Updated: Feb 19
Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park 8762 Thomas Rd Middletown, OH 45042 http://www.landofillusion.com
Date of Visit: 9/24/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
Land of Illusion Adventure Park- located in Middletown- is known for providing entertainment in the state of Ohio throughout the year. It offers visitors a chance to cool off with Aqua Adventures over the summer, enjoy some holiday magic with the drive thru Christmas Glow, and often hosts other events, like car shows and concerts. But from September through October, this family-oriented place is touched by the spirit of Halloween, and changes into something a little more sinister. Giant skeletons and jack o'lanterns pop up all over the park. Freaks and monsters roam among visitors. Chainsaws roar in the distance, and even the front gate itself takes on an ominous glow. What was once an adventure park has officially been transformed into Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park, the venue's annual Halloween event.
If you're planning a trip to Land of Illusion, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind. The first is that most everything in the park is cash only; if you haven't brought enough with you, ATMs are available out front. There is also a $5 fee for parking. Admission prices vary depending on how much you want to experience, but a General Admission ($50) or VIP Fast Pass ($75) will grant you access to all attractions, and for as many times as you'd like to do them. (If I may make a recommendation, get the VIP pass! You'll have unlimited fast pass access all night long.)
There are six haunted attractions at the Land: Temple of Terror, Dr. Psycho's Haunted Estate, Phobia, Big Mama's Revenge, Killer Klowns, and Middletown Haunted Trail. Some will not open until dark, but once you don your wristband and walk through the gate, the order in which you do things is completely up to you. Maybe you'd like to maximize your time and start on the haunts right away. Want to grab a snack or drink first? The Creepy Cafe and Voodoo Lounge are a short walk from the entrance, and there's a few other spots selling drinks and treats. Most nights will offer some kind of live entertainment; on my visit, they had a DJ pumping out tunes from the Stage of Rage, and The Wheelie Wizzard performing motorcycle stunts for an enthusiastic crowd. All of this- in combination with the fire pits burning into the night, and the spooky characters stalking among guests- creates an atmosphere that's as fun and lively as it is scary. Make no mistake about it, this is a true "scream park"!
Since it's always one of the first houses to open, I chose to begin my adventure with an expedition through the TEMPLE OF TERROR. This ancient tomb lay sealed and forgotten for many years, until some ill-intentioned adventurers managed to break in, looking to steal any treasures they could find. Unfortunately for them, breaking that seal awakened the evil that the temple contained, trapping them inside and leaving future explorers at the mercy of the subterranean creatures and murderous maniacs lurking within its cursed walls.
Out of every haunt at Land, Temple of Terror is the most heavily themed. Just walking through its queue will have guests navigating crumbling, rune-covered walls as lights flicker ominously above them, and TV monitors play the story of the doomed adventurers. Boarding a rickety mine elevator grants access to the tomb, but once it jolts to a stop, you and your group must find your own way out. And it is a perilous journey, one that will leave visitors exploring dimly lit passages lined with rotting corpses, crossing a rope bridge in a watery cavern, and trying to survive booby-trapped chambers. They've also crammed a couple of impressive animatronic monsters into this place, along with some cool special effects (there is one pneumatic scare that gets me every time - you'll know when you see it!).
As with last year, there seemed to be a greater reliance on the house's automated scares this season. I walked through several areas that were devoid of actors, including the water scene, which normally has at least one. The human characters I encountered were interactive and menacing, and most creatures made appropriate noises, but a couple of the younger ones broke character and spoke normally to me for no apparent reason. Temple's cast has a great environment to work with; spreading them out a little more, or increasing their numbers, would make this haunt even better.
ENVIRONMENT: 8 / ACTING: 5 / SCARE FACTOR: 5 / OVERALL: 6
By the time I escaped from the tomb, darkness had completely fallen over the park and every attraction was open. Against my better judgement, I picked DR. PSYCHO'S HAUNTED ESTATE as my second stop... I say that because the moment I entered the line, I was immediately accosted by "Patient X", a creepy character brandishing a syringe and a rusty blade. "If you're so scared, why did you come here alone?" he sneered. Oh gee, I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting to run into YOU.
Dr. Psycho's is another haunt at Land of Illusion with its own storyline, taking visitors on a complete tour through the estate of Dr. Christopher Psycho. You'll start in the woods surrounding the estate, make your way across the grounds out front, then enter his 200-year old home and medical practice. If you can even call it that... don't be fooled by the doctor's polite demeanor; this is easily the goriest house in the whole park, and you'll figure out pretty quickly that this guy is not playing with a full deck! Room after room of botched surgeries, sketchy experiments, and other madness awaits, all sprinkled with a generous amount of blood and guts. Things take a turn for the unsettling when you venture upstairs, where you'll witness a hanging (!), some sort of evil summoning being performed, and a room full of creepy dolls. The Estate is a more actor-driven haunt and was lighter on animatronics and such, but they did have a few neat effects, like the live fire burning in the furnace room.
Dead spots were also an issue in this house, though there were not as many. They've got a talented cast and I enjoyed my interactions with many of them. Dr. Psycho himself and his two female assistants were a delight, and the chainsaw maniacs outside made good use of their hiding spots to pin me between them. I have to drop another shout out for Patient X as well, who made sure I regretted my (extremely poor) decision to return for another visit later in the night. And by that I mean he stalked me through the *entire* haunt... literally the whole thing... from the grounds outside to sending me screaming out the exit at the end. "I'm the curse you'll never be rid of!" Yeah, I noticed.
ENVIRONMENT: 7 / ACTING: 8 / SCARE FACTOR: 7 / OVERALL: 7
Despite a strong run through Dr. Psycho's, I wasn't ready for a break yet and made my way over to PHOBIA next. I'll preface this mini review by admitting that I hate this attraction... not because it's a bad house, but because it stresses me out. In other words, it does exactly what it's intended to do.
As the name of the haunt implies, Phobia is a house designed to play off of guests' common fears. If you're afraid of it, you'll probably find it in here. Scared of snakes? There's a cave where they'll be hissing and slithering all around you. What about murderers or psychopaths? You might find yourself walking through a home where one resides... as evidenced by the splashes of blood on the walls. Aliens? Superstitions? Hell - going to the doctor? All of them are represented in Phobia. (And if you hate spiders, you're really going to have a bad time!)
The most effective thing about Phobia, though, is how it engages visitors' senses and the human fear of the unknown. Loud noises, foul odors, and electric shocks (watch where you put your hands!) are all utilized, along with heavy doses of fog and pitch black darkness. You won't see a whole lot of actors here, either, but the house honestly doesn't need that many. Stumbling around blindly- with no idea of where you'll end up, who you might run into, or what you may touch- is enough to create tension on its own. It's not super scary, but it gets the point across.
ENVIRONMENT: 7 / ACTING: 5 / SCARE FACTOR: 6 / OVERALL: 6
If I wasn't ready for that break before I got to Phobia, I sure was by the time I made it out. Luckily, the Historical Mystery Mansion ride is right next door. Have you ever been on one of those cheesy Halloween dark rides at a state fair? If so, that's basically what it is. It's a cute stop for groups with young children or adults who want to take a breather in between haunts.
The KILLER KLOWNS aren't far from the Mystery Mansion, and I decided to pay them a visit once the ride was over. If there was ever an appropriate home for a crew of clowns, this is it - each room is decked out in bright lights and colors, and there are a lot of zany props and effects in here, like human sized bowling pins and multiple vortex tunnels. Truly a funhouse of frights, but don't let the atmosphere fool you... it's called "Killer" Klowns for a reason!
A funny moment from this one: beyond one clown carrying a hammer, and a couple of cute clown girls, the first half of the house was pretty empty. There's a foggy and disorienting fence maze somewhere in the middle, and I explored that for a couple of minutes, but still didn't see anyone else. "Where the hell are the clowns?" I muttered to myself.
Oh man. Remember the phrase 'be careful what you wish for, you just might get it'? That came into play when two male clowns suddenly appeared; one white faced and wearing a hat, the other long haired and bearded. The moment they spotted this lady wandering around by herself, it was ON. Those two just about ran me ragged, especially the one with the long hair, who declared himself my personal guide through the whole maze. My objection was answered with "Oh, that's funny, I don't recall giving you a choice!" Eventually they showed a little mercy and decided to let me go, but not without advising me to check the trunk of my car on the way home, and under my bed when I got there. Believe me, I did.
ENVIRONMENT: 7 / ACTING: 6 / SCARE FACTOR: 6 / OVERALL: 7
There were two attractions left to experience, the trail and BIG MAMA'S REVENGE. Praying I didn't pick up any more stalkers before the night was over, I opted for Mama's first. Big Mama's Revenge is an outdoor maze that came in as a new haunt for 2020. Guests must navigate an extremely dark and hazy labyrinth of giant tires, black tarps, and brick walls while attempting to avoid the wrath of this malicious matron and her crazy family.
Big Mama's was the only attraction I did with a group, and I'm glad I did, because I totally wouldn't have made it far on my own! The maze is disorienting, provides the bare minimum of light for groups to find their way, and being stalked by Mama's scary "relatives" certainly doesn't help. I did feel like the maze could have done with at least a couple extra actors, or a touch more aggression from those that were there. It seemed like each went after my group once, then reset and waited for the next to come in, and we fumbled around for several minutes in awkward silence before stumbling back outside. (Hint: when in doubt, try gently pushing on the walls around you.)
ENVIRONMENT: 6 / ACTING: 4 / SCARE FACTOR: 4 / OVERALL: 5
With the other five haunts completed, I was finally prepared to tackle the biggest beast in the park - the famous MIDDLETOWN HAUNTED TRAIL. Before I go any further, this scenario will probably give you an idea of how my experience went: upon leaving the trail, I slowed down to catch my breath (because I'd been running), got my phone out to make notes, and my first thought was "I don't even know where to begin with this."
And anyone who knows me as a reviewer can tell you that's a good sign!
Located at the back of the park, Middletown Haunted Trail is considered Land of Illusion's signature attraction. It also sees the largest crowds of the night, so hit it early if you want to avoid a long wait. Like most haunted trails, this one follows no set theme, taking groups on a lengthy trek through a variety of elaborate scenes built within the forest and fields bordering the park (and at one point, over the water). And I do mean elaborate... there is some wild set design happening on this trail, from the radioactive bunker and toxic waste camp that begins your adventure, to the area with two upended, full size school buses sticking out of the ground! Other portions of this insanity include an encampment of cannibalistic hillbillies, an amazingly creepy Halloween encounter, an underground Satanic cult, catacombs built from the skulls of less fortunate visitors, and so much more. They've included some crazy animatronics and special effects as well; I was particularly fond of the big glowing gator lurking in the toxic camp, and a killer automated scare hidden within a maze inhabited by psychopaths (again, I won't spoil this but it definitely made me yelp!).
But what really got my attention with Middletown was the cast. The sheer energy these people gave off was something else... I'm not exaggerating when I say they were all over me out there. A lot of them knew their scenes thoroughly, too. One chainsaw maniac in the hillbilly camp became a whole group of them in about three seconds. Making my way along a dimly lit bridge, I swear I watched Michael Myers vanish before my eyes - only to reappear behind me without a sound (how?!). A chainsaw-toting clown worked in tandem with two creepy-looking characters to deliver scares at the end, then went so far as to pursue me through the exit, cut me off outside, and trap me by the barricades! I couldn't stop laughing. There were also no dead spots on the entire trail, every single area had at least one actor lurking about.
Honestly, I couldn't find much to critique at all. They have revised the ending to the trail for 2021 and I did miss what used to be there. However, the teamwork exhibited by the actors in that scene still made it enjoyable and provided a strong finish to a terrific show. In four seasons of coming to Land, this was probably my favorite run through Middletown Haunted Trail to date.
ENVIRONMENT: 8 / ACTING: 9 / SCARE FACTOR: 8 / OVERALL: 8
Of course, I can't wrap up this review without throwing out some love to the park's roaming characters, who were awesome to watch and interact with. While I was writing notes by the fire pits, a gorgeous ghoul named Lydia settled into the chair next to me and indulged me in conversation for a little while (if she asks you to say you love her, shout it loud and proud!). A witch I'd spotted out and about joined me shortly after, and offered a card reading to close out my night. The outcome of that will remain a secret between the two of us, but you could say that I've got much to look forward to.
Land of Illusion provides a consistent scream park experience every year, and my visit this season was among the best I've had. Dead space was a bit of a problem in some of the houses, and I would like to see more non-haunt entertainment offered in the near future (like the dark ride they added in 2020). With that said, it's still a good value for the cost of admission, and a solid choice for haunt fans seeking a place where they can enjoy hours of frightful fun.
ENVIRONMENT: 8/10 - Several haunted attractions, multiple food options, characters stalking the crowd, fire pits, live acts - Land pretty much has it all. My only recommendation would be to add some extra activities (games, more rides) if space allows.
ACTING: 7/10 - Solid across the board, a little character breaking going on in Temple of Terror but I didn't see it anywhere else. Filling in the empty areas of the houses will help.
SCARE FACTOR: 7/10 - Every haunt in the park deploys a variety of scare tactics, and they all got me at least once (usually more than once!).
OVERALL: 8/10 - When I hear the term "scream park", Land of Illusion is the first place that comes to mind! Their Halloween event is unique and fun, and anyone who loves haunted attractions should check it out.