Kennywood’s Phantom Fright Nights

Kennywood’s Phantom Fright Nights may not be the place to be if you’re a scare enthusiast. I don’t get scared easily, but I didn’t expect to feel like I was strolling through a park while supposedly going through a vampire’s lair. I doubt that’s what people paid $40 for, or $60 if you wanted to avoid waiting in lines until midnight. Of all the pros to my Kennywood experience, the roller coaster my friends and I went on before heading home was definitely more entertaining than all the haunted houses combined.

It’s slightly understandable that the place wasn’t as terrifying as it was marketed to be. Kennywood Park is, after all, a children’s amusement park, despite the overwhelmingly large crowd of adults and teens it drew on Friday night. The ambiance of the park was old school Halloween. Classic Halloween music played the whole night, fog machines seemed to cover every inch of the area, and the lighting was absolutely spectacular. It made for some incredible sights, such as an abandoned Merry Go Round steeped in fog and red lights making it look hauntingly beautiful. People also bustled around dressed in masks ready to scare their next poor victim that wasn’t paying attention. It was like a small Halloween town from a fairytale come to life.

The park offered a total of seven haunted attractions. The slew of haunted houses almost merges together in my memory. The first of them was BioFear, in my opinion the best of the haunted lineup. The premise of the experience was a science lab teeming with mutants from a failed governmental research initiative. The inside was better than the description gives it credit for, and despite the hour-long wait it took to get in, we didn’t come out disappointed. A creepy woman crawling on the ground, several people jumping out from behind doors and windows, and a woman we never managed to find who was just screaming garbled words at the top of her lungs was enough to make the experience satisfactory. It was disappointing that it set higher expectations for all the haunted houses we visited afterwards. We got fast passes and ran to Villa of the Vampire and Mortem Manor just as it started to rain. In all honesty, nothing much stood out from either of them. I took more amusement from delivering sarcastic commentary to the supposedly scary people I passed, rather than finding any of them particularly terrifying. Voodoo Bayou was outdoors and there was only one moment that stuck out: a lone woman on a bridge. Kennyville Cemetery would have been a walk in the park, literally, if a man hadn’t snuck up on us and sniffed my hair. Dark Shadows, a place that had no shadows but in fact was plunged in complete darkness, was terrifying only because there were walls and no way of seeing them.

The park markets seven haunted attractions, but only six of them seemed to fall into the ‘haunted’ category. Noah’s Ark, the final ‘haunted’ attraction was just plain fun. The floors were shaking, the speakers blasted a cacophony of animal sounds and at one point the ‘crazy path’, as they called it, cast strobe lights that were blinding enough to burn my retinas and had us laughing crazily when we stumbled out. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t trying to be scary, and in all honesty, I think that’s what Kennywood does best.

Overall, the ambiance at Kennywood is wonderful to get into the Halloween spirit. It’s a great place for all ages, for a daylong family trip for example, but if you truly want to be scared you’re better off watching The Shining at 1 in the morning.