The ScareHouse: A terrifying three part haunt

Jade Bellas, Brianna Ferguson, Kristen Kudla, and Eddie Sheehy

It takes a lot to scare me. Conventional creepy things like spiders, clowns, and the dark don’t usually have an effect on me. I’m usually the guy who laughs at things in a haunted house and heckles the actors (should I be ashamed of that?).

I can usually rank a good haunted house on the number of times it can get me to jump. No jumping, you’re just a run-of-the-mill haunted house. One jump, OK, I admit, you’re pretty good. Two jumps, congratulations, you’re great, And more then two? To be honest, I don’t remember that ever happening to me.

That being said, I give all the credit in the world to the people at The ScareHouse because as much as I hate to admit, they got me to jump and exclaim some expletives, not once, not twice, but multiple times. And I’m not even at the part where we walked through the actual haunted house. I’m just talking about a backstage tour of the house they showed before the fun began. Yeah, they’re that good.

Year after year, The ScareHouse has been voted one of the best haunted houses, not only in the country, but in the world. I can see why now. Since 1999, The ScareHouse has been family owned and operated, and in its history has moved locations three times. 2007 is when it moved to its now haunted home, located at the old Elk’s lodge on Butler Street in Pittsburgh (I’ve put a link to directions below for your convenience).

What makes The ScareHouse so scary? The sets are huge and detailed, the props are gory and terrifying, but the thing that really sets it apart is the actors. The ScareHouse is a business, and operates as one. All of their actors are over 18 years old and paid. Auditions are held every year for new positions, in which actors with experience and a variety of acting talents are hired for a specific part of the house that fits best with their acting personality. 60% of the people who work there come back the following year, and many actors say they have learned and created relationships with other actors which has allowed them to play off of each other in tandem- something they feel adds tremendously to the scare factor.

I got a chance to talk to one of The ScareHouse’s leading gentleman Tomas “Big Tom” Smith, or as patrons may know him better, “Creepo The Clown.” Big Tom has been at the ScareHouse since 2003 and worked his way up from playing a zombie, to one of The ScareHouse’s headlining characters.

Having played Creepo for the past 4 years, Tom says getting into character now is like “putting on a glove,” but it wasn’t always that way.

“At first, you spend a lot of time looking in the mirror. Creepo is very selfish. You have to be aware of the role, and just do it. Let go. Allow yourself to become evil and creative,” said Tom.

People like Tom are a credit to The ScareHouse (upon entering the attraction during show time, Creepo gave us a bone chilling, skin crawling, “Things have changed since the last time we spoke.”)

Another aspect to The ScareHouse’s credit is the non-stop entertainment once you step on property. Starting with the line outside (that usually wraps around the building), guests are greeted by an assortment of creepy characters, including their iconic Bunny, Princess Holly, and a terrifying man-baby.

Once you finally get inside the actual building, another line awaits, but time flies as you are entertained by an assortment of “1920s” horror-themed acts. Enjoy people nailing things to there heads, and stapling stuff to themselves? Well you’re going to love this part.

After the beautifully themed lobby, you finally make your way to the actual ScareHouse. Starting with “The Forsaken,” a traditional themed haunt, guests are bombarded with everything you know and love about haunted houses. Puddles of blood, animatronic monsters, stuff hanging from the celling, and grotesque figures everywhere you look is a great introduction to the horrors ahead of you. A quick walk through “The Barn” (what many consider to be the scariest part of the haunted house), full of slaughtered animals and freaky farmers, and you’re out into the next section, “Creepo’s Christmas 3D.”

The idea behind “Creepo’s Christmas 3D” is Creepo the Clown is incredibly upset that Santa gets to have all the fun on Christmas, so he does the only reasonable thing and kills santa. He also introduces his own mutant snowmen, killer toys, and evil elves to scare the heck out of you. Creepo’s section was entirely painted by artist Matt Gondek in trippy 3D inspired neon colors, and unlike the other parts of the haunted house’s lighting, it’s pretty bright. It’s very disorienting, but at the same time it provides somewhat of a break before you enter into what I thought was the scariest part of The ScareHouse. The Pittsburgh Zombies.

I love zombies, so I was most excited to see this part. The zombies were scary and all, but the real terrifying thing in this section would have to be the sets. As the name implies, all the sets are built around the theme of Pittsburgh in a post-apocalyptic zombie filled world. My favorite part was the Primanti Brothers set. The attention to detail makes you feel like you’re actually there. It’s really quite scary. If you’re brave enough and have a second, take it slow in the Pittsburgh Zombies section. The attention to detail is marvelous, and I don’t think enough people really get a good look at it, as they’re running through screaming.

That’s where your adventure concludes within The ScareHouse. . . maybe. For those souls brave enough, a brand new section of The ScareHouse was opened in the lower levels of the old Elk’s lodge this year, appropriately named, “The Basement.”

“The Basement” is an all out, immersive terror experience, and please believe me when I say it’s not for the faint of heart. They will touch you, they will restrain you multiple times, and they will push every limit you have.

“The basement was built to push you. It’s meant to test your comfort levels, and help you learn something about yourself,” ScareHouse Staff Sociologist and RMU Sociology Teacher, Margee Kerr said.

And if that isn’t enough, a waiver must be signed before entering, legitimizing the fact that you are at least 18 years old, and that you are prepared to experience “simulated extreme horror, adult sexual content, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe light effects, exposure to water, physical contact, and crawling.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately based on your view) I was not able to experience “The Basement.” It sells out early just about every night, so if you’re legitimately interested in doing “The Basement,” and if you’re brave enough, purchase your tickets in advance (I’ll also add a link to that at the end of this).

The ScareHouse truly is an original haunt. The actors are incredible, the sets are brilliant, and the experience is unique. Go check it out while you can, the fun ends November 2.

The Scarehouse Website


Make reservations for The Basement