Haunted Attraction Reviewed: Hackney Haunts
Location of Attraction: Westminster MD (TownMall)
Date of Review: 9/25/2020
Total Number of Attractions Available: 1
Overall Haunted Attraction Rating: 7/10
Entertainment & Food Rating: 6/10
Atmosphere Rating: 7/10
Overall Costume & Makeup Rating: 7/10
Overall Cast & Crew Rating: 7/10
Overall Set Design & Special Effects Rating: 8/10
Overall Scare/Thrill Factor Rating: 6/10
Overall Feedback: Hackney Haunts located in the TownMall of Westminster Maryland provided easily the most pleasantly surprising and shocking experience thus far in our 2020 review season! Owners Jason and Sarah Hackney began their journey in the haunt industry back in 2014 with a home haunt of their own, located in Hampstead Maryland. Over the years their home haunt blossomed rapidly, ultimately encouraging and forcing the Hackney’s to expand to a public level and much larger scale. In 2019, located in the TownMall of Westminster Maryland, Hackney Haunts was officially born! Now back for year number two, the Hackney’s brought on a Creative Director, Carlos Rivas. Carlos has been in the haunt industry for several years now, most recently operating his own home haunt in 2019, Rivas Manor. Rivas and the Hackney’s joined forces for 2020 to bring you HORROR HOLIDAY’S, this year's haunted attraction!
Located between two large department stores, Belk & Boscov’s, patrons will encounter the spooky shenanigans of Hackney Haunts. We arrived at the TownMall around 7:30pm on Hackney Haunts opening night for the 2020 season! We had minor troubles locating the attraction at first, but eventually discovered their large poster hanging above the mall entrance way. Within seconds of entering the mall we were greeted by the menacing Michael Myers and a lively but fearsome clown towering above us on stilts! There was definitely a buzz of excitement swirling through the air in this section of the TownMall. The two roaming actors excelled at interacting with the patrons while they were awaiting their turn to enter Hackney Haunts, helping to get patrons amped up for the experience. Although there wasn’t any food onsite, there are numerous restaurants within a stone's throw of the TownMall. Ticket prices are extremely affordable at only $7 per person for general admission or $12 per person for fast pass admission. T-shirts are also available for just $15.
Hackney Haunts had an excellent system in place to ensure all Covid-19 protocols were being followed, ultimately allowing patrons to receive a safe experience. All Hackney Haunts staff had face coverings on throughout the evening. All guests were also required to wear face coverings. Social distancing was being enforced throughout their queue lines. Patrons are also given a pair of disposable gloves to wear throughout the haunt. The Hackney’s also mentioned all high touch points were being frequently disinfected throughout the evening. Groups entering the attraction were also being significantly spaced out to ensure you’d never encounter another group along your journey.
To begin our experience through Hackney Haunts we gathered outside an elegantly designed manor facade. As we awaited our turn we had the opportunity to briefly chat with Carlos Rivas, the Creative Director and mastermind behind the set design for 2020’s attraction, Horror Holidays! If the manor facade was any indication of the experience we were going to receive we knew we were in for a treat. After a few minutes Carlos sent us through the manor doors into a dark dungeon-esque room, where a skeleton hanging from the wall read us the rules of the attraction. After being informed of the rules we were ready to be on our way. But not before a massive animatronic towering above us began interacting with our squad, intimidating us before we even entered the main attraction.
Horror Holiday’s is around a 10 minute haunted attraction experience consisting of seven different themed scenes. We began our travels through the New Year’s scene, where clocks were plastered all over the place as the countdown was on. Next we ventured through the St. Patrick’s Day scene which featured a beautifully crafted facade. Once entering through the facade we encountered an irish style pub and several Leprechauns who succeeded at tormenting our group! Next up was the Easter scene. Be on the lookout for the man-eating easter bunny, as he nearly devoured one of us whole! Next we traveled through the 4th of July scene. Loaded with effective audio and visual effects, and our first ever scary Uncle Sam, this section provided a few startles! We then traveled through a Thanksgiving themed section, featuring a small cornfield and a tipi. As we entered into the tipi a pilgrim character appeared out of nowhere to deliver a fright. Halloween was the next holiday theme focused around the Headless Horseman and also featuring a hallway of Jack-O-Lanterns! The dark and eerie nature of this scene was effective, allowing for a few more actor driven jump scares. Last but not least we ended with a Christmas themed scene. As we strolled through a forest of Christmas trees, with holiday music swirling in the background, snow was falling upon us! We entered through a house facade into a kitchen setting where we were delighted with the scent of gingerbread. But things weren’t all happy and glory as Krampus appeared to deliver a scare. As we exited the attraction guests have the opportunity to snag a picture in a Christmas themed photo-op, featuring Krampus and an elegantly handmade sleigh!
After our journey through Horror Holiday’s our squad had the chance to toss around our thoughts and feedback amongst ourselves. We were all pleasantly surprised by the experience we received; it’s safe to say our expectations were met and then some! The set design was extremely detailed and aesthetically pleasing from start to end! A prime example of the extreme attention to detail was noted right off the bat on the pumpkinhead skeleton creatures located on the handcrafted stone pillars of the VIP entrance. The pumpkinheads looked legitimately rotten and moldy and the skeleton bodies were exceptionally corpsified! That’s just one example of the sophisticated and meticulous work you’ll encounter while at Hackney Haunts! A great mixture of pneumatic props, animatronics, and scare actors were utilized to deliver scares. Each scene had background music that fit the theme magnificently, helping to immerse the guests even further into each Holiday themed scene. The scare actors featured costuming and makeup that fit their theme perfectly! Hackney Haunts excelled at executing their Horror Holiday’s attraction, as we all felt fully immersed into each of the seven different Holiday’s - New Years, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas!
At the completion of our evening we had the opportunity to discuss at length with the Hackney’s and Rivas regarding our experience. We immediately picked up on their clear passion for the Halloween season and haunt industry. These folks were very eager to hear our thoughts and we’re extremely receptive to our suggestions. Besides having a young and inexperienced scare acting team, we had no gripes regarding our experience at Hackney Haunts. We had come to learn that their entire cast and crew are volunteers and many of these folks had never partaken in scare acting before. We have no doubt that the scare actors will become more comfortable and confident in their roles as the season progresses. The Hackney’s shared with us that they hope to be able to expand to a larger location for 2021, which they hope will allow them to expand to several attractions. Ultimately allowing them to have something for all varieties of haunt goers! Their ultimate goal for 2020 was to provide an affordable and family friendly experience, which they nailed flawlessly!
Hackney Haunts Horror Holiday’s attraction may only be a 10 minute experience but it was well worth our one hour drive! The short nature of the haunt allows itself to be paired superbly with dinner or other plans/festivities. Hackney Haunts may only be in their 2nd year of operation but they are on the path to bigger and quite horrifying things! We’re exSCREAMly excited to revisit Hackney Haunts in the years to come to track their progression to becoming one of Maryland’s top Haunted Attractions! Job well done to the Hackney’s, Rivas, and the entire Hackney Haunts crew for providing a refreshing, unique, and SPOOKY FUN experience!