My nerves were high as my two friends and I pulled into the parking lot of Dread Hollow, a next-level haunted house known as Chattanooga’s “Extreme Haunt Attraction.” Both of my friends, Marley and Matt, had experienced haunted houses before; but I never had, and my mind played my possible reactions on a loop. Would I be terrified and scream? Would I have nightmares? I have a big imagination, so it was certainly a possibility.

Nonetheless, the three of us climbed out of the car with excited anticipation. Outside the front entrance, a fire pit spewed fire into the air, already setting the stage for what was to come.

After receiving our tickets, we weaved through a line with spooky decorations. Clowns and other ghost-like people already jumped out at us from behind the set decorations: another premonition of what awaited us inside.

As we approached the closed curtains of what was the beginning of the haunted house, an employee briefed us on the rules, regulations and most importantly: the history of the town of Dread Hollow. According to the legend, the “spilling of the blood of 13 innocents cursed the soil of Dread Hollow” and since then, “evil has been drawn to the town throughout the generations.”

It was then our group’s turn to begin the haunt experience, and we began to pass from one haunted room to the next.

According to the legend, the “spilling of the blood of 13 innocents cursed the soil of Dread Hollow.”

I was immediately struck by the quality and depth of each room’s decoration and detail. There were different scenes from the town, such as: a laundry mat, morgue, butcher shop, hospital, garden and even an entire section made to look like abandoned fairgrounds.

As we weaved through each scene, I was impressed by the use of different realistic elements; including real dripping water, fake blood, lasers and fog machines, animatronics and a combination of dummies and live actors.  

As an actor myself, the use of live actors was definitely one of my favorite parts. Each character we encountered was either a friendly and helpful character, used to direct us to the next leg of our journey and give a false sense of security; or a scary character used for fright and surprise. In each case, the actors were dedicated and professional. And thankfully, respectful. Despite the fact that they got very close to us, we were never grabbed or touched inappropriately.

Another element I enjoyed was the use of elevation throughout the haunt. On two separate occasions, a fake but moving elevator made it seem as if we were traveling to different levels of the building, which distorted our sense of direction and heightened the anticipation.

And while I didn’t scream outright, there were definite moments of surprise. I won’t give away the best parts, but I can say that the scariest moments occurred in the rooms with the lowest light; where my imagination went wild, as we tried to find our way through the cold darkness.

Overall, I enjoyed experiencing something completely new and immersive; the setting felt so real that I could easily imagine I was a part of a horror movie!

Both Matt and Marley agreed that the best part of the experience was the quality and authenticity of the haunt. But Marley thought it could have been scarier if the actor’s hiding places weren’t as obvious. On the other hand, Matt thought it was scary enough; and since scary entertainment isn’t his cup of tea, he also “enjoyed leaving!”

We all three agreed that Dread Hollow is worth the experience, especially for horror junkies and fright-seekers. So if you do dare, gather your favorite (or maybe least favorite) friends, plan a trip to Chattanooga, and experience the haunted town of Dread Hollow.

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