View Full Version : Trip Report: Headless Horseman, Haunted Mansion and Skull Island Scream Park

10-11-2007, 10:51 AM
After reading so much about the Headless Horseman and seeing it consistently towards the top of the Hauntworld rankings, we decided to take a trip from Philly to upstate New York to check it out. After checking this site, I found that Kevin McCurdy's Haunted Mansion and Skull Island Scream Park were also relatively nearby.

We made a reservation for the Headless Horseman on Friday night for 8:45 PM. After some horrible traffic on the Garden State Parkway, we made it up from Philly to Ulster Park with about 5 minutes to spare. The grounds of the Headless Horseman have a very cool festive atmosphere, and the huge headless horseman animated prop is great. The hayride was very good with some impressive scenes, props and actors. I especially liked the 'Spider Woman'. Apparently the themes here change each year and this year it was some kind of circus sideshow/freakshow theme. After the hayride is a cornwalk and one of those inflatable creatures - I've seen these things in magazines but never walked through one of them. It was HUGE on the inside! I was really surprised how long it took to walk through it. I have to say that its not really that interesting in there, but just fun to think you are walking through this huge inflatable prop. There were two haunted houses at the end of the cornwalk. I thought that both of these were just ok. I was slightly disappointed in them after so much hype about this place. Headless Horseman was good, but not truly worth the high ratings.

Saturday night we went to the Kevin McCurdy's Haunted Mansion in Wappinger Falls, NY pretty early so we could fit both this and the Skull Island Scream Park. We bought the combo pass for $40 that included both attractions. I think we must have been the first two there because we waited for about 10 minutes outside of the house and chatted with the security guard without seeing anyone else around. The guard said that it would take 45 minutes or so to do the entire attraction, but I think it took us about 20-25 minutes. The house had a guide that took you throughout, and we were very impressed by the elaborate scenes. This house was definitely better than the two at the Headless Horseman. The rest of the attraction (outside of the house) was mostly forgettable with outside mazes. There was a cool building themed as a movie theatre there, complete with an animated ghoul in the box office. The building contained some old props and pictures from horror movies. The Haunted Mansion itself was great, but this haunt is a bit overpriced at $25.00. I don't believe there is a price just for the house only, so for overall bang for the buck Headless Horseman is the better deal.

We headed just down the road from the Haunted Mansion to the (apparently new this year) Skull Island Scream Park in Fishkill, NY. It seems odd that these two attractions are so close together, but great for people like us! Before we even parked, my fiancee spotted an elaborate pirate scene just outside of the entrance and remarked 'This place looks great!'. There are five major attractions at Skull Island - Skull Island, Shipwrecked, Pirate Town, Bilge Rats and Davey Jones Locker in 3D. There is also an illusion show which is entertaining (about the quality of a theme park show). We found this attraction to be an exceptionally good value, and also a nice touch that you could do the attractions multiple times. Also, the theme is very different from the typical haunted attraction in that it is based upon pirates. It was pretty dead the night we were there so we went through 3 of the attractions a couple of times. Shipwrecked and Skull Island were our two favorite attractions. Shipwrecked has a very detailed pirate ship facade, and you walk through a large sand lot to get to the entrance - nice touch. It is essentially an indoor walk-through with rooms/scenes, all of which were good. The actors were especially good here and throughout the entire park. Skull Island was also VERY well done and featured several large animatronics which I've never seen before. It is an outdoor attraction, kinda a maze I guess you could say. The only recommendation I would have is to light the King Kong animatronic better at the very end of the maze. Pirate Town was the third maze that was really good. Bilge Rats wasn't so great - it is one of those walk-throughs where you just make your way through cages, with strobe lights and blaring techno music. How on earth do actors work in these things all night with the strobe lights? Davey Jones was a fairly standard 3-D walk through attraction.

So on this trip, Skull Island Scream Park was clearly the standout and I think has actually become one of our top favorite attractions. I hope they do well this year so that we can return in the future. Overall, I would give the Headless Horseman a 7 out of 10, Haunted Mansion a 5 out of 10, and Skull Island a 10 out of 10.

Heading down to Busch Gardens and King's Dominion in Virginia this weekend so hope to report on these amusement park haunts next week.

Happy Hauntings!

10-24-2007, 10:46 AM
Can't help but think that was an ungracious response. Good, but not great. Okay, no one likes to hear that, but it should make you try harder--did you need to disparage the other two haunts?

And the reviewer?

10-24-2007, 12:52 PM
I am at a loss to understand your insistence that comparing one haunt to another is comparing 'apples to oranges to bananas'. If anything, it is comparing 'macintosh to red delicious to granny smith' Three types of the same thing--haunts.

The differences in style and money spent are textural.

Again, I see your insistence as ungracious. Is it because you see yourself(and are seen by others) as a great haunt, but were brought up short by being found wanting?

It's an opinion.

As were your comments about the Haunted Mansion and Skull Island, to be sure. But surely you can see how comparing both haunts(one which was considered the reviewers top for the night) unfavorably to the 2 houses in your haunt that the reviewer thought were lacking is a bit much?

Kevin McCurdy
10-24-2007, 03:34 PM
Thanks for your opinion about Skull Island. We are also very proud of what we have created. Someone had pointed out to me these posts . I usually do not go on the forum, but I felt a need to say a couple things. First of all , Skull island was not meant for 12 year olds. I understand that is your opinion Rob, however I want to make it clear even though our theme is pirates we are no less scary. You can check out our review in The Times Herald Record- large regional paper that has been doing these Haunt reviews for 6 years now, on our website.(www.skullislandscreampark.com) They seemed to think we were scary. As a matter of fact they seemed to think the Mansion was the scariest in the area! But thats " their" opinion. The public thinks we are scary- I hear scrteams all night long!
I have opinions too. But being a "good neighbor" for 15 years- whether they are good or bad I keep them to myself. I dont have to justify how large my haunt is or how detailed on this forum. You may think yours is more detailed but again I say "That your opinion" (getting the picture yet?)
I did not get on the forum and defend the mansion when hauntfanatic said the trail was "forgettable". No that was their opinion. OK life goes on. We also know that everyone has good nights and bad nights. Maybe it was just a bad night?
Anyway I would not have jumped on this if earlier in the season someone that worked for us - a young yard haunter with much interest in the business, was accused of voicing their opinion on Headless Horseman. Which I must say was in no way slanderous or malicious- it was just his opinion.
I not saying you cant have an opinion on the Mansion or Skull Island- on the contrary in fact, I appreciate your remarks. Thats how we all learn. I just think you should not state your opinion as facts.( especially when the opinion is based on a complimentary after hours mini tour with no real actors).
Also one last remark, remember that your "well established desitaion that can be seen on national TV, yada yada yada, started out like any haunted attraction- from the ground up- so putting others down (especially ones that have been around for thirty years) is not exactly a study in professionalism.Iwas asked not to have my castmembers post and I would appreciate you do the same.
Kevin McCurdy

10-25-2007, 02:37 AM
I will say that Pirates can be scary... there are still Pirates roaming the oceans today and if when came up on you with guns blazing you'd be scared! LOL

Karl does a Pirate show and seems to do a great business.

I've seen people open haunted houses based on fairy tales, or heck clowns. Aren't clowns suppose to be funny and happy? So how are they scary?

Hmmm... bottom line anything can be scary even Santa Clause. How many times have you seen little girls and boys cry like crazy after visiting Santa??

At any rate I think Pirates are cool and based on the success of three Pirate movies who can argue. Cydney Neil did a Pirate haunted house or scenes last year and let me say they where AWESOME!

I'm considering doing a pirate haunt myself eventually...we'll see!!!

Pirates can by scary or atleast as scary as anything else.

On the other subject here... I think adding another haunt in that small area (Skull Island) some tension can be created, which is understandable. Now you have three big haunts all within a few miles of each other, you're bound to get some arguements.

But in the long run the customer will go to the attraction that gets the best reviews, the word on the street. All you can really do is do your best, and let the public decide what is the best or worst.

Headless Horseman is a great attraction. I'm sure Skull Island, a new attraction is a great attraction as well. Considering its a water park I think Pirates was the dead on choice for a theme!

I hope to see both someday soon!!!

They both sound fun!


10-25-2007, 09:02 AM
I had no idea you were a member of this forum. Iím a major fan from your video series. In my opinion you are the king of detailing. I take a lot of inspiration from you in my set design and themes.
I checked your web site out the other day hoping you guys might be open the first weekend in November, because I was going to drag my haunt weary butt north to check out the Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately you arenít, but maybe one October soon Iíll be able to get up that way.


10-25-2007, 10:49 AM
As ususal the internet ha sno way of really showing "emotion" in typed letters and words. In no way did I ever mean to bash other haunts. Anyone who actually knows me...a la... McCurdy,his crew, Kirchner, etc knows that I rather hear honest opinions about anything I built...so as I can make them better if something is truly wrong or off. I hate it when people see someones work..think its lacking, but proceed to blow smoke up their ass and tell them its great. Thats an insult in my book. I dont blow smoke...I'v ealways been honest about what I see at haunts...but like to be constructive in my criticizm.

Because of the percieved bashing I apparenty gave to haunts that compete in the same market as where I work...I have deleted the postings I made. But I stand by what I said.Its was only an opinion.just like the opinion made that the last 2 haunts at headless this year were lacking.

I stated what I saw ( in MY opinion) at Skull Island and at what I saw from a private tour with other Headless employees of Kevin McCurdys Haunted Mansion at the end of a night where he was open and the haunt for which I work was not.

Skull Island is a great attraction and is presented very well. And Kevin and his Crew can be great at all the little details that we should all have in our haunts.I'm a pirate fan with a very detailed pirate costume of my own, so I do know that pirates CAN be scary...when made scary.

I take great pride in providing the same detailing and quality to any and all haunts I have worked on or at ( the list is long) at any point in time. These include the ones I used to built with McCurdy and his crew years ago, and for the past 5 years has been Headless Horseman. I'm a humble person, but... I know that I do get defensive when people question the levels of detail I myself hand apply to scenes, sets, props,etc. Wouldnt anyone? check out the photo albums on my personal myspace accounts...plenty of photos of Headless's haunts this season.

Anything I have said is my opinion and not that of anyone elses associated with Headless.

I appologize to you Kevin for feeling your involvment was necessary. A seen here in the past and again in the present...these forums are a great source for information....but apparently not opinions of haunts between haunters.I also apologize to Larry for having to jump in to this thread which got out of hand.

Sincerley regretting responding to anything on here...ever,

Rob Corsino

Production Designer/ Make-up Dept. Supervisor
Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses
Ulster Park NY



10-25-2007, 11:03 AM
As a side note to my original review of the Headless Horseman, please be aware that we love ALL haunts and are very grateful for all the hard work that is put into them. Without a doubt, we will again make the drive up north to visit Headless Horseman within the next year or two.

10-25-2007, 02:35 PM

You have nothing to apologize for... everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

I actually agree with you that sometimes people read more into what you're saying than what you're really saying... totally agree!!!

If you're standing in front of someone and just talking you can explain what you mean a lot better than a message board. I understand what you're saying.

I think your posts are very insightful and I agree that sometimes what you say can be misunderstood. Don't worry about it!!!


10-26-2007, 08:08 AM
Headless Horseman has been growing in leaps and bounds over the past 5 years of its 15 year life.Each of the haunted houses is now over double the square and cubic footage they had in the past and some are perminent structures as opposed to modular tent shows.

We are making every effort to improve the quality of customer experiences.From the time they park their car to the time they return to it we want the customers to feel that they got they best and most bang...er...Boo for their buck.From hiring more and more "field specific" professionals; building custom props, costumes,and creatures not available anywhere else; to adding more tractors and wagons for the hay ride.Online reservations and ticket sales and expanded giftshops.Even forming an actors guild type group for year long involvment for our veteran performers.

Can I ask in more detail about what was lacking in our haunted houses when you attended? Was is scenery, actors, ambiance, lighting, animatronics, lack of cobwebs?I'd like to know because it seems that you visit a number of haunts. I would truly like Headless to be worth being in the top 5 haunts like it has been, your view is an outside one and can be very helpfull! Day to day emplopyees get used to seeing the same thing everyday and may not notice needed changes.Your response, wether it be here or in email form ( corsinobusiness@yahoo.com) is eagerly awaited.


Rob Corsino
Production Designer
Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses


10-26-2007, 11:34 AM
Can I ask in more detail about what was lacking in our haunted houses when you attended?

Cow bell! It needs more cow bell!............sorry.