Barrett’s Haunted Mansion (4 stars)

Based in Abington, less than an hour’s drive south of Boston, Barrett’s Haunted Mansion was one of the earliest Halloween attractions in New England, and has built a giant following among locals. It’s run by the Barrett family, who also runs the Abington Ale House next door, which is worth a visit when you go. (And you can get a combination discount for.)

You can sense the enthusiasm by the way that even waiting in line for tickets is fun. Nightmare creatures pace back and forth scaring and entertaining you while you wait, and when you get to the ticket booth you’ll find some scares there as well!

The attraction itself has two components. First is The Cell, a maze of jail bars that you can get lost in for a few minutes. While you explore, actors dressed as scary creatures rush you or growl menacingly. The maze contains a few surprises, but isn’t dramatically scary, because you can see the entire room through the bars. Being constructed from similar looking jail cell bars, the maze is a bit ordinary, and thus not as interesting as the maze at Haunted Acres.

Although the actors don’t play out theatrical scenes — like at most haunted attractions they just growl at you — the costuming and makeup are remarkable. Kudos to the kid with the nails in his face who climbed way up to the top of the jail wall and growled down to us from above.

Then you go to the main house, which is much scarier. Barrett’s Haunted Mansion has a new theme every year, so you will always get a fresh experience. This year it is a medical nightmare. They had some simple animatronics and a few scenes, including a patient being tortured. The attraction was very loud and we could not understand what the actors were screaming at us much of the time.

They had a forest room, an ancient Egypt room, and a clown room, and lots and lots of actors. Barrett’s Haunted Mansion is run for charity so their actors are amateurs. You cannot expect to be greeted by Edgar Allan Poe or to witness a murder played out before you, but a good time was had by all. I remember in the past they had an Alice in Wonderland room that I was entranced by, but they did not seem to have as much creativity this year.

Unfortunately, there was a rush to get people through, with many of the creatures shouting to us to get out. So the main house was only 10 minutes long and we spent perhaps 20 minutes at the cell. Because of the sheer number of actors, and the fact that they have two attractions, line walkers, and their own restaurant, I’ll give them 4 stars this year. Also, they bring in actors affiliated with the charities that they’re raising money for, and it’s unfortunate that they can’t do much training, but it’s all for good causes.

Find Barrett’s Haunted Mansion in Abington, Massachusetts, and be sure to visit the nearby Zombie Apocalypse when you are there, which makes the long drive more worth it.