The animalistic howl fills the air. A creature in a home-made mask with large boar tusks barrels toward me on all fours; dirt and dust trailing him like a cloak. Yet, before he reaches me, he crawls through a small hole beneath aluminum sliding and metal grating. I move through a small gate, into another dirt-covered area. The centerpiece to this desert-landscape is a body impaled on a pike, complete with another home-made animal mask. The boar is back, moving around me; and a pig enters the fray. At this point, I realize just how far away from civilization I am – removed from the city lights and surrounded by brilliant stars above – and now, a hoard of animalistic humans on all fours, moving toward me slowly. High Desert Haunted House 2019
High Desert Haunted House is two horror attractions for the price of one: Deadwood Ghost Town and Victoria Manor. Deadwood Ghost Town perfectly recreates the authentic dirty feel of an abandoned ranch in a 12-minute, open-air haunted attraction. Victoria Manor brings guests into the deranged home of a family, for a 15-20 minute intimate experience that is the closest recreation of Rob Zombie’s House of a 1000 Corpses I’ve attended (even more so in spirit than Halloween Horror Night’s version). Together, these two horror attractions bring guests away from the comforts of city and into dirt roads and desert landscape of Apple Valley.
What differentiates High Desert from others is the authenticity. While most haunted houses take place in a theme park or a strip mall, this experience takes place in its namesake: the high desert. Guests will take a dirt road into the unknown until they find a lone sign and a white metal face with a skull painted on it. Once a ticket is bought, guests will enter Deadwood Ghost Town first and then go straight into Victoria Manor. While on a normal night, actors may touch you lightly and provide minor levels of interactivity, High Desert does offer a kid-friendly and an extreme night. The extreme night ups the terror with more contact, increased gore, added cussing, and even the kidnapping of guests from the line. While we did not attend on the extreme night – we do recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit more frightening and don’t mind a drive.
Deadwood Ghost Town
Deadwood Ghost Town is a wild west town full of rod-iron fences and gates, small enclosures and homes, and switchbacks. The path is linear, allowing the inhabitants of Deadwood to utilize passageways and pop-throughs to move in front of and behind you. While most sets are on the bare side, putting full focus on the actors and the desert landscape, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the many masks, mannequins, and monsters adorning the sets.
Guests will enter in a small group and are led through the ghost town by a guide. Our guide was a wonderfully jovial and fun clown, all too excited to use his air horn to add to the scares. And when there was an opportune moment, the guide joined in for a scare. The guide serves one more purpose: He prevents audiences from running into a group ahead of them, or having a group behind catch up. This furthers the feeling of isolation that High Desert Haunted House achieves so perfectly.
While there are only five or so actors throughout the haunt, their passion and high energy ensures that it feels like dozens. And it’s these animals that are truly the highlight. Taking on animal personas, they are, more often than not, on all fours, moving through the desert dirt. Further, these animals are not bound to a given location, allowing them full traversal of all aspects of the haunt. Don’t expect predictable jump-scares here; the scares mostly come from the site-specific nature of the locale combined with actors that feel so eerily creepy that they could actually murder you and bury your body right on the property.
While Deadwood capitalizes on the open-air scares of creatures moving all around you, Victoria places audiences in the tight quarters of a decrepit home. Furthering the theme of authenticity, the décor here is perfectly themed to each room. Don’t expect any cheesy Spirit Halloween decorations here; everything feels real, sourced straight from antique stories, thrift stores, or estate sales to fill their rooms. And while the natural age helps with each prop, their aesthetic is enhanced by a perfect layer of filth on them due to their desert location. This makes the entire manor feel gross, dirty, and even more frightening.
Victoria Manor will also bring more of the classic horror theming to their haunt with their own take on each. There is a room filled with neon, black-lit dolls, a visceral doctor’s operating room, and a cannibalistic dinner table set for you; but each one is incorporated into the manor and feels like a logical part of it. The actors inside feel like members of an insane family, all with their own likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, and they are happy to share them with you.
One way they ensure the family feels complete is by using both young and old actors. The young actors are enthusiastic, passionate, and endlessly excited to scream at the top of their lungs for you, while the older actors elicit fear and creepiness through movement and dialogue alone. This mixture of both ensures that something will scare you.
Victoria was my favorite of the two due to the grindhouse aesthetic of the haunt. Expert use of lighting helps elevate hallways and draws attention to details in the room. My only wish would be to stay in the rooms longer, exploring the details and care put into each one – and determining if the animals in jars were real or not.
High Desert Haunted House is a different haunted house from any you’ve done – in the best way possible. Bringing you out into the desert and surrounding you with some of the creepiest actors I’ve experienced, the haunt feels isolated and authentic, creepy and terrifying, dirty and filthy. Do yourself a favor and attend on your drive out to Vegas, or while attending All Saint’s Lunatic Asylum. And if you can – align it to an extreme night if possible. You’ll thank us if you make it out of the desert alive.
MORE ABOUT HAUNTING
If you like the above article and want to find more like it, make sure to join our community. If Facebook is your favorite, follow us there and become a part of our groups for Immersive Horror fans and/or Immersive creators. We’re active on Instagram, posting evocative imagery and informative stories to promote our reviews and recollections; follow us there. You can even find us on twitter; click here to follow. For those who want to explore deeper, we have a vibrant Slack community with new event alerts and immediate ticket sale announcements; click here to join. And subscribe to our event calendar to get emails for all or specific events (look for the link right under the calendar)! Finally, we have a newsletter that comes out once a week; click here to sign up.