Castle Blood is our favorite local haunt. We revere it not because it is the one we consider to be the scariest, the most intense or the most perfect, but because it embodies the heart, history and soul of classic horror. And, in the same way we love our ancient, gaseous hound of hell (okay, he’s a beagle), we have unconditionally loved the place since we first visited it way back in late October of 1998.
For us, a big part of what makes Castle Blood so special is its ability to capture the very essence of Halloween – you know, that feeling you get when you see an iconic glowing jack-o-lantern or a black cat. Gravely MacCabre and his denizens seem to accomplish this by skillfully combining gothic scenes, compelling storylines and a high level of interactivity to create a deeply personal, theatrical and darkly humorous “choose your own adventure” haunt experience. And, by some black magic, these elements also work seamlessly together to invoke a sense of nostalgia so strong it makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine and been transported back to the most magical moment of your youth.
So, at the risk of spreading my guts too thin, I’ll go ahead and gush a little more about the specifics that not only make Castle Blood our Best Fiend Forever, but also a place worthy of anticipation every year:
History – Castle Blood does classic horror like no other haunt in the area. Spending time in here is like hanging out on the set of a Hammer film, which is pretty much every monster enthusiast’s dream. Picture, if you will, torches, caskets, dust, skulls, pumpkins, tombstones, wrought iron, makeup, storylines that actually require you to pay attention, and set designs with a vintage feel, and you will have visualized a good bloody chunk of what makes Castle Blood one of a kind.
Acting – From the actors who take the tickets and manage the queue line to the tour guides and castle inhabitants, the entire cast carries out their roles creatively, passionately and expertly. You get the sense that each one knows his or her character intimately and, as a result, brings personality and a whole history to their roles that make them memorable. Bratzilla and I wished we could have spent an entire evening with Uncle Vlad, who is reminiscent of Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee.
Attention to detail – Everything in Castle Blood has a painstakingly handmade feel, and this goes a very long way in maintaining your sense of make believe. The aforementioned scene design, props, costumes, and makeup all keep within the gothic horror motif, reinforcing the world in which your journey takes place. When you look around, you only see ghoulish things that fit within the Castle Blood world, ensuring the kind of immersive experience that we all hope to have when we enter a haunt.
If ever there was a haunted house that existed first and foremost for the love of the craft, it is Castle Blood. And, like Chilly Billy Cardille, decaying steel mills, gloomy weather, and zombies, it is definitely an important part of our spooky western Pennsylvania heritage. So in addition to visiting other haunts that are touted as being scarier or more extreme, try taking take a trip to Beallsville for a change of pace. We swear on our unearthed graves you’ll be treated to an experience that you won’t soon forget!