If you’ve ever read this blog before, for either recreational or self-torture purposes, you might know that I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with haunted houses. Some might even consider it to be a glaring character flaw.
I’m lucky to live in Pittsburgh (and that’s one of the few times I will ever say that) because this region is popping off with haunts every October. While I’m sure it’s possible to go to every single one if you have the time (and money!), I try to mix it up every year. But there is one that is always in my official lineup, and that’s my beloved Castle Blood. I first went to this one in 1996 with my mom, and it’s been in my repertoire ever since.
(I think my favorite time ever was when I met Andy from Child’s Play there. Swooning for days.)
This is Castle Blood’s second year in its current location—an abandoned funeral home in Monessen. A funeral home, you guys. This joint is naturally creepy! Henry, Chooch, and I brought Janna and Kara with us on opening weekend. It was Kara’s first time visiting the Castle, and I was really stoked for her to experience it because it is absolutely unlike any other haunted house around. They don’t rely on blood and gore, or chainsaws and puking animatronics. Instead, what they have in spades is brilliant story-telling, originality, and a committed cast that never break character and will back hecklers into a wall with their human-hating snark and impeccably-timed ab-libbing skills. You might think you’re just buying a ticket for a haunted house, but you’re getting a little slice of theater, too.
(My current favorite denizen is Shard. He is a fiendishly blasé, apathetic vamp; getting past him requires one to practically wade through his ennui. Don’t eff with Shard, you guys. He’s not in the mood.)
The Castle Blood storyline changes every year, but the premise remains the same: in the beginning, your group is given three talisman to collect, and then you’re sent through the Castle, where you interact with various denizens who are there to reluctantly assist you on your quest.
This is an intelligent game, one that behooves the player to pay attention and engage their brain, not their vocal chords. And while I consider myself to be at least mildly astute, Castle Blood never fails to reduce me to a giggling airhead. This time around, we were told to find the bone, the stone, and the crone. “What’s a crone?” I whispered to Janna.
“It’s an old lady,” she patiently told me. This is why we’ve been friends for 20+ years — she has a boatload of patience.
Meanwhile, Kara was looking for a hood ornament the whole time, because she thought it was “chrome.” And Chooch thought it was “crumb.” It’s a good thing we had Janna with us. Even though she has a million college degrees and couldn’t open Gravely Macabre’s puzzle box so we didn’t win the game. Thanks a lot, Janna!
Professor Scrye, silently judging my mortal inadequacies.
After her maiden voyage through the Castle, Kara was inspired to come back with her kids, Harland and Theo, and husband Chris for the no-scare matinee that Castle Blood offers on select Sunday afternoons. We met them out there with Chooch’s two friends, Olivia and Sophia. Harland and Olivia were a little leery of entering the Castle, but they keep the lights on for the matinees, there are no jump scares, and the denizens pass out candy! And the kids still get to go on the quest, so they still get a taste of the true spirit of the haunt.
Before we went in, I told Chooch to let the other kids do all of the volunteering parts, since he was just there and also, HE ALWAYS HOGS THE ATTENTION. He said he was cool with that, but I could tell it was absolutely killing him to not shoot his arm into the air and cry, “Oooh, oooh! Pick me!” and I could see him twisting and contorting his lips as he struggled not to blurt out the answers to questions.
I can only imagine how annoying he must be in school.
The matinee is the perfect stepping stone into the haunted house scene. We started taking Chooch when he was 2 and it wasn’t much longer after that when he said he felt ready to go to the real thing. Plus, it’s a way cooler alternative to the obligatory pumpkin patch field trip.
The kids took the quest very seriously (and Kara’s other son, Theo, took the job of choosing candy very seriously!). It’s impressive how well the cast is able to bait and hook the attention of the younger set. (And mine too, for that matter.)
Gravely with one of the few mortals he can tolerate.
Henry has since replaced me with this younger broad with no gray hairs.
Afterward, Sophia mentioned that she wants to go back at night, and Kara told me a few days later that Harland drew a maze with a bone, stone, and crone in it—the next generation of Castle Blood fans!
If you’re local to the Western PA area and want a unique Halloween experience, I highly recommend it. Additional info can be found on their website. And if you don’t have time to get there this Halloween season, they usually do Christmas and Valentine tours too, so keep your eye on their website or like them on Facebook. Tell them Chooch sent ya!