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Pirates of Emerson

45031 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont

Reviewed 10/07/06

Pirates of Emerson doesn’t disappoint again this year, retaining its status as the Top Bay Area Haunt for its attention to detail and wow factor.

Pirates of Emerson offers three attractions: the main haunt, a superbly built pirate ship and village; Pirates of the Deep in 3-D, an exciting tour through the vibrantly painted underwater world of Davy Jones' locker; and the Bilge Rat Maze with pulsating strobe lights. All three have kept what we've long appreciated and even made a few improvements.

We’ve mentioned in past reviews that the grounds were too dimly lit and sparse. This year the theme has been beefed up with the inclusion of wooden pilings topped with muted lights giving the grounds an old wharf atmosphere. Also interesting is a laser light display from the masts of the main haunt's pirate ship. Interesting to watch, especially later in the season when the lines grow, if not entirely fitting with the theme.

Main Haunt

We still love the beginning of the haunt. We didn’t give it away last year, but you should have taken our advice and already visited so we're going to give it away now. At the beginning of your tour of the Isle of Emerson, you are taken into a room with about 10 other guests while a pirate host and video deliver the rules of the haunt.

Your party, and we love the fact that they allow you to go through in your own small group, are guided into a pitch-black “yellavator” where another pirate takes you on a wonderfully hilarious simulated elevator ride down to the lowest level of the haunt. While shaking and spinning in the pitch black yellavator our pirate guide shouted to us but to be honest, with the Hauntmistress laughing and screaming at the top of her lungs we're unclear what he was saying other than to hold on to something and we're going to the bottom. Nevertheless, the entire experience did a great job of living up to its name and setting the mood for the rest of the haunt.

Upon exiting the yellavator we found ourselves deep in the pirate's enclave, a twisting maze of rooms full of pirate booty not to mention undead, half dead, and of course full dead pirates. Organ music filled the air setting a dramatic stage for scares to come.

 It's always nice to see the various rooms have been slightly rearranged and updated so that scares don't become too predictable. There is much to look at in each lavishly decorated room. The Hauntmistress even missed a cool new detail that the Hauntmaster had to point out. A few sections of the ever changing floor were made out of acrylic so you could see through the floor. In one section you could see through to the bone riddled sand below. In the swamp scene, complete with running water and the sounds of insects, bats, and all manner of night dwelling creatures buzzing about, the bridge was made of acrylic allowing you to see through to the water. After this discovery, she made sure to look everywhere in each room and was rewarded by seeing that POE had even lit up the planks we were walking on with a soft yellow glow, making it seem as if there was something unearthly going on below you.

POE continues to let you open the doors to your own adventure. To enter many of the rooms you have to push open a door (sometimes choosing between multiple doors). This helps to promote the effect that you are playing a part in the adventure, not just witnessing the fun.

One of the ever popular knee sliding pirates made a very effective run at the Hauntmistress in the storm tossed pirate ship who in tern nearly fell over herself in an attempt to flee proving yet again the ONLY way to go through a haunt is to put the biggest chickens in the front of your group.

At one point we were traveling through a room and caught a glimpse of a vortex tunnel. But we never came across one in the haunt. This leads us to wonder if we were seeing things or if there are two paths in order to move people through faster – one that begins with the yellavator and one that perhaps begins with a vortex tunnel. Further deepening the mystery is the couple who were in line behind us made it out of the haunt before we did and yet they didn't pass us through the labyrinth of rooms, we saw no chicken exits, and a pirate we met wandering the grounds told us, "to the best of me knowledge there be only one way through". If there is more than one way through, POE should let that be known – we would have definitely gone through again to hit the tunnel. 

Pirates of the Deep in 3-D

The 3-D haunt was freshened up quite a bit this year. The paintings look more vibrant and more real, with a newly painted “wooden” entrance. The effect of being underwater is enhanced with acrylic water tanks with bubbling air that guide your view to various underwater vignettes.

There are also new props hanging throughout the corridors of the haunt. We specifically enjoyed the cannons protruding from the walls and the wonderful jellyfish and other sea creatures we had to push past. There are also new “nooks”, where walls come together in a 3-D scene that makes it seem like the hall goes on in a different direction.

In this haunt there is, for certain, a great vortex tunnel that makes it difficult to exit standing straight up.

Bilge Rat Maze

We didn’t have the time nor inclination to go through the maze this year, but it seemed as if people were enjoying it. It consists of a relatively short open-air maze of chain-link fence that you have to navigate through while strobe lights pulsate, making it hard to determine where you are or need to be going. An interesting effect and nice as an added attraction but in our opinion one trip through is enough.

As always POE offers food and drink for sale and a free movie. Playing was the same “Cutthroat Island” staring Geena Davis we've seen for the past few years. One of the more recent "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies or another movie of the pirate genre would be welcome but if you've never seen "Cutthroat Island" or you're waiting for other members of your party on their second or third run through the haunts it's worthwhile to sit and watch a few scenes.

Our final note on the subject of Pirates of Emerson is to go early in the season when there are fewer people and if you can't make it until later, buy their VIP pass, which gets you to the front of the lines that can get very long especially the week of Halloween.

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 Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 6-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-31, 2006, Fri.-Sat. 7 pm-11 pm; all other days 7 pm-10 pm
Where 45031 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont
Admission $18; $28 VIP/Speed Pass
Contact www.piratesofemerson.com

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