Crafting A Dark Legacy

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When Dark Legacy appeared in the Fear Finder and Haunt Guide last fall with full page advertisements it was clear that somebody wasn’t playing around. The mysterious haunted attraction was new to the Detroit scene but all indicators suggested that it was being organized and operated by anything but a rookie. Located in Wixom, Michigan, Dark Legacy featured three haunted attractions — Government Owned Haunt, Kensington Detention Center and Fang Cemetery. Each leg of Dark Legacy was intricately detailed and appropriately styled to match a specific theme but the true strength here was that the journey through Michigan’s newest haunt told a single, continuous story.

John and I made the trip out to Wixom on Devil’s Night and when we arrived enjoyed a conversation with owner Austin Denney and various members of his staff. They were each enthusiastic and knowledgable about their respective roles and positions within the hierarchy of Dark Legacy; a few of them even seemed intrigued by our travels throughout the state and lands behind in our never ending chase for screams. As John and I would soon learn, our trek through Dark Legacy would become another memorable entry in our book of horrors.

The fun began in the queue area which had been fitted with prop steel girders that had been expertly distressed to create an authentic aged industrial appearance. The look set the stage well for the quasi-military research facility known simply as Government Owned Haunt. This area was dominated by large rooms and the elaborate props that had been thoughtfully selected and placed within them.

One area contained an impressive security control panel flush with monitors, switches and buttons. Another room contained a series of cages which held shrieking, thrashing animatronic monkeys and yet another laboratory saw us witness the electrocution of a tall zombie. His limbs flopped and flapped as the electricity coursed through his rotting body and then suddenly the contraption spun violently and revealed a hidden chamber from which a live actor sprung and chased us from the room.

Elsewhere, there was a strange doctor with alien specimens followed by an eye-catching hallway that featured a sliding floor and a series of dancing lasers. Amidst such eye candy it might come as a surprise that the most memorable moment inside Government Owned Haunt occurred in a very small room that was humbly decorated with a simple chair and small, floor model television. Static filled the screen for a moment but then a shape began to emerge from the white noise, a human face forced itself from the snow-driven abyss! John and I were bewildered and observed the phenomenon from various angles as a way to test the merit of the illusion. Shockingly, no matter the angle the bizarre head pushed forward from the television set. It was an awesome sight and something John and I have witnessed exactly once in all of our haunted house adventures.

We exited Government Owned Haunt and found ourselves in an alley complete with dumpster and one fetid creature who mindlessly pushed a shopping cart. This area served as a transitional one and was smartly designed to maintain continuity while it guided customers from Government Owned Haunt to Kensington Detention Center.

Kensington Detention Center, like Government Owned Haunt before it, offered immersive scenes that transported guests to a defunct facility where all manner of experiments had been conducted on the hapless souls trapped within the walls. John and I would have the pleasure of meeting several of those hapless souls as we traversed Kensington’s haunted halls.

One of the most animated characters came in the form of a small woman who wore a medical gown and had recently lost an eye. There was a metallic instrument clutched in one of her hands and as we interacted with this excitable patient it became apparent that she had likely performed the grisly surgery herself! It wasn’t long before she intimated that she’d love nothing more than to add one of our peepers to her collection.

Kensington Detention Center also showcased several props with integrated video elements and without a doubt the most exciting of the bunch was a shipping crate that had been chained to the ground and bore the words: Biohazard. The wooden box rocked back and forth as if something on the inside violently thrashed for freedom. A window near the top of the box afforded us a view into the interior and as we peered into the unknown a monstrous face suddenly appeared in the window etched with rage and anguish.

Soon thereafter, we traveled through a morgue and then entered the hallowed grounds of Fang Cemetery. The cemetery was highlighted by an imposing series of catacombs and an awesome graveyard scene that utilized an explosion of light, sound and movement to deliver a heart-pounding jump scare when a stone gargoyle suddenly turned animate and disrupted our progress.

When we emerged from Dark Legacy I noted that the haunted expedition had chewed up roughly 25 minutes — a length that easily surpassed the average haunted attraction. The triple threat spook house managed to avoid the pitfall of rushing guests through at a break-neck pace but also made sure to eliminate any energy-sucking dead spots.

The attention to detail cannot be understated; each room was decorated with a wealth of props, animatronics and other set decor that enhanced the atmosphere and reinforced the overall illusion of a haunted attraction. The cast was an above average one punctuated by a few standouts who served the narrative of Dark Legacy quite well. And enough cannot be said about the flow from one attraction to the next — too often this is an overlooked or neglected aspect of a haunted attraction and when done poorly can break the spell operators work so hard create.

We’re also big supporters of the growing trend of the use of so-called actor-matronics, the hybrid of live actors and animatronic costumes. In my mind this isn’t just limited to actors wearing this style of costume but can also include instances of actors delivering a scare alongside an animatronic. Dark Legacy put this practice to use on at least two occasions — first when we encountered the electrified zombie and then later when we crossed paths with a hulking robot of sorts who gave us quite the surprise indeed.

In some ways Dark Legacy put me in mind of House of the Dead at Terror Town but that isn’t to suggest that the team here isn’t carving out a unique identity. Dark Legacy opened the haunted toolbox and built an attraction that utilized all of the tools and techniques that make a haunted house fun and exciting. It was a hell of a foundation that Dark Legacy laid out in 2014 which should only lend itself to future success.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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