After essentially being forced to go commercial with the formerly residential haunted house, Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill has shown up in progressively stranger locations every year since moving from the titular hill. In 2012, it was in a former Blockbuster. The next year, inside the old budget movie theater. Last year, it was inside another person’s haunt (the owner partnered with another independent haunt, House of Screams/Wicked Dreams and included several Jack and Jill’s elements within). Now it’s inside a large spare space in an indoor go karting track.
The place was bustling on the Saturday night we went, the majority of the activity centered around the haunt. This is encouraging, not just for my own personal biases about independent haunted attractions, but for the health of Halloween culture in general. And yes, anything that draws some of the crowd away from the mobbed Fear Farm is good in my book. No one place should have the whole haunt market cornered.
As for Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill, I’m very pleased to report that this weird indoor go kart arrangement really works. Many of the elements of the original residential haunt that were lost in translation to the commercial spaces are back this year, along with a number of bar-raising additions. First and foremost, it’s two stories. Granted, the stairs paradoxically go UP into the haunt even though you’re meant to be exploring an old mine shaft, but what are you gonna do? That’s the direction they go. Nevertheless there’s something about stairs in a haunted house that makes the whole thing seem more serious.
An element I was really glad to see return was the level of darkness. It really sells the illusion of being in a mine when it’s so utterly black you only have your groping hands to guide you from troublingly dim lantern to lantern. Not knowing what’s lurking in there with you creates a real sense of vulnerability. Maybe it was because of safety regulations or simply the layout of the previous spaces, but this feature wasn’t as present in the previous few commercial locations and I’m glad to see it back.
Another favorite feature of mine is the large number of actors within. Since the motif is sort of a ramshackle series of prisons and torture chambers, having so many screaming victims around adds to the terror and, for lack of a better term, the realism. At times it actually feels like you’ve somehow stumbled into some Jigsaw disciple’s lair. A breathtaking new room involves a huge and disgusting dinner table scene replete with shackled diners – highly reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Really, that room has to be seen to be believed. The props, lighting, and actors are totally on point.
The final exit path is another strong point, involving a disorienting combination of strobe lighting and hanging, bagged corpses that seem to have real weight to them. The only thing missing is a real adrenaline pumping final “chase out” scare at the end. I know they pride themselves on trying to avoid all haunted house clichés, the most ubiquitous of which is of course, the chainsaw guy. I respect that, but maybe there’s an even better alternative out there?
I’m happy to see Jack and Jill’s back in its full glory this year. Naturally, I’m going to recommend supporting the independent haunted houses, but really, this is one of the most unique ones out there. And the production values are pretty incredible when you consider this all started as a home haunt just a few short years back. Give ’em a look, and maybe do a few laps in the go karts afterwards. It’s a ton of fun.
Info on location, hours, and tickets at jackandjillshauntedhill.com.