Updated: Feb 19
Wicked World Scaregrounds 5817 Tates Creek Rd. Nicholasville, KY 40356 http://www.wickedworldscaregrounds.com
Date of Visit: 10/8/21 Reviewer: Lindsay
Stepping out of my car into a wooded field, the night is only slightly cool, unusual for this point in the season. It's quiet out here, save for the rustle of other cars finding their spots in the grass... and lively music booming in the distance. We were lucky enough to avoid rain this weekend, but the humidity has formed a solid blanket of fog at my feet, making a spooky path for me to the clearing up ahead. As I draw closer, the music grows louder, and I can see the smiling face of my friend, Lisa, who has already arrived. I snap a few photos, then walk over to meet her.
The two of us have barely managed to greet each other and start talking when our reunion is sharply interrupted by the appearance of a green haired clown. In a fraction of a second, he glides swiftly across the ground on his knees, sending sparks flying at a group of teenagers. They shriek and take off running, only to get nailed again, this time by a menacing long haired slider. Laughing- and relieved that we weren't their targets- we continue talking and checking out our surroundings. The scent of good food wafts from stands behind us. Several feet away, a DJ booth pumps out popular tunes and emits flashy colors over the pavement. And to our left, three scary worlds wait for us to explore them.
We're ready for a night of fun spent in a very special place: Wicked World Scaregrounds, a haunted scream park tucked away in the woods of Nicholasville, Kentucky.
Admission to Wicked World Scaregrounds starts at $28 (+tax), and will get you access to the park and all of its attractions. If you are going on a Friday or Saturday in October, I strongly recommend adding on a Speed Pass ($10), as it was super busy the night we went. Free parking is provided on site, and plenty of attendants are around to guide you to a spot. (Note: it can get very muddy in the parking lot, and on their haunted trail if it's rained recently. Plan accordingly!)
After you've picked up your tickets, you're free to enjoy everything that the Scaregrounds has to offer - which is quite a bit! They've got three different haunted attractions, a DJ, photo ops, a merch booth, and food vendors (and on select nights, live music!). I have to throw a little extra love in here for their food vendors, as they sell some of the best haunt grub I've ever had. Chili cheese fries, Philly cheesesteaks, fried Oreos - so good! And when we were there, the folks from Goodstuff's Kettle Corn were also cooking up delicious treats. I brought home a huge bag of caramel corn for just five bucks.
For the 2021 season, most COVID-19 restrictions have been eliminated from this scream park. However, one that has carried over is that guests will experience all three of their haunts in the same order, taking the guesswork out of which one to do next. As we were making our way into the queue for the first, we ran into some of Wicked World's roaming cast - the eccentric Dr. Drizz greeted us right away, and we spent a moment dancing to the DJ's tunes with Blueberry the Clown. Another one of their clowns, Popcorn, found us in line later and kindly offered us a snack from his popcorn machine if we got hungry. (That popcorn came with a splash of blood, and seasoned with... questionable ingredients. We passed.)
Every attraction at the Scaregrounds has a backstory or all-encompassing theme, and the first one you'll experience is also the most extensive. NIGHTMARE HAUNTED HOUSE is a journey through the mind of Sarah Johnson, a girl who possesses the ability to bring her dreams to life in the waking world. Unfortunately, a history of abuse and trauma twisted these dreams into nightmares that have begun to corrupt her surroundings, including the town she calls home. Those who live there are now taking the form of her frightful visions... and anyone who happens to visit risks suffering the same fate.
Nightmare Haunted House normally seats groups in a small theater and plays a video to set them up for the experience. I expected that part to be removed in 2020, but was surprised to see the seats taped off again this year, too. (Hope they bring it back at some point. It was one of my favorite haunt preshows!) Instead, we were greeted by an elderly woman, who led us into the home and stated that she hoped we would enjoy our visit (but didn't seem optimistic about our chances of survival).
Despite the new introduction, Nightmare seems to remain committed to its story. Guests start out exploring Sarah's old home, which has fallen into a state of disrepair. The sets in this portion are done well enough to immediately evoke an unsettling feeling; that of walking into a place where you can tell something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Creepy words are scrawled here and there, the walls are stained and rotting away in several places, surfaces are splattered with blood or coated in grime. As you continue through the haunt, the scenes become progressively twisted and chaotic, especially when you begin seeing parts of the town that Sarah lives in. An array of fine meats are on display behind the butcher shop's counter... but not all of them are of the animal variety. Passing through the seemingly innocuous toy store leads into a secret workshop strewn with mannequin parts, gore, paper dolls, and posters of missing people. But the last 1/3 or so of the house is where things really get crazy, set-wise - the design team has made many changes this year. Fires glow from behind grates in a furnace room. The lair of Father Time, one of Sarah's scarier creations, is decked out in various timepieces (including a grandfather clock). One of the more disturbing scenes had corpses and chopped body parts hung up in preparation for making human dolls. New animatronics have been added as well. The set work in that part of the haunt was amazing, and I'd love to see the rest of it receive the same attention in the near future.
Nightmare's atmosphere is creepy on its own, but what makes it truly scary is the cast. Sarah's nightmarish visions take many forms, ranging from murderous maniacs to horrendous monsters. And they are literally everywhere... we found absolutely zero dead spots when we came through. Actors stalked behind us, popped out from doors and curtains, grabbed at us from holes in the walls, and made excellent use of distractions to get us when we least expected it - sometimes more than once! (I turned to Lisa at one point and exclaimed "You can't turn your back in here!" There may have been profanity I'm choosing to leave out.) Most of our encounters with the cast were brief, but we did have some lengthier interactions. A character with a stitched-up face and sinister eyes chased after us in the room with the body parts, and singled me out by name, stating that he was going to turn me into a doll. (Not happening. I don't do dolls!) We were also hunted for a good while by Father Time, a monstrous creature with a clock embedded in his rotting face.
Nightmare Haunted House has always been one of Wicked World's scarier attractions, but our run through it this year was excellent and got us pumped for the rest of the night. All I can recommend is that they extend that awesome set work to the entire haunt.
ENVIRONMENT: 7 / ACTING: 8 / SCARE FACTOR: 10 / OVERALL: 9
By the time we found our way out of Sarah's world, a sizable line had formed for the second attraction. We were going to need the break - THE HUNTED, the Scaregrounds' zombie shooting experience, was the next stop on our adventure. By the way, remember the roaming characters I mentioned earlier? You may find them anywhere in the park, including the places you'd least expect... I was glued to my phone when Lisa alerted me to the reappearance of our blue clown friend, who smiled and waved creepily at us from behind a fence. Oh, Blueberry.
Armed with lasertag guns, The Hunted sends groups into a military facility that has been overrun with the infected, and tasks them with clearing it out. Each zombie has a special headband that is green when they're active, but turns red with a successful shot. You're advised to move quickly once you take them down, and for good reason: they can, and will, reanimate after five seconds.
The set design in this house is great, and genuinely makes you feel like you're fighting your way through an actual bunker. Biohazard warnings are painted on the walls, crates and barrels filled with dubious substances are scattered throughout, static zombies are locked in cages and cells. The animatronics are appropriate to the environment, too, and often startling - we witnessed a vicious horde of zombies break out of containment, and had a stack of metal drums nearly fall on us!
We noticed some areas here and there that could have used an actor, but we did battle with a decent number of infected, all of whom came at us with good energy and made convincing snarls and growls. It's harder to get scared in a haunt where the "victims" are given an equalizer, but the cast had some sneaky spots to attack from, and I noticed at least a couple who used their scenes to blend in and attack when we lowered our guard. I do want to recognize a zombie who really got our attention, and that was "The Sheriff" - not only did he attack us in multiple rooms, but he also seemed to retain memories of his human life, waving a pistol like he was trying to return fire and misting us in the face with something. If The Hunted had a boss fight, it was definitely him.
(I later found out we were being pepper sprayed. That's hilariously creative. A+ acting, my dude.)
ENVIRONMENT: 8 / ACTING: 7 / SCARE FACTOR: 7 / OVERALL: 7
Victorious over the zombies for another year, we relinquished our weapons and began to walk back to the middle of the park. An old gas station, Earl's Pump 'n Go, was where we were headed. Before going in, we were stopped and informed that Earl was working, and if we saw him, we should ask him to take us to "the other side". Sounded easy enough, but we were well aware that nothing is as it seems in this wicked world. Preparing for the inevitable, we marched up to the front porch and stepped through the creaking door...
VALLEY OF THE DEAD is your final destination at Wicked World Scaregrounds, and the largest of their three attractions. Earl Piper is a gas station attendant who, after suffering from a freak accident, claims to have the ability to see spirits that are trapped and unable to cross over. He can also help people gain access to "the other side", allowing them to walk among these doomed souls. If you ask, he's happy to do the same for you, but there's a little problem: Earl himself has been dead for several years. And since you accepted his offer, you'll now have to find a way to get back to the living world - or be trapped with the spirits forever.
The only outdoor attraction at Wicked World, Valley of the Dead is this scream park's signature haunted trail. Aside from having Earl's story to tie it all together, the scenes on the trail follow no single theme, instead consisting of many different ideas: a voodoo house, a western ghost town, a crude butcher shack in the woods, a spooky cemetery, an ominous hotel - to name a few! The build team has pulled off some amazing work here, starting with the trail's opening sequence, which begins in a gas station that feels very real, then sends groups through a narrow, foggy tunnel as the transition to the other side. Mama JuJu's home was so full of detail that we could have spent a few minutes in there just looking over everything. The ghost town's buildings were both looming and lifelike, and for a moment, made us forget that we were just on a haunted trail. Darkwood Carnival at the end- a throwback to the trail's former name and theme- has to be one of the best clown areas I've personally walked through, decked out in vibrant colors and including fun touches like a tilted room (good luck staying upright!) and carnival games.
Where the other two haunts focus on action and scares, Valley comes across as more performative, putting a greater emphasis on interaction and immersion. (With that said, they'll still get you!) We had to answer questions in order to proceed, offer a sacrifice for Mama JuJu's ritual, make a wish for a fortune teller, and act like we were checking in to the hotel. Valley of the Dead's cast is highly talented across the board; too many great characters to list them all, but we had several memorable encounters. Mama JuJu is always a delight to interact with (that I've mentioned her three times should tell you something), and the hotel's bellhop is one of the creepiest characters I've ever met in a haunt - we were both startled when he was standing with his back to us, then turned his head completely around, like Regan in The Exorcist! A sharp toothed, scuttling creature by the name of "Six" stalked us for a while, and we ran into some fun clowns in the carnival, including two members of the Darkwood clan (Jazzy and Jasper), a clown girl with a teddy bear who got ALL up in our bubble, and the adorable and funny Saddums.
In short, we had so much fun in Valley of the Dead this year! It could use a bump in intensity, but other than that, it was an awesome ending to our Wicked World adventure.
ENVIRONMENT: 8 / ACTING: 10 / SCARE FACTOR: 8 / OVERALL: 8
Visiting Wicked World Scaregrounds is an annual tradition for us, and our experience this year was excellent. Other than continuing to grow and add more to the park- where space allows- I couldn't find much to improve on in general, and I'm sure the owners already have plans in the works. If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind haunted attraction where you can also spend most of your night, Wicked World is the place for you.
ENVIRONMENT: 8/10 - Fun scream park atmosphere with a lot of entertainment! I would like to see them add a bit more in the near future. (They've offered escape rooms before; we didn't notice if they were open this time.)
ACTING: 9/10 - So many awesome actors, all playing completely original characters that you won't find anywhere else. Few dead areas between the three haunts.
SCARE FACTOR: 8/10 - Scary, fun, interactive - this place covers all the bases. Beyond ramping up the intensity a little in Valley and maybe The Hunted, I can't recommend much else.
OVERALL: 9/10 - Wonderful visit to Wicked World Scaregrounds this year! In my eyes, it was one of the best we've had.