Where: I-17 and Bell Rd., Northwest corner
When: Check the dates and times here.
Cost: $25 general admission, $35 for fast pass, and $45 for immediate entry. All tickets include access to both haunts.
It’s interesting how the popularity of haunted attractions works. As I’ve said before, I find that with most of these they are either far too crowded to be enjoyable, or far too UNcrowded which makes you feel uncomfortable. The 13th Floor illustrates this fact better than anything else, because it sits in the exact same location as (and re-uses some parts from) The Haunting from a few years back. The Haunting was a great haunted house but both times I went we seemed to be the only customers. On the other hand, when we attempted to go to 13th Floor last year in October the line was absurdly long. I can only imagine this all comes down entirely to marketing. I don’t think many people other than myself actively look forward to and seek out haunted attractions. Whoever has the most billboards and the most radio commercials will get the lion’s share of the customers. This is why I can’t ever go to Fear Farm.
So this year, I made sure to go to 13th Floor early. This was the second night of operation, and even this early there was a decent line. General admission was still the way to go though – I’d say the wait ended up being around 30 minutes. Anything beyond that is probably too long. They keep you entertained at least. The 13th Floor repurposes one of the more awkward parts of The Haunting – the Thriller dance – into an attraction to keep the folks in line distracted.
They also have a few costumed actors stalking around and creeping people out. I never know what to say when these guys come up to me. I’m no good at improv, and the whole experience is always extremely uncomfortable. I suppose that’s a form of fear. Apparently the best way to deal with it is to ask for pictures, and they were happy to oblige without breaking character.
This is where the pictures end, as, understandably, photos are not allowed within the attraction. They wisely limited the groups that go in to 5 or less. My wife and I went in with another random couple, and it was immediately apparent that the production values were as high or higher than The Haunting – this is, after all, a nationwide production. You begin in a pitch black room with no visible exits, which you later discover to be an elevator, as the whole room lurches and simulates rising (or descending) to the titular 13th floor. And wouldn’t you know it? There was a monster hiding in the dark with you the whole time.
We recognized a few areas that were recycled from The Haunting, but by and large this was a totally revamped production. Entering rooms I remembered from the old haunted house was actually rather eerie, because it felt like a completely different place. It’s understandable why they’d use some of those old sets, because it’d be a shame to let such detailed work go to waste. What was impressive in The Haunting remains impressive in The 13th Floor. It struck me, as I went through a mad surgeon’s operating room and passed the thrashing unwilling patient that a ton of work went into small details that people will only catch a fleeting glimpse of, if that. There was old-looking medical machinery and equipment, rusted out and bloody. It looked great, but it was just a small detail in a small room in a huge haunt, with countless other small rooms that were just as involved.
Scares are many, and they rarely let up. Many of the actor hideouts are predictable to the experienced haunted houser, but there were also plenty of genuine surprises. A couple of rooms were completely tilted to nearly 45 degrees, forcing you to lean on handrails and feel like gravity was playing tricks on you. Another section has you slowly making your way through a false swamp – waist high inflated walls (think bouncy castle but smooshed together) press against your legs and horizontal lasers in the fog make it look like you’re wading through a smooth, watery surface. Very creative and impressive to look at.
Claustrophobics beware – they utilize a more intense version of this method at the end of the first haunt to simulate going into the body of a snake. You literally push through inflated walls that engulf and close in on your entire body. I’m NOT claustrophobic, but before emerging from this I started to feel like I was. I wouldn’t normally spoil something this creative but this part could definitely cause some panic attacks, so if you are claustrophobic in any way, you may want to request to skip this part.
This is where most haunted houses would normally end, but at The 13th Floor you get two for the price of one (well, two for the price of one and a half is more like it). Zombieland, as you might have guessed, is based on the movie of the same name, and has you making your way through a post-apocalyptic city block, weaving through debris in the streets and through ransacked buildings. To state the obvious again, the place is utterly infested with zombies that shuffle about and seem to pop out from everywhere. I noticed one or two allusions to the movie, such as a pickup truck with a 3 painted on the side. But if memory serves me, I never saw a zombie clown, which strikes me as a major missed opportunity. But it’s entirely possible there was one in there and I’ve forgotten.
Zombieland is nearly as long as The 13th Floor proper, but not quite as varied or creative. Still a very high-quality haunt though. Putting the two together, the whole experience lasts about 30 minutes going at a medium pace. That’s actually a very long time to be put through such relentless scares. For that reason, I’d declare that it’s definitely worth the price of admission at $25. My advice would be to try to go during off-peak hours so you don’t need to buy a fast-pass ticket.