Looking for descriptions and reviews of the Halloween haunted houses at Fright Nights at the PNE’s Playland in Vancouver? Here’s where you’ll find them!
In 2023 Fright Nights happened on select dates between October 6th and October 31st. For the attraction’s official website, visit frightnights.ca.
Some are slightly better than others, but all are impressive and of a very high standard.
Warning: This article is not for the squeamish (and neither, obviously, is the actual Fright Nights’ attraction)!
Haunted Houses at Fright Nights
Vancouver’s PNE is famous for its haunted houses in October in the run up to Halloween. At the 18-day event there are live shows, about 20 different amusement rides and dozens of characters in costume wandering around the venue. The highlight of the event, however, is the PNE’s set of amazing haunted houses!
In 2023 Fright Nights ran on October 6-8, 13-15, 18-22 and 25-31. The attraction opened at 6:00 pm and ran until between 11:00 pm and midnight depending on the day.
For general information about Playland at Halloween, including admission prices, click PNE Fright Nights. For a list of Fright Nights’ tips and to learn about the attraction’s history, click Fright Nights Tips & History. For a description and general review about each of the haunted houses, see below … if you dare!
Fright Nights Video
The following video shows scenes from Fright Nights in 2023. It includes scenes from inside VOID as well as the Keepers Doll Factory. It also shows the outside of a couple of other haunted houses, plus what some of the roaming characters look like.
Fright Nights Overview
Which is the best haunted house at the PNE’s Fright Nights? We’ll tell you our thoughts, but in the end you decide!
Below is a detailed description of each of the PNE’s various haunted houses. Continue reading through the entire article, or click any of the following links to jump to a specific house.
The Haunted Houses
The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion is the same haunted attraction you’ll find at Playland in the summer that’s been a feature of the PNE since 2009, but with a few minor modifications plus a small team of live actors.
If you’re looking for a real haunted house, this is it. Unlike the PNE’s other Halloween attractions, it’s actually a house. The Haunted Mansion has rooms just as you’d expect in a decrepit Victorian residence, as well as a coterie of ghosts and psychotic characters.
In the home there are hallways with pictures on the walls where creatures pop out from behind, someone preparing a bloody and gruesome meal in the kitchen, hanging bodies you need to push your way through, loud bangs and blasts of air at your legs, a skeleton on a toilet in the bathroom and various other creepy scenes. The mansion also has a more-than-average selection of older mechanized creatures.
Similar to the Darkness haunted attraction, the Haunted Mansion has a Back Story that provides background context to the setting. The short narrative explains that the house was the home of Dr. Luther Van Horn and his wife Nora. The two were very much in love, but when Nora died the doctor went mad and devoted the rest of his years trying to bring her back to life, or at least communicate with her in the afterlife.
Although arguably the least original of Playland’s Halloween “houses,” because it’s a “house,” the Haunted Mansion is definitely one of our favourites. There aren’t so many live actors inside – usually only four or so – but they are great. The attraction is good in the summer, but even better at Halloween! The lineups can be long though, but, in our opinion, it’s well worth at least a half-hour wait.
TIP #1: Similar to a couple of the other houses, the lineup for this attraction gets especially long as the evening progresses. It can be a good one to visit earlier in the evening.
TIP #2: While waiting in line, read the Back Story. It’ll help kill time (yes, pun intended) and add context to the attraction and its theme.
Warning: Similar to the Darkness haunted attraction, the Haunted Mansion has strobe lights as well as a spinning tunnel at the end that you have to walk through. If you’re hyper sensitive to flashing lights or don’t like spinning tunnels, this house isn’t for you.
The Bloodshed Haunted House
New since 2017, Bloodshed is the latest haunted house at Fright Nights. It’s thoroughly gross and lives up to its name – it’s a large dilapidated shed-like cabin full of bloody scenes! The building’s approximately 2,400 square feet of space is full of dead and mutilated bodies, torture devices and an overabundance of blood and gore.
Think of Bloodshed as a human butcher shop-themed wax-museum in a giant barn-like structure full of rooms and passageways. There are mutilated bodies, body parts oozing blood, ligaments sewn back together in different configurations and tortured human remains. There are also copious amounts of blood and guts, an alien, fat blob characters and a surprisingly realistic-looking multi-eyed body of slime on a wall.
As we walked through Bloodshed during our visit in a previous year it felt like the floors in sections were slightly sloped, which added to the creepy and warped atmosphere of the attraction. At the exit there is fake smoke outside and live-actor creatures to welcome you back to reality.
Some of the scenes in Bloodshed, although shocking, overly gory and utterly repulsive, are also actually quite impressive. Most of the characters, and not just the live-actor ones, are highly realistic and of movie-set standards. A fair bit of money and creativity went into this haunted house’s creation!
In short, Bloodshed is both repulsive and impressive. It’s not a “haunted” place like some of the other houses – it’s more a series of gruesome horror scenes. Quality-wise, in our opinion, it’s probably the best haunted house at Fright Nights. It’s also one of the most disturbing.
If you don’t like the sight of blood, then Bloodshed isn’t for you. And if you’re squeamish or have never visited a serious haunted house before, this one isn’t the best to do first. Save it for later in the evening, although not too late as the lineups get increasingly scary.
The Darkness Haunted House
Darkness is another of Fright Nights’ four older haunted houses. Inside are skeletons and dark passage ways, creatures popping out of places, wolves, cobwebs, skulls embedded in the walls and mummified creatures.
The Darkness attraction appeared to us slightly darker than other haunted houses, but not by a lot.
Things to be aware of in Darkness are the spinning tunnel and the strobe lights. Both can be fun, unless you suffer from motion sickness or are prone to seizures.
The Darkness haunted house has a “Back Story,” which is a background narrative on the Fright Nights’ website about the attraction. The story describes a graveyard from centuries ago where an entire village of people sacrificed their blood to save a young girl from a demented man. In so doing the Angel of Death damned their souls to the world of Darkness (where you can now conveniently encounter them all at Fright Nights).
TIP #1: While you’re waiting in line, to kill time (pun intended) and to provide context to what you’re about to see and enhance the experience, read the Back Story.
TIP #2: If you don’t like the idea of walking along a pathway in a circular tube where the walls are spinning around and making you feel like you’re spinning too, you might want to avoid this haunted house. Just before we entered a couple of years ago a teenage boy went running out in a panic saying he couldn’t go in – he knew the tunnel would make him too dizzy, and possibly sick, and that there was no way he’d be able to make it to the other end. Fortunately the spinning tunnel is at the very start of the attraction, so it’s easy to back out if you don’t like it. On the downside, however, it’s no fun waiting in line for up to an hour or more to then turn around and not go in.
The Fear Haunted House
Fear is a haunted house introduced in 2012 that plays on people’s genuine fears. It’s not a ghost house. It doesn’t have a haunted theme. There isn’t lots of blood and gore. There are spiders though, and snakes, and simulations of high places, and various other things that people have legitimate phobias of.
In Fear there are a few scary monsters and gruesome scenes, but also germs, cockroaches, a psychotic dentist, ferocious animals and even a dirty toilet or two. Similar to many of the other haunted houses, there are also flashing and blinking lights, which people who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy might also be afraid of.
In past years we’re told that Fear included a coffin that people had to climb inside. They did away with that in 2017, however, in part because it proved too traumatic for some fright seekers, and in part because the process took too long and slowed down the line.
Fear is a popular haunted house for a number of reasons, including because it’s so different. For some people it won’t be as scary as some of the other houses. For others though, it’ll be truly terrifying. Unless you are really and truly deathly afraid of rats, snakes or spiders, we recommend checking it out.
For an idea of what to expect at the Fear attraction (minus the coffins), watch the video below.
The Materia Medica Haunted House
Introduced to Fright Nights in 2009, Asylum was one of the PNE’s four most original and oldest haunted houses. It used to be located not far from the Corkscrew Roller Coaster and Revelation ride, and was one of Playland’s most popular October attractions. It featured scenes of tortured and demented individuals, psychotic doctors and various ghastly scenes.
Unfortunately, Asylum wasn’t featured at Fright Nights in 2022 and it isn’t returning in 2023 either. However, the new Materia Medica haunt seems similar. For an idea of what to expect, continue reading for details about Asylum from previous years.
Asylum was a mental institution right out of a twisted horror movie. It had people screaming, medical staff torturing their patients, characters in restraints and all kinds of tormented souls. In one room there were bodies hanging like carcasses from the ceiling which you had to push your way through.
As far as haunted houses go, Asylum was a good one, but not actually one of our favourites, although it was a favourite of many. In fact, in 2016, Asylum was the #1 most popular attraction at Fright Nights with more than 45,000 guests over the course of the season.
One of the scariest parts of the Asylum was a balloon-bladder-kind-of-thing that you had to squeeze yourself through. If you were in any way claustrophobic, you probably hated the Asylum’s squishy balloon-bladder passageway (and possibly ended up in a real institution yourself as a result of the trauma)! We did eventually survive the experience without any permanent damage though, as did most other people.
In short, Asylum was a bit of a twisted haunted house that most people loved but for us was about average, or slightly less than average, compared to the other PNE options. That being said, next time we go to Fright Nights we’ll still do the Materia Medica, which appears to be similar to Asylum but with a different name!
TIP: Given that Asylum has been the PNE’s most popular haunted house in past years, Materia Medica is probably a good one to visit early in the evening, before the lineups get overly scary!
The Keepers Doll Factory
The Keepers Doll Factory was introduced in 2014 and has been a Fright Nights hit ever since. At 3,600 square feet in size, it’s the largest haunted house at the PNE and involves numerous mannequins, dolls and hanging bodies.
In the Keepers Doll Factory there are strobe lights, smoke machines, screaming sounds and other loud noises. There are also porcelain faces, a theatre of zombies and characters with masks, scars and missing limbs. The theme is occultist.
The special effects in the Keepers Doll Factory, in our opinion, aren’t the best relative to some of the other haunted houses, but it’s also not fair to compare rooms full of creepy department store mannequins with wax-museum and movie-production-quality creatures elsewhere. Both are effective in their own ways.
At the start of the Keepers Doll Factory you go into a simulated elevator where on a screen you watch the elevator go up, in a jerky-kind-of-way, and then go crashing down. It’s well done and pretty effective. The floor bounces around a lot too, which adds to the experience, although it can make it hard to stand and not so good for people with balance issues or foot or leg injuries.
Similar to Darkness and the Haunted Mansion, the Fright Nights’ website has a Back Story about the Keepers Doll Factory that’s worth reading before you go in. In it the narrative mentions the existence of a group of cloaked men with a mysterious stone tablet called “Diabolus Corporibus.” It also describes an abandoned church and people with missing limbs and sewn-up mouths. It goes on to tell about a sinister group’s practice of cutting off people’s body parts, like arms and legs, and sewing them back onto other people.
The Doll Keepers Factory is a pretty good haunted house, as far as haunted houses go, but best if you first read the story behind it.
The Carn-Evil Haunted House
Carn-Evil used to be a haunted house at Fright Nights. It was a 3D experience featuring dozens of scary face-painted psychopaths with wigs, clown scenes, a maze of mirrors and a carnival-themed horror movie atmosphere. There were evil-looking clown characters throughout, flashing lights, decapitated clown heads, honking sounds and live actors who blended into the decor and seemingly came out from nowhere.
Carn-Evil wasn’t featured as a haunted house in 2022. It was a scare zone instead. However, in 2023 Carn-Evil returns as a haunted house! This year’s version has humanoid creatures in sewers. The beings encounter radioactive waste and grow and multiply.
The Void Haunted House
New for 2023, The Void is a set to resemble caves and forests in the Pacific Northwest, but with creepy beasts lurking in the dark. The attraction’s story involves a forest ranger and hikers who all go missing. It’s up to you to find them all in this outdoor-themed haunted house.