Anxiety Alley, Papp Park Induce Modular Mayhem

Last Friday was certainly not the most memorable night of haunting we’ve ever embarked upon but it was a night of haunting nonetheless. Earlier in the evening we enjoyed a meal at Mallie’s for John’s birthday where the food was tasty but the service left a lot to be desired. The Wings dropped at 4-2 decision to the rival Sharks and were even robbed of a goal by the often maligned officials but as this was a Friday in October I took it all in stride. Myself, Richard, and a slightly drunken John set out for a pair of local productions, first up was Anxiety Alley in my home town of Lincoln Park.

ANXIETY ALLEY A SHADOW OF FORMER SELF

Anxiety Alley, as best as my memory can serve, was the first haunted attraction that I ever visited. I remember traversing the dark halls with my mom, brother, and Aunt Lorie – I couldn’t have been much older than five or six at the time. Being so young and in such a strange environment my brother and I were both understandably terrified, in fact I have no idea what convinced my mom or aunt that a trek through a series of haunted trailers was just what two young boys needed. I don’t recall much other than screaming in terror as my aunt carried me in her arms. Strangely enough Jason and I each vaguely recall two bizarre scenes both of which seem unlikely to have actually taken place. During a moment of particularly horrific terror I can remember a monster resembling the creature from the black lagoon standing up inside of a bath tub washing itself. I said this shit was strange. The second as Jason tells it was a scene involving a well or pit in which visitors peered into a hole in the floor and witnessed an angry monster far below. This second memory if true would have been one hell of a cool illusion for a low budget haunt to have pulled off back in the late 80’s and the first, well that would remain strange in any era. One of these days I’ll make a point to question both my mom and aunt about the events of that night; perhaps they’ll be able to shed some light on what was clearly a very formative trip even if the horror of the experience kept me from understanding it at the time.

As a student at Foote Elementary rumors persisted every fall that there existed a trap door in one of the trailers that comprised Anxiety Alley. As the story went adventurous kids had used this rumored entry point to sneak into the haunted house. I was always quite fascinated by that story. I liked to imagine that monsters and mad men actually lived inside the structure waiting patiently for foolish youths to entire their domain. Over the years I visited Anxiety Alley a number of times, once with Branden when I was around 12 and then with Jason during the fall of ’96 – just before we moved to Frenchtown, and of course there were the nocturnal tropes that Cikalo and I embarked on from 2001-2004.

It was with all of these memories swirling about my mind that the three of us arrived at the familiar location but any hope of adding an exciting entry to the long history of the modular haunt was quickly dashed. When we pulled into the parking lot it was to find the costumed workers milling about outside the haunted attraction. They weren’t outside as line entertainment either; they were simply on a break as we were told. The workers were all teenagers and not one amongst them was remotely professional in their demeanor, we paid for our tickets and chatted briefly with the ticket seller while the rest of the staff scrambled to get into place. The scene didn’t inspire any confidence but I was determined to enjoy whatever nostalgia the old haunt had to offer.

The show began and was over in five minutes and there was a lot wrong with Anxiety Alley but first I’ll concentrate on what was done right. The passageways were dark and tight – two elements that for various reasons are essential to the success of a small, modular haunted attraction. I also noted the persistently haunting theme from Halloween beating steadily through the sound system, perhaps the best auditory band aid a haunt can ask for but alas 1,000 band aids wouldn’t have saved this ill-conceived and poorly executed attraction.

There are typically only a few scenes in any trailer haunt due to a lack of space but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, it just means that these spaces have to be used to maximum effect and Anxiety Alley fell far short of that goal. The scenes were uninspired, forgettable, and dull. There weren’t many props and there certainly were no animatronics, that’s to be expected given the venue but these facts do not have to spell certain doom. These conditions simply require operators to get creative with the space and budget that’s available. What really drove this production into the ground was the cast. I would rate 90% of the staff as entirely incompetent in the art of scaring. They were often found standing in plain sight and when spotted did nothing to elicit a scream, shriek, or startle. Most of them uttered not a word or sound; they simply looked at us and if we were lucky one might cock their head. Two workers in particular were content to do absolutely nothing at all. They were found seated on the floor, curled up in a nook. The pair gazed up as we past and that was it. There was one actor who performed well, a screaming girl who sung in lullaby tones whilst threatening our lives – sadly she became an afterthought amidst so much awfulness.

The folks running Anxiety Alley clearly have little knowledge of how a haunted attraction needs to be run. There’s no professionalism or organization and for $10 haunters deserve a lot more bang for the buck. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was the worst cast I’ve ever witnessed assembled in a haunted attraction. Sadly, this was nothing more than teenagers unleashed without supervision and they acted accordingly – immature, unprepared, and disinterested.

Rating: 1 star

“Got three, Chain Man.”

-The pronouncement that preceded our entry into Anxiety Alley, a fun bit of nostalgia in what was an otherwise very poor attraction.  

PAPP PARK HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS HAVE PROMISE

We drove to Papp Park in Taylor hoping to experience a better show at the Taylor Northwest Little League run haunted attraction. In the past this event has been referred to by several names including Papp Park Panic Attack and Terror Zone. Here, there are two events a modular haunt and a haunted hayride. Fortunately our trip here offered some fun and helped salvage the night.

We hit the haunted house first and were treated to a worthy effort by a team of volunteers. Thick fog blanketed the entire attraction which left us groping our way through shadows and mist; the haze also provided cover for lurking creatures. It was dead silent within the haunted halls and the actors did an admirable job under such circumstances by not carelessly giving away their location. The scenes were relatively simplistic but this approach mixed well with the heavy fog and dark, twisting passages. My favorite sequence saw us blindly stumble through a pitch black hallway only to be momentarily blasted with an overpowering flood of light.  Simple, effective strategies can go a long way at small, volunteer efforts; it’s these light touches that are often the difference between disappointment and success.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Richard and I headed to the wagon while John, not a fan of haunted hayrides, waited for us in the comfy confines of his car. The hayride was certainly amateurish but the operators compensated for this with a veritable army of ghouls. There were various small scenes along the route in which simple misdirection was employed prior to the wagon being assailed by a pack of nutters. The ride was accompanied by music and a bit of narration and all in all was a bit of fun. I was highly amused by a pint sized demon that popped out of a box, stormed the wagon, and manically brandished a sword at haunters. Another laugh came later when we witnessed a girl being munched on by a neatly placed wolf puppet. As the wagon wound toward the end of the trail we were surprised by slithering mummies, pursued by a gang of clowns, and paid a very special visit by Michael Myers. Taylor Northwest Little League has a nice, little production at Papp Park. With some tweaks this could become something special for the Downriver area.

Rating: 2.25

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2 Responses to “Anxiety Alley, Papp Park Induce Modular Mayhem”

  1. Those were my first two trailer haunts and I’m thinking they will also be my last. I just wasn’t really impressed with either, although the one at Papp park was a bit better. I also think that it would be really hard to justify charging more than $5 for any modular haunt unless it makes you urinate in your pants literally. The teenage workers at anxiety alley were as horrible as most of the ones at the Wyandotte Jaycees haunt so I vote we skip that one next year along with all modular haunts and hayrides.

  2. I completely agree with you on the price of admission at modular haunts, Disco. On average such attractions are simply too short to justify a $10 price tag. I hope the proceeds from Anxiety Alley’s ticket sales benefit a charity. It truly was a poor show. It’s a shame though because an intimate setting like that can make for a stellar experience in the right hands but small time efforts like this are going to have an increasingly hard time competing for haunt bucks going forward. The haunted house industry has been riding an unprecedented wave of popularity the last five years or so and like anything else that trend will slow.

    Operators of these attractions are going to have to take a hard look at themselves and realize they cannot compete with the likes of mid-sized haunts like the Scream Machine and Realm of Haunted Minds at such prices. The math is simple, a place like Anxiety Alley features no animatronics, few props, and a volunteer cast — there’s very little overhead and that should be reflected in the price of admission.

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