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Pirates of Emerson

45031 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont

Reviewed by The Hauntmistress, 10/15/05

Pirates of Emerson has long been the haunt to beat in the Bay Area and this year they have done it again - improved on an already winning formula with the addition of an "elevator" in the main haunt. Kudos for always coming up with new and exciting things - not just sticking with a proven, winning formula!

From the moment you step foot in the main haunt the fun begins - I won't ruin the surprises entirely, let's just say I was screaming and laughing like a banshee at the same time. Throughout the haunt there are new additions and familiar favorites, including a hall of closets, a jail, and "chains" and ropes hanging from the ceiling. Of course there are the scary actors who do a really good job of looking like props and then jumping out at you! But the pièce de résistance for me is always the huge, moving "ship". From the sounds to the smells to the little details not overlooked, I'm always impressed when I first see the ship.

Paying attention to the details is something that Pirates of Emerson excels at. A main complaint we have had with other haunts this year is that there is not enough to keep the eye entertained and they are solely relying on actors to jump out and scare. Not at pirates, well, there are plenty of actors to jump out and scare you but their main haunt is filled with props and every view is richly decorated so you really feel as if you were actually on the Isle of Emerson.

The lighting, fog, atmosphere, and the sounds change from room to room inside the haunt without the "bleeding" so common in lesser haunts. You won't be alerted to what's going on in the next section of the haunt until you're actually there and immersed in that environment. They just plain give more thought to every room.  For example, at one point there is a long hallway. In many haunts they would be satisfied to just place a few photos or a mural on the wall and allow you to see all the way down to the other end. Not scary, slightly boring but usually long halls are foremost utilitarian, just there to get you from one set of rooms to another rather than a scare tool. Pirates of Emerson on the other hand more effectively uses this space, placing doors in the hallway. A simple detail but by blocking your view and confining the space there is a small build up every time you approach them and wonder what's behind. Will there be a monster? A bloodthirsty pirate? What's coming up behind me now that the doors have closed? Another favorite of ours is the swamp scene near the ship detailed with all manner of swamp trees and shrubs as well as a very ferocious looking alligator. Crossing the bridge you can see the water moving, feel the moisture in the air, and hear it dripping on everything around you. 

When you stop for a moment to realize this is all taking place in what is, for nine months of the year, a vacant field far removed from utility services it becomes all the more amazing.

The Pirates of the Deep 3-D haunt was good, as always, same well-done murals of skeletons and sea life and the fun spinning vortex tunnel at the end. We especially enjoyed singing along with a severed head floating in the briny deep. Actors were definitely more scarce in this haunt than they have been in past years though.

There was a small line for Pirates of Emerson's third haunt the Bilge Rat chain-link fence maze and people seemed to be very much enjoying themselves, but after going through it for the past two years, we passed on it this year. While fun, it's just not for us.

If we were to recommend an order to visit these individual haunts it would be to do the chain-link fence maze first followed by the 3-D maze and then visiting the main haunt thereby saving the best for last. To round out your night make sure to watch the show by the gigantic skeleton monster near the 3-D haunt, grab a snack and a drink and relax in the seating area where they are projecting horror movies. When you're sufficiently rested Pirates offers discounted tickets by the main entrance so you can do it all again!

All this for $15 - an excellent value!

Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area. Or if you're reading this review in a year other than it was written, please check our Events Calendar for current dates and hours of operation.

Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion of this haunt in our forums!

When Oct. 7 - 31, 2005:
Fri. - Sat. 7 pm - 11 pm;
all other nights 7 pm - 10 pm
Where 45031 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont
Admission $15, $25 VIP pass
Contact www.piratesofemerson.com

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