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With a chill in the air, crisp leaves on the ground, and a feeling of tricks and treats just around the corner, Fango made its way to Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania to visit The Bates Motel haunted attraction. The Bates Motel is part of the 13 Haunts organization, which is made up of the scariest 13 places to visit in the greater Philadelphia region.
Just outside the city limits, this attraction sits back from the main road, rife with mud-ridden trails and all-grass parking. Soon after arriving, Fango met up with Randy Bates, owner and creator of one of the most notorious fright houses in the area. It was featured on the Travel Channel’s first year of “Scariest Halloween Attractions” in 2006, and the reason for its inclusion is obvious: the pure fear that it invokes.
A labor of love for the Bates family, who originally opened it just for the mere fun of providing Halloween entertainment, since 1991, the Bates Motel boasts the hayride as its biggest draw. With exquisite detail and help from LA artists on certain setpieces, the hayride is a journey into the realms of the unknown, a pure cornucopia of terror. The Bates Motel sits on 82 acres of farmland, and the family found a way to fight the taxes and keep this beautiful land via the attraction’s seasonal income. With creatures towering overhead, Fango trekked across the spread to take an even closer look at the monsters and haunted homes the Bateses have created. Noting that he dislikes when attractions sport huge creatures that seem out of place in their environments, Randy says he does the opposite, and makes sure each giant feels at home and fits in with the other spooks of the land.
Wondering how that hayride went? Well, the music boomed and popped as the riders screamed and cowered from menacing men with chainsaws, asylum patients and zombies. In one of the best hayride moments this writer can remember, the ghouls broke out of storefronts and took off after the visitors, groaning and biting their way toward the wagon. The use of more pyrotechnics than usual at haunted attractions make this ride even more powerful; along with its incredible detail and marvelous actors, the heat of the fire and booming sounds are powerful stuff. Attacking all of your senses is what this ride does best!
Shaken and curious for the next event, Fango waddled through the mud to seek out more scares. Along the way, one could see numerous heads popping up and crowds of people shouting and shrieking at the various ghouls that roamed the grounds while they waited in line. With an outside area full of tables and benches, the Bates Motel leaves more than enough room for families to wait out the scares and chills while sipping on hot apple cider and munching on popcorn. Before too long and after a brief catching of breath, Fango arrived at the Haunted Corn Maze—a must stop during a visit to this attraction. The nerve-wracking, hand-in-hand stroll through what one at first seemed to be a typical corn labyrinth turned out to be much more invigorating than expected. Feeling like the set of the next big-studio horror movie, it sports a shocking amount of detail and pure ingenuity.
When Fango gets the chance to talk to Randy, he notes that all the terrifying ideas making up his attraction come from himself—surprising, considering he admits he isn’t a big horror fan. He then has a team develop his concepts into tangible form, and outsources some of them to be worked into specific props. The results made Fango wanting to stop and take an in-depth look at everything—and laugh at the ability of Randy and co. to reduce even a macho teenage guy to a frightened kindergartner.
After dodging hanging scarecrows and crazed werewolves, Fango made its way to the Bates Motel itself. The obvious question is, “Does this have any relation to the legendary setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO?” Well, no—Randy informs me that he has trademarked the name, and in fact it is just a coincidence that he shares the last name of infamous motel owner Norman. Earlier in the day, Fango had the opportunity to tiptoe through the house and have a look at the gadgets within, just to determine when and where to jump. But to this writer’s despair, when the lights went off, the house seemed to develop a new persona, claiming victims left and right—the main course being this Fango reporter. Created in 1996, this house has become the park’s main attraction, and it’s clear why: This is a full one-on-one experience with ghouls and spooks, unlike the hayride, which has the wagon’s barrier as protection.
The house offers its first surprise when you’re briefed during your stay: a mirror containing a ghostly face tells one of the victims in your group to knock on the door, which summons a butler to introduce you to the other guests. Cramming in scene after scene of sense-driven FX and nail-biting scares, the Motel has you dodged body bags from the ceiling in a chilling refrigerator, a EXORCIST-themed room, a shotgun-totin’ madman and even a serial killer who traps you! Some of the FX are so minimal yet create such an impact that you’ll be left thinking about them for days to come!
With more than 200 employees working on the property, Randy also puts on a Christmas light show each December, which turns the haunted motel into Santa’s workshop. Prior to getting a behind-the-scenes look, Fango overheard a man telling Randy, “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was amazing. I always thought it was for the kiddies!”
This fall will even bring a film production team to the hallowed grounds. Yes, a horror picture will be lensed at the Bates Motel—which will surely take the attraction to the next level with fans. The plan is for a number of familiar genre names to be part of the project, titled WELCOME TO THE BATES MOTEL and set to be directed by Bryon Turk. Be sure to stay tuned to FANGORIA for updates on this production—there will surely be plenty of blood shed!
Beyond that, the Bates Motel has branched out and recently purchased a few buildings at the Pennhurst Asylum in Spring City, PA, a mere 45 minutes from the Bates Motel. Bearing a history of real-life despair and tragedy, this location offers a complete journey from parking your car to finish. Nestled in deep and dark woods among several other dilapidated hospital buildings, Pennhurst is a unique experience unlike anything this writer has ever attended. Tickets are stamped “Patient Admission,” and you can only imagine how easy the transformation from civilian to inmate is. If anything, this is the Bates Motel attraction you must see this year! But Fango fiends and Halloween enthusiasts are urged you to check out both locales, and experience two of the most grueling and terrifying haunted attractions out there. The Bates Motel runs though Oct. 31 and Pennhurst Asylum runs through November 7; both offer VIP line options as well as the normal tickets, and a combo VIP pass can be purchased at each.
Special thanks to Randy Bates for taking the time to give a behind-the-scenes tour and provide FANGORIA a look at the spooks of the Bates Motel and Pennhurst Asylum.
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