Archive for the Haunted School House & Laboratory Category

Laboratory Mirrors Successes, Shortcomings of Haunted School House

Posted in 2012, Haunted School House & Laboratory, Review with tags , , , , on October 24, 2012 by bluefall8

Once we were free of the grip of the Haunted School House we walked the short distance to the Laboratory but not before Jason and John made a quick pit stop into some dense brush. Jason carried himself with shockingly little grace and probably had more than a few other haunters convinced that Big Foot, and not a man, was about to burst forth from the shrubbery. It’s moments like these that help make haunt outings so memorable. Shortly, the group reassembled and we finished the walk to the entrance of the Laboratory.

Just as we had at the Haunted School House, we ascended to the top floor before entering the attraction, and at the Laboratory the first leg of the journey is in 3D. I’m not a fan of the 3D gimmick in haunted houses. It’s rarely done correctly and it doesn’t add much to the attraction, usually the glasses simply fog the edges of your vision and leave you feeling a bit dizzy. I’ve given the whole thing a fair shake and I’m ready to see it become a thing of the past. Aside from that, the Laboratory much like the Haunted School House featured greatly detailed scenes and monstrous props. In one lair of scares we traversed a lengthy rope bridge which Richard tilted from side to side with child like amusement. A few other areas of note included the carnival area where several seriously creepy clowns resided. Opposite one, a large harlequin head bobbed dementedly atop a thick coil. The hallway leading to this room was lit with colorful, swirling lights. The direction in which the lights were fixed helped to blind haunters to the snarling freak hiding at the end of the hall — simple, effective haunting fundamentals at work. Elsewhere, a wonderfully detailed dentist scene revealed a haunt hottie — I was sure John would volunteer for some oral surgery but perhaps he was distracted by her mutant partner who ripped the jaw off of what used to be a patient.

There are two truly special scenes at the Laboratory and each will amaze most haunters because what they have to offer isn’t likely to be seen anywhere else. In both instances haunters are forced along a narrow path that circles the perimeter of the room. In the first, a dazzling laser show sends green prisms of light up through several stories — peering over the edge reveals large portions of the floors below to be missing; a mesmerizing sight. The second room is no less awe inspiring as it featured a huge Tesla Coil and this was no mere prop, cracking jolts of electricity exploded in the air. This was not an illusion, the distinct smell of ozone permeated the air — it was as if we were in the midst of a colossal summer storm.

The Laboratory was soon at an end but not before we ventured through an extremely disorienting vortex, one of the absolute best of its kind. The path then led us outdoor where we were routed into an old school bus. We exited through the emergency door at the rear, after a lone deadite gave Jason a fright of course, and wound our way through a path strewn with discarded artifacts from the Laboratory and Haunted School House but little else transpired in this area.

As with the Haunted School House, we agreed that the Laboratory was quite enjoyable but also capable of much more. I’ve already detailed some of the detractions that were present in the Haunted School House but are two in particular that I’d like to touch upon now. Due to the structure of the buildings haunters are required to use stairwells to access each level. These areas aren’t decorated and do not feature actors like the rest of the attraction for obvious safety reasons, and while all of this likely cannot be help it does break up the flow of the haunted houses. Just as your mind and body acclimate to the surroundings, you’re briefly pulled out of the show and the happy spell is somewhat diminished. The second feature I’m not crazy about is the design of the attraction. By and large, haunters traverse a clearly defined path with scenes generally to the left or right, or both. At times this approach took on the feel of a zoo or museum attraction and by never crossing those barriers the workers effectively suppressed whatever fear factor could have existed.

Both the Haunted School House and Laboratory were highly enjoyable haunted houses — the length was fair and as I’ve mentioned many of the scenes were highly detailed and immersive, but neither haunt truly used its building or theme to maximum effect — this was especially true of the Haunted School House. I have no doubt that managing attractions of such size and age is a unique challenge. Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder if years of prop acquisition and endless set modification hasn’t hampered rather than help the respective attractions. Then again, the major detractions at these haunted attractions may be more due to the structures in which they are housed and if that is the case there may be little the operators can do to rectify such. Only a fool would suggest that haunting is easy.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Haunted School House has Presence, lacks Punch

Posted in 2012, Haunted School House & Laboratory, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by bluefall8

There’s a certain magic present on long distance, overnight haunt trips that’s hard to describe. Maybe it’s the effect of being so far from home or the unbridled excitement of visiting haunted attractions you’ve only read about on the Internet. I know, for me much of it has to do with the adventure inherent to the open road. After checking into our hotel room a Super 8 in Richfield, we passed some time by telling old stories. I came across a horror movie on the Syfy channel called Stake Land, a post apocalyptic tale in which zombie-like vampires have pushed civilization to the brink of collapse. I found it surprisingly well done, driven by a raw melancholy and steady pace. We ordered subs from a local pizzeria called East of Chicago, the subs were delicious and a right steal at $6.25 — after all, what’s a night of haunting without some hardy vittles?

After a relaxing spell the haunting hour was upon us and we hit the road for the Haunted School House and Laboratory in Akron, and when we arrived it was amid a flurry of activity. The long line to buy tickets moved fairly quickly, we were soon ascending a series of staircases to the top floor. The stairwells were actually quite a neat feature of the building if not the attraction itself. The walls were covered in years of graffeti — here a name and date, there a lone curse word. The real pieces of interest however included those scrawls that evoked the spirit of the season — some patrons had left foreboding or cryptic poetry, others supplied artwork featuring common Halloween themes such as skulls and pumpkins. Years of haunters had left an echo from the past on the wall and I found myself yearning for a sharpie so that I too could add a memory to the wonderful mural. The spell of the walls was broken only when it was time to hand over our tickets and enter the darkness within the Haunted School House.

I had suspected from the quick pace of the ticket line that this would be an attraction that found many guests herded through at once, and while this isn’t our preferred method of haunting it is understandable for places such as this that draw very large crowds. Understand, groups do enter the attraction separately but the relatively short intervals by which parties are spaced and   the sheer volume of people attending the event, make it impossible to experience this type of haunted house with your party alone. We’ve witnessed this style before at other large venues such as Erebus and the Haunted Hoochie and it certainly has its drawbacks, but those simply force operators to compensate in other areas.

The Haunted School House featured many well detailed scenes, some environments were truly immersive and on occasion put me in mind of the Realm of Darkness in Pontiac. In one early room we witnessed a unique prop in the form of an ugly ogre that was perhaps 15-feet tall. In another scene, this one a vampire’s liar, a winged mutant stood atop what appeared to be the entrance to a cavern. One delightful room actually rocked us to and fro as the entire structure shifted beneath our feet! Another neat gag involved a scarecrow who had meet an unfortunate end, yet his detached arm was making an effort to find the rest of itself.

The Haunted School House also made use of water in several scenes which is always something I enjoy in a haunted attraction. Undoubtedly the coolest animatronic in the entire attraction was a water dwelling worm that broke the placid surface of a pool in search of food. Water was used again near the end of the attraction when we found ourselves traversing what felt to be an underground chamber, in fact the scene reminded me greatly of the set used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A large skull appeared to have been carved from the very stone the wall was made of and from his gaping maw poured a stream of water. In one area there appeared to be a long tunnel similar to a sewer in a major city but the path did not lead that way. Whether the structure was genuine or simply a neat illusion I do not know, but I would have liked to explore it just the same.

The Haunted School House connected most of these beautifully detailed sets with the winding, dark hallways common to haunted attractions only here the halls were often sparkling with green laser beams. There was also a robust amount of ghouls that populated the Haunted School House but most of them were in masks which detracted from the realism. I would estimate that the majority of the cast gave a fine effort but their was little in the way of extended interaction, improvisation, or creative vocalizations. The cast did deliver a few good startles but that was about it where scare factor was concerned.

I liked the Haunted School House, the scenes were superbly detailed and the length was fair but I was hoping the name of the attraction wasn’t merely a name. I can think of only one instance in which the theme that the name suggests was put into effect, that occurred in an old fashioned bathroom where a skeleton perched upon a porcelain hurled tailor made insults at passing haunters. This scene was more in line with what I expected and had hoped to see. Any time a haunted attraction is able to secure a unique building like a former school or funeral home, I feel that it’s important to play upon the history and atmosphere as much as possible. With that said, the Haunted School House is obviously doing something right — you don’t run for 39 consecutive years on luck.

Rating: 3.25 stars