A Weekend Trip to SCarowinds
Despite living in North Carolina for 15 years, I had never attended SCarowinds before. But I knew that after seeing the preparations for this year’s SCarowinds first hand, I had to take a trip to Carowinds and see the real thing.
(I’m going to do my absolute best to give details without providing spoilers. But be aware, if you’re planning on heading to SCarowinds and want to be completely surprised, this post will probably visit the grey area between generalizing and giving away some spoilers.)
The weather forecast called for a 90% chance of rain all day in the Charlotte, NC area, but I was not going to be deterred. I drove through the rain for two hours, threw on my rain suit in the parking lot, and headed into the park about 6:40 pm. Fortunately, the rain never really developed into much more than a constant drizzle throughout the night.
Because this was going to be my only opportunity to visit SCarowinds this season, I opted to purchase the “Fright Lane” pass, which gave me front of the line access to each of Carowinds’ seven mazes, as well as access to the “Skeleton Key” Rooms in each of SCarowinds five “Scare Zones.” The skeleton key rooms each provide an experience that are unique to their respective Scare Zone. I can’t say enough good things about the Fright Lane pass, as it turned long lines into two minute waits, and really maximized my time at SCarowinds.
While we waited for SCarowinds to officially begin at 7:00pm, park guests crowded around a giant cauldron at the entrance to the park. Various “Scare Actors” from SCarowinds’ mazes and scare zones were mingling amongst the gathered crowd, taking any opportunity to pop up next to or behind someone for some good scares. I was sending a text, and I had a scare actor from the London Terror scare zone pop up behind me and say (in his best British accent) “tell them I said hello.” He then kept walking around, trying to find his next scare victim.
After SCarowinds officially opened, I made my way to my first maze of the night, Silver Scream Studios.
Silver Scream Studios are the studios of Director Heinrich Von Hellsburg, who, according to the story, is holding a casting call for the most realistic horror movie of all time. Refusing to go down in history with dishonor and humiliation, he escaped from the sanitarium and is once again holding auditions. Determined to make the scariest movie of all time, Von Hellsburg is looking for some new blood to make their “Silver Scream” debut.
There were some classic cinematic scenes throughout Silver Scream Studios; including an Egyptian scene reminiscent of The Mummy franchise, and a room with several crows in it, reminiscent of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, The Birds. There were some good scares within the maze itself, but interestingly enough, I thought one of the best scares took place before the maze even started. If you’re headed to SCarowinds and visit Silver Scream Studios, be sure to get your photo taken as you enter the maze, and you’ll understand.
After a quick night ride on Hurler — it wouldn’t be a visit to Carowinds without some coasters after all — my second maze of the night was Zombie High. During my “Behind The Screams” tour, I only was able to see the outside of
Pat Hall Zombie High School. While impressive from the outside, inside, the Zombie Invasion was in full swing, putting a damper on the 1987 Homecoming Dance that was taking place in the gym.
There were a lot of good scenes inside Zombie High, and a lot of attention paid to detail. I’d have to walk through Zombie High several more times to catch all of the “Easter Eggs” inside, but even something as simple as “English Composition” written on a blackboard in chalk, with a DE- put in front of composition in “blood” was a very nice touch for such a small detail. Everything from a high school was seemingly inside, from a library, to classrooms, to a science lab, and even a locker room. The homecoming dance scene in particular featured some great interaction between props and scare actors.
Continuing my counter-clockwise journey around Carowinds, the next stop was my first Scare Zone of the night — Bloodyard. Designed to look like a junkyard, complete with scrap cars and piles of tires, Bloodyard is inhabited by Vampires. The scare zone is very angular, and features plenty of hiding places for vampires to pop out and scare you. There seemed to be a pretty high concentration of scare actors within the scare zone, which only added to the experience.
The Skeleton Key in the Bloodyard was very interesting, especially as my first one of the night. Inside the Skeleton Key room, housed in an old shipping container, I was given a small flashlight and ushered into a room with a mechanic inside. Without giving too much away, my task was to “fry” a vampire that the mechanic had caught. I’ll just say that not everything went as the mechanic had planned, and I ended up running out of the room.
Cornstalkers, SCarowinds lone outdoor maze, was closed that night due to the day’s rainy weather. I made my way to the next Scare Zone, Mass Acres, located in front of Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Mass Acres was themed as a graveyard, with the tombstones and monuments bearing the name of Carowinds managers. The scare actors inside were decked out in head to toe grey, and all played various characters. My favorite was a scare actor dressed as a soldier who followed a group out of the Scare Zone while chanting the familiar “left, left, left right left” military cadence.
Mass Acres’ skeleton key takes park guests into a psychic reading, where the psychic attempts to summon spirits from the dead. There was nothing particular frightening about this Skeleton Key, at least not compared to the Skeleton Key in Bloodyard, but there was a cool trick involving a voice recorder and a willing participant’s iPhone, and some quick slight of hand with some chalkboards with a hidden message.
Next on my agenda was Last Laff in 3D, SCarowinds’ clown-themed maze. I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of clowns, but they’re definitely not my favorite form of entertainment. I was a little apprehensive before entering the maze, but it was one of three mazes I had walked through before with the lights on. I knew I could handle it. Last Laff was easily one of the more disorienting mazes at SCarowinds, with a loud soundtrack and even louder neon blacklight paint. Inside the maze, there was a fun house-style mirror maze and clowns honking bike horns around every corner. It was very well done, but I’m glad I don’t have to deal with any clowns anytime soon.
A light rain started to fall, and I made my way to The Playground scare zone. According to SCarowinds’ website, “This isn’t your average playground. Thanks to lazy city planners, it was built on top of a toxic dump. The poisons have started to seep through the ground and it has had a horrible effect on the children who’ve played here. They started mutating into creatures a mother couldn’t even love.”
The Playground is home to numerous poor souls, including one of its most famous – Poo Boy, who I met in the scare zone’s Skeleton Key. Inside, Poo Boy sized me up and down, to see if I was good enough to join his “club.” He had me complete several tasks, including guess the color of the gum he threw away the night before, and guess what he had for dinner last night. Ultimately, Poo Boy didn’t deem me worthy enough to join his club. It was a pretty crushing emotional blow, but I moved on.
With the rain, several of the Scare Zones that I hadn’t visited yet had emptied out, with no scare actors in sight. I decided it was time for a break from Halloween while the rain let up, and took a few rides on Fury 325. I accomplished a few “Fury Firsts” that night, including my first night rides on Fury 325, as well as my first ride in the front row. Fury 325 feels like a completely different ride at night, especially dropping 325′ into the abyss on the first drop. With the added effect of rain drops hitting me in the face while I reached speeds of 95 mph, my ride in the front row was easily one of the most intense roller coaster rides of my life.
After Fury 325, I made my way to Slaughterhouse: The Final Cut, which is making its return to SCarowinds this year after a brief hiatus. I’ll go ahead and say it, Slaughterhouse was the scariest (and gore-iest…is that a word?) maze at SCarowinds this year. Themed as “Red Ribbon Meats,” a butcher shop that grinds up people as well as livestock, there were plenty of terrifying moments inside, including a person being “sawed in half,” and chainsaw-wielding half human-half pigs. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but in my opinion, the best scare of all of SCarowinds takes place in the third scene of Slaughterhouse, and it involves a scare actor who is a double-leg amputee. You have been warned.
The next maze was 7th Ward. According to legend, “7th Ward was home to the Carolina’s most chronically insane,” and this back story held up very well. The scare actors in 7th Ward were some of the most committed out of any maze that night. They played their roles well. The maze was also really well designed, and definitely felt like I was walking through a mental institution. Early in the maze, 7th Ward featured a cool effect where a monitor was designed to look like a window with a psychopath behind it. 7th Ward also featured one of my favorite SCarowinds maze elements — two air-inflated balloons that create a claustrophia-inducing hallway, where you had to “feel” your way out.
After 7th Ward, I walked through the London Terror Scare Zone. It was very well themed, and very foggy, with plenty of scare actors walking around and speaking in British accents. The only thing that took away from the authenticity of the area was the distinct smell of orange chicken wafting over from the nearby Panda Express. The Skeleton Key in London Terror took place in a Pub, where the barmaid behind the counter proceeded to tell me that the taps were broken, and she’d be unable to serve me a pint. She then told me all of the stories she had heard about Jack the Ripper, and how he attacked the mainly poor people. In an effort to avoid spoilers altogether, we received a visitor in the bar while the barmaid was talking about Jack The Ripper. This visitor seemed unhappy with the Barmaid’s stories, and threatened the barmaid. I was to toast to his successes, and then left. The visitor then pulled the barmaid back into the pub. He seemed like a nice enough guy, though.
My last maze of the night was Defex. I hadn’t heard a lot about this maze, and couldn’t really decipher what was inside by the name. But I later found out that Defex was a toy factory that sometimes used the parts of humans to make new toys. I was greeted with creepy Jack-in-the-Box music as I approached the maze, and walked inside. There was a definite factory feel to the maze, and misfit toys were everywhere. It was almost as if Sid from the Toy Story franchise had built a Haunted House. My favorite scare in this maze involved a scare actor in a Panda suit, who popped out of a pile of toys, and called out “Do you want to play with me?!” It was easily my second biggest “jump” of the night.
On my way out of SCarowinds, I visited the Scary Tales scare zone to cross my last Skeleton Key off the list. Scary Tales was easiest the darkest scare zone of the five, and featured twisted characters from Grimm’s fairy tales. I noticed the Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland, and Wolves from Little Red Riding Hood. The skeleton key in Scary Tales was the most involved of the five, as we entered a witch’s house, and had to go on a scavenger hunt for a key. It was the creepiest game of “hot and cold” I had ever played, and the hiding place for the key was very unexpected. Eventually, once I found the key, the witch let me go.
After that, it was time to head home.
Some quick thoughts:
- SCarowinds looked AWESOME. Tons of attention was paid to detail, and the park does a great job of transforming between daytime operation and SCarowinds.
- It may have been the weather, but there was fog everywhere, and because of the humidity, it wasn’t going away. Definitely added a lot to the atmosphere.
- There were several scare actors walking around SCarowinds, scaring anyone who walked near them. My favorite that I saw was a scare actor that hid in between two vending machines and would pop out when someone was purchasing a soda.
- Walking through SCarowinds, hard rock/metal music was used a lot to set the scene. I heard Dragonforce’s “Through The Fire and Flames” and had a haunting Guitar Hero flashback.
- I didn’t get the opportunity to check out SCarowinds’ live shows, but be sure to check out SCarowinds’ Website for more information on the five shows.
My Personal Rankings:
5. Last Laff
4. Silver Scream Studios
3. 7th Ward
2. Zombie High
5. Mass Acres
4. The Playground
3. London Terror
2. Scary Tales
1. The Bloodyard
5. Mass Acres
4. Scary Tales
3. The Playground
2. The Bloodyard
1. London Terror