Return to the Woods of Darkness

I returned to the Woods of Darkness on Saturday, October 8 – it was the first time I had visited since shooting a promotional video for the attraction the previous fall. Melissa accompanied me on the trip, a rare occurrence for my darling wife who prefers her scares from the pages of a book. I introduced her to Denise who we found at the ticket booth and the three of us chatted about haunted houses, the weather, and the impact that the video was having on ticket sales. I was glad to hear that Denise felt it was making a tangible difference – the place certainly appeared to be busier than any of my various visits the previous year. A little while later a wagon rolled in and Melissa and I jumped aboard. Little has changed during this leg of the adventure from a year ago but I think with time the operators will come to realize its value and perhaps offer up a few more primer scares in order to soften up haunters for the main attraction.

Speaking of the main attraction, it’s nestled in the woods not far from the tractor path and features an original façade in the style of a ramshackle cabin. Our wait in line was spent with a couple of devilish woodland dwellers who acquainted themselves with each group of new arrivals. There’s a great natural ambience here which blends well with the theme appropriate props, my personal favorite being the rusted VW Beetle that rests beyond a fence besides the looming house.

Woods of Darkness is an interesting haunted attraction – part haunted trail, part haunted house – the attraction nicely mixes the outdoor elements with shrouded corridors and confined spaces. There were a fair amount of changes since last year, the layout has been tweaked – returning haunters will certainly notice the slew of shacks near the rear of the attraction as well as the vortex which took me by surprise.

The personnel has also changed, if I’m not mistaken Denise said that she was unable to get a single member of her previous cast to return. That’s a shame because they seemed like a cohesive group, a bit green perhaps but they were clearly enthusiastic. At the core of any haunted attraction is the consistency of the scare which makes retaining quality help absolutely essential for a budding haunt entrepreneur. The high turnover clearly affected the overall quality of the show, most of the actors were young, inexperienced, and unable to delivery convincing interaction – they were timid, a trait monsters just shouldn’t have in their social tool kit.

There was however one creature of the night determined to elicit a scream. With a sickly smile smeared across his face he sat perfectly still in the dead center of a room littered with a mishmash of glowing artifacts. I playfully suggested that Melissa pet his head and although she showed no signs of complying with such a request it was clear she had been fooled into thinking that he too was as inanimate as the rest of his stuffed brethren strewn across the room. The harlequin sprung his trap and sent Melissa ducking behind my back and scurrying across the room. He begged her to stay and be his friend but the prospect of being playmates didn’t seem so appealing after such a scare.

Woods of Darkness is a young and promising haunt but in order to fulfill that promise it’ll have to bear the growing pains. Given the price increase this past season I would expect the attraction to expand in the near future and that can only help the overall product. The operators accomplish a lot with a little and if the right moves are made Woods of Darkness could become a prominent fixture of the downriver haunt scene.

Rating:  2.25 stars

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