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*, + and -

The new scheme is built on the foundation of using visual symbols denoting the tone or value of a simple statement. The * is the place where Objective observations of presence and then count will be listed. The + and - are the Subjective characters.

The order is:




Customer Service and Navigation

Atmosphere and Lobby/Midway

Key Lobby/Midway Amenities
1. Concessions
2. Merch
3. Video
4. Music
5. Seating
6. Bathrooms
7. Games
8. Stage
9. Photo Ops
10. Queue Line Actors
11.  Metaphysical
12.  Pyrotechnics
13.  At least one HUGE set piece

Facade Quality

Use of existing and/or surrounding environment

Actors and Acting
Lines and Vocalizations

Theming and Effects
Special Rooms
Set Dressing
*Adherence to Story

Entertainment Value

This certainly LOOKS like other criteria but consider that this scheme is different in:

  1. Scoring Lobbies and Midways against a “perfect” set of features

  2. Distinguishing specifically between the whole act and Lines and Vocalizations

  3. Evaluating Storytelling

  4. Separating fun and scares

  5. Giving a drive time recommendation featuring an actual map



Navigation Ease and Customer Service are the first two steps in the journey with any attraction. A hard-to-find haunt with a tiny driveway off a residential street is definitely something that would get a minus while any haunt in a conspicuous building with lots of signage will get a plus. Customer Service is a well-understood factor of the experience.


Lobby/Midway is the only subcategory that gets a number score based on the presence of any of thirteen key characteristics. Those 13 characteristics are: Concessions Merch Video Music Seating Bathrooms Games Stage Photo Ops Queue Line Actors Bonus Metaphysical Pyrotechnics At least one HUGE set piece Each characteristic can get their own pluses and minuses. I will be checking out the food and drink options at every attraction and seeing if there are any out-of-the-ordinary merchandise pieces. In attractions with bathrooms, I will also check those out. Facade Quality and Use of Existing Environment are key to starting the emotions of the haunted encounters. Facade Quality is mostly a rating based on how deep the facades are. There will only be minuses for flat, poorly painted and dressed facades. The pluses escalate to the point of having highly dressed entryways that guests actually wait inside of as opposed to in front of. Use of Existing Environment is most notable in Industrial and Commercial areas. Either don't have facades outside or keep them to an industrial or post-apocalyptic theme. This also plays into elements like trails and hayrides. Running the path through undisturbed or only slightly disturbed woods will get pluses. Minuses in this subcategory are to be found with areas that clearly don't fit the feel of neighboring buildings and land at all throughout the entire attraction if outdoor.


Usually Actors and Acting is given a single round number to rate all facets of the performance into one overarching category and few reviewers factor multiple facets into their scheme as a way to reach a single number. What I seek to do is break Acting down into separate, distinct subcategories of Energy, Costuming and Lines and Vocalizations and give those pluses and minuses rather than rating a single supercategory. Energy is a subcategory that sometimes gets neglected by reviewers as an unimportant externality but, I say it is one of the most important facets of performance to mention in a review. How an attraction gets pluses is with having at least a quarter of actors getting deep into character when I walk or ride through and not retreating when a scare doesn't work. Minuses come from thorough disengagement and/or a total lack of distinct characters among all actors. Costuming is extremely important to everyone when walking or riding through a show. A good costume brings guests toward suspending disbelief and makes scares more visceral. A good costume also brings an actor into their character's realm and allows them to create, act and be happier with leaving their real identity in the Makeup Room. A bad costume leaves an actor feeling like themselves and many times reveals insecurities that make scaring harder. Lines and Vocalizations are the only nationally allowed interactions so, I find it a little wasteful to rate a Touch Pass when only a few have it (unless I deem the number of touch passes I get this season to be gaugeable). Lines and Vocalizations are thus the end-all and be-all of the character output. You can have great costuming and all the energy in the world but, not having your character speak in truly transformative ways will risk the act being nullified.


Theming and Design is of course the internal environment of the show that the characters live in. The subcategories reflect the inventiveness, immersiveness and storytelling of the attraction production teams. This is the supercategory where money sometimes matters a lot but, there are cheap ways to really execute great rooms as I once learned from Salem's John Denley. There is also a factoring of the very much transcendent Halloween Spirit in evaluating the appearance of a show. Lighting and Sound can definitely be described together as getting pluses for bold, invisible executions. A show worthy of the most praise is loaded with LED Lights and has a roaring, heart pounding soundscape. Minuses for visible speakers unless part of a theme or part of a prop. Minuses for visible lights unless part of a theme. Minuses for cheap sounding soundscapes that don't immerse. Special Rooms can be interpreted as highly inventive and unique rooms in a house or scenes that wrap around the wagon or trail. The most notable Special Rooms are things like the Hellevator, Spinning Tunnel, Claustrophobia and Laser Swamp. Minuses can even be accrued when having Special Rooms if said room isn't different enough or has lower sensory effectiveness. Pluses can be accrued in these very common rooms if there are significant structural or aestethic differences from the norm, as well. Storytelling is a somewhat higher risk and themetically limiting aspect of the Haunting game that most shows do without. Which is why I won't be applying this to the majority of my tours. But, where relevant, an element or distinctly themed area holding down a story from beginning to end gets pluses that most other haunts won't get. If it all breaks down into a grab bag of themed rooms, I will give one minus and mention that there is a largely irrelevant story.


Entertainment and other Values is meant to be the TL;DR category with the most to tell about the reasons someone would want to see a haunt. It starts out with fun because that is by far the most important evaluation of any live performance: Did you have fun? Many haunts are very fun without being that scary and all haunts that are scary are ultimately fun. I hide scariness down at the bottom with the other forms of value not because of its importance but, because it's easily the single most subjective part of any horror experience. Why would I want to be like everyone else and put a huge category in the middle of my review called Scare Factor? I really do think it'll get a few statements from me at each stop of the tour and not be given all the weight that it's given elsewhere. Monetary Value is done a few ways on my site. I might do: 1. Dollars/minute 2. Cents/Mi Travelled 3. Dollars/hour travelled 4. Price in gas (based on estimated average of mileage and established averages of gas price nationally) and tolls plus each tier of admission per trip divided by minutes in the haunt. This one will be based on a trip from Downtown Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Hamilton like the website's other project: Badlander's Itineraries. The final subcategory is Recommendations. This is starter vs. Advanced haunt. This is an estimate how many hours travelled to the show would be worth your money and miles for that matter. It is also a place to mention nearby attractions that you can link together to justify an even farther trip.


This system may be a little concerning at first, seeing a max range of 5 hours driven to your haunt raises your eyebrows. The premise behind this range is a drive to your attraction by itself in a single night. The combined recommendations are also single night drive times.

Drive Time Scale:

1 hour – Extreme disappointment

1 ½ hour – Really good Home Haunt

2 hour – Mediocre

2 ½ hour – Mediocre (long)

3 hour – Good (Short and Medium)

3 ½ hour – Good (Long)

4 hour – Excellent (Short and Medium)

4 ½ hour – Excellent (Long)

5 hour – Exceptional/Cream of the Crop


Short – up to 15 min

Medium – 15 – 30 min

Long – Over 30 min

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