Hotel of Horror 2017 Review

Web Page: http://www.hotelofhorror.com

Location: Cherry Valley Rd, Saylorsburg, PA 18353

Introduction

Numerous haunted attractions use social media and advertising to promote their haunts as “horror movies” come to life. Often, even the best haunts fail to achieve this lofty goal, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from variable actor quality, and ineffective structural designs that fail to convey any sense of “realism.” Several years ago, we became tired of the traditional “haunted house concept” which generally can be described as a variety of mazes filled with fake looking animatronics, and actors who did little to create any sense of fear. Many of these haunts advertised themselves as “extreme” experiences, but all fell short of their goal. Around this time, we first came across advertisements for the Hotel of Horror attraction.

Our first encounter with the dreaded Lake House will always be etched in our minds because it proved to us that haunted attractions could genuinely bring nightmares to life. Hotel of Horror was one of the first haunted attractions in the tri-state area to take on a gritty, mature, adult-themed approach to scaring guests, using its one of a kind environment to serve as a backdrop for scare actors to create legitimate scenes and storylines. Insane scare actors and the ominous “Lake House Hotel” created an experience that struck at our inner psyche, inspiring a passion for haunted attractions that has grown exponentially.

Hotel of Horror demonstrated that quality set designs, mature/adult themes, incredible scare acting and sensory triggers are the critical components of an immersive horror experience that goes beyond generic jump scares. Our first visit to Hotel of Horror provided the spark that has fueled our love for haunted attractions, and we have visited every year for the past several seasons.

Even though Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares have always been held in high regard over the past few years, we were saddened to see that both attractions seemed to lose focus, and became less competitive with newer attractions that embraced tenants of immersive horror in their attractions design philosophies. Hotel of Horror grew almost outdated, a shadow of its former self due to a variety of issues ranging from misguided themes and weaker scare acting. The attraction fell behind in quality compared to others within the region and failed to capture the same horrific magic experienced during our first visit. However, over the past three years, Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares haunted attractions have undergone a renaissance. Improvements made over last two seasons put the attraction back on track towards achieving its rightful place as one of the most psychologically twisted, memorable attractions you could ever visit. Revamped set designs and almost perfect structural components of the haunt itself created an environment unlike any other, transforming the Lake House Hotel once again into a submersion into pure terror. An almost insane attention to detail and emphasis on adult themes injected new life and aggression into this innovative attraction. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are once again among the few attractions that can generate genuine fear, tailoring its show to target the personal, inner phobias of all guests that enter its imposing doors. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares embrace twisted creativity and bring to life scenarios that will forever remain scarred in your memories.

In 2017, Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares once again pushes the limits of psychological terror. This season, Hotel of Horror features the theme termed “Stricken” inspired by a storyline in which the “inmates” have overtaken the asylum. Altered Nightmares features a show termed “Spellbound,” a take on dark magic and nightmarish themes that complement each other in a hellacious combination aimed at twisting one’s reality.

History

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares haunted attractions are located inside the infamous abandoned Lake House Hotel in historic Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two-hundred years and serves as the backdrop for the sinister haunted attractions brought to life within its confines. The tales begin with the original stagecoach stop, circa late 1700’s whose foundation only remains, sheathing the walls of the furthest basement rooms under the encapsulated Victorian mansion. The destruction of that original stagecoach stop gave birth to a tavern referred to at the time as The Saylorsburg Hotel, an Inn for Travelers, built by Charles Saylor in 1847. Over the course of the following 53 years, it saw much expansion and construction. The first “rebirth” of the Saylorsburg Hotel came around 1882 to 1888 with the coming of the railroad, removing the roof, building a third story, and renovating the exterior to celebrate the wonderful architecture of the Victorian Era. This remarkable mansion still exists inside the grand hotel addition built sometime between 1894 to 1900 and remains the same in size that you see today. The Hotel hosted the entire Monroe County Battalion of six companies of soldiers during the Civil War and was also used a residence seeing its share of births and deaths. The local mines and railway used the Hotel at several points in its early history to house their business operations as well as the infirmary and place of “pick- up” for the next of kin when tragic accidents would occur. It is recorded that many men died on its front porch waiting for a family to arrive after suffering significant injuries in those local mines and railway construction.

In October 1918, the local press reported that the Spanish Influenza had arrived in the Pocono Mountains, bringing sickness and death. The recently built county hospital was inadequate, and temporary hospitals were established in local resorts surrounding Stroudsburg.  Then in 1929, again in October- just a few days before Halloween, investors in New York City began to panic- stocks bought high started to drop, and so the Great Crash of The New York Stock Exchange devastated the economy. Guests of the Lake House, having left New York in shame and despair, not knowing how to provide for their families, checked into the Hotel, had drinks in the bar, dinner in the dining room, and saw their final night on earth in the guest rooms on the second and third floors. It was at that time that Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania became known as “The Place to Hang Yourself.” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s the basement area housed the Vickie Lee Blouse Company, employing ladies who worked on original textile equipment with minimum safety precautions. It can only be imagined the injuries suffered in the lower level of the Lake House Hotel during this time. After the close of this company, the lower level saw use as a barber shop, and then a state liquor license permitted the serving of alcoholic beverages in this same lower level, in addition to the first-floor bar.  The basement was turned into a marine-themed bar, and in 1985 a failed robbery attempt left the owner of that time entirely incapacitated and resulted in the hotel closing for good. It was purchased in 1990 and turned into an Antique Co-Op, and then in 1992 saw its first haunted house attraction.

Attractions

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares coexist within the confines of the infamous Lake House Hotel and perfectly complement each other. Stylistically, Hotel of Horror is a sinister attraction that celebrates the dark energy conveyed by the Lake House Hotel, while Altered Nightmares uses environmental scares to prey on inner fears using mature themes to create a twisted, adult-themed attraction. Hotel of Horror is celebrating its 24th year of operation and has once again developed a memorable, sophisticated horror movie quality show that brings to life horrific freaks, monsters, and violent inmates. An emphasis on providing a story driven show that embraces controversial themes ensures that haunt fans looking for more than a traditional “boo” haunt will leave you at times questioning if the haunt has gone too far in using custom characters to create fears that strike at one’s deepest, darkest fears and phobias.

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares embrace diversity in a manner, unlike any other haunted attraction. Additional experiences incorporate new technologies that infuse the vintage “Lake House” with a modern approach to haunting. This season, Hotel of Horror partnered with Recall Studios to create a virtual reality experience, “360o of Hell” that is available for a variety of mobile devices. Within the attraction, itself guests can pay a nominal fee to use the “iPas” system to trigger custom animatronics that adds to the unpredictable nature of each attraction.

Guests looking to extend their experience at the Lake House Hotel can visit “Exhibition Macabre,” a museum housing a private collection located in the original front parlor of the long-abandoned hotel. “Exhibition Macabre” features artifacts and antiques ranging from medical to funeral, prison, and asylum along with remains. “Exhibition Macabre” is an additional experience that caters to the interests of those curious about historical medical experimentation, preparing the dead and memorializing life.

It is important to emphasize that Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares strive to create a show that touches crucial tenants of a world class haunt, theatrical production. Structurally, each of the two attractions is designed to generate anticipation, fear, and trepidation using sensory triggers, immersive soundtrack and unpredictable scenes of horror designed to create personal reactions. Gore and horrific imagery add to the realism of each attraction helping guests forget there are in a “safe” environment. The transformational design is a strength of each attraction, allowing the amazing characters custom created by each scare actor to target each guests’ innermost fears, stripping away any sense of reality. Hotel of Horror has achieved monumental success in creating an adult-themed attraction that doesn’t venture entirely into the realm of “extreme” haunts yet never waivers in its mission to provide guests with a horror movie quality experience. Both Hotel of Horror and its coexisting haunt, Altered Nightmares, are unforgettable, actor-driven experiences that have returned to their rightful place as one of the top tiers haunts in the tristate area.

Hotel of Horror

Hotel of Horror’s 2017 theme “Stricken,” loosely features an “asylum” or medical ward based theme promoting the disturbing nature of both attractions. Hotel of Horror focuses more on the grittier, darker aspects of haunted attractions with character designs that convey a sense of violence set upon the backdrop of scenes that feature the most intricate of nightmarish details. Extensive work has been undertaken to add a new level of complexity to the interactive mazes found within the Hotel of Horror. Each scene is themed almost perfectly allowing twisted scare actors to create unique personal interactions with guests.

We had several encounters with truly disturbing freaks, who use personal reactions to drive their character’s directions. Hotel of Horror prides itself on creating situations and interactions that are borderline disturbing, uncomfortable and psychologically memorable. Hotel of Horror is not an “extreme” haunt per say as they do not “touch” guests but instead use methods that aim to strike at one’s’ psychological core. Grotesque imagery, closeness, and demented characterizations are used to create fear without touching on a mature level. We were taunted, cursed at, forced to crawl and at times came eerily close with the horrific inhabitants of the Hotel of Horror and enjoyed every minute of it. Additional scare actors hidden throughout the dark corners and in various rooms’ added additional “jump” scares to the theatrical presentation expected by the attraction. Structurally, Hotel of Horror’s atmospheric soundtrack, lighting effects, and diversity in maze/scene design allow for a constant build of tension, anticipation and cautious exploration which enhances the overall experience. Hotel of Horror’s design coupled with the violence cultivated by its insane scare actors creates a mature haunt that is once again at its very best.

Hotel of Horror creates an ever-dominating sense of paranoia, dread and apprehension which is the result of excellence in set design and structure. Periods of darkness, a disorientating soundtrack and disturbing scenes create legitimate fear without actors having to touch to garner a reaction. Use of slow strobe lights, periods of pitch black and chilling sounds of horror fill each corridor, building excitement and a sense of being isolated from reality.

Some of the characters featured in the Hotel of Horror are almost indescribable. For example, we encountered a “mother” who gleefully showed us her mutated “conjoined” twins, and we were pinned in a corner by a truly terrifying creation, a female bound to a wheelchair, with a fetus hanging from her innards. The noises and sounds made by this character haunt our memories to this day, as this was not a design typically featured by many mainstream haunts. Other insane characters include numerous “clowns” who stalk throughout a chain-linked basement, throw themselves violently against walls and portray a sense of insanity. A disturbing “Black Mass” encourages guests to join Satan and a variety of straight-jacket bound “inmates” roamed each floor. The hulking “Snort Gore” was waiting for us as we escaped the attraction and off-color “nurses” forced us to our knees and took great glee in our feeble attempts to escape. The entire experience was at times mentally exhausting and a mind-bending experience.

While Hotel of Horror is a terrifying attraction, the “asylum” theme fell somewhat flat. “Asylum” themed haunts are featured across the country, and while character actors did a fantastic job of playing the insane, it truly did not feel as though the theme “fit” the Lake House Hotel and thankfully they did not transform the entire attraction into the run of a mill “asylum” haunted house. Furthermore, Hotel of Horror shares its finale with Altered Nightmares, taking away a proper ending to both unique attractions.

Altered Nightmares  

Altered Nightmares’ 2017 “Spellbound” concept embraces dark magic and creates an interactive, theatrical journey through one’s nightmares. “Spellbound” is a demonic celebration of the occult and excels at cultivating paranoia. Altered Nightmares has slowly become more of a sister haunt to the Hotel of Horror focusing design on creating surreal horror experiences that typically veer towards the more fantasy side of haunting.

Representation of nightmarish scenes is not an understatement, “Spellbound” at times is not only terrifying but a mind-numbing experience. Scare actors are relentless, and perhaps even more aggressive in this attraction in comparison with Hotel of Horror. As was the case of Hotel of Horror, the scare actors and creativity in character design are what makes this attraction standout. Early on we faced off with a character known as the “Dutchman.”, a horrific monster that walks the line between angelic and demonic, as well as spent time with a rather off-color coven of “witches.”

 

Altered Nightmares successfully transforms the entire hotel environment into a living, breathing nightmare, challenging guests to escape.

Final Word

Evolution of haunted attraction design and presentation is starting to take on a more visceral, psychological approach aimed at targeting the innermost fears of veteran haunt fans yearning for a personal, immersive experience. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmare’s Haunted attractions have mastered the art of using psychological triggers to spur real “fear” that goes beyond the traditional expirations associated what is best described as a “boo” haunt. Traditional tenants of haunted attraction design coupled with sensory-based triggers, augment a twisted, nefarious approach to attraction design allowing one to live out their darkest fears. One must let go of preconceived notions and open themselves up mentally to an immersive experience aimed at inspiring real-life nightmares challenging social and cultural norms. Both attractions housed within the confines of the Lake House Hotel are unapologetically mature, and at times downright brutal. A constant sense of paranoia spawned by disturbing artistic and theatrical designs compliment the demented scare acting, as well as exploitive nature of this gritty, “real” horror attraction. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares, thrive on psychological horror, encouraging careful exploration while challenging one to confront one’s innermost fears.

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are character driven nightmares that are perfectly housed in the dark atmosphere that permeates throughout the Lake House Hotel. The attraction has spent the past few seasons developing its show to focus on creating a haunt that once again stands out among many of the local and national haunts visited this season.  Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are on track towards creating an innovative show that is engrossing and terrifying. The historical backdrop of the Lake House Hotel adds to the “realism” of this gritty attraction, which aims to constantly create situations that are creepy, sometimes uncomfortable and pleasurably unsettling. As mentioned previously, what drives the success of each attraction is the creative design that aims to strike at mature themes and incredible scare actors that play innovative roles that are unlike any other haunted attraction. Scare actors stalk, they breathe down guest’s neck, they use adult language and play of personal responses to interact with guests on a real level. Make-up and costume design are top-notch, and each strives to garner genuine reactions from each guest. These scare actors “believe” in their characters, which feature exquisite make-up and costume designs that are not purchased from local Halloween stores. The attention to detail (even the most minor) needs to be witnessed to appreciate, as each room features set pieces that are unlike any other found in most major haunted attractions.

Exploration of each set design is used as a misdirection tool, and we often admired the disturbing details of the attraction only to be confronted by an insane scare actor.  You will see scenes of satanic worship, demented clown rooms, a witch “dinner,” grotesque bathrooms, and many sets that embrace violent imagery. In between each room/set design, sensory triggers such as periodic darkness, blood-stained walls, strobe lights, fog, visual effects and incredible soundtrack built a constant sense of paranoia that increases from scene to scene. Hotel of Horror is not for those easily offended by scenes of gore, crude humor, and disturbing themes are hallmarks of this terrifying attraction.

The Lake House Hotel is the perfect backdrop for a horror movie quality experience, and the quality of acting and inter-scene experiences have once again brought this attraction back to the point of being a horrific mature experience.  As you visit the Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares this season, please be advised that they let only small groups into each attraction to experience the full effect of each “show. An emphasis on close actor/guest interactions add to wait times, and VIP upgrades are available. Furthermore, it is important to note that each attraction is rather lengthy, roughly a half hour or longer, so this is one attraction that provides value for its prices. Visit the Lake House Hotel this season and experience one of the most disturbing and mature haunted attractions from a design and acting standpoint visited this season, with a renewed emphasis on using innovative concepts and mature themes to cater to adult fans looking for a dark, horrific experience.

We would like to express our continued gratitude to the actors and staff of Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares. Furthermore, we are especially thankful to Marlo Ambrosio for her creativity in bringing to life this beautiful, yet horrific attraction as well as the detailed insight into the rich history of the Lake House Hotel.

 

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Joe Rovinsky

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