Jason’s Curse, Ohio Haunts Highlight Night

In this edition of Hallowblog Flashback, we relive a notable night of haunting in the Buckeye State. Originally posted on Sunday, October 25, 2009 this entry documented a rather interesting and amusing excursion to Terror Town in Maumee and The Haunted Hydro in Fremont.

Terror Town’s House of the Dead would go on to win the 2009 Horrorlust Killer Automatons Award, an award the vaunted haunt would claim four consecutive seasons from 2009-2012. 

To this day my brother, Jason, is still ridiculed for the events of this night and I suspect it ‘ll be some years yet before the rest of us let him live it down.  

Our haunt excursion on Friday the 16th was a memorable experience but perhaps just as memorable as the haunts was the dilemma in which we found ourselves that jeopardized the entire night. Jason, in keeping with his rich tradition of procrastination and tardiness, once again delayed the start of our night. However that would turn out to be the least of his infractions on this night. While driving La Pleasance Road en route to southbound I-75, Jason debated aloud the pros and cons of stopping for gas at the present or putting off the menial task for some time later in the night. Prone as he is to laziness and indifference Jason nonchalantly proclaimed that later suited him just fine.

Twenty minutes later the car began to decelerate and within a minute we were at a crawl and out of gas. I am convinced that the man is cursed. Richard and I decided to jump out and began to push the vehicle while we still had some momentum. So there we were, a couple of jackasses pushing a car down US-25 in Toledo several miles from the nearest gas station. Jason relieved Richard of pushing duties after a quarter mile at which time Richard thought it pertinent to document the proceedings by snapping a few pictures. We’d gone about a half mile when a car pulled up behind us, a bearded man asked if we needed gas; somewhere in the distance I swear I heard a banjo. Thankfully he had a gas can and even more than that nobody was raped or maimed; many thanks to Beardo the Kind. We proceeded to the nearest gas station which likely would have taken well over an hour to reach had it not been for the kind stranger. The night was back on track and Terrortown was in our sights.

Last year Terrortown’s House of the Dead earned the Haunt Trinity’s top honor as Haunt of the Year and so it was with great excitement that we returned to this location. This year the offerings at Terrortown include Toxic Terror in 3D, The Asylum, and of course the incomparable House of the Dead. After purchasing our tickets we headed to the entrance for the 3D attraction. It was evident upon entering the haunt that something was amiss as nothing about it appeared in 3D, in fact the structure was completely dark. We wandered about the maze like interior for a couple of minutes amusing ourselves before making our exit. Given the situation I don’t feel that it would be fair or accurate to rate this particular attraction.

We jumped in line for The Asylum next, held in the same building that housed Slaughterhouse in 2008. Asylum offers haunters a very unique feature at the beginning of the attraction. We entered the lobby and stood before a steel door, in the middle of the door was a window which flickered and revealed its true face as a video screen. A short video began; a woman in a white dress with long, greasy black hair stalked a row of abandoned prison cells. She dragged an ax at her side and her intentions became clear. She battered the window with the ax and the door began to dent as if something would shortly break down the door. We’ve never witnessed an effect quite like this anywhere else. I could only guess at the cost of such a prop. The only downside was the fact that the door was apparently not functional because no actor erupted from the door which would have set the tone nicely.

Asylum wasn’t a lengthy attraction but it accomplished quite well what it set out to do. The haunt was comprised almost entirely of dark, maze like passages which were periodically streaked with the flash of a strobe light. A series of highly creepy full size props ward haunters away from various dead ends and I do mean highly creepy. The props looked identical to the girl from the video, each of them armed with an ax. Due to the realism of the dummies we initially mistook them for live actors but even after concluding that they were props nobody wanted to get too close to these fierce bitches. It turned out that The Asylum was actually light on genuine fleshies which definitely would have helped push this attraction to the next level. Those that were present weren’t bad but they certainly weren’t great either. However, this attraction will without a doubt raise some goose bumps on every visitor, if the props and ghouls don’t do it the cold air certainly will. The building is very cold which is no doubt done on purpose as the operators at Terrortown are known for their penchant to assail the senses in nontraditional ways. It was an effective maneuver, by the time we exited the haunt our hands were like ice; an interesting ripple to a solid dark maze. The haunt concludes with the largest vortex tunnel you’re likely to see anywhere. Last season it stood as a solo attraction titled The Beast but it works much better in a complimentary fashion paired with The Asylum.

Rating: 3 1/4 stars

After staggering out of the vortex we headed to the entrance of the main event, House of the Dead. We must have caught Terrortown on a slow night because there was absolutely no wait for the feature presentation in contrast we waited well over an hour last year to gain entry. We stood in the lobby and were shortly greeted by the same middle aged creep that welcomed us to Dead House last year. He received us warmly and seemed to be genuinely thrilled that we’d come to “play with his children” as he put it. I like this character and I enjoy the demented patriarch shtick he runs, it’s a fun way to start the haunt. We packed into an elevator and descended into the bowels of the rotting estate. I will not mince words, House of the Dead just wasn’t quite the acid trip induced wet dream that we experienced last year, it’s still a fine haunt that much should not be questioned but the wicked juices that fueled last year’s mind fuck have abated a bit. The attraction is notably shorter and the infamous room of killer babies has been omitted which left us particularly disappointed.

Last year one of our few criticisms of this attraction was the lack of live actors, there are many more live actors this year but unfortunately most of them have less personality than most of the animatronics. But oh, how awesome these animatronics are! The first room of the haunt held about five animatronics alone, one man had a stream of blood issuing from his stomach while another struggled futilely against the restraints that held him aloft. We were attacked by an alligator and witnessed the aftermath of a gruesome slaughter of a unicorn by a pack of burly wolves.

One of my favorite scenes involved a prop I’ve come to call the Goliath Man, a massive crucified ghoul who lunges at haunters from his post. We came upon a hallway which had a long mirror on the wall to the left, a mixture of eeriness and vanity drew our gaze and then Goliath Man struck from the other side when a partition dropped out of the wall. Pay attention folks because this is a great blend of an old school technique (misdirection) and modern technology. Another great scene involving a member of Terrortown’s automated army came in the form of a feasting alien devouring the half eaten carcass of a young girl, classy.

Another aspect of House of the Dead that scores well with the Haunt Trinity is the attraction’s attention to detail. The operators play up the House angle well sending guests through a series of narrow passages and rooms designed to look just like somebody’s home, a deranged nutter’s home yes, but a home nonetheless. The hallways are decorated with freakish family portraits and the various rooms nearly all feature still props that could just as well be the stuffed remains of family members, I especially enjoyed the sinister looking children.

House of the Dead also commands recognition for its implementation of innovative techniques such as the use of holographic projections. Also of note are unique set pieces like the stairs that break under the weight of an unseen presence. And of course any mention of all things strange and bizarre at House of the Dead would not be complete without calling attention to the odorous decay that seems to permeate the walls within the manor. The foul smell nearly overwhelmed us when we entered a room full of dead animals. Thankfully this was a small room and before we could contribute to the overall stench of the place by unleashing the contents of our stomachs we entered an adjacent meat cooler. Inside the cooler hung the bodies of many a victim but we had no time for sorrow because the keeper of the shop had arrived with a chainsaw. During the ensuing melee I heard squealing and I thought that was an odd thing to hear in a room full of dead humans. It was then that I looked about and realized that the bodies hanging from the ceiling weren’t exactly human…they were some sort of pig people hybrid! The monstrosity nearest me was squealing incessantly and arching his freakish head toward my calf. We fled the meat cooler content in the knowledge that those pig people would soon be bacon on some lucky fellow’s plate.

House of the Dead is indeed an interesting and rare piece of work. Last year the attraction was an absolute hit with hardly any live actors at all and this year Dead House seemed to gain success in spite of the lackluster performance of said actors. I don’t believe we’ve ever come across any place or situation quite like this. I would obviously like to see the haunt return to its 2008 length but I dare say it seems counter intuitive to suggest that the operators scale back the number of live performers, but perhaps House of the Dead would be at its best with a few well placed warm bodies. The animatronics are simply the best we’ve witnessed; some really seem to take on a life of their own. The unique oddities inherent to this attraction add a layer to the experience and atmosphere that a lot of haunts just can’t touch. I hope the brain trust at Terrortown continue to evolve the idea of homestead gone bad because it has a lot of fun possibilities I’d love to see brought to life.

Rating: 3 3/4

We departed the Lucas County Fairgrounds and nearly forty minutes later arrived just in time to purchase our tickets at the Haunted Hydro in Fremont, Ohio. The adventure marked our first visit to this attraction and as with all first time trips we were eager to sample the offerings. There are two primary attractions here the crown jewel and namesake, Haunted Hydro and Industrial Mayhem; an outdoor attraction that truly exceeded all expectations.

Industrial Mayhem forces haunters through a long series of narrow paths bordered on both sides by chain linked fence. The attraction features a differently themed creature of the night each weekend; thus far it had been home to demons and nightmarish clowns but as fortune would have it our visit coincided with an outbreak of the living dead. Zombies littered the grounds and their jaws were a’ gnashing. The workers featured elaborately gruesome make up and some even donned those twisted contacts that warp the eyes. The actors were hard working and refused to be content with a single scare, several hungry ghouls stalked us through the gritty path and attacked us three or four times each. Much of the cast added to the genuine zombie appeal by refusing to break character responding to our usual hijinx with garbled grows and menacing snarls; these flesh eaters meant business.

The haunt featured two set pieces in particular which ensured that the repetitious setting did not become monotonous. The first was a boat and as we passed a starving zombie crawled from beneath the watercraft and began thrashing at our legs. Later the path led directly into the back of a hearse through which we were made to crawl. Midway through the dreary mobile a portion of the floor lights up, a ghoul trapped beneath a pane of glass pounds frantically in an attempt to procure the just out of reach delicacies.

Near the end of the attraction we came across a small junk yard that housed a hungry female zombie who was currently gorging herself on the neck of a once proud but now dead, stallion. She glared at us greedily as if the hardy meal she had already won wasn’t enough. The glint in her glossy eyes told us she had a zest for man flesh. Jason appeared a little too eager to oblige so we quickly pushed forward before he made a fatally embarrassing mistake. We wound our way into a burnt out dump, a revolting mutant wandered amidst the rubble. He wore construction gear and had a face that looked as if it had been washed in an acid bath. His skin was raw and tinged red, it looked like a lump of bloody hamburger. He entered a shack with shelves lined with grim trinkets; on one shelf a jar filled with orange slime contained a multitude of eye balls. He began pouring muddy, waste water from one barrel to the next offering us a drink as he did so. He also engaged us in a bit of tasteless humor involving one of our mothers.

We rounded the shack and attempted to exit Industrial Mayhem but we were chased away from the double doors by a deranged man who was very concerned about the damage we may cause his doors. Jason managed to escape on the first attempt barreling through the flimsy doors with wanton disregard. We had to retreat several times behind the mutant’s shack before making a run for it and escaping one by one. I was the last to breach the threshold; the little, angry man was still shouting about his doors.

Rating: 4 1/4 stars

We crossed the court yard and made our way to the entrance of the Haunted Hydro where the eccentric owner, Crazy Bob was entertaining some female patrons. Ole Bob rambled on for a bit about never forgetting a face and tried rather futilely to rattle Disco. Crazy Bob shortly relented and allowed us to enter the old hydro dam now home to a soggy army of ghouls and weirdoes. The building is an impressive sight to behold featuring a ceiling that towers far above the heads of its guests. We enjoyed Haunted Hydro but the haunt lacked a cohesive theme and that was disappointing because the structure would be quite believable as a medieval castle.

The first two scenes were highly detailed and would have felt at home at The Realm of Darkness. The first was a bedroom scene and the second a dining room, the latter scene offered up a hilarious worker who really pushed the envelope. After leaping out of a chair the portly ghoul offered us what he referred to as eyeball soup and then suggested that he add a special ingredient. He squatted slightly and began rubbing his hand on his ass; he then brought his hand to the bowl and proclaimed that the secret ingredient was “brown sugar.” We of course responded with bales of laughter and our sides nearly split when this repugnant wretch gyrated his hips and rubbed the personal concoction on his nipple. He responded promptly to our ribbing by wiping his fingers on my nipple which was actually quite surprising because haunt workers are not supposed to touch guests but I found the whole scene to be ludicrous and took no offense. Brown Sugar Man, I salute you!

We were lead shortly through a narrow hall filled with various clown props; the passage was lit by black lights and concluded when a simpering French clown provided a mild scare. The path took several more turns and we ended up in a security room, the walls lined with monitors, a woman occupied the chair behind the desk and our presence clearly disturbed her. She rose from the chair with great jerky movements and stalked our party to the end of the room.

Near the conclusion of the attraction haunters are treated to display both rare and bizarre in nature. A brightly colored, old fashioned puppet booth stood before us standing in surreal contrast to the dimly lit and grimy surroundings. A scrawny, high pitched male appears from behind the curtains holding a dirty teddy bear in his left hand. The bear would like to sing us a song and of course we agree to witness this odd side show. The puppeteer disappears behind the curtains and shakes the teddy bear about as he sings a dark rhyme about death. At one point the bear disappears behind the curtains and a large, clawed hand shoots quickly toward the guests functioning as a dovetail for the lyrics. When the song concludes the slimy puppet master cheers his own depraved lyrics and encourages us to do the same, we happily offer a round of applause and exit the scene.

We headed up an inclined path; a large shadow could be seen high upon a wall in the distance, another neat feature. The path turned and took us into a room with a deep pit, several nutters patrolled the room including a manic judge but to my disappointment the pit of despair held no captives. The path briefly led outside which afforded us the opportunity to appreciate the exterior of the Hydro. When we reentered we soon came to the conclusion of the haunt, a large graveyard setting that featured either a hopelessly drunk or helplessly insane pirate who blathered nonsense and begged us not to leave him.

The haunt concluded on a some what lackluster note but it did feature a lot of live actors most of which were quite good at what they set out to do. The unique features mentioned above were all welcome surprises and something I’d like to see the haunt build on. We had a lot of fun at the Haunted Hydro and I’d like to plan a return trip in a future season.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

“Oh, I hope they’re not too old.”

-Richard responding to the House of the Dead patriarch’s enthusiasm when he expressed delight that we had come to play with his children

“(Strangled laughter) Your mother…(more strangled laughter)…douche.”

-The reaction of the construction mutant when I suggested that his filthy, barrel water had been used as a douche by Richard’s mom

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