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Haunted House of Wax.

Haunted House of Wax

Field review by the editors.

Niagara Falls, New York

Is it possible to build a haunted house too scary for the general public?

Creak, creak, flop. Creak, creak, flop.
Creak, creak, flop. Creak, creak, flop.

It's been done, apparently, on the American side of Niagara Falls.

The Haunted House of Wax opened in 2002, a pet project of long-time Niagara Falls developer Peter Stranges. Grotesque and ghoulish, but affectionately cheesy, the house is populated with nightmarish scenes labeled with title cards in drippy lettering. "Evil Annie likes her meat fresh," declares one, as a young girl gnaws a bloody foot. Other signs matter-of-factly announce half-eaten torture victims, reanimated zombies, and other familiar spook house denizens. "He Fell Into Toxic Waste." He certainly did...

Mark DiFrancesio, who is Peter Stranges nephew, was running the house on the day we visited (He formerly ran the now-shuttered Daredevil Museum). Mark tipped us off on a few things to look for. The guillotine executioner's henchman, for example, is Al Capone (Peter has a supply of celebrity dummies from former attractions). The head of the toxic waste man, said Mark, sometimes falls off, leaving visitors wondering why the lid of his 55 gallon drum pops up as they walk past.

In case you were wondering what happened.
In case you were wondering what happened.

Frankenstein objects to being experimented upon.
Frankenstein objects to being experimented upon.

The most traumatizing exhibit, said Mark, is the "Shake and Bake" electric chair. A hooded, condemned dummy bucks violently in the chair as it shoots loud sparks and pumps out smoke. "That's the one that gets people running down the stairs and right out the door," Mark said. "I have to fix the wall up there again; people get so scared they fall back and put their arms through the wall."

What if everything in the house was as scary as Shake and Bake? There are no live actors to spook you, but a sign outside declares that the house is "fully animated" -- which brings to mind an attraction populated by robots (We've seen one before). Yet most of the corpses and creatures in the house do not wiggle, lurch, or scream.

That's because they've been turned off, said Derek Costello, who was paid by Peter to design the exhibits. "Some of those things haven't been turned on since the day he opened," said Derek, who added that it was a business decision by Peter, who felt that the attraction was too scary. "I told Peter, 'This is a haunted house. That's what you wanted to build. That's what we've got,'" said Derek. "But Peter said, 'It's scaring people away; I can't make money if its scares people away.'" Derek still can't quite fathom it. "Isn't that strange? The better you do things, the worse it is."

Alien autopsy.
Alien autopsy.

Headless Dracula Niagara Falls photo op.
Headless Dracula Niagara Falls photo op.

Derek said he's known Peter for decades, and acknowledged that the Haunted House, when fully operational, has indeed sent people running for the exits, and is pretty horrific. "When those things start screaming and hollering and smoke starts pouring out of them, it gets pretty scary in there."

Is it wasteful to leave so much terror unused? An argument could be made that there are plenty of potential haunted houses on the hardscrabble American side of the Falls (as well as one that's in a category of its own), but the Haunted House of Wax is available now. We hope that Peter will turn the attraction over to a new generation, who can then turn all the twitching, smoking, shrieking fiends and bogeymen back on.

The attraction ends with a unique display unaffected by Peter's horror embargo: a photo-op where visitors can prop their heads on a decapitated Dracula dummy in front of a backdrop of Horseshoe Falls. Derek built it as a macabre spin on the traditional Niagara Falls souvenir shot. "People can take their own pictures," he said, explaining its appeal. "They don't have to pay anybody, so they love it."

Haunted House of Wax

222 Rainbow Blvd S., Niagara Falls, NY
Near the falls, on the southwest corner of Rainbow Blvd and Old Falls St.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Niagara Wax Museum of History: Lincoln's Haircut ChairNiagara Wax Museum of History: Lincoln's Haircut Chair, Niagara Falls, NY - < 1 mi.
Creation Story Turtle BuildingCreation Story Turtle Building, Niagara Falls, NY - < 1 mi.
Twist O' The MistTwist O' The Mist, Niagara Falls, NY - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Niagara Daredevil: Look Up, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada - < 1 mi.

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