Updated: Feb 19
Date of Visit: 10/22/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
While much of Freeman Field becomes dark and quiet at night, there's one spot that couldn't be more alive, especially on a Friday in October. A bonfire crackles brightly in the middle of the square, where many people are milling about or waiting in line. Smiling guests take photos together, one person is spinning around on a blacklit gyroscope ride, others smash brains into the air, trying to sink them into the heads of zombies. Waiting patiently in line with the rest, I'm dazzled by the plumes of sparks, lasers, and music blasting from the DJ booth towering over the crowd - soon joined by an impressive display of fireworks launching into the sky! The whole show is quite a sight, and it almost distracts me from the main reason I'm here... except that all of this is taking place from the top of an immense, spooky cathedral.
Seymour's Fear Fair is as much of a party as it is a haunted house. But that's one of the things that makes it special.
Celebrating 21 years of fun and frights- how appropriate for the 2021 season!- Fear Fair has a formidable presence in the Indiana haunt community. I've been lucky enough to attend for eight of those years, including most of their events over the off-season, and it's been a pleasure to watch their haunt grow and change, from having the most realistic horror movie scenes in the business to developing more creative and original scares. This was also the one that got me officially hooked on full contact haunts (I can proudly say the first time I ever got full-on grabbed in a haunted house was at Fear Fair). Due to the lingering menace of COVID-19, the haunt decided to go with a more traditional "hands off" approach this season, but I found that their show was every bit as killer as it's always been.
A general admission ticket to Fear Fair starts at $25. This is an incredibly popular haunted house that draws big crowds; if you even think you'll be visiting during peak hours or on a busy night, I recommend investing in Slash Pass tickets ($32), which will cut your wait time in half. Parking is free, but it's very much a "get in where you fit in" situation, meaning you'll have to hunt down a parking spot nearby. Please keep in mind that Fear Fair shares a complex with other businesses, including trucking companies - whether you're arriving or leaving, watch out for semis!
Even if you've invested in Slash Passes, getting to Fear Fair early is well worth it. They get things rolling with an amazing preshow shortly before the house opens, and they've really ramped it up this year. I've never gotten there soon enough to be in a good spot for when all their monsters come out and charge the crowd, but it was hard to miss the energetic tunes, colorful lights, and pyrotechnics (!) flying over our heads!
Following a quick security check, you can choose to either jump straight in line, or spend some time hanging out in the Monster Midway, a new area that was added last year. (You can always save this for later - if you want to get your souvenir photo, you'll have to return anyway.) The Monster Midway has enjoyed some extra attention since its creation, providing lots of activities to keep customers entertained for the whole night. There are games, rides, fresh treats from Shaggy's Concessions, and a booth selling midway tickets and Fear Fair merch. Some of the newer additions to the midway are a towering rock wall, a bouncy harness, and a zombie archery game (I did this one - loved it!). DJ Fear's booth blasts music throughout the night, and you might also run into some roaming characters. I hung out with a couple of them, including the fiendishly fun "Manon", who offered me a six legged snack while I was waiting to get in (which I politely declined).
Fear Fair does not maintain a storyline or single theme, instead consisting of four large areas: Ancient Evil (catacombs themed), Laveau's Curse (Bourbon Street, swamp, etc.), Rockford Riot (prison), and- brand NEW for 2021- the Egyptian themed Ramses' Wrath, replacing the former plague village. This is a superbly designed haunted house, starting with the cathedral facade outside, which is nothing short of amazing with the big DJ rig up top, and the animatronic skeletal guardians flanking the entrance. All four portions of the attraction are loaded with detail, and quite a few special effects: elevators, water, fog, animatronics and actor-matronics (watch out for that gator lurking in the bayou!) - Fear Fair does it all, and makes it feel realistic to boot. Something I touched on last year, and it bears mentioning again, is how smoothly each section flows into the next, too. It doesn't feel as sudden and "random" as it can with haunted houses, and that's a credit to their team.
I want to take a moment to show some extra love for Ramses' Wrath in particular, because it was fantastic, and while I loved the old plague area, I enjoyed this every bit as much. It genuinely felt like you were on your own personal expedition. There's sand at your feet, you traverse tombs covered in heiroglyphs (with fellow explorers trying to run you off or hurry you along), cross a swaying rope bridge over water. They even had a giant Sphinx! (I was a little concerned with the bridge as the wooden pieces tended to drift apart, and I saw an opening someone's foot could go through if they weren't careful. However, I was told they monitor and tighten it up as needed. Remember to watch your step!)
Fear Fair is a haunt that often gives back to its community, and it is staffed by a devoted cast and crew of volunteers. The number of actors in the house can vary on any given night, but they had several the night of my visit and there were no empty rooms, always a plus. This haunt's cast is consistently talented, and it's hard to name every standout character because they were all rocking it when I came through. And being unable to touch you this year doesn't mean they can't scare the crap out of you! The voodoo shaman on Bourbon Street and his uber creepy, life-sized doll were both complete terrors, trapping me in their room for several uncomfortable seconds. "I can make you look like her!" he taunted. (That's a great big hell no, buddy.) In the bayou that followed, the female actor in the shack came charging down the bridge with such aggression that I was frozen to the spot - she ordered me to follow her and I didn't dare tell her no! Stumbling into a graveyard shortly afterward, I witnessed a witch raising the dead, and was quickly set upon by vicious ghouls that stalked and attacked from all directions! And Rockford Prison was full of dangerous inmates, the most peculiar of which is referred to as "The Hangman". At first glance, he appears to be a lifeless body on a hook... but I'll warn you that he's not as dead as he looks, and I found out the hard way that he's learned how to set himself free!
Once again, I must throw out some extra love, this time to Manon, who suddenly reappeared at my side when I reached the tombs. I can't be sure why or how, but this girl and her roachy friends became my traveling companions the whole way through that scene, and I owe it to them that I made it out safely! One unscrupulous adventurer tried shoving gold and treasures into his pockets - Manon went right after him, the priestess who tried to pin the theft on me, and anyone else who gave me a hard time. She warned me not to touch any of the ghouls that were lurching after us ("They'll curse you!"), and instructed me to bow down and pray to Anubis for safe passage. I'm not sure what I did to deserve her protection, but you can bet it was appreciated, and it made my night that much more special.
With the updates to the Monster Midway, the addition of Ramses' Wrath, an energetic and talented cast of actors, and a rocking preshow, 2021 brought out one of the strongest shows Fear Fair has ever put on. What was once just an awesome haunted house has become something so much more, a full experience that seems to grow bigger and badder each year. I always look forward to my annual visit and can't wait to see what the future holds for this place.
ENVIRONMENT: 9/10 - Scenes in-house look great and transition well into each other. Loads of fun activities in the Monster Midway for customers to enjoy. And that opening show to kick things off!
ACTING: 8/10 - Plenty of actors to cover the house - no dead rooms. I visited on one of the busiest nights of the season and everyone was working hard!
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Lots of actor-driven scaring, some mechanical surprises too. Cast made good use of hiding spots to try to catch you off guard; those who were out in the open weren't afraid to be aggressive.
OVERALL: 9/10 - One of the best shows I have ever enjoyed at Fear Fair! Just excellent all around.