Last year I wrote about how Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill had become kind of nomadic enterprise since going pro a while back, after years of being a high-profile home haunt, and that this current location – paradoxically inside an indoor go-kart track – has been their most effective location yet. And I’m glad to report that they are still there; the first commercial location they’ve occupied for more than a single year!
I’m also happy to report that they didn’t rest on their laurels from last year’s success. The entire haunt has been rearranged and re-imagined, while still maintaining the elements that have always defined this particular haunt. Namely, the mine shaft as torture lair motif, the use of extreme darkness, and the enthusiastic actors. There’s a real sense of danger to this haunt that simply isn’t present at any of the other commercial attractions in Phoenix. In fact, I’m legitimately curious to know how they get away with it.
After the now-traditional video introduction with faux news broadcast, you’re plunged into almost complete pitch black darkness – and you have to climb a flight of stairs in it! The darkness continues through the first few hallways and besides some sparsely arranged LED candles, there is NOTHING to orient your vision. This all happens while unseen actors whisper and taunt you from the dark. Once you’re finally granted bit of actual light, the environments it reveals are like some combination of Texas Chainsaw Massacre houses and Saw torture traps.
I can’t spoil too many of the specifics, but that “how do they get away with it?” thing definitely extends to some of the horror scenes. There’s stuff in here that’s envelope-pushing on the disturbing front, to say the least. Credit has to go to the actors, who most likely go home each night with hoarse voices from all the blood curdling screaming. The sight of countless imprisoned victims screaming at you for help and banging on the walls of their cages is always one of the most effective scenes. I do wish the grotesque dinner table scene had made the jump from last year though.
Oh, and one element I have to call out with particular gratitude: the staff at Jack and Jill’s always ensures that groups are amply spaced out in the haunt, so you’ll never bump into another group of guests. This is a HUGE deal, particularly after having that unfortunate experience at both Fear Farm and 13th Floor. It 100% spoils the tension, and it’s great to see a haunted house addressing it. You can reserve your entry time on their website, relieving the burden of having to wait in the necessarily slow moving line.
We’re now in the final week of haunted house season, and if like me your Halloween isn’t complete without at least one visit to a haunted attraction, and you haven’t done so yet, I say give this one a shot. Fear Farm and 13th Floor are good, established haunts, but this late in the game your ticket to either of those buys you a long, long wait in line, and maybe a few awkward encounters with fellow guests inside.
As a bonus, while you wait for your turn you can snag some good photo-ops with professional props scavenged from the now-defunct Chambers of Fear. Fun stuff!
Info on location, tickets, and hours at jackandjillshauntedhill.com