The story begins with a creative young girl who, from the very beginning, was attracted to spooky movies, haunted houses and terrifying characters. Today, she is known as SpookyGirl. As a teenager, Jaquelyn Lovall Wymard began home haunting in her basement until eventually she expanded to the entire house. When her aspirations outgrew the house, she moved her haunt to an acre of land, until finally her passion exploded, and she purchased a 100 acre farm with a dark and sinister history. The area has become known as “Haunted Hills Estate” or “HHE”.
Located in Uniontown, PA, SpookyGirl knew her only chance of survival in such a heavily populated haunt area like Pennsylvania was to be totally different. Her creativity resulted in three interactive haunted adventures, creating a haunted screampark of her own. Her idea of an “adventure” consisted of a totally exciting and unique haunted experience. These haunted adventures test the human innate instincts; they dramatize the explorations of a “real” haunted situation, and the outcome is almost always uncertain and exciting.
Aside from creativity, SpookyGirl’s main goal was to saturate HHE’s haunted adventures with what is known as “realism”. Creating realism on a budget is extremely difficult unless of course the location is already home to a gruesome past and haunting experience that innately create its own realism. Surrounding the adventures are dark woods, hidden trails, slow-trickling streams, menacing meadows, forbidden hills, mysterious barns, and a blood orange moon that is perfectly positioned nightly. (http://www.hauntedhillsestate.com/history
Of the three adventures offered at Haunted Hills Estate, The Challenge Trail has proved to be the most popular. A team must dig deep within themselves to uncover their inner wit, bravery, and luck in order to survive and escape this valiant haunted adventure. The paths of this haunted house are creatively changed each year and the challenges relate to that year’s haunted storyline. A challenge card is awarded to each group to record their success in completing the haunted challenges that are known to test: all five senses, physical ability, memory, and group organization. Just like the trail, the challenge card is also designed to reflect the theme of that year. For example, in 2011 the trail was invaded by pirates in search of Eleanor Hill’s hidden treasure, so each group was given a treasure map to guide them on their journey. The Challenge Trail is an independent adventure, meaning there’s no leader to escort or to protect the guests as they stroll through the haunted woods with endless possibilities. This adventure was carefully designed for all ages and is the more family oriented of the three.
The second adventure, Legends, is set in a large, hundred-year-old barn that will curl your toes even in the daylight. With this barn comes a local legend that is the center of the farm’s frightening and dark past. Legends is by far the most terrifying of the three adventures. Legends will stimulate every sense in your body with noise that vibrates your soul, lights and scenes that twist your thoughts, and impossible pathways that will test your sanity. Victims find themselves creeping through pipes, fireplaces, walls, and freezers before they ever even reach the basement. Robin Yauger, Legends’ set design specialist, created an atmosphere that guarantees pure horror. The realism effect was the easiest to create in this adventure, because it already exists. The aged stone walls infested with genuine cobwebs were built hundreds of years ago. Everything about the structure of Legends is authentic, right down to the smells: dried leaves, dungeon dirt, rotten tissue, and burning pumpkins. The barn does not support “scared chicken exits”, because we all know what happens to chickens on a farm, right? A glow stick is your only option for mercy. A waiver is required before admittance to this adventure due to the confined spaces and tricky navigation skills that it demands.
The third adventure, known as the Chamber of Chills, is more along the lines of a theatrical experience. The show is hosted by the Estate vampires. Cold and thirsty, these creatures open their chambers each year to invite others to explore their living quarters. In the 2011 season, they portrayed the eight deadly sins… yes, eight. Scarves are recommended for this particular adventure, though there is no real evidence that this method is effective in preventing an attack.
Guests are invited to stroll along a challenging trail and navigate through dark terror. Guest could also rest while indulging in a bloody drink and a spiritual haunting. All three adventures provide something totally different, so the guests are guaranteed to take something away from each of them. This allows all guests to receive high entertainment satisfaction from their HHE experience.
Although the adventures themselves are phenomenal, it is frequently reported that the most impressive parts of HHE are the creatures themselves. During the summer months these creatures frequently participate in actor workshops with HHE actor manager, Frank Machnik. Frank encourages individual actor improvement to ensure an elevated performance from each actor every year. Auditions typically begin in June and by August all 75 positions are filled. Beyond the 75 positions casted, HHE wisely creates an annual On-Call List too. “The main question we get is how do we attract so many awesome actors,” tells Frank. “The answer is simply the bond. The creatures at HHE are treated like one big family, and our bond is expressed in social events all year long.”
Last year, HHE rented a hall and threw a My Bloody Valentine Party consisting of the creatures sporting gowns, suits, and of course…blood. “We are always having bon fires, brain storming gatherings, and meetings too. Each event brings us closer together,” tells Frank. The actors/actresses are truly the heart of HHE. Every year, they recognize 13 creatures. These creatures are known as “Black Beads”. A Black Bead is an actor/actress that demonstrates total haunted character and professionalism while maintaining a positive role model. The Black Bead award is announced at the awards banquet at the end of the Haunt season. Black Beads have special privileges and are invited to assist the actor manager during actor workshops.
The attendance increases each year and the excitement never grows old. “We focus on what works and we make it better. We listen to our guest and staff and make changes each year. We go to the Haunt Conventions to get fresh ideas and to get energized,” says SpookyGirl. She’s found what makes her happy and although she admits “this little girl is getting older,” the haunt definitely keeps her young at heart!