Review: Circle of Screams frightens your wallet — and nothing else

Circle of Screams features a clown-themed “Carnival of Fear,” which is presented in 3-D. - Circle of Screams

Our night at Circle of Screams began when the general manager asked our review team to come back in two weeks. He reminded us that it’s opening night and gave us free passes to come back another time.

Instead, we chose to ignore his warning, bracing ourselves for the worst. And in that regard, Circle of Screams didn’t disappoint.

Two things need to be addressed before this review begins:

1. If you advertise a certain date to be your opening night, all the kinks and imperfections should be worked out by then. If not, push back your opening date.

2. Paying customers that attend opening night should be getting the same, flawless show customers will be getting two weeks from now. If not, lower your ticket price.

Neither of those things happened.

We arrived at 7 p.m., just as the sun was setting and when Circle of Screams posted on its Facebook page that its first hayride would begin. Despite numerous “Just one more minute” false starts, our “Hayride of Torture” didn’t depart until 8:20 p.m. That’s an awfully long time to spend doing nothing.

As the hayride began, our narrator, who apparently chose to impersonate Billy Bob Thornton’s character from the movie “Slingblade,” started reading a script from his tablet. (Side note: A bright light during a dark, scary hayride is a total buzzkill.)

As the ride continued, he proceeded to give us a heads-up as to what we will be seeing. And that left us thoroughly confused. Isn’t the whole point of taking a hayride in dark woods to scare you? How is a hayride scary when your narrator is literally telling you what you’re about to see before you encounter it?

And, speaking of scares, were random people just handed masks from a generic Halloween pop-up store and asked to stand in the woods and wave at us? That’s essentially all we encountered during our hayride.

This hayride was so boring that people were actually on their cellphones ignoring a guy running around with a chainsaw (ironically, he was the one actor we encountered that genuinely tried to scare us).

As the hayride ended, we considered bailing on Circle of Screams altogether. One of our reviewers, who has been reviewing haunted attractions for 10 years, said “Hayride of Torture” was the worst haunted hayride she’d ever been on.

We powered through, and we’re glad we did, because while the 3-D “Carnival of Fear” wasn’t scary, it was visually beautiful.

Circle of Screams’ redeemed itself a bit with its “Asylum Vortex” (which is called “Maze of Torment” on your ticket and “Sector 25” on the signs outside the attraction itself). Finally! Actors that were scary!

“Asylum Vortex” actors interacted with us, responded to our interactions with them, and were at the top of their game. The use of misdirection tactics and blinding strobe lights had us finally enjoying ourselves for the first time that night. The light at the end of a very gloomy tunnel.

After the attractions, you can enjoy a horror movie on the big screen, and there were plenty of eats available at the concession stand if you get hungry.

But at $30 per ticket, Circle of Screams is a waste of time and money. We didn’t think Circle of Screams — which last year garnered our worst review out of the 17 places we visited — could get any worse. Somehow, it did. There’s simply no reason to go here.

Within a 20-minute drive, there are two attractions around the same price point that are infinitely better. For $5 more, you can see four flawlessly executed attractions at Reaper’s Revenge. For $5 less, you can be at Dracula’s Forest, which puts on an incredible hayride.

Unfortunately, the only thing scary about Circle of Screams is its ticket price.

Rating: 1 Coffin out of 5

Circle of Screams features a clown-themed “Carnival of Fear,” which is presented in 3-D. of Screams features a clown-themed “Carnival of Fear,” which is presented in 3-D. Circle of Screams

Circle of Screams

Address: 1911 Scranton Carbondale Highway, Dickson City, PA

Details: or 570-489-5731

Attractions: Hayride of Torture, Carnival of Fear, Asylum Vortex

Review date: September 18, 2015 (opening day)

Reviewers: Sandy Tomcho, George Spohr, Sarah Haase, Jeric Foulds