Written by: Josh Hancock
Pirates of Emerson remains one of the Bay Area’s longest-running haunted attractions, offering traditional spooks and thrills for over 25 years. Unlike other local haunts that offer only one or two attractions within their ghostly grounds, Pirates of Emerson features five separate attractions, each with its own theme. Located at the expansive Alameda County Fairgrounds, this year’s haunt also includes a number of other fun sights and sounds for the Halloween season, including music, a carnival-themed midway, an enormous pirate ship, and various gruesome oddities located sporadically throughout the grounds. The 2015 attractions are “Pirates of Emerson,” “Cursed Cavern,” “Demonic Voodoo,” “Mental Maze,” and “The Haunted.”
Of the five attractions, “The Haunted” and “Demonic Voodoo” are the most impressive in their attention to detail. Using only a flashlight to guide them, visitors enter “The Haunted” through a burning fireplace that swings open into a dark passageway. From there, they must maneuver their way through swinging corpses, a closet filled with musty dresses and old clothes, and a good number of “kill” and “dead body” scenes. Along the way the walls are decorated with haunted portraits, spooky messages, skeletons, and other images related to ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. “Demonic Voodoo,” with its emphasis on bayou-inspired horror, featured piles of bones and mystic powders, elements of witchcraft, and a gang of dedicated performers shouting creepy “voodoo” chants around every black corner.
The other haunts, while certainly fun to wander through, are not as exciting. Though it captures the swashbuckling theme quite well—with rickety bridges, sea monsters, and water-related sound effects—“Pirates of Emerson” is mostly a “jump scare”-style of haunt. Younger audiences will scream at every face-painted pirate who leaps out from behind a corner, but more experienced visitors might find the attraction generic and repetitive. “Cursed Cavern,” for the most part, falls into this same category, but “Mental Maze” is the worst offender of the bunch. Featuring a maze made out of chain-link fences and flashing white lights, the haunt requires that visitors locate the hidden exit through trial and error. It’s fun at first, especially with the lingering threat of the ticket-taker’s promise that a “bad man waits” inside, but after a while the maze becomes a bit of a chore—and when no “bad man” showed up at the end, we left feeling robbed of a certain experience.
A lot of pre-teens and families attend Pirates of Emerson because it offers traditional scares without being excessively violent, gory, or scary. The attraction is recommended for younger Halloween fans; parents don’t have to worry about their son or daughter encountering anyone or anything inappropriate or overly intense. However, veteran haunt fans might consider Pirates of Emerson a mere appetizer to the much more frightening and disturbing attractions that the Bay Area has to offer.
Learn more about this haunt here.