Fright Manor (2021 Review)
Updated: Feb 19
Fright Manor - Indianapolis' Scariest Haunted House 350 Anniston Dr. Indianapolis, IN 46227 http://www.frightmanor.com
Date of Visit: 10/23/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
It's an unassuming scene: I'm seated at a picnic table in the little courtyard, casually munching on Skittles and writing notes. The night is clear and crisp, and I'm vaguely aware of the chatter of people from within the glow of the concession stand. Games awaiting players sit patiently beside me, painted black walls and shadows lie in front of where I'm sitting, and the space is surrounded by baseball fields and bleachers. At first glance, it seems like any other night hanging out at a little league, except that the peace is suddenly broken by the shrill roar of a chainsaw coming to life - followed by a gaggle of terrified, wild-eyed, and completely grown adults nearly mowing each other down as they scramble out of the darkness, pursued by a pair of saw-slinging, creepy clowns.
In other words, it's just another night spent at Fright Manor, one of the oldest traditional haunted houses in Indianapolis.
I stumbled upon Fright Manor through a Facebook post in 2013 that advertised their Christmas event. Formerly located on South Meridian, I'll admit that the place didn't look like much when I first pulled up. But when I ventured inside, well... let's just say I received a lesson in not judging a book by its cover when it comes to haunting. I would continue to return several times in the years that followed, both for haunt season and their many holiday events. 2018 eventually forced them to change locations, this time to the Southport Little League, where they've operated since. Additional changes have taken place here and there, but one thing has remained consistent: they deliver scary, spooky fun every season.
Tickets to Fright Manor start at $22, with discounts available for select groups (see their website for more info!). Speed Passes are also offered for a $10 upcharge, and are highly recommended if you're going late in the season - I came on a notoriously busy night for October, and the line of haunt-goers stretched all the way back to the entrance! Parking is free in their large gravel lot, and attendants are around to help you find a space.
One of my favorite aspects of Fright Manor is that it's one of those haunts with an atmosphere that screams "community". It's been around for a long time, everyone seems to know about it, and you'll see all kinds of people lining up to buy tickets. Because it's on the site of a baseball field, there's a limit to how much scenery they can add out front. However, they did have popular music going, some spooky props and displays, and the odd character sneaking outside to startle unsuspecting customers. Walking up to the Speed Pass line, I was greeted by an old "friend"- Grinder, the Doll Maker- who cackled that he had something special for me inside of the house before he slipped back in to scare the next group. Oh boy. I could hardly wait.
Before visiting Fright Manor, it's important to know that this place is a very "old school", no frills haunted attraction, and that has become something of a war cry for them. As you're going through, you'll find yourself walking between plenty of black plywood walls or passing under dark curtains between rooms. If you are the type of customer for whom fancy sets and big budget animatronics are highly important, this haunt may not suit your tastes.
With all of that said, for an attraction they have to completely tear down and build back up every season, the Manor's build team still pulls off some pretty cool set work. Because Fright Manor is a traditional haunted house, it doesn't maintain a single theme or story, instead piecing together several different themed rooms and characters to play off a variety of their guests' fears. Among those are a cemetery with a remarkable array of caskets and coffins, a church possessed by dark spirits, a delightfully chaotic killer clown carnival, a patch of corn watched over by a (possibly live) scarecrow, and many more. Complete darkness is effectively used in a few spots, and they're also particularly skilled at hiding animatronics in places where groups wouldn't expect to stumble upon them, providing additional jump scares as you're going through. A couple of areas involved getting down and crawling in order to proceed, so be prepared for that.
I did encounter some dead space here and there- a common issue, especially late in the season- but they still had a decent number of actors working, and a few were adept at sneaking through the haunt to pop you again and again. (One masked maniac followed and tried to scare me for a good three rooms; he wasn't quite successful, but I appreciated the effort!) Most of the actors I came across made a good effort to scare or interact. Some of the characters who stood out were the older gentleman who tells you his story at the beginning (I think he worked last season too), a relentless Michael Myers that chased me out of his room, and an actor in a glowing hockey mask, who gave me quite the startle! The chainsaw clowns at the end also had amazing energy, and worked as a flawless duo to send groups milling about in a panic through their maze, often hemming them in, then sending them scurrying out in a mass of terror! And Grinder is always one of Fright Manor's rock stars. Walking into his workshop, it's likely you'll be greeted by a shower of sparks from his work on his next demonic dolly... you may think you can sneak past him, but I'll warn you: he doesn't miss much. As he often does, he attempted to send me home with a souvenir, but it was just too creepy for me to accept. (Sorry Grinder... you know I'm not about dolls. Come back with another clown and we'll talk - Bobo still has a happy home with me.)
If you managed to escape the clowns and their saws, you could probably use a chance to catch your breath. Fright Manor has you covered here, too - for a small upcharge, games and fortune telling are available at the exit, and if you return to their indoor ticket counter, they've got quite a menu of concessions for sale. Grab some snacks, park yourself at the picnic tables, and enjoy some people watching before you head home.
In the era of "bigger is better", it's easy to lose sight of what's really important with a haunt: scaring and entertaining your customers. Fright Manor is one of those still keeping that spirit alive, and while I love the attractions that are decked out as much as anyone else, there's something to be said for just going through a haunted house and enjoying a few frights with people who clearly have a strong love of Halloween. If you're searching for a haunt that's reasonably priced and will provide you with a night of fun and scares, Fright Manor is the place for you.
ENVIRONMENT: 7/10 - This is not the fanciest haunt, but "fancy" isn't what they are going for. They do have some cool scenes, and use darkness and animatronics better than some of the higher budget haunts I've visited.
ACTING: 6/10 - Decent amount of actors, some empty areas. Everyone I came across was working hard when I came through!
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Scaring and entertaining their guests is the Manor's main focus, and they do it well!
OVERALL: 7/10 - I love visiting Fright Manor whenever I'm in the Indianapolis area. It's a good, solid haunted house, nothing more and nothing less.