“Ten years of fear” is Silverwood Theme Park’s slogan for Scarywood Haunted Nights in 2019, commemorating its inception in 2009. For a month of each year, the Inland Northwest’s amusement park in Athol undergoes a dramatic change. One might say the place becomes possessed.
As guests pass through the park’s gates, they are immediately assaulted by fog and monsters in elaborate costumes and face paint. A sign reminds park-goers not to touch the actors, nor should they touch you – but the creatures leer and jump at guests, so many will find themselves in a constant state of jumpiness.
Most, but not all of Silverwood’s rides are open during this time. The best of the bunch is Timber Terror, a wooden coaster set to run backward throughout Silverwood’s haunting. What initially sounds like a gimmick actually makes the ride even more exhilarating. Riding a roller coaster at night is an experience on its own, and plummeting downhill facing the sky makes it all the more thrilling and unpredictable.
But the main exhibit of Scarywood is the mazes and other “scare zones,” which are impressively distinct from one another as the park has managed to pay tribute to just about every horror trope imaginable.
Looking for zombies? Follow the intermittent simulated gunfire to Planet Zombie, where guests can look to projectors for a show of park staff enacting a B-movie zombie virus outbreak. A soldier directs guests to navigate the maze that follows – a hastily abandoned laboratory where sick experiments abound.
The infected jump out from corners and crevices to startle park-goers, and one particularly creepy zombie in a broken hazmat suit shuffles slowly through each group. The costume and set design is top-notch.
For fans of “The Mummy” series, Pharaoh’s Curse is sure to delight. Guests walk down twisted, dimly lit hallways adorned with hieroglyphics while the tattered and bandaged undead jump out from hidden reliefs.
In Scarywood’s Total Darkness, there are no monsters, but it doesn’t need any. Instead, the maze tasks guests with navigating a confined, pitch-black space. A claustrophobic experience, park-goers will find themselves groping about and likely become momentarily lost before finding the light at the end of the tunnel.
The horror genre wouldn’t be complete without voodoo, and Blood Bayou delivers the cliche in full force. The park’s most elaborately decorated maze displays a great mix of open areas and tight spaces as guests travel through the swamps, a decrepit plantation house, a witch doctor hut and a noisy factory.
New for 2019 is the appropriately named Dr. Delirium’s 3D Rockhouse. The sprawling fun house seeks to disorient more than to frighten, as guests are given 3D glasses upon entry into the space filled with neon paintings and objects. Speakers blast pulsing industrial metal remixes of popular songs such as “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.
Optical illusions abound, making the maze akin to a psychedelic experience. Dr. Delirium’s 3D Rockhouse is unique and immersive, a worthy addition to Scarywood’s haunts.
While many other theme parks have Halloween events, few do it with the dedication of Silverwood. Parks such as California’s Great America or Knott’s Berry Farm keep walking areas well lit, but Scarywood is dark throughout. Monsters jump out from bushes and fog machines churn constantly. There’s never a dull moment.
Between rides and mazes there are well-positioned “scare zones” such as Scarecrow Corner, the Crypts and Clown Town. Existing restaurants are renamed and redecorated to fit the Halloween theme. It’s difficult to find space in the park that isn’t decorated and crawling with creatures, which makes the haunting atmosphere all the more immersive.
For fans of all things spooky, Scarywood Haunted Nights should not be missed.
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