Higgins Manor: 2016 Review

Higgins Manor, Mission Viejo, CA

As we wind down toward Halloween, we take a trip down to South Orange County to visit a home haunt we have covered for many years in the form of Higgins Manor (full disclosure: it's because I scare there, but also because it's become a great haunt). 

As it labels itself, Higgins Manor is the scariest home haunt in Mission Viejo, which isn't really a huge boast, given the relatively limited amount of home haunts in the area.  But even if you extend the region outward to all of Southern California, Higgins Manor ranks right up there with a lot of them.  Over the years, many guests have come out surprised at the detail and intensity of the maze, comparing it to the likes of Knott's Berry Farm and even hailing it as scarier than major haunted attractions.  Part of this has to do with intimacy--a home haunt can design certain elements and confine spaces more liberally than a major, general population oriented haunt can do.  But the other aspect relates to Higgins Manor's consistent ability to attract great actors and monsters to scare and interact with guests in a memorable manner.

The story this year is similar to past years, with Master Higgins and his henchmen risen from the dead and out to reclaim his land.  This year, the maze has added a bit more interactivity by placing guests in the role of additional prospective henchmen sent by Higgins to kill James Irvine.  The tongue-in-cheek incorporation of real area history into the storyline makes for a fun wrinkle that many guests actually understand.  Through the course of the five to ten minute experience (depending on the speed of the group--and possibly their fear levels), guests pass through the manor itself, out to the Higgins Work Camp and into a saloon, where they encounter a plethora of Higgins henchmen, some rowdy, some hideous, and all twisted and depraved.  All the while, scares, startles, and some surprising improvisational entertainment lurk behind every corner.

Hollywood Gothique wrote a great critique of this year's maze, noting its unique manner of improvisation between actor and guest in many scenes, lending an air of originality to each visit.  Indeed, though the actors have a general conceptual script for each room or scene, they are allowed to riff and take conversations sideways wherever the guests divert them.  This at least allows visitors to be entertained, even if they are not scared, which helps increase appeal.

Just about the only criticism for this year's production has been the longer-than-usual waits near the beginning of each night's run.  Unfortunately, there have been unexpected technical difficulties kicking off each night (including inclement weather), and such is the nature of amateur haunted attractions (and even some professional ones).  But they should smooth over now that the Manor is halfway through this season's run, and the kinks have been ironed out.

In addition, for the third year in a row, Higgins Manor has partnered with Greendog Foundation animal rescue to scare for a good cause.  Although entry into the maze is absolutely free, donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated, and they go directly to Greendog to help rescue and rehabilitate additional furry four legged friends.  This philanthropy is a common thread across many home haunts, and it's nice to see Higgins continuing to participate in raising money for a great cause.

They wait for you at Higgins Manor...

Higgins Manor runs through Halloween from 7-10pm each night.  Halloween Night is easily the most popular night of the run, with neighborhood residents coming out to enjoy a maze that has now become a local tradition.  In its tenth year as a maze and 22nd as a haunted facade period, Higgins Manor continues to thrill and excite!  If you're in the area, swing by for a nice thrill.

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.