Where: 14th St. and Cinnabar
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 7 – 10pm
Cost: $10, $15 for fast pass
Last year, I reviewed Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill in its fifth year, and came away pretty impressed. I was amazed that such a production could exist the way it does and for such a low cost. This year I was informed that they had totally revamped the haunt, and I had to check it out.
At $10 a ticket as opposed to 5, it’s still by far the least expensive haunted attraction in Arizona (that I know of). In last year’s review I stated that five bucks was, if anything, too cheap, and that I would spring for the $10 fast pass ticket in the future. This was because my only complaint about the attraction had to do with the line. It wasn’t particularly long, but they were only letting up to four people in at once and those groups had to make it all the way through to the end before the next group could go.
I clearly wasn’t the only person to notice that flaw, as its been addressed this year. They now have a more efficient system that allows them to move people through faster, meaning there was little to no line at 8 o’clock on a Friday night in October. I can’t speak for how busy it will be in the final two weekends before Halloween but I’d wager that the fast pass ticket is no longer required.
They were not kidding around when they said the house was completely revamped. You actually go through the maze in the opposite direction as last year, and NOTHING is a retread. You start in an enclosed room while a genuinely creepy faux-news report video plays, detailing the mysterious disappearances of several people around the abandoned mine in which you now stand, including the titular Jack and Jill. When the video ends you make your way through ridiculously dark and narrow passageways, broken up by theatrical torture rooms with genuinely surprising and realistic special effects. In one room Jack, dangling by chained wrists above you, gets his lower half completely sawed off. You don’t see it coming and it really shocks.
I can’t emphasize enough just now dark this haunt is. It’s a smart move on their part because the bigger-budgeted haunted houses tend to be better lit so you can see their special effects, and rely on costumed actors to provide the scares. But Jack and Jill’s pitch black corridors make you feel incredibly uneasy and disoriented, allowing the powers of suggestion to amp up the fear. There’s a good Paranormal Activity analogy there, which I don’t need to spell out. If I’m remembering correctly, this year’s version is a little longer than last year’s, which would make sense given the more efficient system of moving people through it.
After we were all the way through, I found that I was more shaken than I usually am when I exit one of these haunts. This is, of course, a very good thing. Always being the one in the front of the group at a haunted house, the best scares usually occur just after I’ve passed through, in order to focus the effect on the more nervous people in the back. Because of the way Jack and Jill’s is set up, everyone got the chance to be shocked.
We spoke to a couple of the owner/operators afterwards as they were working the ticket booth. They informed us that the entire production is run by a single family of five, with help from unpaid volunteers. All for the love of the game I suppose. As you can imagine that really spoke to me.
Fear Farm, The Nest, Arizona Scream Park, all these places are Arizona staples and have no problem drawing crowds. This year I’ve already attempted to go to Fear Farm and The 13th Floor, but the lines were too daunting and I will need to try again during the most off-hours possible. These commercial haunts have their own charm for sure, but for my money any fan of haunted attractions would be stupid to miss Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill. A short wait, a low price, an intense haunt, and all independently-operated – there’s no reason not to experience it. I’m not sure how long they plan on carrying this on, but I imagine I’ll be there every year, and implore others to see it while they can.