Dead Time Dreams, San Jose, CA
This week, our haunted adventures head up north with a look at some Bay Area Halloween attractions. Here in Southern California, we're pretty blessed with a plethora of haunted attractions of all types and sizes, from traditional theme park haunts to immersive haunted theater to home haunts to standalone operations. In San Jose, however, the options are a little more limited. But one of the choices available is Dead Time Dreams, a haunted attraction with two mazes (each one a new theme every year) and a central carnival area. We stopped by last Friday to check out this haunt in east San Jose and see what it has to offer.
Midway of Terror
The "Midway of Terror" is basically the central waiting area for guests queued up for the two mazes. Housed under a big tent structure, it features creepy clowns and ominous creatures, plus the ticket booth, a small marketplace, and a few props and displays. There's nothing necessarily fancy here, but the street talent provide some fun distractions and entertainment as they prey on the more timid.
The first of the two mazes we tried out was River Styx. This maze featured a Greek Underworld theme, with ghoulish creatures roaming about, presided over by Hades overlooking his realm. Our two trips through were somewhat odd, in that the first trip seemed to catch the talent unaware, perhaps not expecting guests in right at time of opening, while the second trip saw them ready to scare but without anything particularly noteworthy. Although there was some energy and attempts to startle, they were mostly the generic pop-and-go type, with little continued interaction. A few of the scare actors did appear to carve out more developed characters--a totally-not-Beetlejuice greeter at the head of the maze was pretty entertaining with his quips. One of the monsters in the labyrinth in the back half hilariously waved a mallet while almost childishly proclaiming, "die, die, die..." Most notable was Hades himself, boisterously proclaiming our doom while looking down upon us from his throne. He was a great talent to behold, aiding in distractions with his speeches.
While some areas did have theatrical lighting, this maze also seemed to be noticeably underlit, resulting in multiple missed opportunities. The entire back half of the maze was mostly drab, illuminated only by whatever other ambient light sources were on the site. It would have been nice to have more alternating areas of glare and shadow, which could provide more hiding places for the talent or distractions for the guests. There even appeared to be a few props that were set up to drawn people's attention--but they weren't lit to do so. And so, ultimately, River Styx turned out to be a rather average--some interesting bits here and there, and certainly not bad, but not particularly memorable. Our early arrival may have played a part in this, especially since this proved to be the less popular of the two mazes during the hour-plus we were visiting, giving less chances for the talent to warm up. Still, there seemed to be several areas where the maze design and theming could have offered more for the talent as well. It felt a little bit incomplete, especially (as you'll see) placed next to the other maze.
Fortunately, the other maze more than made up for our somewhat lackluster opening half. DETHWORX, or DETHWORXS (the first is how the web site spells it; the second was how the sign at the maze depicted it) was positively fantastic, brimming with much more eye candy and much more intense and interacting talent. Themed to a sort of post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque world where people are subject to gruesome and radical experiments (and they're always looking for more subjects) was a prototypical slasher/killer gorefest. But it played out excellently.
Like River Styx, DETHWORX(S) featured an entertaining barker greeting and conversing with guests as they waited, laying out the backstory and explaining the maze rules while also grouping and pacing guest entry. Once inside, we noticed that the sets and theming seemed to be far more developed compared to this maze's counterpart. The talent was also distributed more evenly. In addition, each one seemed to perform with a jagged edge, invading personal space for discomfort and continuing interactions or coming back for chase-down scares to add variety to how the startles came out. The whole maze seemed significantly more polished than River Styx, and whether that was due to our timing or chance or actual effort and input, we ended up enjoying DethWorX(S) significantly more than River Styx.
When we first pulled up to the lot that contains Dead Time Dreams, I thought the area had a sort of Fleshyard vibe--but on steroids. Like The Fleshyard, Dead Time Dreams is located in a pumpkin patch with several inflatable attractions aimed more toward families and children. But whereas The Fleshyard occupies a relatively small corner lot and only has a few non-haunt attractions, the ABC Pumpkin Patch has literally dozens of bounce houses, bounce slides, inflatable playgrounds, and games. It was pretty amazing to see, and for those who prefer a much less frightening time, this is a pretty cool alternative in the same location!
Dead Time Dreams is located across the street from the Eastridge Mall and next to the Reid-Hillview municipal airport. Parking is free, though the lot can be quite crowded due to the popularity of the pumpkin patch. There's also street parking on the non-airport side of Swift Lane. Regular admission for both mazes is $20, while a V.I.P. package that includes front-of-line access, a gold wristband, Dead Time Dreams laminate, and the chance to scare other guests with a remote controlled air cannon located inside one of the mazes will run $10 more. This attraction runs on weekends through Halloween. For more information, visit the Dead Time Dreams' official web site.
Overall, Dead Time Dreams is a fun haunt that offers some pretty nice scares. It's pretty impressive that the mazes are different and unique every year, making this one of the more prominent haunted attractions in San Jose itself. From a theming and quality standpoint, I wouldn't put this haunt on a 17th Door or Reign of Terror Level. It's probably a step or two below those ultra-immersive attractions and comparable to The Fleshyard or Coffin Creek. But it's still a solid Halloween event, and for those in the Bay Area looking for a scare, it's a great accompaniment to California's Great America's Haunt and Winchester Mystery House's Hallowe'en Candlelight Tours.
Speaking of those two, look for updates from their spooky, autumn events in the upcoming days!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.