Bound in Purgatory

It was by a considerable amount of chance that we came to visit Purgatory’s Revenge in New Haven on October 25th. Originally, John and I had planned to visit House of Fear in Hazel Park but we discovered that Purgatory’s Revenge worked much better with our route for the night which included stops at Blake’s and Slaughtered at Sundown in Armada. As we are always on the lookout for new attractions, it seemed like a natural fit.

In several ways Purgatory’s Revenge put me in mind of Sinister in Utica, it’s constructed outside and must be completely dismantled once the haunt season has concluded. Secondly, it featured a dedicated, in-your-face cast. Several of the standouts prowled the grounds, stirring up scares. The ring leader was a strange creature indeed and can best be described as the result of a demon who had possessed the corpse of a deer. He may have walked upright but the creature displayed a marked animalistic instinct, his speech and actions were certainly something other than human.

The entrance of the attraction is well detailed and created the sensation that haunters had entered into a tomb. We would find out soon enough that Purgatory’s Revenge prided itself on basic haunt fundamentals, a strategy that served this location well. Thick patches of fog swept throughout many areas of the haunt and when coupled with strobe lights, created a highly disorienting effect that had us groping the air as we searched for a path — easy prey for any lurking deadites.

The haunt also utilized a good mix of pitch black hallways, an increasingly underutilized element in haunted attractions. Such perfect dark can wreck havoc on the psyche and has the added benefit of providing fertile ground for opportunities to launch a scare. In one such hall I received one of the best jolts of the season. As I blindly fumbled in the dark I was surprised when I felt my hand come in contact with some sort of barrier — mesh, perhaps fencing? Immediately an unseen actor lunged from within the structure and provided a quality startle.

The use of tactile sensation was yet another fundamental technique put to good use. In the area above, there was merely a change in the texture of the wall and as soon as my mind began to process that information the trap had been set. This tactic worked in rooms with greater visibility as well, for instance, one narrow path forced us to claw our way through a series of thick spider webs. As another example, various areas had thin veils that hung at odd angles from the ceiling — these too we had to push aside. Additionally, the veils served to block our line of sight which in turn created a mild sensation of misdirection; all of this forced us to carefully concentrate on the path.

All of this talk of tactile sensation, misdirection, and darkness may not sound too impressive but when used correctly these old school techniques will enhance any haunted attraction. Sure, a particular haunt may succeed in spite of such attributes — for instance, a great cast may collectively steal the show — but why deny such a cast the opportunity to ply their craft on an ideal canvas? The proper application of haunt fundamentals will always enhance the experience.

The final room of the haunted attraction also played upon such fundamentals, although here it was accomplished when those principles were turned on ear. Generally, haunted attractions will send guests through a series of tight passes which is a great method used to heighten a condition like claustrophobia, but what would happen if those same people were suddenly thrust into a very large space?

This was exactly what the final room put to the test and the result was a sudden sensation of exposure and vulnerability. Those small, narrow spaces do produce a particular kind of fear and suspense, but in such a limited area the inevitable scare has precious few options from which to originate — in an odd way it can almost begin to feel, safe. A wide open space has the opposite effect, suddenly patrons are naked  in the dark and highly susceptible to attack from all angles.

As I mentioned earlier, Purgatory’s Revenge featured several characters who treated the scare as an art form, and the first one that we encountered was the aforementioned Demon Deer.

When we first entered the haunt a strangled voice used bird calls to attract our attention and then beckoned, “Heeeere humans, heeeere humans.” The nightmarish abomination led us to a vacant church and after he had muttered what seemed to be mindless ravings, we were directed into opposite rooms. One was labeled “Men’s” while the other read “Women’s.” John and I briefly separated before the paths wound back into each other. It was a fun bit of interaction and an idea I’d love to see the operators expand upon in the future.

Another scene of interest was a detailed swamp complete with a bridge. Here, we were introduced to a miniature pet alligator and when I crouched to stroke it’s head, we were blasted by a spray of water. The owner bade us farewell (although he did so rather ominously) and we entered into the next room, a vibrantly painted area flush with disturbing depictions of Barney the Dinosaur aside children who bore, what I can only assume, were drug induced grins. The theme from the once popular television show echoed throughout the room, lending a distinctly perverse quality to our surroundings.

What the hell were we about to witness here? My mind ran wild. Would we find girls bound and gagged (Could we be so lucky)? Was a half naked Barney to be found waltzing with the corpse of Baby Bop? Or would we simply discover the purple dinosaur tweaked out on the floor with a needle in his arm? Yes, these are the things that run through my head; it’s a weird place.

Okay, none of the above came to pass, but we were attacked by a large dog with a purple head which gave John a fright, and a good startle is always worth a mention. Even though the bizarre visions in my head did not manifest, it is precisely these kind of creative ideas that keep us on the road chasing that next great haunt fix. The skewering of pop culture isn’t exclusive to late night comedians, it’s also prepackaged fodder for the haunt industry. When viewed through a particular lens just about anything can become creepy, surreal, or downright horrifying.

2013 was the sophomore season for the folks at Purgatory’s Revenge and it definitely didn’t seem to have suffered any kind of a slump. The team here is led by a mixture of seasoned veterans and bold, new blood. With a solid cast on hand, strong emphasis on haunt fundamentals, and plans to expand, it would seem that Purgatory’s Revenge has many souls yet to ensnare.

Rating: 4 stars

3 Responses to “Bound in Purgatory”

  1. Jimmy Cargill Says:

    Would be so cool if you attached photos on your blobs. Great writing!

    • Jimmy Cargill Says:

      Sorry…meant BLOGS! LOL!!!!

    • Thanks, Jimmy. It is something I’d like to do with more regularity. On occasion I snap a few pictures of the facade or jump at the opportunity to get a shot with an actor or two, but I’ve never owned a Smart Phone and the images leave a lot to be desired. I do own a digital camera but it’s not practical to bring along on these fly by night haunt excursions.

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