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Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd., San Jose
Reviewed by Hauntmistress: 10/14/06
Callson Manor in San Jose is set in a huge lot behind the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds (Gate D on Monterey) and has two haunts, Callson Funeral Home and 7 Deadly Sins, each sharing half a circus style tent, plus a snack shack. The lot seems a little large and empty, but if the crowds are large at least it will give people room to move around. A few actors roaming the grounds would have been a nice touch to keep people entertained as they waited in line and add something else to look at in the large grounds.
As we entered the first haunt, 7 Deadly Sins, we wandered through a pretty good outdoor cemetery. Dirt is mounded in the center adding depth and making for a more natural setting. The headstones were funny and entertaining, but the really great feature was a creepy grave digger who was both menacing and very well costumed. He wandered along with us with us, pointing out tombstones he thought we would like before he climbed back up on a knoll where he was digging us a grave. We liked how the cemetery was dark, but a few scenes needed better spot lighting and overall higher fences so we could see what was going on and not be distracted by lighting from the ticket booth area. However, this shouldn't be a problem for children (even though though it isn't recommended for children) or stature challenged adults.
At the end of the cemetery we crawled down into "Hell" and popped up in our own grave, which was a clever effect. Following was a series of maze connected rooms that, needless to say, were scenes of the 7 deadly sins. A few, such as greed and lust were particularly well done. A few others needed a better connection for us to the sin they were referencing. Further, some of the rooms felt sparse or were just not interesting, scary, or memorable. But there were quite a few actors menacing us throughout our walk which, for the most part, made up for any shortcomings in their respective rooms.
Upon exiting 7 Deadly Sins we headed to the other end of the tent to get in line for Callson Manor. After a very short wait in line we were led into a room with a few other people to be given typical haunt instructions such as don't touch anything, don't hurt us and we won't hurt you, etc. We very much enjoyed this initial waiting room. Very well done, with period photos, fixtures, and antique furniture covered in dust and spider webs. The girl giving us our instructions was well dressed in an old "lady of the manor" way, but seemed very meek and unsure of herself, not very scary or creepy.
We were a little worried at first that everyone that we were in this room with would be in our group. This fear turned out to be unfounded as we were further broken down at this point. Upon being guided through a secret passage we found ourselves in the haunt with the passage sealed behind us. Some in our now much smaller group started heading the wrong way and ended up briefly behind the scenes. Wasn't us this time but it's surprising how often that happens at a haunted attraction. A little goosing at this point would have left no doubt as to where to go.
We wandered through the house, which had a few good scenes and a few good scares, but at the same time felt a little sparse in spots. Some of the props were well done, but others seemed like they were last year's Halloween store buy. In contrast there was a village or township scene that was quite remarkable. The facades were great. Overall the acting was good. Our absolute favorite actors at this haunt were Timmy and his mom. Timmy wanted us to play hide and go seek beckoning us to "Come find me, come find me" and popping up two more times in the haunt. We would have liked to see more of him! A character like that is a great way to thread continuity through an attraction. Timmy's mom on the other hand wanted nothing to do with us and as we left her presence she made this fact deliciously apparent with a booming matronly voice that told you in no uncertain terms that she meant business. Sort of like when you were a child and your mother would raise her voice and call you by your full name. You knew right then you were in trouble.
As we exited the haunt we weren't sure we were really at the end, as the ending felt a little abrupt and the last scene was of a cadaver prop that wasn't very well done (where's the juiciness?) and was just laying very un-scarily on a table. In fact, as we waited in line for the haunt we saw the cadaver prop, as the curtain didn't cover it.
All in all, we felt $17 dollars for both haunts was a little high (not to mention the $5 for parking that caught us off guard) given that each haunt felt short and a little uneven, but there were a few good scares, scenes, and energetic actors.
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