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The Dead End Haunted House
Westfield Shoppingtown Solano, 1350 Travis Blvd., Fairfield
The Dead End Haunted House, produced by Hangman's Follow, is the type of haunt I haven't seen since I was a child - a story driven haunt. In most of the rooms you enter there is a story that is acted out for you before you can enter the next room. There are no "jump outs" at you, rather the story and the scenes (with props, animatronics, and actors) are designed to frighten you.
We entered the haunt in small groups (about six or less) and were taken to a staging area where we heard an ominous warning about how scary the haunt is going to be. I was almost a little frightened to enter, and in hindsight, this was a little too much of a build-up for what's inside.
The door opened and we were greeted by a ghoulish looking butler who welcomed us to the Victorian mansion and laid out the overall storyline. He warned us that the house was built on a cemetery with a large old oak tree. At the stroke of midnight one night, lightning struck the tree sending electricity down through its roots, which had grown into each of the coffins and, just as in Frankenstein, it re-animated the dead. He tells us that zombies are now inhabiting the house and unhappy about their rude awakening. They become particularly angry every midnight and, "oh no, it's nearly midnight now!" He says we must get out and herds us into another room. The butler was well costumed and played his role convincingly. He was stooped over and creepy, yet oddly friendly!
We then went through about seven rooms, with stories told by actors in most of them, over uneven flooring and in a maze-like pattern. The scenes were very detailed and it was apparent that a lot of time and energy was spent on the design and story creation. They even used flicker-lights instead of flood lights in the hallways, making for a more eerie experience. But because it was so detailed, there were a few props we would have liked to have more light shining on so we could see them better - such as the graveyard at the end!
One room had a mad doctor and his assistant who were trying to bring back to life a creature lying on a gurney. I expected the creature to jump up at us once the doctor was successful, but that never happened. The room was rather small (and there were only three of us in there, compared to the group of six that had preceded us) and the masks on the faces of the doctor and the assistant muffled their voices and made it difficult for us to understand what they were saying, something that happened with most of the mask-wearing actors.
The Dead End tries something I have not seen done before - they use smells to gross/frighten you. For example, in one scene the actors were offering us dead "babies" and shoved a dirty diaper under our noses that had a foul smell. In another, something was being "cooked" that we were encouraged to sniff. In both cases, the smell was bad and permeated to the other rooms, but it was more odd than anything else.
For me, the Hauntmistress, this haunt wasn't extremely scary because I enjoy a good jump out scare over acted scenes, but the Dead End certainly gets an "A" for effort with the details of each scene and good acting. They try some new things with the smells and the acted scenes that you won't find at other haunts. We heard great comments about it from people exiting and a few that were entering for their second time.
Because this isn't just a quick walk-through haunt, the wait time to get in was a little long, about 30 minutes, and we were only the third group in line. On the night of our visit it had been raining intermittently and we weren't looking forward to standing in line outside if the rain came again. They informed us if it does begin to rain they will allow people to line up inside so that they can get out of the rain.
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