Where: 114th Ave. and Bell Rd. in Surprise
When: Thursday – Sunday 7 pm – 10pm, midnight Friday and Saturday
Cost: $18, $25 for fast pass
I can’t remember where I first heard of Chambers of Fear, but I’m surprised it took me until now to check it out. Their website is well-done and displays all kinds of bragging rights, from being voted a “top haunt” in nationwide polls to Arizona Republic’s favorite haunted attraction. Me, and wife, and two friends went there on a Sunday precisely at 7 pm to avoid lines. And avoid them we did, because there was NO line.
Before I begin with the review I’d like to go on a tangent about haunted house crowds. Why do Arizona’s haunted attractions only draw two levels of business – “prohibitively crowded” and “deserted”? I prefer deserted to crowded of course, but a nice congregation of patrons is better. It enhances the fun. I already mentioned how I’ve not been able to experience Fear Farm because it’s always too busy, and we left The 13th Floor because wait times were reported to be in the two hour range (so many people bought fast pass tickets that line was just as long). The 13th Floor situation is interesting because the haunted house that used to be in that exact same spot (review here) was deserted both times I went. My only theory is that people don’t really research haunted attractions before they go so the most advertised attractions draw everybody, while the others get almost no business. /end tangent
As we reached the entrance an odd gentleman taking tickets chuckled at something. I quizzically asked “are we a motley crew or something?”, to which he replied “There was a Motley Crue cover band playing here not long ago.” Very strange. We were given a standard disclaimer about not touching the actors and in we went.
Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill spoiled me a bit, because I initially found the haunted house to be too well-lit and therefore not as tense. However, this false sense of security backfired as corridor after corridor managed to genuinely surprise. For most of it I was lucky enough not to be in the front of the line (where most of the scares occur just behind you), so quite a few startling moments were perfectly timed. They pull most of the standard tricks – things popping out from trap doors in the walls, shots of compressed air, strobe lights, fog, and the classic “are any of these still human-shaped things actual humans?” trick, which I love. At one point we walked through a chamber with several grim reaper fellows standing in alcoves, flanking the sides. You just KNOW at least one is alive.
The variety of activity in this haunt was truly impressive. Certain areas were indeed pitch black, forcing you to feel your way around and knowing something is about to jump out at you. One passageway was filled with chest-height spider webs that you had to duck under, and another with black and white checkerboard walls and a strobe light which made the entire room feel like it was moving. Very disorienting. Best of all was a long, well-lit hallway in which a madman attacks in you in a way I promise you haven’t seen before. It got my heart racing.
Breaking up the hallways was, of course, open rooms with spooky stuff going on. Particularly creepy was a nursery scene with children that were not quite right. The actors here really put a lot into their performances. I imagine a lot of herbal tea with honey is consumed in this joint.
I’m happy to report that the walkthrough takes a bit longer than expected. I wasn’t keeping time but I would estimate about 15 minutes. Pretty substantial for a single attraction, and it was very dense with scares. There were a couple moments in which I assumed the attraction was ending, only to find myself still trapped inside, like a dream. To cap it all off, they include a brilliant twist on the while “chainsaw guy chases you out” gimmick, which I will not spoil.
Something has just occurred to me. Fear Farm and AZ Scream Park are both consistently crowded attractions, and are multi-house haunts. The 13th Floor, from what I understand, is technically two houses. Multi-haunts are more appealing for obvious reasons, as you tend to feel you get more bang for your buck. I suppose if waiting in line is no issue for you, that may hold true. For my money, it’s a better value to get one great haunted house with a short wait than several mediocre ones and hours of standing still.*
According to Chambers of Fear’s website, this haunt started out as a DIY home project, and gradually evolved to become what it is today. I can see why it’s so highly rated. Your 18 bucks buys you a whole lotta spookiness.
*Consider the AZ Scream Park example. Admission to all four houses costs $27, and parking is $6. If memory serves, my group and I waited an average of 30 minutes per house, and I found them all to be middle-of-the-road at best. I don’t mean to disparage AZ Scream Park by saying this, only to point out that the multi-house value argument isn’t as clear cut as it seems. I prefer quality over quantity.