As part of this year’s “haunts and horrors” series, we recently paid our very first visit to The Shallow Grave, a seasonal attraction located in Winter Haven. Housed within a nondescript building just off the beaten path, The Shallow Grave is a treasure trove of horrifically gruesome surprises.
The exterior of the attraction is deceptively sedate, with little to betray the terror that lurks within. Aside from a holographic logo reflected on the wall, and a beautifully grotesque, hulking animatronic beast, there isn’t much allusion to the event’s extensive wonder. Ultimately, this one churning, captivating figure sets the stage for the Shallow Grave standard, as the first of many high-quality, impressive animatronics you’ll encounter during your visit.
The Shallow Grave consists of two “houses”, which really equate to the length of four or five average haunted attractions. While exploring each, I kept expecting the end of my journey at every turn, only to find the twisted paths continuing mercilessly onward. Although I am typically the type to move rather rapidly through a haunted house, each room and section of the houses at The Shallow Grave held so many props and mysteries, that I felt compelled to pace myself and explore a bit more than I usually would. It was much like wandering through heavily detailed movie sets, with every bit as much painstaking effort as you might expect from high-budget films. The amount of financial investment and painstaking planning that went into the development of the houses is simply undeniable, and incredibly profound.
One thing that we especially appreciate about The Shallow Grave is the brilliant use of misdirection and successful incorporation of surprise elements. Rather than relying on simple, traditional jump scares, the fear factor stems from much more clever tactics. The horrors are generally in plain sight, but they blend in to the surroundings so shrewdly that the scares are much more jarring, and they’re impossible to avoid. As you weave through the rooms, you’ll notice that it becomes nearly unfeasible to differentiate between props and people. Even some of the props are triggered for movement, so there really is no clarity of what is real and what is not. You’ll find yourself doing repeated triple-takes as your brain tries to process what you just encountered. “Threats” arise from every angle, using witty placement and maximizing space. Even if you had eyes in the back of your head, you couldn’t expect to see them all before they strike… maybe, not even after! Where some haunted houses leave you giggling nervously, The Shallow Grave finds you tense and panting with true anxiety and self-doubt. You’ll barely have time to comprehend what you’ve just witnessed or recover from an encounter before the next mind-bending horror reveals itself.
The Shallow Grave includes Vengeance Blood Moon and Pavor Nocturnus, two very distinctive houses with contrasting themes.
Vengeance Blood Moon leads you through the property of the fearsome Thaddeus in the murky swamps as he prepares for a bitter battle with vindictive blood-thirsty witches to which he owes a blood debt. Of course, many perceived terrors exist within woodsy, swamps settings naturally – but this trail takes an already spooky scene and amplifies it immeasurably with horrifying twists and next-level enhancements of the supernatural kind.
Pavor Nocturnus is the stuff of nightmares. In fact, “pavor nocturnus” literally translates into “night terrors”. Everyone will certainly find inner torment within these walls, as you transition from one horrid reality to the next – one phobia to the next. Whatever you’re afraid of, you will undoubtedly face it head-on, and if you’re the type to harbor numerous phobias, this house just may be your worst nightmare… in a wonderfully brutal way.
The Shallow Grave is open Fridays and Saturdays through November 5th. The attraction opens at 7:30PM, until 11:30PM on Fridays and midnight on Saturdays. Tickets are available for purchase in advance online, or on-site for just $24.99 (or $39.99 for front-of-line access), and this price includes both houses. Parking is just $2. The Shallow Grave also just announced plans for a Christmas-themed haunt coming this December – “Pieces on Earth”. Tickets are already on sale for this exclusive event, at just $19.99. Watch for additional details on The Shallow Grave website and Facebook. The Shallow Grave is easily one of the most elaborate and intense horror attractions around, and one that will surely challenge even the bravest of souls. Make this one a priority this Halloween (and Christmas) season!