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Event Report: Reindeer Manor Halloween Park

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I was absolutely convinced I was going to be murdered.

Reindeer Manor Halloween Park is a collection of four haunts on one estate/farm just south of Dallas.  As is usually the case in Texas, you can drive 15 minute away from a bustling urban downtown and be in the proverbial sticks.

I’d followed Waze’s instructions south on 35, to a small road.  That road was paved and of decent width.  I then turned onto a smaller road.  It was narrow, and hadn’t been maintained since Ronald Reagan was president.  I then followed one of those old-fashioned signs with the flashing arrows on top.  No text, completely blank, but the arrow was flashing.  This turn put me on a gravel road, nothing but weeds or trees on either side.  After several twists and turns in the pitch-black countryside, I followed a spray-painted sign and left the gravel to start driving through a field.

This is when I became convinced I was going to be murdered.  It was only the presence of some parking staff in reflective vests that gave me hope this wasn’t some hillbilly cannibal cult’s way of filling their larders before winter.

Reindeer Manor sets the mood before you even enter the park itself, that’s safe to say.  Once you’ve parked in the field, you have a bit of a hike to find the actual entrance to the former Sharp Farm that houses the Halloween Park itself.  Inside, it’s laid out how one might imagine the Spahn Ranch looked during the Manson Family’s residence there.  A few old school buses, a couple of tents, some outbuildings, and the four actual haunts.  Random weirdos roaming amidst them, most of whom actually work for the haunt. I hope.

The original Manor is easy to consider the focus point of the park.  Located at the far end of one side of the property, the large, brick manor house has a graveyard in front of it and a picket-fence queue that wraps around said graveyard, leading up to the entrance.  Two different shows happen here while people wait to enter the manor.  One is a graveyard dance sequence set to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with various spooks literally climbing out of the graves to get down.  The other involves a man who really loves his chainsaw performing Jackyl’s “Chainsaw Song” while slicing up a body on the roof.  The geysers of blood that fly off the roof as he throws the body parts into the crowd certainly assist in setting the mood for what’s to come inside the house.

The fire roars during the rooftop chainsaw show

The Manor itself is a large, roaming building, and so is the haunt inside.  Continuously operating since 1974, it’s the oldest haunt in Texas and it is said to actually be haunted by the ghosts of a murder/suicide.  The theme is loose, although the haunt’s website describes the victims and perpetrators of a mass murder looking for vengeance.  This is a classic, old-school haunt, and I say that in the best way possible.  It’s a very, very old building (around 150 years old, I believe) and the sets work with that and set the tone of the haunt. The actors are in character, entirely makeup-driven (no mask work) and good at what they do.  You wander outside of the Manor into the back yard and farmland, so the haunt is much bigger than it appears to be on the outside.  A big finale features someone I’ve chosen to call “Bubbles”.  He looks great in pink chiffon.

The Manor itself

Near the Manor is the most recent addition to the Park, Shadow House.  This is a very strange little haunt, and I do mean little: this is a very small building and it only takes a few minutes to complete.  The owners seem to know this, and this haunt is only available with a general admission ticket.  (You can buy entrance to only one or two of the haunts, but Shadow Room isn’t an option for those tickets.)  It’s a bonus add-on for a full admission, and that’s really the only way it’d work.  A complete blackout maze, you’re given a glow stick on entry that’s a little too glowy.  I’d prefer a much dimmer stick like the ones Dark Hour uses for their Valentine’s Day blackout show.  This also doubles as the Park’s all-clown maze…and odd combination, as clowns are so visual, yet this is a pitch-black maze.  I’m not saying it doesn’t work, it was a fine little haunt, but it is definitely just a quick add-on to the three bigger haunts.

Heading back to the middle of the Park, you have Dungeon Of Doom.  This haunt originated in Arlington, some miles to the northwest of the Park’s location, and moved here in 2008.  The website describes this as an 80’s-style fun house.  I don’t know about that, it’s just a good, classic haunt.  The walls were rattling with the Van Helsing’s Curse album as we moved past scenes of various themes.  Everything from clowns to medieval torture appear in this one, and it works.  It’s not a narrative maze, it just wants to scare you.  It does a great job of that, with a strong cast and a fantastic gag at the end involving…well…lawn tools.  I’ll leave it at that.

Rounding out the haunt list is my personal favorite, 13th Street Morgue.  The name is downright strange: there are no streets anywhere near here, and the haunt is in the large, stone barn from the original Sharp Farm.  (Also said to be haunted.)  That oddity aside, the theme here is strong: this is an old-school morgue and mortuary you’re traveling through, and strange things are afoot.  Everyone from the reanimated dead to malevolent undertakers and gravediggers are here to threaten you.  This maze featured the best acting, the strongest narrative, and the best scares of the four.  It’s a strange haunt, to be sure.  At one point, I asked if everyone else in my group saw the pig man who had briefly appeared in a doorway.  I was afraid one of the substances I’d been sprayed with minutes earlier was laced with peyote.

The front of the 13th St Morgue

The Park has amenities other than haunts.  A food truck selling Tex-Mex goodies is available, with some covered outdoor seating.  One of the school buses has a photo service within.  There’s also a gift shop/snack tent with haunt merch and drinks available.

Reindeer Manor lives up to its reputation as one of the finest haunts in the DFW area.  They’ve been doing this for some time, and are on the second generation of family owners.  It shows, and they’re at the top of the game.  It’s worth the drive to parts unknown to spend a few hours roving the park.  Definitely forget about the partial ticket options: just buy the whole show and take the ride.  You won’t regret it.

Tickets and information are available via the Reindeer Manor website.

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