Haunt Review: The 13th Gate
Whenever you read a top ten list for haunted houses in the U.S., there is approximately a 95% chance that the 13th Gate will be on that list and a better than 50% chance it will be number 1.
It is for a very damn good reason.
The 13th Gate is the quintessential event haunt. It’s the top tier of haunted attractions, a large, expensive production that everyone feels they have to go to at least once. It’s a haunted house known by those who don’t even care about haunted houses and one such people regularly attend. It’s the kind of place that always has a long line out the door and draws people from all over the country, if not the world.
However, this is not an unearned reputation. Midnight Productions, the makers of the 13th Gate, have turned Baton Rouge in the haunt capital of southeast Louisiana, if not the entire country, and it does everything to ensure that it keeps that reputation intact, making it the best haunted attraction possible.
But how good is it? Read on to find out.
The 13th Gate is an incredibly well-rounded haunt that starts wowing from the moment you buy your ticket. Even as you wait in line for the “Hellevator” there are actors interacting with you, props to look at (including animatronics) and a general atmosphere that is down to every detail.
The Hellevator itself is something of a hallmark of the attraction and is a stroke of genius on two fronts. Somewhat reminiscent of Disney’s “Tower of Terror” ride, the Hellevator confines you and your group members in a tight car as it simulates an insane elevator ride, all narrated by an extremely talented and creepy operator. Though it’s an incredible experience on its own, it has a practical function, breaking the lengthy line into manageable groups and sending them on their way. This increases the feeling of isolation and makes what follows much scarier (especially for the guy behind me who literally latched on to me for half of the walkthrough).
The detail in the haunt itself is amazing. Everything is there, including the sudden chill when you walk into the ice cave and hieroglyphics that light up as you walk past them, which felt like it was straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Those are just two subtle examples out of hundreds. Throughout the whole of the haunt, you get the feeling that you walked right onto a movie set, or rather, several of them.
Speaking of movie sets, the actors are incredible too. From the ghouls working the line before the Hellevator to the the greeter at the exit, everyone was on their mark. Especially memorable was a girl who played a wench on the pirate ship that was locked up in a cage. What could have been a simple “eye candy” was taken to another level taunting the crowd constantly, all the while using a perfect (perhaps authentic) cockney accent. As we walked away she ended her dialog, a mix of insults and pleads to be released, with the best line I’ve ever heard in a haunted house, “What do I look like? A bloody monkey!”
But what I think the 13th Gate did best was mix the event haunt style with good, high-quality scares. The problem with event haunts is that, while they tend to be detailed and extravegant, usually aren’t that scary, trading in actual scares for shock value and “oooooh” factor. This one manages to be both beautiful and frightening.
Best of all, with a walkthrough of plus 23 minutes from exit of the Hellevator to the end, the haunt feels like a deal. Where a lesser haunt would be a rip off for $20, I could see it charging $25 or $30 and getting away with it. It’s a $20 ($15 if you go on a Thursday) haunt that is well worth the price of admission.
Though I want to do nothing but rave and sing the highest praises about The 13th Gate, I did have a few minor quibbles I wanted to address.
First, there is pretty much no consistency to the haunt. You roam from scene to scene, room to room pretty much aimlessly the entire time. Yes, everything is gorgeous, detailed and wonderful, but it feels thrown together. I realize that the “theme” of the haunt is that there are 13 different places within it, but there is nothing within the haunt to tie it all together in any way so all of the transitions feel disjunct.
Second, for reasons not wholly clear to me the haunt takes a lot of its elements directly from the movies including a whole section dedicated to the Saw series (which is a poor decision in and of itself) and another focused on Pirates of the Caribbean (please don’t ask me for an explanation of that one). There was no reason for any of the movies to be included, especially since the Saw room borrowed more from Edgar Allan Poe than it did anything else the pirates section could have easily been just that, a generic pirate themed area.
This haunt has the money and the creativity to be completely original. By including these elements, to me at least, it only cheapened the haunt. It took me completely out of the moment and put a damper on those scenes.
Finally, for those who are going through the haunt, I highly recommend that, at the split, you go to the crematorium and not the “little bit wet” side. The reason being that the foam used to get you a “little” wet not only completely soaks you, but gave me and other members of my party problems. I seem to have had a very minor allergic skin reaction to it and my brother in law, who was leading the group through this part, found it hard to breathe and also complained of ill effects.
There was nothing terrible nor did it detract from the event, I just think the night would have worked out better if we had gone the other way.
Without a doubt, The 13th Gate is the best haunted attraction that I have ever been to bar none. The detail is incredible, the actors are spot on and, unlike other event haunts that seem to be just content leading you through a detailed set, this one manages to work in some pretty damn good scares.
The only regrets that I have are A) I didn’t go back through it visit the crematorium and B) I couldn’t stay right then to visit the carnival.
However, there is always next year.
I think this may be the highest score I ever give a haunted attraction. It’s as close to perfect as you can get reasonably. However, given the fact it does shoot itself in the foot in a few places, it doesn’t seem to quite deserve the 10/10. Maybe next year.
Note: I am loathe to do ratings on reviews in general because it can be impossible sum up a complex series of opinions in a number. This is especially true with haunted attractions as your enjoyment of the haunt will depend almost exclusively on what it is you seek. Your mileage will always vary.
The 13th Gate is located at 832 Saint Philip Street in Baton Rouge, almost directly under the I-10 bridge and right near LSU stadium (as we found out when we arrived on a Saturday after the LSU game let out).