Archive for the 2015 Category

Abandon All Hope, Old School is Back

Posted in 2015, Abandon, Review with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by bluefall8

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The Halloween moon reflected off of the wet pavement, the midnight hour approached, Abandon of Melvindale was poised to be the last hurrah of the 2015 haunt season. We parked and walked around to the opposite side of the building where things were quiet, too quiet. Despite the lack of a crowd, an energy was in the air.

John and I met the owner of Abandon, a man named Jason. He engaged us in earnest and shared ghost stories, EVPs and anecdotal evidence of the paranormal events that had occurred both inside the haunted house itself and Play Atlantis, the family fun center in which Abandon is located. One hair raising example involved an actress who fled the haunt in tears and refused to return after someone whispered an ominous warning into her ear.

In another instance, a little girl was found crying outside of a bounce house by her father and a manager of Play Atlantis. When questioned, the little girl reported that she had been shoved by a second girl inside the bounce house although at the time, that family were the only customers present; neither the father nor the manager ever saw the child in question.

The stories served as a great backdrop to the haunted attraction — with goosebumps crawling across our flesh, we were swallowed by the oppressive darkness of Abandon.

The music of Midnight Syndicate, a selection that was comprised of Gregorian chants and orchestral music, boomed throughout the voluminous space. The sound echoed so loudly that it was difficult to hear anything else which caused me to feel exposed and vulnerable. We could discern an incessant knocking, a portent of doom that created a strong psychology reaction. Although we would never discover the source, that sound would follow us throughout Abandon.

We trudged up and down long, wide ramps in near total darkness and on more than one occasion I thought I spotted a shadow figure amidst the gloom. Whether spirit or trick of the mind, the shapes evaporated any time I drew close enough to investigate. My heart raced like it had not raced in a good many years while inside a haunted attraction. I turned to John and inquired about his own state, his heart too threatened to beat straight out of his chest.

This was old school at its minimalist best and Abandon made no apologies for it. The majority of the actors hit us with quick, effective startles; appearing and disappearing so fast perhaps they were phantoms themselves. A select few spoke and while their delivery was passionate, the content of their speech was too generic for an otherwise amazingly effective haunted attraction.

John would later comment that Abandon was so absent of light that it was difficult to discern details about a given scene, but this was no criticism. That fact further reinforced the sensory deprivation concept and made sure that we were on edge the entire time.

There is, of course, room for improvement — an unnerving narrative is just waiting to be spun by a few clever characters; in addition, Abandon is aching for a finale to capitalize on all of that tension. Regardless, it’s great to finally have a bare bones, old school haunt in the Downriver area once again. Ever since Extreme Scream left Taylor following the 2009 haunt season there’s been a hole in my heart and now Abandon has emerged from the blackness to fill the void.

Rating: 4 stars

Rotten Manor Howls at Halloween Moon

Posted in 2015, Review, Rotten Manor with tags , , , , , , on September 13, 2016 by bluefall8

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John and I arrived at Rotten Manor last year at the end of a very long and exhausting season. It was Halloween and although the weather mocked us with rain and chill, Rotten Manor stood tall and undaunted. The enormous facade erupted from the landscape like a nightmare mansion from a classic horror flick. It was hands down the most impressive structure of its kind that we’ve witnessed in all of our years of haunting. Although the rain and wind refused to relent so too did the presence of Rotten Manor. There was an aura about the place and quite soon, John and I were set to experience a haunted house for the ages.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ROTTEN

We crossed the threshold of Rotten Manor and were greeted by a ghoulish butler who regaled us with the tale of Mr. & Mrs. Rotten whose tortured children still dwelt inside the decaying estate. Once the brooding monologue had concluded, we departed the main foyer and plunged into the dank halls of Rotten Manor.

We were immediately struck by the level of detail throughout the attraction which put us in mind of another Michigan haunt, The Realm of Darkness. In one room we encountered a creepy collection of dolls or were these perhaps the lingering children of the Rotten legacy? In another area we walked down the center aisle of an all too ominous church. We were then confronted with a series of doors, each armed with a different shocking surprise.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that Rotten Manor had a little bit of everything from passionate actors to convincing props to well-timed animatronics; the minds behind the madness even took care to challenge guests with various transitions like a fireplace, bedroom closets and a shower with a hole in the wall. Indeed, all senses were engaged and all manner of scare tactics employed as we navigated the winding halls of Rotten Manor.

We were spooked by a mechanized mannequin and caught off guard by a flayed corpse who laid contorted inside of a bath tub. We also encountered a kid named Billy who possessed an unsettling, gravely voice, exercised the odd skill of scaling walls and seemed for all the world to have been recently unearthed from Pet Cemetery.

There was also a nasty kitchen scene in which a robed woman ignored our presence and meticulously hammered something on the counter top with a determined fixation. As if all of that wasn’t unsettling enough, we soon found ourselves inside of a walk through cooler when a heap of plastic wrap located on the floor began to shuffle and squirm — something inside pleaded with us to end the suffering.

However, perhaps the most unnerving aspect of Rotten Manor was the ubiquitous Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy who could be found glowering at us from every shadow. In one room he might be found perched upon a shelf and then in another seated in a chair and in yet another he was in a different position entirely. Yes, the little wooden bastard was omnipresent and there was a cold malevolence in his dead eyes.

TO HELL AND BACK

A devilish figure welcomed us to the Gateway to Hell and without hesitation we plunged into a dark and cavernous tunnel; this would merely be the first in a series of fog-filled, laser-lite passages. The low-ceiling forced our heads down, the low visibility created the sensation that perhaps the portal stretched into infinity, odd echoes drifted past our ears.

When the hellish tunnels finally relented we found ourselves crammed into a blackout maze with slanted walls that made progress a slow go. It was then while pinned between walls and bodies, the dreadful chatter of a chainsaw could be heard.

There darkness was so complete that it was impossible to see the attack coming, someone whistled threateningly in the distance. When we did escape the maze it was only to find ourselves enveloped by a total whiteout. We groped our way through dense fog and with a little luck and by keeping our wits were able to emerge into the night air.

But, we hadn’t quite survived just yet, another whacko with a chainsaw had emerged and forced us into a forest where we were pursued by zombies and rednecks for a spell. Once that ordeal had passed we had officially survived a half hour trek through Rotten Manor.

Rating: 4.75 stars

“I wanna hang your skin on the wall.”

-Stated breathlessly and as a matter of fact by one creepy, crawling chick who invaded my personal space.

Dark Legacy Pens Another Grave Chapter

Posted in 2015, Dark Legacy, Review with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2016 by bluefall8

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Dark Legacy burst onto the scene during the 2014 haunt season with a blend of actors, animatronics and intricately detailed scenes. It would go on to win the 2014 Horrorlust Killer Automatons Award and earned an Honorable Mention in two other categories as well. In 2015 we discovered that Dark Legacy had added some new wrinkles, most notably a completely redesigned and expanded, Fang Cemetery.

BIG HAUNT FEEL

Dark Legacy offered more than twenty minutes of haunted goodness, each twist and turn served up production value in spades from blinking gizmos and ghoulish, static props to smartly-designed pneumatics and a robust soundscape punctuated by echoing wails, a blaring siren and the unnerving grind of machinery.

While inside Government Owned Haunt we discovered one room where monkeys were held captive inside a series of small cages. As if the scene weren’t dubious enough, we were approached by a man who offered us a taste of chicken. Riiiight, chicken. In another area, we narrowly survived the stampeding of a monstrous, decapitated dwarf in what was an expertly timed stunt. As if monkey meat and rampaging, headless dwarfs weren’t enough, Government Owned Haunt was also home to an extraterrestrial threat!

We exited Government Owned Haunt and emerged into a dingy alley, newspapers littered the ground. A silent hobo emerged from the shadows and methodically pursued us with a shopping cart. It was an eerie scene as the metal cart scraped noisily against a wall, contrasted against the utter silence of our ragged tail. What? That doesn’t sound hair-raising to you? Have you ever been followed by a hobo with a shopping cart in the dark?! It’s unsettling stuff. Faced with the horror of the hobo behind us and a solid wall in front of us, we turned to the right and entered Kensington Detention Center.

Much like Government Owned Haunt, Kensington Detention Center had unique scares of its own which included, among other things, a cleverly disguised coat stand. Yeah, you read that right; we were given a proper startle by an inanimate coat stand. I challenge any who pass this haunted object not to leap with fright.

Soon thereafter we were given another shock when a sadistic surgeon peeled back the face of a cadaver who turned out not to be a cadaver but very much still alive and now in considerable pain. No less freaky than a phantom raincoat or Faceless Frankie was a set of young, twin girls who seemed to have walked right off the set of The Shining. As we reached the end of Kensington Detention Center the identical pair mused in unison on the topic of our impending death.

We fled into the murk of Fang Cemetery which had indeed undergone a complete reconstruction that was equal parts impressive and immersive. Foreboding structures towered above us, we crossed a bridge and tunneled through tombs. A voodoo priestess pined for our hearts, zombies wormed out of wells and a seated statue sprang to life. We had nearly survived the whole ordeal when we were surprised by a rather spry hunchback and then forced to dodge the venomous bite of a super-sized snake!

Rating: 4.25 stars

Hush End Game Anything but Silent on Devil’s Night

Posted in 2015, Hush, Review with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2016 by bluefall8

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It was set to be a late night for the folks at Hush when we visited last year on Devil’s Night; already a line snaked through the entire parking lot. John and I soaked in the impressive scene, a little more than two years prior nobody had even heard the name Hush — this crowd was a testament to the prowess of the team behind one of Detroit’s hottest haunts.

The decrepit facade of the Hush Corporation loomed in front of us ensnared by wild vegetation and marred by the fallout of some terrible event. What had befallen the once proud and polished institution? Had the risk of the experiments conducted within run afoul? Did unchecked hubris doom the organization to failure and ruin? And what had become of the iconic and inimitable Dr. Phineas Phun?!

HUSH CORPORATION EXPOSED

As John and I waited in line we watched as a clawed hand pawed through the boarded windows — there was no telling what kind of creatures were alive inside just yet, but soon we would join them inside the defunct Hush Corporation. As soon as we were admitted, a devilish character with a raspy voice welcomed us inside, he was flanked by a beastly henchman. The duo seemed to revel in the fall of Hush and were eager to see human flesh walk so willingly into its clutches, yes, the monsters had risen and now ruled the roost.

Nearby, we encountered the same odd receptionist from a year ago. Readers may remember that she exuded a cold, cyborg-like cadence and personality and indeed that remained but something had changed. She had once seemed eerie but now there was a decidedly dark quality in her robotic words. When we inquired about the whereabouts of Dr. Phun her necked suddenly twitched and she replied with icy authority, “Dr. Phun is dead.” As depraved and twisted as Dr. Phun was, if he was dead, then there was no one left to keep a lid on the madness at the Hush Corporation.

We navigated the familiar halls but found them scarcely populated by the staff that was once employed here, instead we dodged a girl who had been infected with some unknown disease, were surprised by a pint-sized animatronic pygmy and startled by a dinosaur who forced its head through a whole in the wall. No sooner were we clear of the rampaging reptile when we were confronted by a twitchy girl and her teddy bear that she referred to as Mr. Cuddles.

Once past her and the dubious Mr. Cuddles, we entered a laboratory where we had one year prior been stalked by a deranged doctor and reanimated corpse. That duo was nowhere to be found but we were immediately accosted by an elderly lab technician with a nasally voice who excitedly explained his recent experiments, one of which included his own son who was being held captive inside of a Plexiglas cell. Sonny Boy wore a rictus grin and pounded his fists angrily against the walls that held him. He laughed uncontrollably at seemingly nothing and was by all accounts, certifiably insane. After taunting him for several moments we were duped into entering the structure ourselves and forced to spend a little time with this less than prodigal son before escaping through a passage near the rear of the cell.

Soon, we emerged into the crisp night air but Hush had no plans to let us off that easily. We began to worm our way through a labyrinth of narrow passages that were packed to the gills with all manner of miscreant. A blasphemous priest assailed us with torn pages from what he called the Unholy Bible, indeed he was a horrific site to behold but he wasn’t alone. A physically imposing, snarling nihilist fervently pursued us spewing graphic rhetoric on the meaninglessness of life itself. The forceful duo struck a deeper, disturbing cord and in doing so proved to be a cut above the rest.

Around another corner, someone threatened to stuff us into a box with their pet zombie. Elsewhere some creep claimed to have eaten Dr. Phun and then insisted that John was the late doctor’s twin and should suffer a similar fate. Fortunately, a former staff member intervened and began to lead us to safety but she was soon snatched up by a cryogenic freak!

The noise had risen to a deafening din — a chainsaw rattled somewhere nearby, a dense fog obscured our view. A wild girl had leaped a top a shipping container to our left and beat it with a stick, the laugh of a lunatic could be heard reverberating through the air. Suddenly we were just two bodies in a sea of humanity as others scrambled to escape the mad scene. The chainsaw and laughter grew in volume and soon we saw a man in a gown holding a bed pan. He flicked the contents of the pan at all who passed, giggled like a school girl as he did and insisted that everybody share in what he delightfully called pea soup…or perhaps it was pee soup. Probably pee soup. Yeah, definitely pee soup.

Rating: 4 stars

HUSH DECLASSIFIED

2015 was to be the final year for Hush at the Ford Road location but a series of roadblocks prevented the team from moving ahead with its plans for a thrill park near Skateland West. No need to fret, the show must go on! Hush Haunted House will return to 34043 Ford Road in Westland with a completely rebuilt and expanded show for 2016. It would seem that the Hush Corporation has regrouped and erected a wall around the town of Hush Falls, a reportedly New Orleans inspired setting. Color me intrigued.

Terror on the Boulevard a Textbook of Home Haunting

Posted in 2015, Review, Terror on the Boulevard with tags , , , on August 12, 2016 by bluefall8

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Terror on the Boulevard is a home haunt located in Lincoln Park, Michigan that has been in existence for a decade; it’s a labor of love for Adam Grignon. Like many home haunts, Terror on the Boulevard is open to the public free of admission, but is only operational a couple of nights each October. I first learned of Terror on the Boulevard in 2012 while working as a substitute teacher at Carr Elementary School. I did attempt to attend that year on Devil’s Night but was thwarted by the aftereffects of the appropriately named, Frankenstorm. Three years to the day, I returned with my faithful haunt companion, John, by my side to finally tour Terror on the Boulevard.

We encountered Adam at the entrance of his home haunt, dressed in the fashion of a father from the 1950s complete with sweater vest and pipe. He ushered us eager kiddies into his creation which we would soon discover was home to the Boogeyman. The interior of Terror on the Boulevard wasn’t so different from your own home, specifically a child’s bedroom. One hallway was decorated with wallpaper, family photos and even a vintage radio that quietly transmitted a period correct song that reinforced the Boogeyman theme.

John and I would note that the attraction was professionally lit which is not a feat easily accomplished at an outdoor home haunt. Fog machines were also implemented in an appropriate manner — the effect wasn’t overdone so that it blotted out details rather it created the impression that perhaps a small fire had recently occurred somewhere in the house.

Adam was a bit short on help on the night of our visit and that did impact what I’m sure would have been an excellent signature scare. On one wall was scrawled a message that warned “Don’t look under the bed.” We noticed some skirting near our ankles and naturally couldn’t resist the temptation. Adam later informed me that a pair of oversized hands were scheduled to assail those who were curious enough to look. I have no doubt it garnered the lion’s share of shrieks during the hours of trick r’ treating.

As it were, the most memorable scare delivered to John and I came in the largest room of the haunt where a series of sheets had been fashioned into floating ghosts. We bobbed and weaved our way through the white figures, prepared for one or more to reach in our direction. All was still for several agonizingly long moments and just when we thought we were in the clear — SWOOSH!!! One expertly disguised ghostie alerted us to the fact that he had some life in him yet.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Dreadlands Haunt of Davison Serves Up Triple Shot of Terror

Posted in 2015, Dreadlands Haunt of Davison, Review with tags , , , , , , , on August 6, 2016 by bluefall8

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If you make a habit of chasing the high that only haunting can provide, you’re sure to often find yourself in a race against the clock. Such was the case last October when we rolled into the Dreadlands Haunt of Davison. We turned onto a narrow wooded trail that didn’t seem fit to accommodate more than a single vehicle, we spotted a man to our left who held a sign that read: Sold Out. We chatted with the man briefly who seemed as confused as we were, ultimately we decided to continue down the path and hope for the best.

We wouldn’t regret that decision.

The Dreadlands Haunt of Davison seemed to be winding down for the night but that changed drastically once we began the terror triathlon comprised of The Research Labs, Proving Grounds Trail and Zombie Sniper Arena. Eager as ever, we darted for The Research Labs and never looked back.

A ONE-OF-A-KIND LABYRINTH OF HORROR

The Research Labs was a flurry of activity from the word go. Someone named Amy was on the loose and she had marshaled an army of zombies. We were whisked into a room where a large map of the United States was displayed on one wall, the area had the feel of a haphazard military bunker. A pair of soldiers engaged in a spirited debate over how to best contain the threat. The debate quickly escalated into argument which devolved into a physical altercation; one of them wound up unconscious or dead. We were ushered into the next room and left to our lonesome.

The Research Labs was mostly comprised of small, cluttered rooms filled with all manner of objects; including fish tanks that featured floating human heads. If Hoarders and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre got together for one supremely horrifying crossover it would resemble The Research Labs. Each space induced a sense of disorientation and claustrophobia. Several rooms seemed to be dead ends at first blush but further investigation revealed hidden passages disguised as a refrigerator, locker and even a closet full of moldy clothing.

The cast was plentiful, energetic and youthful if not a bit green, but boy were they vocal. Shouts and screams rebounded off of every corner of the structure, a tempest of human anguish bombarded our ears. All throughout the multi-level haunt offbeat spooks emerged from the shadows or groped at our limbs through strategically placed grabby holes. The multi-level aspect was a real stroke of brilliance which challenged haunters to climb ladders fashioned from wooden pallets. In one instance we emerged from a hole in the floor and found ourselves inside a cobweb infested attic, the planks beneath our feet sinking with every step.

Oh yeah, it’s hard to top that kind of authenticity.

We were also impressed by a library flush with shelves of books and yet another hidden exit. As fortune would have it I would even play the central character in an interactive electrocution scene! What can I say? I never turn down the opportunity to become part of the show. Shortly thereafter, we emerged outside into the night air a top a narrow spiral staircase, but once we’d descended to ground level we were fed right back into the unique edifice.

We pawed through the darkness of a maze searching for an escape when we happened upon trees. Trees? Yeah, trees. Full grown trees inside of a haunted house?! Okay, without even checking my records I know this to be a Horrorlust first. Riveted and bewildered as we were, we managed to push ahead where we would later encounter a manic scientist, who was definitely on the spectrum. We also crossed paths with a rather sinister mother who was all too matter-of-fact when she revealed that her baby had been burnt to a crisp.

Rating: 4.5 stars

PROVING GROUNDS TRAIL HOME TO WOODLAND WEIRDOS

We stood at the edge of the woods and listened to instructions from a believable young corporal, when he had finished with the briefing we were led into a large tent. Here, we were introduced to a nebbish scientist who rambled about an anti-virus, Ebola and even engaged in a spot of scatological humor. Once his interesting spiel had concluded we exited the rear of the tent and were swallowed by the darkness of the woods.

The Proving Grounds Trail was not for the faint of heart; the entire journey lasted nearly a solid half hour. The path was lined with ramshackle huts and other outbuildings of various shapes and sizes which afforded ghouls a great many places from which to launch an ambush. In one unforgettable instance, a slovenly, middle-aged man lurched toward us on wobbly legs. His speech was heavily slurred, his mannerisms stuttered and exaggerated; in one hand he grasped a brown paper bag that concealed a bottle. When we inquired about his state he indicated that he was both “special” and intoxicated; indeed all signs suggested that both were true. He told us that his name was Simple (of course it was) and then warned us of his brother, George. With caution fresh in mind we journeyed deeper into the woods; Simple shambled off in the opposite direction.

The uneven, earthen path was strewn with a great many objects, all in a state of disrepair and decay. There was a moonshine still (likely Simple’s watering hole), a full-size above-ground pool and even a dilapidated pick-up truck which we were forced to crawl through. The woods featured a mixture of captives and cretins who roamed the territory unchecked; it was difficult to distinguish friend from foe and as a result we eyed all who approached with suspicion. The wind had begun to rip through the trees and screams echoed throughout the woods in every direction.

The trail came to an abrupt end at the front door of a small cabin, we heard the distinct sound of a gun being cocked. I knocked on the wooden door and an unseen voice told us to enter. A portly, bearded man stood in the living room brandishing a shotgun. His choice of decor made for an odd mishmash — raggedy, leopard skin furniture lined the room, a single Ansel Adams print hung on one wall.

This was George, brother of Simple.

As George told it, a big family reunion was on the horizon. He instructed us to stay off of his carpet despite the fact that we were all standing on plain, wooden boards. A noise was be heard beneath our feet. The preponderance of evidence suggested to me that perhaps George was a tad unhinged and no sooner a portion of the floor erupted! A frail, teenage girl sprung from a trap door and began to scream. George shoved the gun in her faced and forced her back into the spider hole. We took this as our cue to exit.

We would wander the bleak woods for some time still and eventually came to a large wooden structure where we ascended a set of stairs. Once at the top we were loaded one by one into a zip line contraption that sent us soaring through the trees; it proved to be a thrilling finale complete with a heart-racing gag.

Rating: 3.5 stars

ZOMBIE SNIPER ARENA MIXES INTERACTION & EXCITEMENT

I generally have very little interest in any presentation of zombie paintball but it was clear that the Dreadlands offered a different beast altogether. We wouldn’t be firing at static props or even enjoy the comfort of a protective barrier, no we would enter a maze flush with brain munchers. We geared up, listened intently to safety protocals and accepted our mission — the recovery of a highly valuable anti-virus.

It was obvious that the military brass and the grunts on the front lines were at odds with each other, a Captain Hudson argued forcefully with a superior official of unknown rank. Tensions rose so high that people became distracted and careless, a makeshift door was breached and Captain Hudson vanished into a sea of writhing, rotten flesh. In a state of panic we were thrust into the maze.

The sound of zombies hailed from every direction (we would later find out that a sound system pumped in the recorded moans and groans of the actors). After some initial confusion in which my gun seemed to jam, Steve, John and I fired upon the undead menace with wild abandon that I daresay bordered on glee. To our great shock, we found Captain Hudson, alive! The crafty military man had utilized a table to shield himself from the army of corpses. Following a quick reload we were able to gun down the remainder of the meat bags, recover the anti-virus and save the world!

Rating: 4 stars

Exit 13 a Livewire of Horror

Posted in 2015, Exit 13, Review with tags , , on June 28, 2016 by bluefall8

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It isn’t easy for a haunted attraction to continually improve from season to season, in fact, it’s hard. John and I have found that repeated trips to the same attraction year after year without a break can render even our favorite places a bit stale. 2015 marked the fourth consecutive year that John and I had visited Exit 13 but there was no sign of fatigue; the brazen barbarians who call this place home are determined to rewrite the rule book.

In 2014, Exit 13 was crowned the Horrorlust Haunt of the Year and I had no doubt that the psycho-charged cast would do their utmost to defend that title. We pulled into a packed parking lot and saw a long, winding line of eager faces who had also come to experience Exit 13. Along with John and I was Steve an Exit 13 virgin. No worries though, the freaks inside are expert in the art of popping haunt cherries!

ROCK’EM SOCK’EM HALLOWEEN SPOOKS

Exit 13 was it’s usual self, that is to say, a bad ass blend of in-your-face antics and old school minimalism — no place does it better. The textured walls and expansive environment psyche you out and keep one guessing throughout the dark, winding journey. And then, all of a sudden — you aren’t alone anymore. Dinner is served with a promise of dessert from a southern belle transsexual named Francine and Francine isn’t a shy lass. It’s said that a man’s stomach is the way to his heart and this is true, but I can’t be bought so cheaply (I mean, a single meal? Come on!). While my companions howled with laughter, Francine was denied the kiss she so desired by the timely magic of a hidden door that whisked me into darkness and away from her eager, puckered lips.

Francine wouldn’t be the last femme fatale who took a shine to yours truly, approximately midway through the haunt I was held captive by another woman. This one had a thick eastern European accent and she brandished a bone. I was ordered behind a counter where a second much taller woman stood. My friends were ordered to leave the room which they did without much resistance, traitors.

Meanwhile, Helga and her pet giantess formed a human barrier around me. The giantess was silent but I feared she would be quick to anger and thus I didn’t dare risk rousing her temper with my usual sarcastic comments. Helga, however, spoke at length in that ominous, old world accent. It seemed she had plans for one hell of a soup and she fancied me as the main ingredient. Thankfully, Helga had a change of heart and decided perhaps I was too sweet for her soup. Helga ordered me out of her kitchen. I glanced over my shoulder once more at the mute giantess, she didn’t flinch, she only glowered. I dashed from the pair with expediency on a mission to reunite with my party, but alas, Helga had held me in her clammy clutches for too long. I had no choice but to continue the treacherous trek through Exit 13, alone.

As I navigated the dark passages, I encountered a dead end which had been fitted with a full-length mirror which provided an unexpected startle when a strobe light revealed my own face — it was a serious moment of disassociation that made me feel oddly uncomfortable. Further on ahead I entered an elaborate cemetery and was forced to crawl through a hole in the wall of a mausoleum. On hands and knees, I gingerly progressed through the narrow shaft and all the while I had visions of decomposed hands clutching at my flesh.

Free of the cemetery, I found myself in yet another dark passage when a long-haired patient, atop a gurney, propelled the contraption in my direction. I dodged it but not by much and as a reward for that feat of dexterity I would shortly be roughed up by a pair of malevolent clowns who sent me tumbling through the exit where I was finally reunited with John and Steve.

Rating: 4.25 stars

TOTAL BLACKOUT TRUE TO ITS NAME

Exit 13 had added a second attraction in 2015 — a no frills, blackout maze that was indeed devoid of almost all light. We were greeted at the entrance by a sizable clown who had the curious habit of speaking in two completely different voices. It was as if two separate entities had decided to take up residence in the same body and I got the distinct impression that at least one, if not both, of those personalities had some molester tendencies.

Once he had finished horrifying us into a collective coma, the harlequin slunk off to do what I’m sure were perverse things. We entered Total Blackout and spend a fair amount of time trudging through the blackened halls. There was one point where my hand touched something damp and furry attached to a wall, a conversation about wet, fuzzy muffs ensued briefly. The back-and-forth upset the locals as unseen forces could be heard growling at us from the dark.

Total Blackout has potential to expand and evolve; it can be a great experimental attraction for Exit 13 going forward. Here’s to future zaniness!

Rating: 2.75 stars

Mayhem & Mystery Collide at Clio Manor

Posted in 2015, Clio Manor, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2016 by bluefall8

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Clio Manor has been in operation for only a few short seasons but it was evident from our trip last fall that the gang here has made great strides in that time. Located in the back of a large building, Clio Manor thrilled us with memorable characters versed in horror and comedy alike who populated a myriad of richly detailed and interactive scenes. The journey spanned two levels, was thoughtfully paced and offered over 20 minutes of heart-pounding haunt goodness!

The fun began when we were regaled with a theatrical and comedic introduction by a man in dapper attire who called himself, Blot. He was a stringy, agile type who was skilled in many tricks of the trade; something about him put me in mind of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When he had finished with the house rules and other pleasantries, Blot led us to the top of a staircase and bade us farewell but not before he dropped a rather ominous and vague reference to someone named Roxanne.

Alone in the dark, John, Steve and I started down a hallway but were quickly intercepted by a curious fellow dressed in basic street clothes. There was something off about his demeanor, something foreboding. He communicated with us through a combination of eye movement and hand gestures. A few tense moments passed in confusion but then Steve correctly surmised that our new acquaintance had had his tongue removed; presumably cut out by the mysterious and seemingly violent, Roxanne.

Our mute friend guided us to another room where we encountered a fireman with an ax stuck firmly into the center of his chest. He said that he had been called there to suppress a fire when a crazy lady had waylaid him with the weapon. My money was on Roxanne, who definitely seemed to be on a roll. Beyond our help, I advised the fireman to accept his fate and die peacefully. In turn, he dutifully directed us through a hole in the wall.

We emerged on the other side into a series of would-be homey rooms save for the gore and gaggle of crazies who accosted us at every turn. In one room a randy temptress tried to lure us onto her bed which was occupied by the body of her former lover, some poor bastard named Sammy. The temptress shamelessly mounted the corpse and began to grind her hips. I attempted to convince John to lie on the mattress but to no avail, meanwhile Sammy was stiff for all the wrong reasons.

Next, we were introduced to Clownie the Clown a decidedly oddball character who seemed the optimal cross-section of effeminate and autistic — if you can imagine such a thing. The end result was a bizarre but likable character who told bad jokes, asked us to play with his toy box (I’m pretty sure that was a euphemism) and invited us to walk down something he called “the acid brick road.” Yeah, Clownie was weird. No sooner had Clownie left us in a room full of toys when an overgrown Teddy Bear launched itself at us from a pile of stuffed animals. It unleashed a gurgled snarl that seemed one-part aggressive, one-part aroused and then began to paw at us in a very friendly fashion.

Free from those pervy clutches we pushed deeper into Clio Manor. A darkly attractive girl was spotted ahead but she dashed off at first sight and quickly crawled beneath a bed. She soon reemerged and revealed that it was she who had dealt the deathblow to the fireman. Who would’ve thought that bloodthirsty Roxanne would be so alluring? With no weapon currently in her possession, we used the opportunity to escape unscathed.

We bobbed and weaved in and out of several scenes and then descended a staircase back to the main level of the edifice. There we meet a sweet, but creepy girl who had an affinity for human ears; she kept them pickled in jars. She even recounted her experience with a recent victim named Suzie and then introduced us to her pet, a dog-man named Sid. Sid tickled my chin and then forced John to pass a couple of playful tests before he allowed us to proceed. A few minutes later an unseen assailant tickled my ribs and then copped a cheap feel of my chest. I suspect Sid had tracked our scent.

Near the end of the attraction we witnessed an excellent diminishing point vortex which was used to maximum effect when coupled with a jump scare. The punk who delivered the surprise then warned us of someone known as The Harvester, and that’s just not the name of anybody you ever want to meet. Any thoughts of sidestepping The Harvester were dashed when we happened upon a series of makeshift cages, and those cages were occupied by people.

Suddenly, we were in the presence of The Harvester and his chainsaw. After a brief exchange of words, his limp-separator rattled to life and we fled through a narrow path as his captives desperately, or perhaps angrily, pushed against the chicken wire that formed the walls of their cell.

Rating: 4.25 stars

“Don’t fall down. If you do, I get the nibbly bits.”

-One of Blot’s, our gracious host, many warnings.

Delirium Gets Lost Inside Mind of a Madman

Posted in 2015, Review, Wyandotte Jaycees with tags , , , on June 15, 2016 by bluefall8

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As a citizen of the City of Wyandotte and an avid haunter, it would seem sacrilege to fail to visit the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House each fall. Indeed, since 2007 not a season has passed in which I haven’t checked out the haunted happenings of my local Jaycees. No matter the result — be it good, bad or indifferent — a trip through the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House has become a tradition. Last October, Delirium came to the former City Hall on Biddle and it echoed the successes and shortcomings of previous Jaycees’ haunted houses.

It was clear mere minutes into our voyage that Delirium was badly short-staffed which caused the meandering dark, empty halls to seem that much more like a gargantuan waste of space. There was a scene or two with actors right off the hop but after that it was a painfully long time before anything of substance happened again; wandering through darkened passages will lose its effect if there’s no pay off and this seriously hampered the first third of the haunted attraction.

Also on the negative side of the ledger is the chronically bad soundtrack — a disparate collection of weird and repetitive screams, bestial cries and silence. It’s outdated and borderline corny. It doesn’t enhance the atmosphere or mood of the attraction, in fact, it detracts from it. The soundtrack is also deficient at covering the movement or idle chatter of the actors who sometimes need to communicate with each other. It is, in effect, a complete failure at everything a soundtrack is supposed to do for a haunted attraction. If it can’t be replaced by something more dynamic and modern, simply eliminating it would be an improvement.

Despite these setbacks, Delirium did showcase several enjoyable scenes and characters. In one room a young girl sat on a bed and tapped out an inexpert tune on a toy piano. She wasn’t pleased with our presence and expressed her displeasure when she forcefully threw a baby doll against a wall. The miniature monster did this with such quickness and violence that she gave our group a genuine shock — most impressive.

Next, we suddenly found ourselves in a large room completely decked out for Christmas. This was another authentic surprise and the overall effect was melancholy and haunting in spite of the cheerful yuletide tune that played on an unseen radio. A lone teen-aged girl roamed the room holding a small present. She was hyperactive in her love for the holiday and possessed a frenzied, strangled laugh.

Another favorite area was the freak show complete with sideshow banners and the absurd Lobster Boy. Much to our delight the freak show led us to a game of chance where I was afforded the chance to throw the head of a baby doll at some stacked bottles! With my life on the line I wound up, my aim was true and that baby’s head sent those bottles clattering in all directions. The clownish carneys who were in charge of the game were the finest actors in all of Delirium, their interaction and vocalizations in stark contrast to the amateurish deliveries found throughout much of the attraction.

There were also several other areas of note that had the seed of a good scare but the aforementioned lack of actors derailed what might have been. Included in that list were a brightly-lit laboratory that featured an empty desk, a threadbare playground and an appropriately detailed ritual scene.

Delirium concluded with an above average chainsaw gag in which we encountered the scientist who was responsible for the state of affairs. He was determined to right all of his wrongs and he was willing to get bloody to that end. Needless to say, he thought we were as good a place to start as any.

Once we exited Delirium we were introduced to the inimitable Murray the Clown who emerged as a bona fide mascot for the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House. The man behind the greasepaint is a true credit to the organization.

Rating: 2.25 stars

“I’ve heard of being eatin’ out but this is ridiculous.”

-My artful reaction to an enormous rat devouring a corpse

Hallowe’en Nights a Family Friendly Delight

Posted in 2015, Hallowe'en Nights, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2016 by bluefall8

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From apple orchards and pumpkin patches to haunted houses and hayrides, Michigan is blessed with a cornucopia of fall festivities and activities. Indeed the rich and colorful history of Halloween runs deep in the Wolverine State and one event that has become a staple of the Detroit area is Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn.

Greenfield Village, for those unfamiliar, was the brainchild of Henry Ford — yes, the Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic homes, shops and buildings assembled by the late Mr. Ford and each October the streets and districts are transformed into a vintage Halloween celebration. I visited this event for the first time last fall with my wife and son and discovered a fun, family friendly atmosphere with playful scares and mildly spooky scenes.

The magical journey began in the Working Farms District, 1,000s of jack-o-lanterns lined the streets and served as a silent guide throughout Greenfield Village. Although not each and every last area of the village was accessible, all of the seven districts that comprise Greenfield Village were incorporated into the event in some capacity and the level of decoration was immaculate. Attention was paid to detail, the labs inside Edison at Work were alight with the signature glow of black lights; historic homesteads and shops from a bygone era featured windows and doors that pulsed with the eerie beacon of strobe lights.

The Main Street District was dominated by a carnival sideshow that included a stage performance and a photo-op with an enchanting mermaid. We pushed our way through the throngs of revelers and settled for a moment next to a large statue of Thomas Edison where I snapped a photo of my beloved wife and son.

Following a trek through Menlo Park, we entered the Porches & Parlors District heralded by a bizarre musical performance that was conducted by a pair of glowing skeletons who had taken up residence beneath a gazebo. When that whimsical oddity had concluded we braved the covered bridge that featured fog and lasers. The bridge was the most purely frightening experience of Hallowe’en Nights and I’m proud to report that my little guy never blinked in the face of fear; instead his eyes were full of wonder and curiosity.

Near Walnut Grove we witnessed a trio of oversized, singing jack-o-lanterns and became acquainted with a pair of peculiar fairy sisters, Kynda and Roodelle. As we continued uphill we watched pirates duel, breezed past a graveyard adjacent to Martha-Mary Chapel and eyed broom rentals near J.R. Jones General Store. Indeed, the various characters, mini-plays and complimentary scenes spread across Greenfield Village only served to heighten the overall mystique of this special event.

The light of the jack-o-lanterns had brought us back to Main Street where we paused for a few moments and were delighted to find that the iconic carousel was used to great effect. Old-fashioned music drifted across the intersection of Christie and Main Street while the carousel spun haunting rotations as if propelled by a ghostly hand. It immediately brought to mind an episode of The Twilight Zone titled Walking Distance in which a man is transported back in time to his childhood and pays a visit to the local carnival. This was, undoubtedly, one of my favorite highlights of Hallowe’en Nights.

Next, we were briefly routed into Railroad Junction where we traversed a spooky grove, illuminated only by the glow of several carved pumpkins — this was another one of my most favorite moments. When we emerged from the atmospheric grove, it was a short jaunt into the beautiful Liberty Craftworks District where a fun-loving werewolf danced to the tune of Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. This area also sported an excellent Halloween Tree positioned just outside the Pottery Shop.

Once we had left Liberty Craftworks behind our journey was nearly complete, but not before the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane engaged in bit of Halloween humor in a field just off of Mill Road back in the Working Farms District.

Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village is an event that I would recommend to people of all ages because there truly did seem to be a little something for everybody. There was considerable congestion near several of the candy stations, but it was rarely overwhelming and perhaps can be further alleviated if additional areas of the village were utilized for the event. Regardless, I was impressed by the overall quality of Hallowe’en Nights and look forward to future trips with the family.

Rating: 4.25 stars