Fear Is Waiting For You: SCarowinds 2018 Reviewed

For the 19th consecutive year, the midways at Carowinds have been transformed into SCarowinds, the park’s annual Halloween event. Featuring six mazes and six scare zones — including the new for 2019 “Dead Man’s Landing” and “The Hollow,” SCarowinds has established itself as one of, if not the premier Halloween Haunt in the Carolinas.

A trip to SCarowinds has quickly become one of my “must-do’s” on my yearly theme park calendar. After visiting in 2015, 2016, and 2017, I made my annual 225-mile round-trip journey to SCarowinds this past weekend. Here’s a little of what I saw.

In the past, my visits to SCarowinds have been on Saturdays and Sundays. This year, I made my visit on a Friday night, which officially kicked off SCarowinds’ second operating weekend after Hurricane Florence shuttered park operations for a full weekend earlier this month. Seasoned SCarowinds veterans will know that the busiest crowd nights are Saturdays, and the lightest crowd nights are Sundays. If I had to estimate, I’d say that Friday crowds fall in the middle.

Regardless of crowd size, I feel that the best way to experience SCarowinds is with a “Fright Lane” pass, which gets you front-of-the-line access to each of SCarowinds’ six mazes. For one more weekend, on Friday and Sunday, the fright lane passes are “Buy One, Get One Free” if you’re a Carowinds Gold or Cedar Fair Platinum Passholder. A perfect way to experience SCarowinds with a group.

SCarowinds begins each night with a quick show to kick off the night’s festivities, featuring the SCarowinds icon, The Overlord. This year, the Overlord is joined by the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” who “welcome” the crowd to SCarowinds with the tagline “Fear is Waiting for You.”

Rather than facing my fears alone, I met up with Coaster101 reader Butch B. (Probably better known in Carowinds circles by his twitter handle @popistheman) and two of his grandsons. I’m not saying they made me lead on purpose, but I somehow ended up in the front of the group at every maze!

Fright Lane passes in hand, it was time for some scares. Making a clockwise loop through the park, our first stop was through the Fleet Street scare zone. Themed to 19th century London, around the times of Jack The Ripper, Fleet Street was engulfed in fog, and had a good number of scare actors milling about. Because we experienced this in the daylight, the scares themselves were fairly muted, but the actors in the area were all taking their British roles to heart. The waning daylight into sunset made for some great pictures, however.

The first maze of the night was Depths of Darkness, which was my favorite maze during last year’s SCarowinds. It’s an extremely dark maze that relies almost as much on psychological thrills as it does physical scares. The backstory of the maze is that we’re going inside the mind of the State Line Slasher, determined to uncover the whereabouts of his latest victims. Authorities have taken the State Line Slasher to the abandoned Blackthorne Research Facility, once the center of controversial experiments involving mind control, brain alteration and tortured human subjects.

There were several great moments inside the maze, including a room that utilizes fog and lasers to create a great hiding space for scare actors, and a moment of misdirection near the end of the maze that put me face-to-face with a giant prop. I won’t spoil it much more than that, but I will say, if you’re given the opportunity to go through a “portal” looking door on your right hand side (similar to how you enter the maze), you might be going the wrong way.

Making our way to the next maze, we wandered through the Carn Evil scare zone, formerly known as E.H. Bailey’s Psycho Circus. After a year in County Fair, Carn Evil has come back to Crossroads, near Dodgems and Plants vs. Zombies 3Z Arena. In past years, the clowns have been on the creepier side, but even as someone who doesn’t like clowns, I really enjoyed the scare actors in this scare zone. They were fantastic!

It was also an added bonus to have Jack’s Revenge, formerly a “Skeleton Key” attraction, open to everyone who was walking through the scare zone.

It was time for Dark Harvest, Carowinds’ corn maze, which made its debut in 2016. Given its proximity to the construction site for Copperhead Strike, it was easy to make jokes about how Granny Byrd had really let her farm go while she was making her award winning jam. Dark Harvest features several great scenes, and feels like one of the longer mazes. Based on the past two years, it felt like there were more scare actors in this maze than had been in the maze in previous years, especially in the scenes where the cornstalk paths get narrower and narrower.

The best scare in Dark Harvest comes at the end of the maze. I knew it was coming, and I still jumped. That’s all I’m going to say.

We went back-to-back mazes after Dark Harvest, making our way to SCarowinds’ medical maze, Urgent Scare. Urgent Scare has gone through a bit of a reinvention in the past few years, and features a few really great screen-based scares that are disguised as windows. The “patients” in the maze all played their roles well, and the hospital scenes were all pretty good. Urgent Scare is also one of two SCarowinds mazes (Depths of Darkness being the other) that utilizes one of my favorite “Haunted Maze” props — the air curtain. It’s crazy having to feel your way out.

The first of SCarowinds’ two new scare zones, Dead Man’s Landing, was next on our trek around the park, and I was surprised at the size of the scare zone. Not only were there building facades that looked straight out of the Caribbean, there were also two halves of a pirate ship that had been split up. With the Carolinas’ rich pirate history, I love that they have been added in a Halloween Capacity at Carowinds. The scare actors were all pretty good as well, including a Pirate Captain (who make look familiar to past visitors of Carowinds’ former “Scary Tales” scare zone) who offered to sell us rum “for just the cost of an arm and a leg.” It was a major improvement over the SCarowinds scare zones that were replaced from 2017 to 2018.

On the other end of Dead Man’s Landing, tucked behind The Flying Cobras, is Pat Hall High School, home of SCarowinds’ Zombie High maze. Another SCarowinds’ staple, Zombie High features more “easter eggs” than maybe any other maze at the event. There’s so much written on the boards and hidden details in this maze, from book titles to sheet music, that I wish I could walk through it with the lights on at a leisurely pace, just to take everything in. The scare actors inside the maze were great, but it didn’t feel like there were as many of them as there had been in past years.

 

From Zombie High, the next maze was Slaughterhouse: The Final Cut. Probably the “gore-iest” maze at SCarowinds, guests visit the Red Ribbon Meats plant, where they use the less desirable parts of animals in their meat processing. There are some great scenes and bloody details throughout the maze, but similar to Zombie High, it felt like it was short a few scare actors, especially in key scenes in the maze where they had been in previous years. Similar to Dark Harvest, the best scare was at the very end of the maze, and caused one of the people I was with to sprint out in fear.

En route to our final maze of the night, we walked through Blood Yard, a scare zone that centers around Vampires. Also the site of SCarowinds’ nightly “Blood Drums” show (that we unfortunately just missed), the shipping containers of Blood Yard provide great hiding places for the Vampires, not to mention the opportunity for jarring loud noises by banging on the inside of the containers. The scare actors here were some of the more “menacing” of any scare zone, but fortunately weren’t very “in your face” with it.

The final maze of the night was Silver Scream Studios: Condemned, which is the “sequel” to SCarowinds’ Silver Scream Studios maze. After production ceased on Heimlich Von Helsburg’s films, the state of North Carolina condemned the studios, which remained the same layout as previous years, but had fallen into “disrepair.” We were given several flashlights to help us navigate the maze, which were a great touch, that improved the overall maze experience for me. If I had one complaint, it would be that there were a very low number of scare actors in the maze during my walk through.

After completing all of the mazes, there were two scare zones left: The Hollow, (new for 2018) and Mass Acres. The Hollow had one of the best atmospheres of any of the scare zones at SCarowinds, with fog, eerie green lighting, and hundreds of pumpkins, which I learned were all individually hand-carved at the park. I could have spent all night walking through this area and just looking at the carved pumpkins. The scare actors in the area had some fantastic make-up and pumpkin masks as well.

Finally, we walked through Mass Acres to close out the night. This area seemed to be the least populated with Scare Actors, but it could also have been because the Skeleton Crew were getting ready to perform on the main stage.

Rankings

Mazes:

  1. Depths of Darkness (2017: 1)
  2. Dark Harvest (2017: T-3, 2016: 1)
  3. Slaughterhouse (2017: 2, 2016: 2, 2015: 1)
  4. Silver Scream Studios: Condemned (2017: T-3, 2016: T-3, 2015: 4)
  5. Urgent Scare (2017: T-3, 2016: 5, 2015: 3)
  6. Zombie High (2017: 6, 2016: 3, 2015: 2)

Scare Zones: 

  1. The Hollow (New for 2018)
  2. Dead Man’s Hollow (New for 2018)
  3. Carn Evil (2017: 2, 2016: 1)
  4. Bloodyard (2017: 1, 2016: 4, 2015: 1)
  5. Fleet Street (2017: 5, 2016: 2, 2015: 3)
  6. Mass Acres (2017: 6, 2016: 5, 2015: 5)

Musings

  • SCarowinds’ atmosphere is awesome. Even in areas that aren’t designated scare zones, there are scare actors and displays throughout the park, and it’s clear that there are Fog Machines everywhere!
  • I wasn’t feeling too great during my visit, so I passed on having dinner. However, the Haunt Finger Sandwich has returned to Harmony Hall, and I hate that I didn’t try the “Walk The Plank Meatloaf Poutine” that’s being served at Wings. It looked amazing.

  • I didn’t get the chance to see Blood Drums, Skeleton Crew, or Rocktoberfest shows. Having seen Blood Drums and Skeleton Crew in the past, they are well worth the time.
  • With a Fright Lane pass on a Friday Night in September, it only took about two and a half hours to get through all the mazes. Again, I highly recommend the investment, especially if you’re like me and only plan on getting to SCarowinds once during the season.

For more information about SCarowinds, be sure to visit the official SCarowinds website, and follow Carowinds on Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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