Mayhem & Mystery Collide at Clio Manor

Posted in 2015, Clio Manor, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2016 by bluefall8

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Clio Manor has been in operation for only a few short seasons but it was evident from our trip last fall that the gang here has made great strides in that time. Located in the back of a large building, Clio Manor thrilled us with memorable characters versed in horror and comedy alike who populated a myriad of richly detailed and interactive scenes. The journey spanned two levels, was thoughtfully paced and offered over 20 minutes of heart-pounding haunt goodness!

The fun began when we were regaled with a theatrical and comedic introduction by a man in dapper attire who called himself, Blot. He was a stringy, agile type who was skilled in many tricks of the trade; something about him put me in mind of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When he had finished with the house rules and other pleasantries, Blot led us to the top of a staircase and bade us farewell but not before he dropped a rather ominous and vague reference to someone named Roxanne.

Alone in the dark, John, Steve and I started down a hallway but were quickly intercepted by a curious fellow dressed in basic street clothes. There was something off about his demeanor, something foreboding. He communicated with us through a combination of eye movement and hand gestures. A few tense moments passed in confusion but then Steve correctly surmised that our new acquaintance had had his tongue removed; presumably cut out by the mysterious and seemingly violent, Roxanne.

Our mute friend guided us to another room where we encountered a fireman with an ax stuck firmly into the center of his chest. He said that he had been called there to suppress a fire when a crazy lady had waylaid him with the weapon. My money was on Roxanne, who definitely seemed to be on a roll. Beyond our help, I advised the fireman to accept his fate and die peacefully. In turn, he dutifully directed us through a hole in the wall.

We emerged on the other side into a series of would-be homey rooms save for the gore and gaggle of crazies who accosted us at every turn. In one room a randy temptress tried to lure us onto her bed which was occupied by the body of her former lover, some poor bastard named Sammy. The temptress shamelessly mounted the corpse and began to grind her hips. I attempted to convince John to lie on the mattress but to no avail, meanwhile Sammy was stiff for all the wrong reasons.

Next, we were introduced to Clownie the Clown a decidedly oddball character who seemed the optimal cross-section of effeminate and autistic — if you can imagine such a thing. The end result was a bizarre but likable character who told bad jokes, asked us to play with his toy box (I’m pretty sure that was a euphemism) and invited us to walk down something he called “the acid brick road.” Yeah, Clownie was weird. No sooner had Clownie left us in a room full of toys when an overgrown Teddy Bear launched itself at us from a pile of stuffed animals. It unleashed a gurgled snarl that seemed one-part aggressive, one-part aroused and then began to paw at us in a very friendly fashion.

Free from those pervy clutches we pushed deeper into Clio Manor. A darkly attractive girl was spotted ahead but she dashed off at first sight and quickly crawled beneath a bed. She soon reemerged and revealed that it was she who had dealt the deathblow to the fireman. Who would’ve thought that bloodthirsty Roxanne would be so alluring? With no weapon currently in her possession, we used the opportunity to escape unscathed.

We bobbed and weaved in and out of several scenes and then descended a staircase back to the main level of the edifice. There we meet a sweet, but creepy girl who had an affinity for human ears; she kept them pickled in jars. She even recounted her experience with a recent victim named Suzie and then introduced us to her pet, a dog-man named Sid. Sid tickled my chin and then forced John to pass a couple of playful tests before he allowed us to proceed. A few minutes later an unseen assailant tickled my ribs and then copped a cheap feel of my chest. I suspect Sid had tracked our scent.

Near the end of the attraction we witnessed an excellent diminishing point vortex which was used to maximum effect when coupled with a jump scare. The punk who delivered the surprise then warned us of someone known as The Harvester, and that’s just not the name of anybody you ever want to meet. Any thoughts of sidestepping The Harvester were dashed when we happened upon a series of makeshift cages, and those cages were occupied by people.

Suddenly, we were in the presence of The Harvester and his chainsaw. After a brief exchange of words, his limp-separator rattled to life and we fled through a narrow path as his captives desperately, or perhaps angrily, pushed against the chicken wire that formed the walls of their cell.

Rating: 4.25 stars

“Don’t fall down. If you do, I get the nibbly bits.”

-One of Blot’s, our gracious host, many warnings.

Delirium Gets Lost Inside Mind of a Madman

Posted in 2015, Review, Wyandotte Jaycees with tags , , , on June 15, 2016 by bluefall8

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As a citizen of the City of Wyandotte and an avid haunter, it would seem sacrilege to fail to visit the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House each fall. Indeed, since 2007 not a season has passed in which I haven’t checked out the haunted happenings of my local Jaycees. No matter the result — be it good, bad or indifferent — a trip through the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House has become a tradition. Last October, Delirium came to the former City Hall on Biddle and it echoed the successes and shortcomings of previous Jaycees’ haunted houses.

It was clear mere minutes into our voyage that Delirium was badly short-staffed which caused the meandering dark, empty halls to seem that much more like a gargantuan waste of space. There was scene or two with actors right off the hop but after that it was a painfully long time before anything of substance happened again; wandering through darkened passages will lose its effect if there’s no pay off and this seriously hampered the first third of the haunted attraction.

Also on the negative side of the ledger is the chronically bad soundtrack — a disparate collection of weird and repetitive screams, bestial cries and silence. It’s outdated and borderline corny. It doesn’t enhance the atmosphere or mood of the attraction, in fact, it detracts from it. The soundtrack is also deficient at covering the movement or idle chatter of the actors who sometimes need to communicate with each other. It is, in effect, a complete failure at everything a soundtrack is supposed to do for a haunted attraction. If it can’t be replaced by something more dynamic and modern, simply eliminating it would be an improvement.

Despite these setbacks, Delirium did showcase several enjoyable scenes and characters. In one room a young girl sat on a bed and tapped out an inexpert tune on a toy piano. She wasn’t pleased with our presence and expressed her displeasure when she forcefully threw a baby doll against a wall. The miniature monster did this with such quickness and violence that she gave our group a genuine shock — most impressive.

Next, we suddenly found ourselves in a large room completely decked out for Christmas. This was another authentic surprise and the overall effect was melancholy and haunting in spite of the cheerful yuletide tune that played on an unseen radio. A lone teen-aged girl roamed the room holding a small present. She was hyperactive in her love for the holiday and possessed a frenzied, strangled laugh.

Another favorite area was the freak show complete with sideshow banners and the absurd Lobster Boy. Much to our delight the freak show led us to a game of chance where I was afforded the chance to throw the head of a baby doll at some stacked bottles! With my life on the line I wound up, my aim was true and that baby’s head sent those bottles clattering in all directions. The clownish carneys who were in charge of the game were the finest actors in all of Delirium, their interaction and vocalizations in stark contrast to the amateurish deliveries found throughout much of the attraction.

There were also several other areas of note that had the seed of a good scare but the aforementioned lack of actors derailed what might have been. Included in that list were a brightly-lit laboratory that featured an empty desk, a threadbare playground and an appropriately detailed ritual scene.

Delirium concluded with an above average chainsaw gag in which we encountered the scientist who was responsible for the state of affairs. He was determined to right all of his wrongs and he was willing to get bloody to that end. Needless to say, he thought we were as good a place to start as any.

Once we exited Delirium we were introduced to the inimitable Murray the Clown who emerged as a bona fide mascot for the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House. The man behind the greasepaint is a true credit to the organization.

Rating: 2.25 stars

“I’ve heard of being eatin’ out but this is ridiculous.”

-My artful reaction to an enormous rat devouring a corpse

Hallowe’en Nights a Family Friendly Delight

Posted in 2015, Hallowe'en Nights, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2016 by bluefall8

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From apple orchards and pumpkin patches to haunted houses and hayrides, Michigan is blessed with a cornucopia of fall festivities and activities. Indeed the rich and colorful history of Halloween runs deep in the Wolverine State and one event that has become a staple of the Detroit area is Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn.

Greenfield Village, for those unfamiliar, was the brainchild of Henry Ford — yes, the Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic homes, shops and buildings assembled by the late Mr. Ford and each October the streets and districts are transformed into a vintage Halloween celebration. I visited this event for the first time last fall with my wife and son and discovered a fun, family friendly atmosphere with playful scares and mildly spooky scenes.

The magical journey began in the Working Farms District, 1,000s of jack-o-lanterns lined the streets and served as a silent guide throughout Greenfield Village. Although not each and every last area of the village was accessible, all of the seven districts that comprise Greenfield Village were incorporated into the event in some capacity and the level of decoration was immaculate. Attention was paid to detail, the labs inside Edison at Work were alight with the signature glow of black lights; historic homesteads and shops from a bygone era featured windows and doors that pulsed with the eerie beacon of strobe lights.

The Main Street District was dominated by a carnival sideshow that included a stage performance and a photo-op with an enchanting mermaid. We pushed our way through the throngs of revelers and settled for a moment next to a large statue of Thomas Edison where I snapped a photo of my beloved wife and son.

Following a trek through Menlo Park, we entered the Porches & Parlors District heralded by a bizarre musical performance that was conducted by a pair of glowing skeletons who had taken up residence beneath a gazebo. When that whimsical oddity had concluded we braved the covered bridge that featured fog and lasers. The bridge was the most purely frightening experience of Hallowe’en Nights and I’m proud to report that my little guy never blinked in the face of fear; instead his eyes were full of wonder and curiosity.

Near Walnut Grove we witnessed a trio of oversized, singing jack-o-lanterns and became acquainted with a pair of peculiar fairy sisters, Kynda and Roodelle. As we continued uphill we watched pirates duel, breezed past a graveyard adjacent to Martha-Mary Chapel and eyed broom rentals near J.R. Jones General Store. Indeed, the various characters, mini-plays and complimentary scenes spread across Greenfield Village only served to heighten the overall mystique of this special event.

The light of the jack-o-lanterns had brought us back to Main Street where we paused for a few moments and were delighted to find that the iconic carousel was used to great effect. Old-fashioned music drifted across the intersection of Christie and Main Street while the carousel spun haunting rotations as if propelled by a ghostly hand. It immediately brought to mind an episode of The Twilight Zone titled Walking Distance in which a man is transported back in time to his childhood and pays a visit to the local carnival. This was, undoubtedly, one of my favorite highlights of Hallowe’en Nights.

Next, we were briefly routed into Railroad Junction where we traversed a spooky grove, illuminated only by the glow of several carved pumpkins — this was another one of my most favorite moments. When we emerged from the atmospheric grove, it was a short jaunt into the beautiful Liberty Craftworks District where a fun-loving werewolf danced to the tune of Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. This area also sported an excellent Halloween Tree positioned just outside the Pottery Shop.

Once we had left Liberty Craftworks behind our journey was nearly complete, but not before the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane engaged in bit of Halloween humor in a field just off of Mill Road back in the Working Farms District.

Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village is an event that I would recommend to people of all ages because there truly did seem to be a little something for everybody. There was considerable congestion near several of the candy stations, but it was rarely overwhelming and perhaps can be further alleviated if additional areas of the village were utilized for the event. Regardless, I was impressed by the overall quality of Hallowe’en Nights and look forward to future trips with the family.

Rating: 4.25 stars

The Realm of Haunted Minds Forever a Classic Treat

Posted in 2015, Realm of Haunted Minds, Review with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2016 by bluefall8

By dollar and distance it’s hard to best The Realm of Haunted Minds at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus. The place has never undergone a major overhaul instead change comes in drips and drabs. The country store has retained its humble but powerful atmosphere and the miniature town, just outside the haunted attraction, is still an interesting, fun and somewhat eerie curiosity that I will always take a few moments to explore. This year there was a two-story castle with an attached slide. How am I supposed to resist that?

The haunted attraction itself featured a simple but effective facade and as always has been the case, the wait to enter The Realm of Haunted Minds was very short. As it was with my most recent visit in 2013, patrons must listen to a series of instructions and rules delivered by a holographic bust that I have affectionately dubbed Ghoulface. When his booming monologue had concluded we boldly stepped through the unique iron maiden entrance.

The strong suit of The Realm of Haunted Minds has always been the application of haunt fundamentals — a solid, unpredictable layout reinforced by tight passages, hanging visual obstructions, engagement of the tactile sense and well-timed jump scares. These elements can comprise a strong foundation for a haunted attraction of any size and shape.

As we roamed the haunted attraction, the driven sound of Rob Zombie’s Living Dead Girl blared through the speakers and that, ladies and gentlemen, is always a good thing. A few scares of note included the chained zombie who broke free of his bonds near the beginning of the haunt and his cell-bound counterpart near the end of the attraction who surprised us when he breached the enclosure. Each of these scares was well-timed and seemed to be direct reactions to the taunts we had hurled at the monsters and there’s not much I love more at a haunted house than improvisation and interaction.

Elsewhere inside The Realm of Haunted Minds, we enjoyed a cretin in a sheep mask who surprised us in various ways from inside of a cage. There was also an unsettling doll shrine. And best of all was a frenzied, cackling clown who shot out of of drop panel as if powered by a piston! We would later discover this same harlequin delivering scares amidst the miniature town outside, and would you know it, he was kind enough to pose for a few pictures.

Rating: 3 stars

Psycho Path Opens the Storybook, Spins a Grimm Yarn

Posted in 2015, Psycho Path, Review with tags , , , on June 2, 2016 by bluefall8

In 2014 The Psycho Path proved that small time haunting can produce big time results en route to the Horrorlust Dark Horse Award. It was a welcome, unexpected hit and I knew then that it had ensnared me with its quaint, yet creative charm. A little more than a year later, I returned on a Friday night with John and Steve in tow. Shortly, we boarded a wagon that rumbled across a field and toward the woods that The Psycho Path called home.

The wagon came to a stop in a torch-lit clearing, we disembarked and followed an earthen path to the entrance of this unique haunted attraction. A man in dapper dress addressed the crowd, he identified himself as Wilhelm Grimm. Wilhelm, as he told it, was the author of many famous fairy tales and fables. He encouraged guests to shout out their favorite stories and once a handful had complied, Mr. Grimm informed the crowd that the stories we knew and loved were sanitized versions of much more sinister narratives. But not to fret, Wilhelm had conjured his characters in their original form and unleashed them upon The Psycho Path. He implored us to approach the doors, we entered and were transported to a realm of twisted fairy tales.

With the doors sealed behind us, we surged forward on the only available path but immediately we found that it was occupied by a slim, human-sized rabbit. Like magic a second and a third rabbit appeared out of thin air, one behind the other as the duo peered at us from either side of the first. I had heard that rabbits had a penchant for procreation but this rate of multiplicity was otherworldly. The trio of hares silently circled our party, twitching their necks in unison, each with the same hungry stare.

The remainder of of trip through the rabbit hole known as The Psycho Path would be no less strange and surreal as we encountered Alice of lore engaged in a one-person tea party, a less than welcoming Mad Hatter and the three little pigs all grown up and decidedly overfed.

All throughout this storybook kingdom were dungeons and dank prison cells that held children and teenagers captive. We implored them to explain their crimes so that we could better understand their imprisonment but many of them were beyond our help, some incapable of speech. One cell held an astounding seven or more young people, all wailed to be set free.

A witch dressed from head-to-toe in white also dwelt in this realm and had her own personal prisoners chained to the wall. The hapless girls thrashed and screamed against their bonds; upon closer inspection it was revealed that the sorceress had plucked out their eye balls. Perhaps that was to be the fate of each of the captives?

It seemed as if the fabric of reality could not endure further stress and yet Wilhelm Grimm’s Petri dish of nursery rhymes and fairy tales possessed further oddities. In one memorable passage a group of animate dolls, in various states of disrepair and degradation, begged for our assistance. One twitched in robotic spasms while she meekly pleaded for help, another, scarcely more than a torso with a head, merely seemed confused by the state of her sad existence. Nearby, an agitated, ham-fisted doll maker lamented the failings of her creations.

Still, the weirdness persisted. In one corner of Mr. Grimm’s imagination we crossed paths with an alluring mermaid who spoke not a word but flashed us a welcoming smile and a come hither glance. But at this point we trusted no man, woman or mythical creature in the entire nightmarish narrative.

No sooner, we were waylaid by a monstrous saber-tooted rabbit! I couldn’t help but wonder if it were he who had sired the triplets that we had encountered at the beginning of our journey. However, inquiries into genetic testing had to wait as we dodged the horrible hare only to be accosted by an aggressive, single-minded girl who repeated posed the same question and demanded one answer.

Suddenly, we stumbled into a throne room and there sat the evil queen. Several captives attempted to make a break for it at the sight of us but the chains around their ankles held fast and jerked violently once they had reached their length. In response, the shrill queen bellowed for an executioner to be made present and he was heralded by the sound of a chainsaw.

The 2015 incarnation of The Psycho Path was a fun, fresh theme and employed a veritable army of actors cast in a multitude of roles. Although the acting could use some polish and a lesson or two in improvisation; the overall costuming and makeup is among the best we’ve witnessed at an all volunteer haunted attraction. It’s hard not to be in love with the location of The Psycho Path — it truly enjoys the best of both worlds and the haunt itself should provide fertile soil for many moons to come.

Rating: 3.5 stars

“Do you believe in fairies? Do you believe in fairies?! SAY YOU BELIEVE IN FAIRIES!!”

-A rather pushy girl near the final dungeon inside Wilhelm Grimm’s dark fantasy land

Dead Vengeance

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by bluefall8

Dead Vengeance is a four-part series published by Dark Horse Comics. The first issue was released October 2015 with subsequent issues released monthly from November 2015 to January 2016. The series was written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, a native son of Lincoln Park, Michigan.

Steve Colwell, who has served as co-host on several episodes of Horrorlust Radio, turned me onto Dead Vengeance. Steve also hails from Lincoln Park; he and Bill have been friends since childhood. Lincoln Park also happens to be my boyhood home! It’s not every day that you get the chance to read a horror story created by somebody from your hometown, so it only seemed natural to highlight Dead Vengeance here on Horrorlust.

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The tale of Dead Vengeance begins in May 1940 at a carnival on the outskirts of Detroit. The very first panel reveals a carnival barker in front of a sideshow tent affixed with a sign that reads, “Cavalcade of Oddities.” Once inside the tent, readers will discover a mummified Fiji Mermaid but more importantly will be introduced to the central protagonist — a pickled man who unconsciously floats inside of a large tank. As the above cover art suggests, our new friend won’t be unconscious for long. And like that, I was sold.

Readers soon learn that Pickled Man is actually Johnny Dover, a one-time popular radio host out of Detroit. So how did this guy end up preserved inside of a tank full of chemicals at a carnival?! In order to find out you’ll just have to snag a copy and read for yourselves, my friends. The story also features a voluptuous fortune teller, a legless freak named Cesar and even Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang! Dead Vengeance is a fun, fast-paced read stuffed with action, intrigue and capped-off with a classic twist in the tradition of EC Comics!

It was neat too that creater, Bill Morrison, gave a nod to his hometown roots with a mention of area cities like Lincoln Park, Wyandotte and Flat Rock. Readers will also recognize familiar Detroit landmarks like the Ambassador Bridge. Dead Vengeance can be found at your local comic shop for $3.99 and should be enjoyed by any lover of horror but especially those who call Southeast Michigan home.

Rotten Manor, Abandon Driven Mad by Halloween Moon

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on November 1, 2015 by bluefall8

Howl at the moon, baby. I went to bed last night with thoughts of Rotten Manor and Abandon swirling in my head and when I woke this morning those same thoughts remained stuck in my mind. What had we experienced? Had our eyes deceived us? Did any of that really happen?! When you find yourself pondering such questions that’s when you know you’ve witnessed an all-time classic and on Halloween no less.

After some trick r’ treating with the little ones, which included one seriously awesome yard display on Kings Highway in Lincoln Park, John and I hightailed it into the night. This has been a haunt season busier and longer than any that has come before it — we were admittedly feeling road-weary as we drove north on I-75 through increasingly poor conditions. The further north we traveled the harder the rain hit the pavement and the lower visibility sunk. But any fear that Halloween would become a washout began to recede the moment we arrived at Rotten Manor.

The facade was far more impressive than it had appeared in pictures; it jutted from the landscape like a mountain in a valley and what lie on the inside was more impressive still. Rotten Manor was a half-hour trek through expertly detailed and creative environments that held inventive scares, glorious eye candy, surreal strangeness and the omnipresence of a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy. Loaded with live actors, psychological warfare and several unique features — Rotten Manor blasted itself into the rarefied territory of our all-time best haunted house adventures.

As we drove in the direction of home we reveled in the experience and thought it a shame that Rotten Manor hadn’t been our last stop of the night because it seemed impossible that anything could follow that. Indeed, another first year attraction, Abandon had its work cut out. We pulled into Play Atlantis in Melvindale a little more than an hour after we had departed Rotten Manor with that experience fresh in mind. Somehow, Abandon would make an impression all it’s own.

Abandon took old school to the nth degree and in the process redefined minimalism. The cavernous, multi-level haunt supplied atmosphere in spades; an effect that was heightened by the expert use of Midnight Syndicate’s booming medieval music. So much of Abandon was purposely understated which provided the imagination free range to manifest horrors hidden in every shadow. Fueled by ghost stories and a genuine sweep from a team of paranormal research investigators (go on, I dare you to ask about the EVPs), Abandon possessed an eerie vibe that is difficult to find. In terms of pure fear factor it was one of the most foreboding and frightening haunted attractions we’ve toured in all these many seasons.

A heartfelt thank you to Wally, Eric and the rest of the large cast and crew of Rotten Manor and to Jason of Abandon who patiently shared creepy stories including his own personal encounters. All of you made Halloween 2015 a truly unforgettable night of haunting that will live on in Horrorlust lore for many moons to come.

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