Haunting Season Begins

This was originally written September 29, 2007 and was the first official entry under the Hallowblog banner. In it, I waxed over film, television, and general haunt news but the bulk of the text covered a visit to The Haunting in Adrian, Michigan. This entry has particular importance to me; to the best of my knowledge this is the first full-length review that I ever wrote for a haunted attraction. This trip as you will soon read, also marked the beginning of a long running joke after my brother, Jason, made a rather tactless and dubious observation.

Fall has arrived with all its radiant majesty and for us Halloween enthusiasts the magic of the season is poised to erupt. I have a multitude of topics I’d like to cover in this inaugural issue and I’d appreciate, no prefer, feedback.

On that note I’d like to state that I’m looking for a more intriguing name to brand this Halloween column with other than the generically crafted Hallowblog. I won’t say I’m holding an open contest (due to the lack of a prize) but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own and if I don’t receive any quality submissions I’ll simply settle with one of those; this is just one small way in which I thought I could make this blog slightly interactive.

The Halloween themed Word of the Week returns this Monday, October 1 and like last year will run the duration of the month of October. Also, like last year, each week’s entry will be accompanied by a companion blog featuring other Halloween related content. Last year’s format was rather simple, each week I featured a monster and a horror film, I also provided a list of Halloween highlights past. I do aim to continue in the same vein this year but new content will also be added.

Yesterday I watched a horror movie called Demonic which really isn’t worth mentioning. Tom Savini played the role of some nutter living in a forest infested with naked female demon types. Yeah, that’s primarily it. The film offered no other redeeming qualities; not exactly a horror classic. What is worth watching however is Dead Like Me. Missy and I have been watching the first season on DVD, it compliments the season well.

To my great delight I obtained a copy of the Fear Finder last Tuesday and plans for the haunting season began to take shape. Each October I excitedly anticipate visiting haunted attractions but it seems that I never make it to enough of them. Last year I didn’t get started until the middle of the month, visiting The Scream Machine and The Screamatorium on the 13th. Jason, Disco, and I next went haunting on Halloween night in Pontiac which was a trip to be remembered as Erebus and the Realm of Darkness proved to be among the best haunts I’ve ever visited. It was the most I’d visited in one season but still I was left unsatisfied. So this year I wanted to be sure to have a plan in place to cover all my haunting desires.

Originally we (Jason, Disco, and I) planned to start the season with a visit to The Scream Machine in Taylor which has become something of a staple over the years. September 27-30 marks the opening weekend for The Scream Machine and tickets are a mere $10 for both attractions. We ended up changing our plans though due to the fact that few attractions have yet opened and as Jason pointed out we could hit downriver haunts anytime. My original plan was to hit The Scream Machine and then head down Dix where we’d explore Anxiety Alley for a mere $5 but Lincoln Park’s annual modular haunt doesn’t open until October 12.

The Haunting in Adrian has an enticing full page ad in the Fear Finder and after reading a five star review at Zioptis it seemed that we might start the haunting season off with a bang. Zioptis by the way is a great source for seasonal fun, interested parties can familiarize themselves with Zioptis here: Zioptis Foundation

The Fear Finder ad touted a $20 combo package that included admission to the 13th floor and 3-Dementia haunted houses, ghost tour, manic maze, two items from the concession stand, coupon to the gift shop, an illusion show, and a souvenir photo with a zombie. It seemed a damn good deal for twenty bucks, the photo with a zombie was particularly enticing to me. But we didn’t end up paying $20, nope, Jason spotted a deal on their website, for just $10 one was granted admission to both haunted attractions, the ghost tour, manic maze, and the illusion show. No, it didn’t include the zombie photo but I figured the difference would more than balance out in our favor if indeed we still decided to get a picture with a flesh-eater.

So the trio was off to Adrian, a trip through the sticks that was interesting in and of itself; the small towns we passed on our way there had all the markings of a B-rate horror flick. We arrived at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds and I was surprised by the lack of crowd, lights, and music. I reminded myself that it was early in the season and we were on a rather sizable chunk of land. We made our way to the entrance of the main attraction and still the crowd was sparse, and really that’s how it would remain.

Two zombie-looking chicks with spooky white pupils sat at a bench statuesque holding a guitar, staring resolutely in our direction. They were a nice touch and I’ll admit that they freaked me out a bit. They did such a good job of remaining still that I wasn’t sure if they were props. The Haunting was a bit of a let down, after so much fanfare I expected an attraction on par with the top of the class. It wasn’t necessarily bad but nothing gave it a unique feel. I’m going to give the whole affair the benefit of the doubt and chalk the lowlights up to the fact that they may still be working out the quirks this early in the season.

Although some very elementary mistakes were made, for instance, at several points in the first attraction it seemed that sections of walls had to be missing because we had an unobscured view into the greater building which wasn’t being used for the attractions. At several points I even saw what looked to be members of the technical team just standing in plain view as if they wanted customers to spot them. That nonsense should never happen as it greatly diminishes the haunting experience.

The Haunting employed a theme centered on the 13th floor of a hotel run afoul. I enjoyed the entrance which included a ghastly looking attendant and the butchered bell hop who directs guests to their rooms. Next patrons are loaded onto The Haunting’s version of the Hellevator which vastly pales in comparison to the one that The Scream Machine used last year. The Haunting blew its load early offering up a scene in which the victim of some terrible medical experiment lies writhing in bed while entrails issue forth from their torso. We’ve witnessed the gag before but it never gets old as the victim pleads for your help. The remainder of the attraction was less than stellar but the fat lady with the butcher knife managed to elicit some laughs when she leapt at us and proclaimed, “Meat! I looooove meat!” I decided against the obvious jokes and continued into a room that resembled a meat cooler full of disembodied human parts. The last item of interest was an immensely large man who sat upon a bed gnawing at a brain. I wasn’t quite sure why anyone would fear this as I harbored serious doubts that he could so much as heave his gelatinous form from the space he occupied. I was brought out of my reverie by would be creepy laughter if only it hadn’t been so seductive. A dead looking chick dressed as a maid emerged from the corner and stalked us from the room. Jason would later make a rather dubious observation regarding this particular incident.

We exited The Haunting shortly and came to the entrance of the 3D attraction known as 3-Dementia. I’ve gone to just one of these prior (The Carnevil of Lost Souls) and I was disappointed then so my expectations weren’t exactly soaring as I entered 3-Dementia. In fairness it was better than The Carnevil of Lost Souls but that isn’t saying much. I think attractions like this have potential and with some time and innovative ideas can serve as a quality side attraction at various haunts. As it stands however they are merely add-on filler.

Well we each openly voiced our disappointment upon exit and soon learned that the photo with a zombie would follow suit. I had hoped for and even expected a live actor but what we saw were two props that could scarcely be called zombies so we declined the photo. We hurried over to the illusion show which was short but did add a nice ripple to the whole experience.

The Ghost Tour was next and was designed to be more campy than scary but the effect was pulled off nicely by the clashing personalities of our tour guides, Gabriel and Gregory. Gabriel played the part of the traditional, spooky tour guide, attempting to instill fear in the guests with ghost stories about the grounds; each story would of course climax in some small scare. Gregory was a slightly hyper ghoul with a penchant for off beat, well timed comedy. The Ghost Tour ended where the Monster Maze picked up. Absent were any actors or props but the maze did give us the opportunity to run around like idiots attempting to frighten other, unsuspecting guests. At one point John and I became separated from Jason and attempted to reunite using our patented “Aweel” call.

Overall I’d give the experience 3 out of 5 stars and am left to believe that The Haunting was firing on all cylinders when Zioptis came calling, otherwise there is no way they would have been awarded a top rating. I wouldn’t mind heading back later in the season to confirm my suspicions but with so many other haunts to visit I doubt we’ll find the time.

It wasn’t a bad start to the haunt season; the atmosphere was rife with the intoxicating scent of fall and that intangible magic unique to the Halloween season.

I plan to post whatever pictures I can from our various visits this season so be sure to check that periodically. Keep in mind that I have to be some what careful when taking these pictures as not all monsters or operators are exactly fond of the practice. I’ll leave you with the following quotes from our endeavor:

“If we get lost out here we might as well rape and murder ourselves…save the locals the trouble.”   -Joel

“Sometimes I just want to grab one of those girl workers. It’s almost like they want you to, do you know what I mean? I mean I would never do it but I think if I did they’d just let me.”   -Jason

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