doors. When we finally thudded into place the doors reopened onto a scene of pure terror. No one was ahead of us. Our small group was going to have to go it alone.
We stepped out into a morbid scene. The attention to detail was incredible. Photos and posters littered the walls, conveying the story to those able to pay attention. For those that could not, due to fear, these prints merely added another layer to the grotesque theming. Not an inch of Hundred Acres Manor has been left to chance. Everywhere you look the creepy story floods your senses. It’s as if Edgar Allen Poe himself did the interior design. This got me thinking…
CCH: What kind of madman is in charge of this devastating decor?
Tyler: Our Creative Director is Christopher Gilgour. He is truly a madman as you may call him. He has been working in the haunted house and special effects industry for over a decade now. His wife Dejah assists in the madness along the way. They’re really a great power couple. But it does come down to a team effort. This year with our new London attraction (The Host) everyone had feedback and input. We work well as a team and bounce ideas off of each other. But Christopher is the one who will come up with the way to execute the ideas and comes up with the pure terror you find.
Putrid aromas float through certain hallways, creating a totally immersive experience. As we progressed into a British street scene Tyler pointed out an authentic red London phone booth. He was extremely proud of this set-piece, assuring us that there is an incredibly small number of them in the states. Just another indication of Hundred Acres Manor’s commitment to providing a truly unique attraction.
An impressive voodoo inspired section rivaled Disney theme parks for it’s caliber of theming. At one point we stepped into a bayou shack that rocked and shook as if an earthquake had struck western Pennsylvania. Larger than life animated props in certain scenes bring the “wow” factor center stage. I turned around to ask Tyler about this, only to find that he had deserted us. Now the dread began to set in. Without our humble host along for the ride, the suspension of disbelief became thick. At one point a jump scare behind us promoted your brave blogger to leap onto his companion’s back. Wrapping one leg around her waist and clawing at her shoulder in pure, unadulterated panic. In a portion reminiscent of movies like Alien and The Thing, a hallway with bright blue chasing LED lights disoriented the crowd. After exiting the attraction Tyler explained to us that when late-night visitors show up, perhaps a little tipsy, this particular hallway can be a troublesome area. Finding guests curled up in the corner is not unheard of.
It is worth noting that Hundred Acres Manor is a not for profit organization. All proceeds go to local charities. Philanthropy and horror don’t often find themselves in the same place, but I am astonished that in this instance, they do. You wouldn’t know it to look at Hundred Acres Manor. It honestly appears as if they pour all of their profits back into the attraction. This is not case. It is dedicated individuals who give this attraction it’s obvious edge. In both acting and atmosphere you can see the earmarks of passionate people coming together with the common goal of scaring the hell out of guests.
CCH: Thank you so much for inviting us to experience Hundred Acres Manor. Any final thoughts?
Tyler: We would like to say thank you for coming out and thank you to the community who comes out and supports us year-after-year. Most people don’t realize we start the building of our new attraction and planning in January of every year. So we work year-round to create the horror within the manor walls and create a unique theme that keeps people coming back. Without your support we wouldn’t be able to put on the show that we do and give back to the Pittsburgh community. This year will mark over $2 million to local charities and we couldn’t be more proud.