This blog was co-authored with my fiancée, Jenn.
Today was a long day. Jenn presented a paper at an academic conference, then we ran wedding errands until finally, after around 12 hours of running, we were tired. Given that it’s now three weeks until our wedding, we thought we’d go to a haunted house to destress.
A local newspaper recently published a pretty good writeup about Graystone Manor, giving the haunted house a high review and lauding its national praise. We did some quick calendaring and realized that if we wanted to experience Graystone Manor this year, tonight was our only opportunity.
It turns out that Graystone Manor has three ticket options. The first being the simplest: $15 for a single run through the main attraction. Next, add $5 to that, and you buy entry into an additional “wing” of content–the Asylum. And if you’re really wanting to splurge, throw yet another $10 their way and you get to be a Graystone Manor VIP, which allows you to go directly into the attraction without waiting in line.
We park, and the line to buy tickets is relatively short. Great! Within 15 minutes, we’re at the ticketbooth, conveniently located inside the building. It’s a Saturday night, after all, and we’re out for fun, so we opt to wait instead of going VIP, but we did want to get into the Asylum. Cash exchanges hands, and we head in after some chit-chat with the clerk about how this crowd is nothing compared to the end of October. Apparently, they have 3+ hour waits as Halloween draws closer.
We think we’re about to go into the actual haunted house, so we head directly through a lobby without dilly-dallying (forbid we miss our turn) and make it into the waiting area of Graystone Manor. The waiting area is bustling: a concession stand lies directly in front of us, a horror film plays on one side (Night of the Living Dead‘s ’80s remake) and the house band, The Cornstalkers, rocks out on the other. We are impressed; a haunted house with its own band? And they’re wearing pretty bad-ass scarecrow costumes to boot? Rock on!
We enjoy listening to the band for a few and watching snippets of the movie, but hope to move on soon to the main attraction because the waiting area is so loud and crowded. The atmosphere which seemed so fun and novel at first begins to kind of drag on with so many people around bumping into us and fighting for the limited seats. We enjoy watching the beginning of the next movie, The House on Haunted Hill, but soon notice that no further groups have been called since “knife” group, and that was directly after we started waiting.
We belong to “hand” group. And we had been waiting for over an hour already. But that’s cool; we know there would be a wait. So we wait. The siren goes off again, and we hear that “chainsaw” group gets to go. Knowing that over an hour had passed between those announcements, we begin to realize just how long our wait is shaping up to be. We talk to people around us, all of whom are “hand” group, too. Everyone is shocked that it’s taking so long.
A few more minutes pass and no more groups are called, so I decide to go ask the ticket booth when the next group is going to be called or if they can tell us when “hand” is expected. The clerk tells me that he’s not sure because he cannot hear the announcements in the ticket booth. I told him who was called and when and what group I belong to, and he checks his written schedule. The brief hope I had is extinguished as he shakes his head and tells me that it’s going to be at least an hour. Maybe longer.
But, he tells me cheerily, I can always upgrade our tickets to VIP and go directly in. I frown, ask him if he’s serious, and go back to check with Jenn to see what she wants to do. We’re hesitant to spend any extra money, as this was already a spur-of-the-moment splurge, given our wedding spending. But we’re both starting to drag thanks to our early, busy day and fear we’ll be incapable of enjoying the attraction if we wait until “hand” group makes it in, if when he told us was even remotely accurate.
We go back to the ticket booth, wait in line again, upgrade our tickets (now totaling $60 for the two of us), and go back inside to stand in line for roughly 7-10 minutes before we’re let into the main attraction. (But this was not before having to go around and ask exactly what we do with the VIP tickets; to say our instructions were vague is an understatement.)
And, after all that hullabaloo, Greystone Manor was good. But that’s it. It was fun, but it was certainly not worth the extended wait (that we had or almost had) nor the ludicrous ticket prices.
The attraction itself was comprised mostly of two things: costumed actors who either jumped out at you and yelled or got close to you and stared and lots of animatronics. Even Jenn, who had to cover her face while watching the movies in the waiting area, was laughing and talking her way through Graystone Manor’s halls. To us, it seemed that Graystone Manor was taking itself way too seriously and going for a “horror movie” feel instead of embracing its inherent cheesiness. Most of the fun of a haunted house comes from the ridiculous effects and spectacle, but this time, the attraction was too busy trying to make us believe we should be scared instead of actually scaring us.
That’s not to say that we didn’t have a good time. We did. Once we got in. It was decent enough, but definitely not worth what we paid. The animatronics and sets seemed to be incredibly high quality, and the proprietors obviously put a lot of money into Graystone Manor to make it a success, but it lacked that special feeling of real creativity. There were all the requisite scenes of coffins, funeral parlors, murderous doctors, and graveyards, but there was never anything we had not experienced before in this kind of attraction. The only element that was truly disorienting was the tunnel which spun around a static bridge; we left the room dizzy and weak on our feet, but also very happy we had experienced something that cool.
In the end, Graystone Manor did not live up to the hype. For being praised as one of the nation’s best haunted houses in the newspaper article, it came across as very expensive but uninspired. Also, our biggest problem was a lack of communication from the staff. They never told us what we should do or gave any indication of how long our wait would be. The most help they offered was when asking for another $20 on top of the $40 we had already shelled out. And that’s despicable. We understand that popular attractions are going to have a wait, but for those of us who had never been to Graystone Manor before, there was no indication anywhere regarding wait times, just a plethora of signs saying “NO REFUNDS, NO EXCEPTIONS.” Even hanging a dry-erase board to let incoming customers know the approximate length of their wait would go a long way to assuage our frustration.
As it stands, though, our destressor caused more undue frustration than we were really looking for and cost a good third more than we were honestly willing to spend (but we couldn’t very well leave at nearly 11 pm after spending hours waiting and $40). Jenn and I are generally fun-loving, optimistic people, so we made the best of the night and enjoying each other’s company.
When it comes to haunted houses, we’re glad that Graystone Manor is local. Our area needs something like it. Unfortunately, though, I think that our haunted attraction money is better spent elsewhere–maybe Scream Creek in Nashville. They even have a corn maze.
Images courtesy of “graystonemanor.net”