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Haunt review: Stadium of Screams, Lawrenceville

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Zombie dancers at Stadium of Screams float between the kids' area and the haunts. Their music? "Thriller," of course. AJC photos by Jamie Gumbrecht

For the next few weeks, I’m going to try out some of the haunted houses and corn mazes vying for our time and attention this time of year. My first stop was Stadium of Screams, the new haunt at Gwinnett Braves Stadium in Lawrenceville.

It’s the first year for this attraction, developed by Spooky Shead Productions to fit into the underbelly of the new stadium. Here’ s a story and fun photos from the Gwinnett Daily Post about Stadium of Screams’ opening night.

Here’s what you should know before you go:

How it came to be: Alex Shead had a serious reputation for Halloween celebration. Since 1994, his home had become a haunted house, one that sometimes drew thousands of people and required a security guard, he said. (This is the first year that Shead’s daughters haven’t had a haunted house in their home.) When the Gwinnett Braves approached him to make some kind of Halloween activity in the stadium, the idea for a haunted stadium grew and grew — and eventually became the reality.

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Timothy Kuhn, 12, of Buford, paints faces at Stadium of Screams. He is amazing with a paintbrush.

What you’ll get: Stadium of Screams can be as sweet or as scary as you want it to be.

  • A not-so-spooky side costs $13, and includes children’s activities and a screening of “Monster House” on the big scoreboard. There’s face-painting,  games run by Girl Scouts working on their Bronze Awards, dancers and face-time with Chopper, the Gwinnett Braves mascot. This side closes down around 9 p.m.
  • The spooky side costs $20, or $35 for front-of-the-line privileges. (Some of the proceeds from Stadium of Screams go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.) It includes two haunts, one quite a bit longer than the other, and “The Grudge” on the big screen at 9 p.m. This side remains opens till midnight.

On the non-spooky side: You run into the not-so-spooky side as soon as you set foot inside the stadium. The activities are in the open air, so make sure to dress appropriately, and be prepared to buy some hot chocolate. The games and activities were more than enough to keep kids — 8 and younger, I’d say — amused for a few hours. Chopper is great, “Thriller” dancers got a lot of attention and all the princesses, zombies and witches wandering around set the Halloween mood. “Monster House” turned on the scoreboard screen at 7:30 p.m., and while it was fine to have on in the background, it seemed too cold to sit still to watch. On the night I visited, it was busy, but not crowded. I suspect it will be much busier as we come closer to Halloween.

On the spooky side: Even on a chilly night last week, there was a line when the haunts opened at 7:30 p.m. A short wait isn’t bad for a haunted house. It’s like waiting for a roller coaster — anticipation only makes it more exciting. Visitors looked like parents with tweens and and packs of high school students. We were led down an elevator, through a corridor with a few surprises, then back outside to regain entry to the guts of the stadium. You can make it through these haunts in about 20 minutes if you’re moving at a skitterish pace, but it offers a lot of experiences — characters surprises, trap doors, gross-out realizations, confusing mazes. It got some laughs, too, when we made our way through a hallway strewn with size 100 tighty-whiteys. There’s not a clear narrative, but more a collection of actors in scare mode and recurring themes involving hospitals and horror movie-style insanity.

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There's something spooky behind that fence -- and you'll be surprised by how high it can climb, even while it wears a straitjacket.

Best: This haunt does a great job of controlling visitors’ personal space. Organizers understand how scary it is to be forced into moving, even when you’re not sure where you’re headed, or what awaits you. A booby-trapped maze works well here and black, shape-shifting tunnels last just long enough to make everyone nervous, but not so long to make anyone rush from the emergency exits.

Worst: This haunt is limited by its own rookie status in the park. Organizers predict that it will be busier as Halloween gets closer. I hope that’s true, and that they’ll be back next year when they’re more familiar with the space. I think there are more nooks and crannies that can work to their advantage, and make it a longer haunt.

Would I go again? I wholeheartedly recommend the not-so-spooky activities for families that live nearby and want some less-than-terrifying Halloween activities. For those that live away from Gwinnett County, I wouldn’t spend hours on the road to get there — unless the kids are baseball fans  who just want to see the stadium during the off-season.

For the spooky side, the $20 pricetag seems high. It’s a good haunt, but it’s a relative unknown. Admission includes a movie, but by 9 p.m.,  it seemed too cold to watch comfortably. The much-lauded Netherworld, down Interstate 85 in Norcross, also costs $20, plus $5 for parking. Stadium of Screams is a different type of experience — less intense, shorter wait, free parking, fun stadium locale  — but if people can choose only one at the $20 price point, I suspect they’ll go with the known attraction.  Still, I’d suggest this haunt first for families just venturing into the haunted house scene, especially if they’re trying to amuse younger and older kids; teens with a curfews; adults looking for a easy, fun night out with low risk of nightmares.

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John Kalina goes Joker. There's a lot of scary clown action in this haunt.

Want to go? Stadium of Screams, 7 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Sunday through Nov. 1. $20 for Corridor of Horror, Tunnel of Terror and movie, $13 for family fun area and movie, $35 for front-of-the-line access to all attractions, twice. Gwinnett Braves Stadium, 2500 Buford Dr., Lawrenceville. 770-995-6285, www.stadiumofscreams.com.

15 comments Add your comment

mike

October 20th, 2009
2:25 pm

where can we go as adults to get really scared? Like scare the bejusus outta me.

MarriedaSwede

October 20th, 2009
2:38 pm

Mike,

I’d suggest the Atlanta City Council meeting, or perhaps Congress.

Joe

October 20th, 2009
3:39 pm

Mike, go to Underground or the Five Points Marta station.

Big Trouble

October 20th, 2009
4:37 pm

Mike – Recently…the Georgia Tech campus after midnight.

Spooky Gal

October 20th, 2009
5:10 pm

I like haunted houses.

Jamie Gumbrecht

October 20th, 2009
5:17 pm

Mike, the one that people seem most impressed by is Netherworld in Norcross. I visited there this weekend, and will be posting about it tomorrow. It’s does a number on your nerves, but it’s still Halloween-scary. I haven’t been to The Chambers of Horror at the Masquerade, but the trailer on its site looks more disturbing/horror-movie-type scary. Has anybody been yet?

[...] told you all about the new Stadium of Screams haunt in Lawrenceville yesterday. Today, we’re on to a well-established place with new [...]

585ROC

October 22nd, 2009
9:26 am

Mike – how about the women’s dorm at Emory

lantana

October 22nd, 2009
3:01 pm

The Chamber of Horrors at The Masquerade night club on North Ave. is a blast. It is rated “R” after 10:00 PM and only costs $15.00 plus they have a full bar available while you wait.

[...] It takes about 15 minutes to get through individual rooms. They’re not as compact as in Stadium of Screams or Netherworld, so the actors and effects aren’t getting into visitors’ personal space [...]

Teresa

October 27th, 2009
1:58 pm

Chamber of Horrors was ok. It was good, just not long enough. If they gave it some more space and a expanded a few good ideas it would be great. But, if you are in the area, check it out after 10pm. $15 was not bad for what you get….

cindi

October 28th, 2009
1:27 pm

Enter your comments here

M

October 29th, 2009
10:14 pm

I didn’t pay any parking fees at Netherworld this year!!!!!!!! We just parked in the many parking lots around there and walked a block. Netherworld is sooooooo much better than the others around. Go see for yourself.

Eric

October 31st, 2009
8:07 pm

My wife and I took our teens to the Stadium of Screams. If no one told me it was their first year I wouldn’t have been able to tell. I found it to be an awesome production. With something for every age group in mind it covered all the bases for any family or group of teens. The event begins even before you go through the front gate. Real actors, props, and creative imagination make it a MUST see. The wait in line to enter the haunt itself was entertaining. Scary characters milling around as you wait in line make the anticipation of what is about to happen all the more intense. The haunt itself was plenty long and had so much attention to detail it left me wanting to go through it again. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Shead and the Gwinnett Braves will cook up for next year. I was comforted by the number of personnel they had on hand attending to the patrons. Caring for the safety of the guests without interfering with the spirit of the haunt. Very well done.

Janed

November 1st, 2009
8:01 pm

Chamber of Horrors @ the Masquerade was HORRIBLE. It was a complete waste of time and money. I really want me $20 back. The tour guy that follows you around was a complete jackass to our group. Very rude. The entire thing took about 10 minutes, tops. Nothing even remotely scary. It came off as someones S&M fetish come to life. Nudity + obscenities does not equal scary. We’ll stick with Netherworld in the future.