For more than a decade, LEGO has been releasing amusement park ride sets, letting fans slowly assemble a massive minifigure-scale theme park. With the latest set, LEGO has formalized the theme under the heading Fairground Collection, and 10273 Haunted House is the first set to bear that moniker. The Haunted House features all manner of spooky decorations as well as a Tower of Terror-like ride inside its tall spire. The mansion was the home of Baron Samuel von Barron, best known as the dastardly antagonist in the classic Adventurer’s theme. His house is filled with treasures he looted from all around the world and is haunted by the ghost of Pharoah Hotep, whose tomb he disturbed. Available now for LEGO VIP members, the set will be available broadly June 1, retailing for US $249.99 | CAN $299.99 | UK £209.99. It features 3,231 pieces and 9 minifigures, and can be optionally motorized with Powered Up elements.
So let’s take a look and see just how this Victorian manor now hides a terrifying drop ride and other mysteries.
The box and contents
The box is a lovely, minimalist design that features the model on a dark background, unlike the previous amusement park sets which featured an illustrated theme park behind the model. Even more interesting than the lack of a background is the lack of the Creator Expert logo. In fact, LEGO announced that starting with this model, the Creator Expert badge has been retired, though LEGO seems to still internally classify this model as a Creator Expert set. It remains to be seen exactly how LEGO will collectively brand its adult-focused sets outside of IPs–perhaps simply 18+, since these latest sets are the first in LEGO’s history to feature that age rating. As I discussed in the review of the Star Wars helmets, this is much more of a marketing ploy than an actual reference to the build difficulty, which is no different from any previous Creator Expert set rated 14+. The branding of all the 18+ sets so far (this is the fifth) each feature the minimalist black design with the set info in a stripe along the bottom, and it’s quite eye-catching compared to the typical LEGO lineup.
Despite its large size, the box is stuffed quite full, with 25 numbered bags across 18 steps. There’s an inner box that houses about half the bags, along with an unnumbered bag, three loose black 8×16 plates, the sealed instruction manual, and a small flyer for LEGOLAND.
The instruction manual rings in at 312 pages. The opening spread contains a very brief note from the design team. While not all Creator Expert sets have had introductory segments in the manuals, if LEGO is now explicitly targeting adults with the 18+ range, they would do well to expand the introduction and behind-the-scenes info, making it similar to what’s in the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series sets. The two paragraphs featured here are much better than nothing, but will leave adult fans wanting more.
Throughout the instructions there are small callouts giving backstory on the details. This isn’t the first set to use them, but these are fantastic, and LEGO should do even more of them, and in more sets.
You won’t find any wholly new elements in this set, though a handful of parts make an appearance in a new color, such as the 33-degree inner corner slope, which has only been in 5 sets ever, with the most recent having been the 71040 Disney Castle that was released in 2016. It has never before been available in black, an obviously useful color for a roof slope. You also won’t find any sticker sheet in the set, as all the decorated elements are printed. Some of them make a return after a very long time away from the LEGO lineup, such as the classic computer bits. The 2×2 white slope has appeared here and there in sets since its introduction in 1984 and seems to be experiencing a resurgence, but the 1×2 computer tile which was a staple of the 90s has not been in a single set since 2004.
The rest of the set’s printed elements are new, except the ticket tiles which have been in plenty of sets before. The new 1×2 piano/organ key tiles are particularly useful. LEGO already produces 1×4 tiles with a similar pattern, but now fans won’t be restricted to making keyboards in width increments of four. The two printed windows together create the spooky haunted painting that hangs on the mansion’s upper floor.
The Haunted House sits on a 32×32 base (the same as a standard baseplate) but rather than using a baseplate, the foundation comprises four dark tan 16×16 plates so that it can hinge open. You’ll start with the front left of the mansion, where the organ is housed. The walls follow a standard pattern throughout, with olive green walls interspersed with dark brown plates, and corners made of stacking light grey 1×1 bricks and round plates.
Out front is the house’s only bit of landscaping, a small dilapidated graveyard with two headstones. The smaller grave marker is one of the printed elements, bearing the initials TC. Some of you may recognize the monogram, as it also appears on the wax seal of the 21313 Ship in a Bottle. In fact, the TC stands for Tiago Catarino, the LEGO Designer of that set and a regular for his custom creations here on TBB. One interesting thing to note is that the headstone tile is simply wedged upright between studs, a technique that’s quite uncommon in official sets.
Next up is one half of the back foundation, including the first bit of the ride’s mechanism. This section of gears is a clutch to disengage the crankshaft from the ride. When the ride is hand-operated, this won’t matter at all, but if you decide to motorize it the clutch comes into play.
The other half of the mansion’s back foundation is added next, including the main drive gear, which is a 40-tooth gear.
Finally, the last quadrant of the foundation is the front entryway, which contains one of the set’s best details: a wheelchair ramp. LEGO’s press materials for the set wisely avoid making a big deal out of the fact that one of the minifigure visitors is in a wheelchair, but we should absolutely celebrate it. It is hard to overstate the importance of kids encountering this representation in their toys (many children will receive this set, despite its 18+ age recommendation). The handicap-accessible front door is a small feature that adds so much to the set, and I applaud LEGO for it. Once the rest of the front door is built, we can see the full layout of the base, with a 16×32 segment in back and the two front quarters that swing open to display the mansion’s interior.
At this point, it’s time to add the set’s most unique and clever function, the system of flywheels that slows the dropping ride at the bottom. As the car nears the bottom of the drop, it transfers much of its falling energy into the flywheels, before bouncing on rubber Technic elements on the floor. The flywheels consist of a lot of Technic pulley wheels with rubber treads geared together with two large Technic wheels that originated in the new LEGO Spike educational theme and appear in all black for the first time. Together they have quite a lot of weight, and the flywheel system works remarkably well.
Another play feature is the front doors, which are geared together and open via a knob on the mansion’s side. It’s a little thing but is quite fun, even apart from the spooky overtones mysteriously opening double doors have.
Of course, the mansion isn’t just an empty shell. In good colonialist fashion, it’s outfitted with all the artifacts that Baron von Barron pillaged on his travels, and you’ll spot references to several other LEGO themes. The most obvious references are to the original LEGO Adventurers theme from 1998, which is where the Baron originates. All of the relics have been slightly updated with modern parts or colors, but you’ll find a pair of Anubis heads from 5938 Oasis Ambush, the Sphinx head from 5978 Sphinx Secret Surprise, and an obelisk like ones featured in several sets, such as 5958 Mummy’s Tomb. The obelisk here has a new set of hieroglyphs that employs a simplified version of the real phonetic Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet to spell OGEL. Besides spelling LEGO backward, Ogel was the archnemesis of 2001’s Alpha Team theme, and the Orb of Ogel is tucked in a corner of the attic.
The best interior decoration, though, is the magnificent Organ of Catarino (named after Tiago Catarino, the designer whose gravestone appears out front). This beautiful pipe organ uses stacked candlestick elements in pearl gold for the pipes, and the new 1×2 key tiles for the double keyboards, and is lots of details from the stops to the pedals. This is my favorite piece of interior decoration I’ve come across in a set in awhile.
The building’s actual structure is quite straightforward, with the instructions continuing to stack lots of olive green bricks for the walls, along with brown windows and grey bricks at the corners. All told, there are 406 olive green bricks between the 1×1, 1×2, 1×4, 1×6, and 1x8s, not counting a handful of other olive green elements, and there are 88 windows between the 1x2x2 and 1x2x3s. Once the second floor is in place and the third story walls are up, it’s time to add the roof, but first the set slips in one more play feature, which is the Baron’s haunted portrait. This clever mechanism uses a standard all-in-one red LED light brick and two unique printed panels to make Pharoah Hotep appear looming over the Baron’s shoulder when the light is turned on.
When backlit, the panel with the Pharoah casts a shadow onto the Baron’s portrait, and it works remarkably well with no hint of the Pharoah showing when the light is off, but appearing clearly when activated by pressing the Manor von Barron tile on the building’s front.
The roof is a bit of a letdown, as it mostly consists of a few large black plates. They don’t look bad from a distance, but I would have liked more detail, even a simple mix of tiles and plates like the roof of the Byers’ house in 75810 The Upside Down.
With the roof on, all that remains is the tower. While the build up to this point has been pretty interesting and non-repetitive, that changes here. The tower walls are nearly identical but have just enough differences that none of them are built in multiples larger than two. This can be a bit of a tedious, but the end is in sight so it goes quickly enough. Just be prepared to build walls like these a lot.
And speaking of tedious, let’s talk about the chain. The tower ride is propelled to the top with a very long chain. Saying it’s tedious is merely an observation and shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of the set, since there’s good alternative. You’ll need to build and connect two strips of 74 links, with the 75th a wider grey link to latch onto the car. My method of construction is to assemble all the links into strips of 5, then connect those together into 10s, at which point it’s easy to count out the appropriate number (the set includes extra links, so you can’t merely connect them all and then divide by two).
Once all the links are assembled, you loop them around a second 40 tooth gear in the top of the tower. In my opinion, 150 links felt about 2 links too short, with the chain stretched uncomfortably tight to connect. But so far the ride seems to be functioning just fine, so perhaps the set needs the tautness to function correctly.
The elevator car that rides up and down the tower is the last piece of the set (aside from a few bricks that lock it into place). The car uses four pulley wheels on each side to guide it inside the tower and is hollow to fit the removable ride seats.
The completed model
With its Victorian stylings and strongly Disney-esque vibes, I suspect the Haunted House will appeal to an even greater range of fans that the Fairground Collection’s previous Ferris Wheel and Roller Coaster ride sets. It’s clear the ride was heavily inspired by the Tower of Terror in Disney’s parks, which is a ride that has a cult following despite Disneyland’s version having been recently updated to a Guardians of the Galaxy theme.
The set’s theme, meanwhile, is a uniquely LEGO take on Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. The front with its little cemetery near the entrance definitely brings that ride to mind. And as I remarked earlier, the handicap accessibility built into the set is a noteworthy inclusion.
Inside is where the set really shines, though. With the two front quadrants swung open, the set feels impressively large, and you can see the full extent of the interior details.
Ever wonder what became of Sam Sinister, the Baron’s sidekick? Well, he’s hanging around somewhere. How about the shrines from Orient Expedition’s 7410 Jungle River and 7412 Yeti’s Hideout? Check and check. I haven’t spotted the Ark of the Covenant yet, but it may only be a matter of time.
The mansion looks good opened up from the other side, too, if you want to display it on a shelf in that orientation (or if your shelves aren’t deep enough to fit the model otherwise).
I do wish the exterior of the base had more details. The little graveyard in front is nice, but it is the only exterior detail on the set. The rest of the base is barren, with the exception of a single dry bush by the front door.
So how about the star of the show, the elevator drop ride? First, you’ll need to load the car at the bottom with a few nervous guests.
After that, you can start cranking the handle on the building’s rear. You can see here there are two cranks; the one on the left sends the ride up, while the crank below the flywheel engages the clutch (not needed during normal operation).
As the ride ascends, you can pause for a photo at the window in the attic. There’s even a minifigure camera pointed at the car. Naturally, it also snaps a shot of the screaming guests on the way down for you to purchase at the giftshop you’ll exit through (not included).
Then the ride pauses for a split second at the top (or longer if you pause cranking), and double-doors activated by the ride fling open, giving the guests a view of the rest of the park before the plummet back down the elevator shaft. Since the doors are simply pushed open by the car and close with gravity, I was worried they would sometimes catch and not function, but so far they’ve been operating flawlessly.
Motorizing the set
The box advertises that the set can be motorized by adding just three elements, a hub and two motors. The instructions contain a single image showing how to attach them to the two crankshafts.
Together, the three will set you back about $84, which is an awful lot of money to spend to turn a crank for you. However, there is also integration with the Powered Up app.
The app has an old-fashioned elevator control panel and a TV screen that seems to only ever display noise. There is some lovely amusement park spooky music along with sound effects that do add a lot to the atmosphere and made me feel like I was waiting in a queue at Disneyland (in a good way).
However, at least for me, the app controls the ride very poorly. After about two loops sending the ride up and down, the motors seem to get out of sync and the clutch becomes disengaged when it should be engaged, and vice-versa. This, of course, has the effect of making the ride non-functional, and is only resolved by taking the clutch motor off, manually resetting the clutch, and then reattaching the motor. It’s a disappointing finish to an otherwise excellent set, and certainly not worth spending an extra $84 to get the Powered Up motors. The motor setup is so simple that you’ll be able to accomplish almost the same effect with any motors you happen to have, though of course they won’t integrate with the app without the Powered Up hub.
The Haunted House comes with a full complement of nine minifigures.
There are four cast members, consisting of twin butlers and a pair of “friendly spirits from the beyond” who were accidentally summoned by the Baron. Sadly, it appears that LEGO’s ghost molds are no longer in use, because these two spirits should definitely have used LEGO’s iconic ghost shroud rather than a printed head and Jedi white cowl.
The five park guests consist of three ladies and two gentlemen, each wearing an assortment of casual clothes. The teenage girl has a letterjacket from Newberry High School (and which previously appeared in that set), and considering that town’s proclivity for supernatural occurrences, it’s no wonder that she doesn’t have a frightened face for this pedestrian little ride. Three of the other figures, however, can express their fright with alternate faces.
One thing I do feel the set is missing, though, is any of the original minifigures. Sure, I’ve been collecting LEGO for 30 years and have the classic Adventurers figures to go along with the Baron’s mansion. But what about all the fans who no longer have their childhood collections, or who started buying LEGO in the 22 years since that theme released? A Johnny Thunder lookalike was released in Collectible Minifigures Series 19 last year, but Baron von Barron hasn’t been seen in ages.
And since I had the classic figures out, I couldn’t help but turn back time a little and see that portrait in progress.
Conclusion and recommendation
The Haunted House would be an excellent set, even if it had no ride inside. The details are marvelous, and like the recent Pirates of Barracuda Bay, the nostalgic throwbacks to earlier LEGO themes are a surefire hit for any fans who grew up during the 90s. The fact that it has a unique and technically complex ride in its core takes this set to the next level.
The ride works flawlessly (apart from the optional app integration) and it’s great fun to send the car up to the top and crashing back down again over and over. While $250 is a steep price to pay for an amusement park ride, the price is well justified by the set. This set would look equally at home slotted in right next to your modular buildings or as the centerpiece of an amusement park layout, or maybe even lined up next to your Disney Castle and Disney Train and Station.
10273 Haunted House is available now for LEGO VIP members, and will be available broadly June 1, retailing for US $249.99 | CAN $299.99 | UK £209.99. It features 3,231 pieces and 9 minifigures. It may also be available from third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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