My middle-age freakout in the haunted forest – Panic Point is terrifying

Haunted Houses: How does Panic Point in Youngsville rate?

Intrepid reporter Josh Shaffer reviews haunted houses and corn mazes throughout the Triangle, running from now to Halloween.
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Intrepid reporter Josh Shaffer reviews haunted houses and corn mazes throughout the Triangle, running from now to Halloween.

Editor’s note: Throughout October, Josh Shaffer is reviewing some of the Triangle’s haunted attractions. This is the first: Panic Point in Youngsville.

At about 11 on Saturday night, I staggered out of Panic Point soaked in the sweat of prolonged heebie-jeebies, nerves shot from the howling dead, ears buzzing with the roar of chain-saws.

As a middle-age dad, I’ve vowed to endure every haunted house, bewitched corn maze, spooky patch of woods and pitch-black porta-john in the Triangle – rating each with a “Scare Score” of 1 to 5.

As a public service, I will venture into every slaughterhouse splattered with fake blood, every hay ride bumping through a field of ax-murderers and every cramped passageway made terrifying by thumps and clanks, strobe lights and teenagers.

My motto: Scream louder than they do.

And after the first foray into the sprawling zombieland that is Panic Point, I marvel at developments in the art of scaring people. If haunted attractions were a machine, these people made a Swiss watch.

The scare score

Panic Point rates a solid 4 of 5 hockey masks. Without giving too much away, this Youngsville haunt will lead you into total darkness and a green fog of disorientation. Spaces get tight enough for both shoulders to touch walls. At one point, I got totally lost, groping around inside a structure I can’t describe without spoilers.

Creatures at Panic Point will never touch you, but they will certainly spring out of the blackness or – worse – creep up from behind. Expect loud noises of every variety, depictions of homicidal insanity and prolonged states of anxiety. Extra points for – all right, one spoiler – a haunted washing machine.

The vexation value

This is no 2-minute carnival ride. For the full $35 package of fear, I spent two hours at Panic Point and fled without experiencing the howling hayride. The haunted forest stretches over half a mile and features dozens of frightful creatures, winding through every horror movie scenario imaginable and more settings I’d never considered capable of a haunting.

Inside the forest and – creepier still – the dark woods, the marathon scariness felt to me like a roller-coaster ride that pushed a notch beyond my G-force tolerance. And for fear-seekers with a lower tolerance and lighter wallet, Panic Point offers a $19 forest-only ticket. Parking is dark but free.

Too creepy for kids?

Neither my 10-year-old son nor my 10-year-old self would tolerate Panic Point. Children younger than middle-schoolers could probably handle the Menacing Maze and some of the carnival games, notably the Zombie Shootout. Beyond that, I’d leave them at home waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

In all, Panic Point offers a high bar of insanity. The care given to tiny details, the assault on multiple senses and the extent of the macabre layout add up to uncommon quality. Panic Point’s only fault – long waits in line – show proof of this.

Panic Point

Location: Panic Point is on Cedar Creek Road in Youngsville, not far from U.S. 1 north of Wake Forest.

Cost: Tickets range between $19 for the haunted forest and $35 for the full package of fear. VIP options are available for skipping lines.

Hours: It is open mostly Friday and Saturday nights until Nov. 4, with more dates available closer to Halloween. The ticket booth opens at 7 p.m. and closes at various times, depending on the day. See www.raleighhauntedhouse.com for details.

Josh’s tips: See Panic Point’s website for days that typically bring regular crowds or heavier crowds. Arrive earlier to experience more attractions, always two hours before the published closing time, which is often midnight. You’ll likely be assigned a number for the haunted forest, so take in the smaller, less-crowded attractions during the wait.