Archive for the Terror Town Category

Jason’s Curse, Ohio Haunts Highlight Night

Posted in 2009, Hallowblog, Haunted Hydro, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2015 by bluefall8

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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Terror Town, Barn of Blood Highlight Weekend of Haunting

Posted in 2008, Barn of Blood, Hallowblog, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2014 by bluefall8

This review was originally posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2008; it details one memorable weekend from late October 2008. It was that fall that we first visited Terror Town in Maumee, Ohio and experienced House of the Dead.

I have often considered compiling a list of my top five or ten most memorable haunted attractions and without hesitation I can say that our maiden voyage through the dank, rotting depths of Terror Town’s House of the Dead would easily make any such list. House of the Dead went on to become Horrorlust’s Haunt of the Year in 2008.

The following day, my wife and I went to Apple Charlie’s in New Boston which packed a lot of haunt goodness into a very small amount of time and space. I need more weekends like this magical ride now six years past. 

The last weekend prior to Halloween was a big one for the Haunt Trinity. On Saturday, October 25 we were once again joined by Cherette for a trip to TerrorTown in Maumee, Ohio. Then on Sunday Missy and I visited Apple Charlie’s in New Boston where for just $5 I entered the Barn of Blood. It was quite a whirlwind weekend of haunting and that’s just the way I like it.

I’ve longed to visit TerrorTown for several seasons now but until this year we had never made time for this particular haunt. Mayor Wormface had beckoned to me from the pages of the Fear Finder on many occasions and it was time to take him up on his delightfully dreadful offer.

TerrorTown features four attractions: The Freak Show, Slaughter House, The Beast, and House of the Dead. After buying our tickets we made our way to the entrance of a uniquely lit graveyard, to our left atop a structure a massive skull peered down with a single glowing eyeball that shifted from side to side. We shuffled excitedly through the cemetery lit be a series of large, black light bulbs positioned on top of fence posts; a skeletal horse stalked the grounds. The path lead us to the line for the Freak Show where we were entertained by a one of TerrorTown’s resident ghouls, a tall, red creature with a talent for swallowing fire.

After about half an hour wait we entered Freak Show and witnessed an eclectic and interesting array of oddities. Each item was accompanied by newspaper articles or plaques providing insight into the displayed piece. The entire room was bathed in the glow of black lights which provided the usual eerie effect. My personal favorites included a fetus in a jar that sported a curious tail as well as the dried and rotting Fiji Mermaid. Freak Show was very cool but it was incredibly short and this fact was very disappointing. I remarked to Jason that had I known it was so short I would have taken more time with each display. Alas it was too late as we found ourselves in line for Slaughter House. Given the nature of the Freak Show attraction I don’t feel it would be fair to assign a rating, it isn’t a haunted house and is by all intents purely a side show.

Slightly disappointed, as I think we all were, we soldiered on to Slaughter House which I was quite curious about. I had read on TerrorTown’s website that guests are given a flashlight upon entering this particular haunt but there was a catch, the operators controlled the flashlight. I thought that this unique twist could provide for an interesting and exciting haunt experience. Slaughter House had the look and feel of an old school haunt but failed to utilize those elements that make this genre so effective, instead the haunt featured a number of amusing and gory animatronics. Animatronics are great but I’m of the belief that an inanimate object can only invoke so much fear, they work best in conjunction with live actors and Slaughter House was terribly short on the latter. The flashlight idea was great in concept but in practice turned out to be ill timed seemingly going off at random. I had thought that perhaps the flashlights would abruptly cut off after patrons were allowed a brief glimpse of a stampeding, chainsaw-wielding maniac but it seemed that perhaps every group’s flashlight simply went out at the same time. One wonderful feature of Slaughter House was an enormous pig head that attacks guests and squeals incessantly, you can imagine the jokes this particular scene invoked. Overall Slaugher House wasn’t bad but it did leave a lot to be desired, what was most disappointing to me was that it had potential to be so much more and really with a few minor tweaks it could have been very good.

Rating: 3 stars

Next we followed the path through a colossal pair of jaws that led to The Beast. We entered the structure and began down a path of three or four spinning vortex tunnels also commonly referred to as black holes. These structures are fun because not only are they typically lit by black light; but also feature spinning circular walls which cause a sensation that one is falling sideways. Guests make their way across a narrow path and watch in amusement as members of their party struggle to maintain balance. I feel that these particular devices work best when beginning or ending a haunt or when switching from one theme to another.

After walking the length of the massive tunnel we returned outside. Once again I was shocked and disappointed by the length of an attraction. The Freak Show had also been incredibly short, Slaughter House was slightly better than mediocre, and The Beast, which I had thought was a haunted house, was merely a monstrous vortex tunnel. It wasn’t that any of the attractions had been individually bad but collectively I couldn’t help but to be disappointed. I had been expecting so much more from TerrorTown after reading a number of glowing reviews. As with The Freak Show I find it equally unfair and misleading to give The Beast a traditional rating.

We entered the line for House of the Dead where multiple television sets played a horror movie from the 70’s or 80’s, this at least provided some seasonal ambience. As we advanced through the line I thought about how disappointing TerrorTown had been so far and without a monumental effort by the main attraction the whole night was going to go down as perhaps the seasons’ most dismal. We discussed this fact as we neared the entrance and each of us seemed resigned to the fact that barring an October miracle there was little chance that House of the Dead could save TerrorTown from haunting infamy. I suppose there was a sense that we had nothing left to lose and so we entered House of the Dead.

Guests first wait in a foyer, ahead an ominous set of large double doors rest. After a few minutes a slightly crazed, middle-aged man appears (he looks some what like Mayor Wormface) and invites us inside to, “Play with his children”. We enter another waiting area before being loaded onto elevators that will transport us to the bowels of the house. So far House of the Dead is doing things right, building plenty of tension in the foyer and then jolting guests with a wild ride to the basement of dead house. Once out of the elevator hauntgoers wind their way through a plethora of eerie rooms. The haunt appears to be an abandoned house, old fashion pictures adorn the walls, and common household objects such as furniture and childrens toys layer the landscape. I notice that the haunt smells foul and I mean bizarrely foul; I’ve never smelled something like this. Later on I would take a blast of the rotten air straight in the face and I gagged profusely, nearly throwing up. I know what you’re thinking faithful readers, you’re thinking that House of the Dead did indeed cap off a disappointing night…well…not even close!

House of the Dead was just getting started with the Haunt Trinity and before we exited this unique haunt we would come to know precisely why it had been described as, “an assault on the senses”. House of the Dead is part Erebus, part Extreme Scream and blends the two schools of thought into a rare haunting endeavor. The animatronics are over the top and impressive, a number of mutant aliens scurry about the walls assailing guests from all angles. One such alien ventured to get too close to the Haunt Trinity and found out just how amused I was when I gleefully squibbed that ugly face! The haunt also featured painfully detailed, life-sized statues. I exaggerate not one iota when I say that these props were some of the most frightening I’ve ever witnessed.

House of the Dead also features a number of sprayers that blast guests with both air and water. In fact just after the aforementioned squibbing took place I was blasted in the face by a cartoonishly filthy toilet. The haunt also held a number of bizarre scenes and props such as holographic projections and a giant, floating eyeball. After making our way through a macabre forest in which multiple leapers attacked simultaneously we struck forth to the frantic finish. While on an ascending pathway an unseen creature swooped just above our heads causing all of us to duck. We then made our way through a series of rooms that resembled those at the beginning of the haunt.

I was the first to enter a room filled with the remains of dozens of baby dolls and was immediately reminded of Dolls and Puppet Master. Some of the dolls were moving robotically, heads and limbs moving methodically from side to side or up and down, it was wonderfully creepy. Some of them were missing eyeballs and a select few even brandished glowing knives. The rest of the group trailed behind me and upon entering I witnessed something truly bizarre. One of the babies was running at Jason! The little son of a bitch scurried across the floor slashing the air with his miniature knife! It was indeed a strange scene at first but my eyes quickly recognized a black mass materialize behind the doll. A black clad worker was puppeting the doll and as this came into greater focus the whole scene grew even more ludicrous in a sense. The little guy slashed furiously at Jason as I doubled over in laughter and then turned his fury to a shrieking girl in the group behind us. The gag may have been a simple one but it was pulled off to great effect and will surely stand out as one of the highlights of the season.

We escaped the blood thirsty infant only to be enveloped in fog and green lasers. It was very difficult to determine a path so I took the initiative and began wandering directly into the thickest part of the fog. Just then a massive wolf head lurched forth from the fog; hands outstretched searching for a tasty morsel. Next we turned into a room and ahead I could see a man holding a chainsaw, he was just staring at us. Hauntgoers cross a platform only to have this lunatic charge from behind (a mirror made it appear as if he were in front of the party) and chase them to the exit of House of the Dead.

House of the Dead did indeed save the night for TerrorTown proving to be a wild, haunt riot. A bold combination of old school techniques and flat out, in your face craziness proved to be an unlikely alchemy for success. My only suggestion for the House of the Dead is the inclusion of a few more well placed live actors. We left the now nearly deserted Lucas County fair grounds with riveting moments flitting through our heads, House of the Dead had just saved the night and launched itself into Haunt of the Year contention.

Rating: 5 stars

I did mention that a bit of haunting was also done on Sunday and so let me tell you the tale of the Barn of Blood. Missy opted not to join me inside the Barn and thus I was left to brave the horrors alone. Two things immediately stand out as one enters the barn, the first — it’s extremely quiet, and the second — it’s extremely dark. This is old school haunting reduced to the barest of elements and it reeks havoc on the psyche. A loud blast of fog issues from the left breaking the complete silence and that seems to act as a cue for a sword wielding deadie. The deadie follows me down a dark hallway, slamming the sword against a wall and then onto a metal slab. The ensuing clang is deafening and the sword looks a bit too real for my liking, I don’t like this creep. He departs and I find myself groping about the pitch black hall, shortly sparks fly from the left as some deranged freak thrashes behind wire fencing. Later a ghoulie comes form beneath a wall and desperately claws at my legs. Shortly a gravely voice informs me to, “Enjoy the show,” and as I turn the corner I watch a darkly ironic scene. A man is strapped to an electric chair, basked in red light, as My Chemical Romance’s “Blood” is pumped through speakers. It was a unique infusion of pop culture weaved neatly into a haunted attraction and as a chainsaw wielding Leatherface ushered me from the premises I reflected on what a solid job this small haunt had just completed.

Rating: 4 stars

Spirit Endures through Wet, Dreary Halloween

Posted in 2012, Dimensions of Darkness, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by bluefall8

Each year it seems that the final couple of reviews get delayed and for that I am sorry. I’ve made great strides over the years to ward off procrastination but sometimes the old girl wins out. Well, it’s been long enough — here’s the chronicle of Halloween 2012.

PROMISE AT DIMENSIONS OF DARKNESS

It was dreary and overcast as John and I departed the apartment. Last Halloween we found ourselves in the Flint area where we paid visits to St. Lucifer’s, 13 Feet Under, and The Crypt — this year we’d strike out in the opposite direction with our sights set on Dimensions of Darkness and Terror Town both just south of Toledo. As Trick r’ Treating drew to a close we arrived at our first stop, the third your haunted attraction — Dimensions of Darkness.

The event was held in a strip mall which reminded me somewhat of Extreme Scream, I hoped that the similarities wouldn’t end there. There wasn’t much of a line or crowd of any sort — perhaps the weather had suppressed the nightly horde, sadly my festive mood was dampened by all of this as well. This was Halloween damn it! Let there be a raucous!

We entered the haunt shortly and were directed to sit in some large, wooden chairs positioned in front of a series of video screens. Soon, a fast paced video began to play which was done well enough, but displays such as these work best as distractions and I eagerly awaited the payoff. Intermittently, our chairs buzzed to life — it was neat but not the payoff I had hoped for.  This would have been an excellent setting for the falling ceiling gag.

Despite this underwhelming start, Dimensions of Darkness was successful on many fronts, combining haunt fundamentals with a stark contrast of dark corridors and radiant rooms that exuded a phosphorescent glow. The cast was a highly energetic and vocal group featuring screamers of all shapes and sizes, some crawled as vermin about the floor, one even performed a grotesque crab walk.

One area that stood out featured my favorite sect of the monster community, zombies. We crossed a narrow path, motionless flesh eaters surrounded us. My past experiences told me that most of the shadowy figures were merely props, camouflage for the one or two actors who would eventually lurch forward and deliver a scare. Imagine my surprise when half a dozen zombies sprang to life and moved in for the kill! One of the actors seemed to have a ghoul attached to each side of his body which moved in unison, a very cool effect.

Another interesting area had the look and feel of a control room, but this one had been deserted. A single, tortured eyeball stared out at us from the various monitors. The room was alight with the prospect of malevolence, the collective glow of the monitors cast unnerving shadows and left this haunt adventurer feeling vulnerable to attack.

In another room a black box hung mid air suspended by chains — a nod to this groups’ logo which is prominently displayed on their website. A lone creep crawled from beneath the box which admittedly wasn’t all that spectacular of an act but the box was an interesting visual and such a scene has loads of potential for interaction and creative scares.

The haunt did end anticlimactically which is something I often lament of haunted attractions. Following a series of rooms that resembled sordid medieval labs we entered a small morgue where a deranged doctor and his freakishly tall assistant had clearly been up to no good. The assistant wore a medical mask, the doctor sported a halo which had been bolted to his skull — the costuming and make up were well done.

The interaction was fairly well done too — the pair presented us with the choice of two doors although they did not specify which doors they meant and as there were several paths that could have passed as doors we were some what confused. I thought, or perhaps hoped is a better word, that one of our choices was to crawl through one of the various hatches on the wall. I tried the handle to one but it was not functional, so with the various corpse chutes ruled out this left two standard doors — one unimpeded and one blocked by a creepy mannequin. I inquired about the blocked door but was informed that was incorrect. It became clear which door through which we had to proceed and as it turned out there really wasn’t a choice in the matter. We took the only door available and promptly exited the attraction.

Despite the lackluster finish I enjoyed many aspects of Dimensions of Darkness and hope to see this group grow and evolve in the years to come. The actors made good use of their environment, an environment that was expertly lit which allowed the actors to deliver many startle scares. The decor in particular was eye catching and exuded ambience — the multitude of glowing oddities encased in mason jars possessed a creepy kitsch quality that won’t soon be forgot.

Rating: 3.5 stars

There was a distinct chill in the air when we arrived at Terror Town, and although the crowd here was considerably larger than the one at our previous stop, I remained disappointed by what I considered a small turnout for All Hallow’s Eve. We exited the car and stomped through the muddy parking lot of the Lucas County Fairgrounds toward the ticket booth.

SUBTLE TWEAKS BOLSTER BIG TOP TERROR

Our first target here was the 3D attraction called Big Top Terror. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll probably remember the very lows marks I gave this particular attraction last year and it deserved every bit of it, but I’m happy to report that Big Top Terror has made strides in the right direction this year although drawbacks still exist.

When we entered the first area a large entryway stood before us, painted in the fashion of a gigantic clown face. A spunky harlequin emerged and playfully taunted us before granting us passage through the brightly decorated door. It was a nice bit of interaction that could have provided a little more substance but it was a decent start nonetheless. Midway through the attraction we came to a series of white and red flaps (the type you might see on a circus tent). Each time we pushed one aside we’d find ourselves in an identically small room, perhaps a 3 x 3 space. It was claustrophobic, amusing, and themed appropriately. We tore through those flaps wondering as we pushed each aside if we’d come across some horror. The whole segment was pulled off quite well and served as a fresh twist on what could have otherwise been an uninspiring maze.

The circus tent section, as we came to call it, helped increase the length of the attraction which was one of the primary detractions during last year’s experience. Another point of contention last year wasn’t just the utter lack of workers in Big Top Terror but also the lethargic performances those actors delivered. This area too was improved upon but could still use some work. There was certainly more live bodies this season and these ghouls definitely outperformed their predecessors from a year ago, but two particular scenes that held a lot of promise fell flat due to the absence of an actor.

The first scene included a dunk tank, a wonderful prop for a carnival inspired attraction and something I can say I’ve never witnessed anywhere else, but it was nothing more than mere scenery. I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities this room held. Why wasn’t there a hapless rube in that dunk tank? Why wasn’t a snaggle-toothed carnival barker urging me to heave a ball at a target and sink the son of bitch!? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what could be done with such a scene. Needless to say, it was an opportunity lost.

The second area I mentioned came shortly after the room with the dunk tank and was just as visually striking but also featured no actors with which to interact. As we entered this particular room a counter stood to our right, behind it the wall was decorated in large, brightly colored tubs of popcorn. Once again ideas exploded in my head — why not a shifty carny tempting us with blood splattered confections? Perhaps guests could be lured near the table where a series buckets stood, overflowing with popcorn and when the moment is right an arm or head burst forth from one of the buckets?! That’s the kind of interaction and creativity that I love as a haunter. These rooms were visually appealing but there was potential for so much more and it would have improved the overall experience of this attraction considerably.

The vortex near the end of Big Top Terror forced us to maneuver past a creep in an atomic orange morph suit — this wasn’t exactly frightening in any way but it was different and mildly amusing as I cannot help but think of the Putties from Mighty Morphin Powers Rangers any time I see these suits. After exiting the vortex, we came to the final room of the attraction. A comically large button was affixed to the wall in front of us accompanied by a large sign that read “Don’t Push the Button.” The fine gentleman assigned to the area however kindly asked that I do push the button, so I did and was promptly sprayed with water through a small hole in the wall for my obedience.

On one final negative note, there were a couple of malfunctioning props or animatronics inside of Big Top Terror. Unfortunately we’d discover that this was also the case on more than a few occasions inside of the House of the Dead, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Rating: 3 stars

CLUTTER ABOUND IN HOUSE OF THE DEAD

House of the Dead is a special, interesting, and different haunted attraction. Each year the operators add some new, animated craziness — it is perhaps the only haunted attraction that I’ve  encountered where props and animatronics can deliver an excellent show without much assistance from live actors. However, I think the practice is finally catching up to the minds behind the madness here, amidst the shuffle of scenes, characters, and gags over the years something has been lost. Terror Town has become a haunted attraction rife with maddening highs and lows. Without question the special effects and animatronics (when functioning properly) are among the most impressive we’ve encountered. On the negative side what used to be a simple lack of a few key actors has now turned into an almost complete dearth of such. Some areas are elaborately designed and feature a highly convincing atmosphere while others appear as if they were thrown together haphazardly with only a fraction of the attention paid to detail. It’s almost as if the place was designed by a manic-depressive hoarder. It is both an interesting and frustrating cross section of the haunted attraction industry.

For those of you who have never visited Terror Town the main attraction, House of the Dead, is divided into several sections spanning several buildings and a cemetery. The building where guests begin their journey used to be a separate haunt but in 2010 the operators added it to the main attraction and it’s all been billed as the House of the Dead since. Each area is distinct from the next — the first building is greatly detailed, darkly lit and requires roughly ten minutes to traverse. This leads to a second building where haunters pass through a massive vortex tunnel. After this a path leads outdoor and weaves guests through an elaborately decorated cemetery before finally coming to the main building where detailed decor gives way to plain hallways and rooms dominated by larger than life animatronics. Each area has it’s strengths and weaknesses but I rate it all as one attraction as it is billed as such.

I feel that the first area was as well done as I have ever witnessed it. The layout had been sufficiently altered from a year ago, successfully blending new scenes with old favorites such as the shifting bookshelves and the realistic hologram of a maggot infested poo pile inside of a toilet that sprays curious onlookers in the face! There was a fair amount of workers in this area as well which only further makes me question the decision to go so scant in the latter building. Undoubtedly, the coolest and most atmosphere inducing aspect of this first building is the effect that is done with the sound and lighting. Thunder can be heard rumbling throughout the house and lights flicker according — a particularly large rumble will cast your party into total darkness momentarily. The effect is timed expertly and does a great job of creating that authentic haunted house feel — a competent ghoul could really use such an effect to create unforgettable scares.

The cemetery did feature a couple of noteworthy scenes as well. Upon entering we passed beneath towering gates, sitting a top loomed an imposing grim reaper which directed a large scythe at all who dared to enter. Ahead I spotted a mausoleum which housed an enormous floating ghoul bathed in black light, as we approached this creature of the night danced forward effortlessly in mid air. As we came to the end of the cemetery and entered the final phase of the House of the Dead we passed a stone pedestal featuring a skeletal bust. I approached the statue to admire the craftsmanship and detail and was provided a genuine shock when the stony skeleton made a grab for me! It was an ingenious blend of costume and prop and that’s precisely the kind of thing that keeps me going back to Terror Town.

Up to that point things had been clicking along pretty well and with the heart of House of the Dead coming up I was holding out for big things. Unfortunately this would be the area that was most sloppily constructed. Upon entering this section of the attraction, haunters are loaded onto an elevator or Hellivator as some attractions call it. Terror Town uses it to tell the story of the House of the Dead — each year guests are transported by the Hellivator to a new level of the this house most macabre. It’s always a fun way to begin any haunted attraction and House of the Dead features one of the best we’ve ever experienced.

As I stated earlier the usual killer animatronics were on hand — there was a Sasquatch tearing a man in half, a man eating plant, and what I can best describe as a cloven-hoved demonic yeti that seemed to tower somewhere in the range of 14 feet. Stuff like this is always visually stunning but when an attraction hits you with it one after another after another it loses it’s effect. Worse, as we traversed the halls of Dead House we discovered a number of the animatronics non-functioning; it seemed there was a problem with the pressure plates by which the creatures are controlled. Worse still, in several instances there were actors in plain view operating the controls to various props. Initially, I didn’t realize exactly what they were doing and so expected them to offer up some scare or interaction when John and I made our presence known. Would you believe they wouldn’t so much as look at us? It was as if they thought by not making eye contact they were some how rendered invisible. I understand that sometimes actors are caught out of place or like these guys are sometimes required to operate a prop or animatronic but typically the latter is hidden as they aren’t a part of the show. It was very odd to see them seated in folding chairs just toying with controls and pretending that we didn’t exist.

Sadly, a part from those we witnessed in this fashion there was precious few workers to speak of — this last section of House of the Dead was as devoid of live actors as any attraction I can recall, and there were certainly instances were actual people would have greatly enhanced a scene. For instance, not long after we’d departed the Hellivator we heard the unmistakable moan of a zombie horde. We turned a corner and came to a pair of double doors — the type of ones you might see in a hospital — a wonderful holographic display of brain munchers was splashed across the windows inlaid in the doors. The doors had even been rigged to sway back and forth as if the hunger bastards might come tearing through the door and consume us! it was a great effect and my adrenaline got pumping, surely we were about to be assailed by zombies…but nothing. The effect was cool but without human interaction it loses it’s edge; after that I didn’t hold out a whole lot of hope for in the flesh actors.

House of the Dead is a cool concept for a haunted house but the event is staged in a large building on the Lucas County Fairgrounds — perhaps it’s a pull barn. The ceilings are very high and while haunters are enclosed in themed portion of the haunted attraction if you simply look above you can see the high ceilings of the pull barn. It’s something that really dampens the overall effect for me; I love haunted houses and even though I love to critique and analyze them in this fashion I go into them completely willing to suspend my disbelief. In my heart of hearts I’m not a critic, I’m a fan — but it’s hard to suspend that disbelief when I look up and there’s a giant gaping void in the scenery. I would suggest the use of camo-netting which is ubiquitous in the haunt industry and can go a long way in preserving atmosphere.

Even with all of these complaints in mind, House of the Dead has always been a good to great haunted attraction other oddly it’s never delivered a truly killer finale and this year was no different. As we neared the exit we were confronted my the same mutant dwarf prop we witnessed early on during the season in the Barn of Horrors at Erwin Orchards so we knew what was coming but we never bust a performer’s balls just because we’ve witnessed a particular gag before. We played along and waited for the moment that the head would detach from the body which is the cue for the actor to charge guests. It was an uninspiring performance to say the least — it’s a very convincing scene and honestly it takes somebody just not making an effort for it to fail. I doubt anybody who hadn’t previously witnessed it wouldn’t have been surprised, shocked, or scared as well after such an anemic performance.

Alas, we came to the final room — again we could see a worker sitting in a chair operating a control; he made no attempt to conceal himself. Less than suddenly a large garbage truck plowed through the wall opposite us and slowly proceeded toward our party with horns blaring. It was a super-sized version of the old car through the wall trick and it would have been very cool if it had been pulled off correctly but the truck proceeded so slowly it couldn’t possibly have been viewed as threatening.

This review may sound fairly critical of Terror Town but that’s only because I’ve seen better from this location and I hope with a little house cleaning and some tweaks it can exceed my best expectations. I would still recommend a visit to anyone who has not yet experienced it — it’s fun and you will see things you aren’t likely to see anywhere else, but attention to certain fundamentals has been replaced by a glut of props and animatronics; the overall effect has been a detrimental one to this storied haunted attraction.

Rating: 3 stars

Terror Town, Barn of Blood Conjure Haunted Time Warp

Posted in 2011, Barn of Blood, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by bluefall8

During the final weekend of the 2008 haunt season I found myself at both Terror Town and Apple Charlie’s Barn of Blood on separate days and as the unseen Haunt Fates would have it, that is exactly where I found myself once again last weekend…on two separate days. First Terror Town, then Barn of Blood. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a detour into The Twilight Zone but it was close damn it!

Our first stop actually found us at Heck of a Haunted Barn in Monroe but when we arrived the place was simply dead, a few workers roamed the grounds in very basic make up and costuming. Outwardly there was nothing to suggest that this was anything but a heck of a waste of $12 so we decided to depart for Terror Town.

BIG TOP FLOP

The House of the Dead looms as large as ever at Terror Town and is joined this year by a 3D attraction called Big Top Terror; a combo ticket will set you back $25 and for that price haunters expect a unique, memorable experience. Big Top Terror however is just the latest in a long line of 3D attractions to fall flat. The attraction is thin on workers and those that did inhabit the paint splattered halls were lethargic at best. The haunt was also extraordinarily short clocking in under five minutes. There were some cool props but nothing in the way of haunting fundamentals was employed, it was simply a stroll through neon painted rooms. Near the end of the attraction a large box sat against a wall, a wicked clown’s face adorned the front. Of course the box had to be opened right? That was the whole point of the gag! As I approached the mystery box a clown appeared from it’s side and bellowed, “Open it!” We were finally going to experience some interaction in this haunted house but just as quickly as my heart jumped it fell back to its usual steady beat. Nothing was in the box. I could see that it was open on the other end and wondered aloud if we were supposed to go through it but the worker just looked at me and breathed heavily as if his loud proclamation had yielded some satisfyingly dreadful result. I reiterated my query only to be met with more heavy breathing. I noticed a path in front of us and decided to take it. We exited the attraction. As it was the most enjoyable part of Big Top Terror was the jazzed up jingle playing outside the attraction, Killer Klowns by The Dickies which of course is the title track from 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Rating: 1.5 stars

DEAD HOUSE AWAKENS ANEW

House of the Dead once again spans two separate buildings connected by an impressive array of black holes and one well decorated, cemetery. As we first discovered in 2008 this haunted attraction will attack from every angle and assail every sense. House of the Dead is a lengthy trek through ghostly corridors furnished with possessed furniture, blood thirsty creatures, and all manners of strangeness.

The mood for this house most macabre is set from the get go as haunters make their way down a long, narrow hallway illuminated by a cold, blue glow. This first section of Dead House is merely a prelude for the grand horrors to come but was punctuated by a passageway full of deafening poppers; a room full of questionably lively freight, and the ultra-realistic and creepy full sized dummies that we witnessed first at Terror Town in 2008. My personal favorite was a child ghoul who stood around a corner near the exit of this first area. I’ve referenced these particular props on numerous occasions and they are without a doubt the most convincing dummies the haunt industry has to offer. I do not know what company produces them but when I find out I’ll relay the news and post some pictures.

Following the first building is one of the most impressive vortex tunnels you’re likely to find anywhere on planet Earth, no less than six end-to-end tunnels spin in unison. Upon exiting and taking a moment to restore our collective equilibrium we proceeded out doors to a cemetery full of life. This graveyard scene functioned as a wonderful transition between the first half of the attraction and the second. Highlights here included a stone gargoyle which surprisingly leaped from its pedestal and bounded toward us like one of the evil, flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Also of note was the foggy funeral procession which featured a casket, four ghoulish pall bearers, and the distinct smell of mold.

Shortly thereafter we entered the second building, what I like to refer to as House of the Dead proper. We were immediately assailed by a crawling girl with stringy hair who spoke of a ‘master’ that had horrific plans for our body parts. As she wailed and swayed inappropriately close to our crotches an eye opening effect erupted in front of us. The floorboards seemed to crack before us, a strange light poured out from beneath them; it seemed as if something was racing at us from under the floor. It was undoubtedly a neat effect that employed several elements, something we’ve never quite witnessed anywhere else. Just around the corner we ascended some stairs to a bridge and as we crossed, the walls adorned with skeletons, on either side of us collapsed inward. On the other side of the bridge we descended yet another set of stairs, putting us squarely within the limits of Mayer Wormface’s realm.

As always a litany of strange, gruesome, and truly spectacular animatronics dotted the haunted halls of Dead House although it was with some disappointment that we found several of the rampaging robots non-operational. We were also less than impressed with the scant cast of live workers inside House of the Dead. The darkly jovial patriarch however remains as entertaining as ever, stationed this season by Hellivator, the rest of the cast would do well to take their cues from him.

New horrors inside of House of the Dead this year include highly convincing animatronic snakes that descend upon haunters from above, hissing menacingly. My favorite addition was a room in which the walls were smeared with children’s handprints and foreboding nursery rhymes. As we attempted to leave the room a huge, green hand shot out from a slot in the wall and attempted to snatch visitors. Shortly after escaping this scene we arrived outside once more surrounded now by fog and hanging corpses. As we traversed this last area of Dead House we were surprised by a tall, chainsaw equipped butcher.

Terror Town is a haunted attraction that I would recommend to anyone who has not yet paid it a visit. The sheer volume of animated props and creatures is overwhelming and the average haunter will witness things here that they aren’t likely to see anywhere else. You won’t breeze through this haunt in 5-10 minutes either, this year we spent a solid 25 minutes navigating our way through the dark confines of House of the Dead. Also of great interest at Terror Town is the effort to engage all five senses, a touch most attractions pay no attention. House of the Dead is not without flaws of course, the workers as previously mentioned left a lot to be desired this year. The animatronics, as impressive as they might be on their own, oftentimes feel out of place or poorly implemented. I prefer to see a haunt stick to the theme that it has set forth — a gigantic Rancor-like creature may not play into the continuity in this setting. I was also highly disappointed in the conclusion this year, a simple chainsaw surprise may be fitting for many haunts but not one as over the top as Terror Town’s House of the Dead. I can’t help but wonder if the operators at Terror Town aren’t resting on their laurels to some degree. Still, House of the Dead has an excellent atmosphere, top notch props, and loads of potential. I’d like to see more focus on the scare factor here and less on the wow factor.

Rating: 3.75 stars

“Show us your udders!”

-Cikalo, commanding a hefty street walker in Toledo with an old favorite

APPLE ORCHARD HORROR

On Sunday I paid a visit to Apple Charlie’s and experienced a completely different haunted attraction – Barn of Blood. Barn of Blood is a brief haunted jaunt, appropriately priced at just $5, and evokes the spirit of a bygone era of haunting. This was bare bones haunting and when executed properly it can be just as effective as any mega-haunt. It was a very dark and deathly quiet journey through the barn, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of workers hidden inside as well. There is room for improvement – some creative alterations to the interior structure and a little more intensity from the cast would make for an excellent if not small haunted attraction.

Rating: 3 stars