Malice Manor (2021 Review)
Updated: Feb 19
Malice Manor 640 Providence Way Clarksville, IN 47129 http://www.malicemanorhauntedhouse.com
Date of Visit: 9/4/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
Looming over the shadowy streets of Clarksville lies one of Indiana's darkest secrets: a crumbling old manor that was once the home of a man known only as "Lord Rancor" and his family. Not much is known about the history behind it; the horrors that preceded the fall of the Rancors are kept under strong wraps by the local community. But there are whispers surrounding the place, rumors that hint at disappearances, hauntings, and foul play. And these are said to be terrible enough that many of those who live nearby have taken to calling this doomed estate by an entirely new name: Malice Manor.
Malice Manor emerged as a much-needed entry to the Southern Indiana haunt collective over the 2019 season. The story behind it is that this mansion once belonged to the esteemed Lord Rancor and his wife, their daughter Alice, and those who served them. Following the sudden disappearance of Alice, both Rancor and his wife were driven to madness, with the former endlessly searching for their daughter, and the latter beginning to dabble in black magic in an effort to resurrect her. This only caused additional problems for the family, as evil in many forms began to manifest and take over the manor, eventually bringing about its downfall. 2021 marks season three for Malice, and as you'll soon find out, they've come in with some creative new ideas and a solid show.
With how dark Providence Way gets at night, Malice Manor isn't too hard to spot - that lit up beige warehouse sticks out among everything else on the street. There's a few parking spaces in the front, or you can grab one at the businesses next door if those happen to be full. General admission tickets to the Manor are $25, with a couple of different fast pass options available depending on how much of a hurry you are in. Make sure you check out their merch counter too, as they have a variety of shirts, wristbands, and other souvenirs for anyone wanting a memento of their visit... should they survive, of course.
After purchasing your tickets, it's time to make your way onto the grounds of Lord Rancor's estate. I want to drop a shout out to the owners and design team here for accepting the feedback they received from guests, and making some big changes to their queue. Massive walls now completely separate the lobby and merch/ticket counters from the haunt's line, and the nondescript dividers that once made up the waiting area have been replaced by ornate fencing, draped with ivy and shadowed by large stone columns. Combined with the melancholy soundtrack, trickling fountain, and crashes of thunder and lightning, it provides an excellent transition into the world of the Manor.
When it's your group's turn to enter, you'll be offered a chance to have your photo taken with some fun props and given a brief rundown of the house rules. Then the door to the old mansion will slowly creak open... seemingly on its own, and accompanied by fog billowing from the mouths of the gargoyles that guard either side. Ambrose, the home's jovial- yet slightly creepy- young caretaker will be waiting for you in the parlor, where you're welcome to have a seat on the couch while you listen to his tale of the ill-fated Rancor family. You'd be wise to heed it; it will certainly set you up for the experience you're preparing to walk into, and also serves as a warning for what you may encounter within.
From the moment you depart from the parlor and set foot into the manor, the haunt's creators throw you into the story they've created. I'd barely made it a few steps inside before I could hear a man's tormented cries for "Alice!" throughout the halls - followed by some bookshelves precariously tipping in my direction, nearly ending my tour before it even got started! This haunted mansion theme is carried very strongly for the first few rooms, from the opening parlor scene, to the little girl's room filled with shelves of dolls and plush toys piled high. But as you progress further, the effects of the family matron's activities quickly become apparent... your surroundings begin to take a turn for the strange, and the characters encountered grow increasingly twisted and dangerous. Visitors might suddenly find themselves passing through a witch's shack filled with trinkets, bottles of spell ingredients, and other curiosities. Or a super creepy lair inhabited by giant spiders, requiring them to push past the wrapped bodies (!) of less fortunate guests. There may even be an arcade with real machines somewhere in the Rancor residence, but rest assured - nobody's having any fun in there!
To touch on the scenes a little more, there were definitely changes made for the 2021 season. Some I noticed when I visited Malice for an event in July, like the removal of the bathroom scene and addition of the aforementioned witch shack. Others were brand new; for example, the former circus room has been overhauled into something that uses the same effects, yet fits in better with the Manor's theme. (All I'm gonna say is... if you're asked to "pick your poison"... you better pick it carefully!) The overall set design throughout the haunt has continued to improve, and I passed through very few areas that didn't carry either a high level of detail or some kind of special effect(s).
A demented cast of characters call Malice Manor their home, and you can never be fully sure of who- or what- you'll run into. Before I even got into the actual house, I was greeted by a rather dapper demon (perhaps the Lord himself?) in the lobby. There's a lovely "lady" in the vanity room who never fails to make me smile, and I had one particularly creepy creature attack, then stalk after me for a couple of rooms, none too happy that I'd just barged into his home! I felt the haunt's cast possessed a good degree of enthusiasm for their roles, and did their best to try to elicit startles and screams using a variety of tactics. (Speaking of which: Malice Manor has returned to being a "light touch" haunt. You may be gently grasped or grazed, but unless they know you they probably aren't going to do anything worse. I say "unless they know you" because two actors I'm very familiar with completely wrecked me in the butcher shop. Thanks guys, hope you enjoyed that Bacon "sandwich".)
Taking into consideration that I was there on opening weekend, I couldn't find a whole lot to critique. Scares were probably the biggest area of opportunity during my visit. They did get me *really* good a couple of times, along with a few jumps, but there were quieter periods that left me wondering if some hidden effect was going to go off or an actor was lurking, and that wasn't always the case. In their defense, I visit many haunts and can be a little harder to get than other customers.
I've been going to Malice Manor every year since they opened, along with partaking in some of their holiday shows. It really has been a pleasure to watch their haunt develop with each season, and 2021 provided yet another delightfully crazy tour of the Rancor estate. Whether you're local to this area or you're planning to come check out the many awesome haunts around here, this one needs to be on your list.
ENVIRONMENT: 9/10 - Really not much room for improvement left given the limitations the haunt owners have to work with. Shout out to them again for fixing up that queue! Looks great!
ACTING: 7/10 - Solid acting and good energy throughout the cast. They have some very strong characters.
SCARE FACTOR: 7/10 - Malice Manor utilizes a variety of tactics to spook customers. I would like to see the aggression ramped up just a little more, but that's my preference.
OVERALL: 7/10 - Stellar show with some great changes made for their third season. I look forward to watching this haunt continue to grow every year.