As Halloween rolled around again last year, I became excited to visit the renowned Pirates of Emerson Haunted House again. In the past, I have been very impressed with their sets, actors, and creativity; however, they had this high quality when they were teamed up with Heart Stoppers. This last October, I went out to see them on a Wednesday in order to get the short lines and so the actors would pay attention to my individual group – this way they would have no excuse for putting on a lousy show. As I entered the theme park, I was amazed by the sets and atmosphere that Pirates created on the outside. The entire park was surrounded with buildings that sold food, coffee, and gifts. It looked almost like a Disney Land - but haunted. Tickets were $20 as always – I was glad they hadn’t raised the price. Two years ago, Pirates of Emerson moved from their small haunting field in Fremont, California, to a much larger site – The Alameda County Fairgrounds. With this relocation, they have become much more popular, but I don’t believe that their quality has kept its caliber after the move.
When I stepped into their first haunted house, Habitat for Hags, I was immediately disappointed with the sets. It looked thrown together and the majority of their props included ‘army camo-netting’ which is a generic ‘space-filler’ used to make a scene look overgrown. Furthermore, the actors used only pop-out scares, which I consider to be cheap scares. The actors were clearly not trained and did not know how to creep anyone out. They only knew how to startle people. Lastly, this haunted house was short, and took me approximately three minutes to walk through. I was disappointed but thought that the other ones must be better.
I entered the second, third, and fourth haunted houses to find similar things I disliked. The actors were not scary and the sets were mediocre. I will give them credit, however, for a couple of create themes including their Doll House and their Prison themes. The Doll House was definitely my favorite haunted house with its creative sets, but the actors in the Prison Haunt were the most effective.
I finished all of the haunted houses in approximately fifteen minutes. For the sheer amount of visitors that Pirates of Emerson receives every October, I had expected better. In order to achieve world success and continue growing, I suggest that they receive professional artwork and set designers to polish the show. Lastly, they need better actors. This can be done by training the actors, close monitoring by a manager, and designating a single scare for each actor. It may require much more thought put into the show to incorporate actors so that they can be creepy instead of startling.
I really hope that Pirates of Emerson can bring back the quality that they used to have back in 2008 and 2009. This coming October, I look forward to visiting Alien Extreme, Great America, and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Combined with Fear Overload Haunted House, these five haunted houses compete each year to be the best haunted house in the SF Bay Area.