By: Cherran Dea
It was just before twilight when I arrived. The sky was still a soft shade of blush, and Venus was the only visible "star" in the sky. The Florida fall heat lighting was adding to the ambiance, and a sliver of a silver crest was visible, the maturing of a recent new moon. I found this all to be very poetic, as if the universe itself was my companion on an otherwise solo venture to SIR HENRY'S HAUNTED TRAIL.
Located just off of I-4, the sign depicting a maniacally dapper skeleton in a top hat, beckons guests of all ages to indulge in this mysterious experience beyond the trees! The grounds opened promptly at 7:30pm to a sold-out night, and I was surprised by the amount of offerings the haunt had to provide! The grounds include:
The Miklos family invite you to join in their gruesome grand ball, where they're serving a fine vintage indeed, you!
The Captain's Fury of Captain Jonah
After finding his fiancé has taken her own life, the Captain and his fallen crew terrorize the townsfolk of Portsmouth and unsuspecting visitors.
The tale of the insidious Sidious - Hung for stealing and feasting off of the corpses of the dead... returning to feast on the living! Will you be his next victim?
A recommended four-person escape room experience with only an 18 per cent success rate of escaping.
The laser tag arena, which was unfortunately closed during my visit.
Scattered about are food trucks and snack cabins serving shaved ice, corn dogs, and signature food fare, like Sir Henry's Apple Cider Float. A retail porch provides all Sir Henry's swag from T-shirts to house-themed scented candles. And at the center of everything, Sir Henry's grave, placed in the middle of the grounds. The grave is kept by The Storyteller, who shares the legends of Sir Henry's through the night, while ghoulish friends roam the grounds.
In its eight years of operation, Sir Henry's has already created a legacy for itself. Returning fan-favorite characters, such as Pyrum, Vex, and Sir Henry himself, taunt and scare guests as they venture from experience to experience, or as they listen to the Storyteller weave her tapestry of tales!
Pyrum, who carries a "booming" staff adorned with a severed human head, took on a mortal guise to share more about the haunt's history. A team of about four to five people spend about eight months building everything, which is themed completely new every year. He himself helped develop the same-name escape room puzzle, which includes a few surprises and scares as well! He also shared that where Night Marrow stands now, was the location of the original single maze of Sir Henry's.
The haunts, being semi-permanent structures themselves, are constructed to lead you through both inside and outside locations. Night Marrow contained a large portion of its maze within a standing forest, so if the creepy-crawlies of the woods are what terrifies you, this house is sure to give you a fright! Whereas, Captain's Fury gives the illusion of the murky waters beneath a forsaken boating dock. Blood Masquerade parades you through the dilapidated mansion of a deranged family lost in time and reality. To my observation, there wasn't any use of strobe effects within the houses, so those sensitive to flashing lights are safe to attend. However if you are sensitive to loud noises and putrid scents, I would attend with caution.
Captain's Fury pulls out all of the stops! Hydraulics, a plethora of characters, and a grand finale attack all the senses during this house. I even made an un-dead friend whilst bringing up the rear of my group. A poor lost seafaring soul followed me through almost the entire house, creating a sense that if I wasn't careful, I would be the next victim of the Captain's Fury. While Night Marrow felt a little light on scare actors, it made up for this by the eerie stillness of the forest and forgotten corpses that decorated the town.
Blood Masquerade is a perfect blend of fun and chaos! Even though I was running for my life at most turns... part of me wanted to partake in the blood-feasting celebration of another time. Provided outside of each haunt entrance is the house's narrative. This backstory immerses the guests into the experience they are about to embark on. The signs even include a QR code, so that the haunt-goer can read the story while they wait in line. You can also pick up a synopsis handout, located at the Swag Patio.
Let's talk about the emphasis on safety displayed by Henry's. There are many signs that gently remind guests that masks are encouraged. Staff are all donning masks, sans the scare actors within the haunts. However the walk around characters inside the grounds are wearing protective clear face shields. Plant City police are positioned at the front gates and also administer bag checks before you enter. Also, before entering one of the three haunts, staff members remind guests to not touch anything. Scareactors, props, and set dressing included. (Something I wish the big theme park haunt experiences would do!)
The trail operates Friday through Sunday until October 31. The grounds are located at 2837 South Frontage Road, Plant City, FL 33566. Tickets must be purchased in advance! You'll select a time slot, with times ranging from 7:30pm to 10:30pm, and tickets starting at $25, with free parking! (Caution: no refunds unless the event is cancelled.) When you arrive, you'll also receive a colored wrist band. These will coordinate to an order in which guests enjoy the three houses, to keep wait times down and lines/crowds low. While standing in line, I saw a wide variety of ages here to enjoy the haunt. I would recommend this for ages 10 and up. Sir Henry's does operate through the holidays with a family-friendly holiday experience. With that, I'd also like to mention the space reopens for a haunting Valentine experience during the spring months. Follow @sirhenryshauntedtrail on Instagram for all the details.
It thawed my frozen heart to learn about the humble beginnings of this haunt, and how the love and passion of these dedicated individuals contribute to the growing success and ever-changing experiences. If you don't happen to catch all the haunting stories during your visit, don't worry, you can learn all about this motley crew of characters in Amanda Rosenblatt and Brad Acevedo's Sir Henry's Haunted Tales, which can be purchased from the Swag Porch.