The Santa Ana winds howl louder than any soundtrack. A wooden fence adorned with orange Halloween lights is slammed by the invisible force, banging back and forth. To escape the winds, our group takes refuge in a small courtyard. Altered by our presence, Frankenstein’s Monster springs to life, eyes glowing, arms moving. We move through the small cemetery, ghosts springing forth from behind graves and tombstones, until we reach a seven-foot coffin with a single plaque: Here Lies Jason Voorhees. It’s locked tight, but luckily our guide has the key. As he unlocks it, the door groans and slides open, to reveal a long corridor decorated with Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees paraphernalia. caitlin manor
Now in its sixth year, Caitlin Manor is a home haunt on Caitlin St in San Bernardino, CA, with a heavy focus on animatronics, movie IPs, and some innovative scares. However, where most home haunts last anywhere from a short two minutes to a long ten minutes, Caitlin Manor exceeds all expectations by providing over twenty minutes of terror. They achieve this by using all available space outside – from their garage, backyard, and side yard – and then even bring guests into their home (I’m not going to spoil it, but the bar scene is worth the trip alone!). This is all accomplished safely by having two guides with every group: one in front and one behind.
The guides are necessary, too, because this is not your standard walk-through haunted house. Participants will be expected to move through coffins, navigate extremely lengthy and claustrophobic switchbacks, and even crawl through tunnels. The tunnels here are not simply a crawl for a second situation – instead, Caitlin Manor adds extra fear by having guests crawling for minutes, which ends up being so long that they have an entire Annabelle display during part of it. This is easily one of the longest crawling sections I have experienced in any haunted house. Further, the switchbacks are one of the tightest and most claustrophobic in any haunt I’ve attended – and they seemed to continue for at least ten to fifteen switchbacks. The owner engineered them to be tight, but expand based on the guest, so anyone can make it through and have it form-fit to their body. This is highly effective at increasing fear, especially for those who dislike tight spaces.
The sets here are bursting with memorabilia and props, showcasing the love the owners have for this holiday. While something like High Desert Haunted House focuses more on realism and authenticity in their props, Caitlin Manor focuses more on their passion of movies and monsters. Each room is given a theme – from Freddy vs Jason to Annabelle and dolls to zombies to clowns to spiders to snakes. Most of the props are store-bought, with numerous animatronics coming from large retail Halloween stores, but it gives the haunt a certain charm that differentiates it from many others. While the majority is purchased, there is plenty of hand-crafted and unique rooms and sets. One of my favorites was a long black hallway, covered in bloody hand prints. “I can’t get my kids to clean their room, but they’re more than happy to decorate this hallway,” my guide jokes as we walk through it.
The kids he’s mentioning? Well, they are the actors of the haunt. The creator, Augie, coaches sports from football to baseball – and recruits his athletes and neighboring children to help him in his haunt. These kids bring a wonderful passion and enthusiasm to their scares. One actor was bent over backwards in such an unnatural pose that we could have sworn he was an animatronic. Whether the kids are your guides leading you through, or are moving throughout the house to create wonderful jump-scares, they are a truly memorable part of Caitlin Manor.
Finally, to note, Caitlin Manor is a charity for Augie’s daughter. She was diagnosed with metachromatic leukodystrophy, so every dollar earned from the haunt goes into her well-being and care. So, if you’re into a quality haunt or just helping improve someone’s quality of life – this is the perfect haunt for you.
Caitlin Manor is amazing, it’s frightening, and it’s themed perfectly. It’s easily the longest home haunt I’ve attended, and one bursting with personality, love, and passion. It’s a haunt with a mission, which fuels the haunt to be bigger and better with each passing year. I highly suggest taking a trip out to San Bernardino County to find that unassuming home on Caitlin St, and step into their graveyard – because when that coffin opens, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
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