Archive for 2013

Sinister Sidelined

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2014 by bluefall8

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A mere two days ago I reported that Purgatory’s Revenge would not be open during the 2014 haunt season. Unfortunately, today I bring news of yet another closure. I spoke to Steve Czapiewski via email recently, Steve is the Advertising Director at Sinister, and he ended a fair amount of speculation by confirming that Sinister will not operate this Halloween season.

The dark status of Sinister is a serious blow to the Michigan haunt scene. Sinister employed an in-your-face, improvisational style which created a fresh and exhilarating haunted house romp. It featured a rock solid cast who pushed haunt etiquette to the edge and defied guests not to relish the experience. Owner Larry Black seemed to view Sinister as a haunted sand box, and within those walls, cast and customers alike could engage in a choose-your-own-adventure-story.

In 2012 Sinister snatched both the Horrorlust Monster Award and Horrorlust Haunt of the Year Award. In 2013 Sinister claimed the Horrolust Monster once more and in the process became the first haunt to win an award in back-to-back years since Deadly Intentions clutched the Monster Award in 2008 and 2009.

It’s also worth mention that Larry and many of his miscreants were responsible for the unforgettable show we witnessed in 2009 at Haunted Hollows in Armada. Bowbee’s Nightmare garnered three awards that fall which included Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder and Haunt of the Year. That single season trifecta is topped only by the four-award effort Darksyde Acres pulled off in 2011 when The Catacombs & Rusthole secured the Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Monster and Haunt of the Year Awards.

Steve did note that Sinister may return in time for the 2015 or 2016 haunt season and also stated that much of the cast will ply their craft as members of the Realm of Darkness this year. That is a veritable windfall for The Realm of Darkness which had a lack of quality actors in 2013. I wish all parties involved the best throughout the 2014 haunt season and into the future.

Read up on our adventures at Sinister here:

2012 – Sinister Jolts the Night with Surprise Twist

2013 – Improvisation & Intensity Forge Sinister Synergy 

Haunting By Numbers: 2013 Haunt Season

Posted in Haunting By Numbers with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2014 by bluefall8

Spring is upon us which means we have officially passed the half way point to Halloween; the countdown is on! With that in mind, let us pause and reflect on the notable numbers from the 2013 haunt season.

23: Total number of haunted attractions we visited last fall at 17 separate locations; this total ties our personal record first set in 2011.

7: Moonlit nights spent pounding the pavement en route to all breeds of haunted attraction.

6: New locations that offered up fresh haunting fun.

8: Counties we visited in our quest to tour Michigan’s best spooky places. We made stops in Genesee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Saginaw, and of course, Wayne.

13: As in September 13th — our first night out of the season and now the earliest we’ve begun a haunt season, edging out our 2012 visit to Scarefest Screampark which took place on September 15, 2012.

858: Total number of miles spent on Michigan’s roadways seeking out that next haunt fix.

120: Number of miles traveled (one way) to the furthest haunt of the year; an honor that belongs to St. Charles’ Village of the Living Dead.

7: Consecutive years that we have visited the haunted offerings of the Wyandotte Jaycees.

3.39: Average overall star rating of haunted attractions in 2013.

2013 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2014 by bluefall8

The 2013 field was full of worthy nominees and after much consideration, I’m prepared to unveil the 2013 Horrorlust Haunt Awards.

2013 Horrorlust Haunt Awards Banner

Rotten Pumpkin – The Rotten Pumpkin award is given to the haunt considered to be the most disappointing of the season. Disappointment may be the result of an over hyped marketing campaign or the failure of the haunt to live up to expectations set forth in previous seasons. Whatever the case may be let there be no doubt that the haunt receiving this unwanted distinction truly dropped the ball, failing to provide a worthwhile show.

2013 Rotten Pumpkin: Scream Machine

Dishonorable Mention: 3-Story Haunted Barn (Blake’s)

The Scream Machine is now the first attraction to earn this undesired distinction twice; in consecutive years no less. It pains me to say that this selection was a no-brainer. The Scream Machine didn’t merely slip this year, instead the once respected haunt nosedived into an ugly downward spiral. The cast was unprofessional, listless and undoubtedly one of the very worst we’ve encountered. The design of the haunt was uninteresting, repetitive, and creatively bankrupt.

 

Eerie Vibrations – The Eerie Vibrations award is given to the haunt considered to exude the best overall atmosphere. Atmosphere is defined by the mood of the haunt itself but can also be fostered by immediate grounds or even the surrounding area.

2013 Eerie Vibrations: Village of the Living Dead

Honorable Mention: Terrorfied Forest (Terrorfied Forest & Manor)

Village of the Living Dead seemed to pulse with a special kind of energy from the moment we crossed the threshold of the haunt. The mixture of dense fog, orchestral music and subterranean passages produced a surreal, claustrophobic adrenaline rush.

 

Dark Horse – The Dark Horse award is given to the haunt considered to have the most potential for growth. Criteria for this award include the ability to deliver an entertaining show at a relatively small venue and at a reduced rate. Think of the Dark Horse award as the Horrorlust’s way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2013 Dark Horse: Bloodbath on Biddle

Honorable Mention: Realm of Haunted Minds

The Wyandotte Jaycees took full advantage of the old City Hall building and in doing so, provided  guests with a lengthy trip through two levels of haunted rooms and corridors. Bloodbath on Biddle featured creative room design and a slew of warm bodies, actors who proved more capable than in previous seasons. Time and money are luxuries that Jaycees groups simply do not have to waste, the folks at Bloodbath on Biddle deserve a lot of credit for managing their resources wisely.

 

Killer Automatons – The Killer Automatons award is given to the haunt that best integrates animatronics into its attraction. When determining this award several factors are considered including timing, prop placement, realism, and sheer wow effect.

2013 Killer Automatons: Erebus

Honorable Mention: Jackson’s Underworld

House of the Dead’s four year stranglehold on this award has finally been broken as the old king returns to the throne. This is the second Killer Automatons Award for Erebus; the first came in 2008.

 

Monster – The Monster award is given to the haunt considered to have the best live actors of the season. In order to claim this award workers must display a certain level of intensity as well as a refusal to break character. Also crucial is the ability to improvise lines or actions when adapting to an individual guest or group.

2013 Monster: Sinister

Honorable Mention: Exit 13

This award proved to be the most difficult selection of the 2013 season as there were several deserving candidates. In the end however it was the unrelenting, improvisational impresarios of Sinister who grabbed the award for a second consecutive year.

 

Prop Master – The Prop Master award is given to the haunt considered to have best implemented props into the attraction. A prop may be considered a piece of furniture, a weapon, or a dummy. The haunt that claims this award will have paid special attention to placement, function, and realism.

2013 Prop Master: Hillside Mortuary (Terrorfied Forest & Manor)

Honorable Mention: Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure)

Hillside Mortuary earned this award in 2013 by offering haunters a trek through fully furnished rooms, complete with eerily posed mannequins. The motionless spooks were ominously frozen throughout the attraction, seemingly captured in moments of life that will live forever. The creepiest of the bunch stood expressionless next to an open casket — I got the chills just thinking about it.

 

Pulse Pounder – The Pulse Pounder award is given to the haunt considered to be the most intense attraction of the season. Intensity can be gauged by a number of factors including commitment of actors, gory or realistic scenes, and harsh or loud music and sound effects. However, the most important element when considering this award is genuine fear factor.

2013 Pulse Pounder: Village of the Living Dead

Honorable Mention: Purgatory’s Revenge

Reminiscent at times of our 2010 trip to Demonic Demons in Detroit, Village of the Living Dead toyed with the senses in various ways. Haunters were forced to crawl, climb, and grope their way through blinding fog and strobe effects. The overall effect produced a major spike in our heart rates.

 

Samhain – This award recognizes the most enjoyable night of haunting in a given season. A plethora of factors are considered when deciding this award but at the end of the season it comes down to the night of haunting that provided us with the most scares, laughs, and memories.

2013 Samhain: October 25, 2013 (Purgatory’s Revenge, Blake’s & Slaughtered at Sundown)

Honorable Mention: November 1, 2013 (Exit 13 & Village of the Living Dead)

We enjoyed a long night of haunting on October 25, when we managed to visit three attractions for the first time. Purgatory’s Revenge was a very good first time effort while the Nighttime Spooky Hayride at Blake’s was a feast for the eyes; meanwhile Slaughtered at Sundown offered classic fundamentals and engrossing scenes.

 

Haunt of the Year – The Haunt of Year award is given to the haunt considered to be the best overall attraction of the season. When deciding on this award several factors are taken into consideration including the timing and intensity of actors, the pace and length of the haunt, attention to detail, use of special effects, realism of props, and most importantly the lasting imprint left on guests.

2013 Haunt of the Year: Hush

Honorable Mention: Erebus

Quite simply, we were highly impressed with the overall effort from the rookie, Hush. The clever theme was leveraged well by Dr. Phineas Phun who highlighted an excellent cast that was full of energy. The scenes and scares varied in type and intensity and that approach produced a common thread of fun and fright that prevailed throughout Hush. It was a welcome surprise in 2013 that left us yearning for more and reminded us once again why we cherish this rite of passage each October.

Horrorlust Haunt Awards: A History

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2014 by bluefall8

The haunt awards, like Horrorlust itself, are the result of an evolution. The 2013 crop will be the sixth annual edition for most of the awards — Rotten Pumpkin, Eerie Vibrations, Dark Horse, Killer Automatons, Pulse Pounder, and Monster all debuted following the 2008 haunt season. The Prop Master and Samhain Awards were both added at the conclusion of the 2011 season, thus making this the third consecutive year for those respective distinctions.

The oldest award that we recognize is of course, Haunt of the Year. This award predates Horrorlust, indeed Haunt of the Year goes back even further than Hallowblog, the predecessor to this blog. Not long before I began chronicling all of these wonderful haunted adventures my merry band of travelers and I would simply agree upon the best attraction of the Halloween season. And so you’ll notice that in the annals of Horrorlust, that the Haunt of the Year Award is officially recognized as having originated in 2005.

As an interesting aside, it’s worth noting that these awards were initially called the Haunt Trinity Haunt Awards. If you delve into the depths of past Horrorlust posts you’re sure to come across such a phrase. The Haunt Trinity was a nickname I fashioned once a upon a time for a frequent trio of haunters. The group was comprised of myself, Jason (my older brother), and our good friend John who is sometimes referred to in these posts as the Disco Devil or simply, Disco.

I used to get a kick out of the name; I even spun spur of the moment rhymes about it and haunted attractions but mostly I think it merely served to annoy everybody else. After a time, it was rarely just the three of us participating in the beloved haunt excursions; a half a dozen or more friends and acquaintances regularly rotated in and out on any given night. My brother began to joke that the nickname Haunt Trinity was a misnomer.

A couple of years ago he found work in a new field and his schedule changed drastically; allowing him to partake in the haunted festivities only a time or two per season. This roughly coincided with the advent of Horrorlust and so it has been since 2011 that the annual awards have shared the namesake of this blog.

Readers, if you need a refresher on any of the awards please refer to the other posts under the “Awards” category, where full descriptions are posted. As a historical footnote, it’s worth mentioning that we began to recognize an honorable mention for each award in 2009 although those are not listed in this post. Interested parties are referred to the aforementioned entries found under the “Awards” category.

Fun Fact: No haunted attraction has ever been named Haunt of the Year on more than one occasion. In fact, there exists just two haunted houses that claimed the same award in multiple years. House of the Dead (Terror Town) won the Killer Automatons Award four consecutive years from 2009-2012. Deadly Intentions secured the Monster Award in back-to-back years during the 2008 and 2009 haunt seasons.

 

Rotten Pumpkin

2008: Templin’s Night Terror (Wyandotte Jaycees)

2009: Jackson’s Underworld

2010: Leo’s House of Horror

2011: Anxiety Alley

2012: Scream Machine

 

Eerie Vibrations

2008: Homer Mill

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: The Haunted Farm

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Bloodview

 

Dark Horse

2008: Realm of Haunted Minds

2009: Extreme Scream

2010: Woods of Darkness

2011: Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom

2012: Dimensions of Darkness

 

Killer Automatons

2008: Erebus

2009: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2010: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2011: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2012: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

 

Pulse Pounder

2008: County Morgue (Chainsaw Creek)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure)

 

Monster

2008: Deadly Intentions

2009: Deadly Intentions

2010: Realm of Darkness

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

 

Prop Master

2011: Tent of Terror (The Boneyard)

2012: Barn of Horrors (Erwin Orchards)

 

Samhain

2011: October 14, 2011 (Krazy Hilda’s, Chelsea Feargrounds, The Boneyard)

2012: October 12, 2012 (Erwin Orchards, Slaughter House Adventure, A Nightmare on Elm Road)

 

Haunt of the Year

2005: Nautical Nightmare

2006: Erebus

2007: Realm of Darkness

2008: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

2013 Horrorlust Haunt Award Nominations

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2014 by bluefall8

As the Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show rolls on in St. Louis; the time as come to recognize the best haunted offerings of the 2013 season. We here at Horrorlust present nine dreadful categories , the original seven include: Monster, Killer Automatons, Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Dark Horse, Rotten Pumpkin and finally, Haunt of the Year. In 2011 we added the Prop Master and Samhain Awards.

Below are descriptions for each category accompanied by this years’ nominees. All cities listed in parenthesis are located in the State of Michigan unless otherwise noted.

Rotten Pumpkin – The Rotten Pumpkin award is given to the haunt considered to be the most disappointing of the season. Disappointment may be the result of an over hyped marketing campaign or the failure of the haunt to live up to expectations set forth in previous seasons. Whatever the case may be let there be no doubt that the haunt receiving this unwanted distinction truly dropped the ball, failing to provide a worthwhile show.

2013 Rotten Pumpkin Nominees: 

3-Story Haunted Barn (Blake’s – Armada)

Realm of Darkness (Pontiac)

Scream Machine (Taylor)

Eerie Vibrations – The Eerie Vibrations award is given to the haunt considered to exude the best overall atmosphere. Atmosphere is defined by the mood of the haunt itself but can also be fostered by immediate grounds or even the surrounding area.

2013 Eerie Vibrations Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Terrorfied Forest (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

Dark Horse – The Dark Horse award is given to the haunt considered to have the most potential for growth. Criteria for this award include the ability to deliver an entertaining show at a relatively small venue and at a reduced rate. Think of the Dark Horse award as our way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2013 Dark Horse Nominees:

Bloodbath on Biddle (Wyandotte)

Hillside Mortuary (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Realm of Haunted Minds (Romulus)

Killer Automatons – The Killer Automatons award is given to the haunt that best integrates animatronics into its attraction. When determining this award several factors are considered including timing, prop placement, realism, and sheer wow effect.

2013 Killer Automatons Nominees:

Erebus (Pontiac)

Jackson’s Underworld (Jackson)

Realm of Darkness (Pontiac)

Monster – The Monster award is given to the haunt considered to have the best live actors of the season. In order to claim this award workers must display a certain level of intensity as well as a refusal to break character. Also crucial is the ability to improvise lines or actions when adapting to an individual guest or group.

2013 Monster Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Hush (Westland)

Sinister (Utica)

Prop Master – The Prop Master award is given to the haunt considered to have best implemented props into the attraction. A prop may be considered a piece of furniture, a weapon, or a dummy. The haunt that claims this award will have paid special attention to placement, function, and realism.

2013 Prop Master Nominees:

Bloodbath on Biddle (Wyandotte)

Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville)

Hillside Mortuary (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Pulse Pounder – The Pulse Pounder award is given to the haunt considered to be the most intense attraction of the season. Intensity can be gauged by a number of factors including commitment of actors, gory or realistic scenes, and harsh or loud music and sound effects. However, the most important element when considering this award is genuine fear factor.

2013 Pulse Pounder Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Purgatory’s Revenge (New Haven)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

Samhain – This award recognizes the most enjoyable night of haunting in a given season. A plethora of factors are considered when deciding this award but at the end of the season it comes down to the night of haunting that provided us with the most scares, laughs, and memories.

2013 Samhain Nominees:

October 25, 2013 (Blake’s, Purgatory’s Revenge, Slaughtered at Sundown)

October 30, 2013 (Bloodbath on Biddle, Hush, Scream Machine)

November 1, 2013 (Exit 13 & Village of the Living Dead)

Haunt of the Year – The Haunt of Year award is given to the haunt considered to be the best overall attraction of the season. When deciding on this award several factors are taken into consideration including the timing and intensity of actors, the pace and length of the haunt, attention to detail, use of special effects, realism of props, and most importantly the lasting imprint left on guests.

2013 Haunt of the Year Nominees:

Erebus (Pontiac)

Hush (Westland)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

For awards from 2010-2012 consult the “Awards” category listed in the sidebar to the right. A comprehensive list of past winners will be posted mid-week with the 2013 winners being released one week from today.

2013 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2014 by bluefall8

In anticipation of the 2013 Horrorlust Haunt Awards Nominations, I present to any interested parties, a complete list of last season’s ratings. It should be noted that ratings, in and of themselves, do not determine awards.  This list is used primarily as a means of reference for my own archival purposes. I hope you find it enjoyable, nevertheless.

2013 STAR RATINGS

1. Hush – 4.75 (Westland, MI.)

2. Erebus – 4.5 (Pontiac, MI.)

3. Nighttime Spooky Hayride – 4.5 (Blake’s – Armada, MI.)

4. Bloodbath & Beyond Hayride – 4.25 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

5. Exit 13 – 4.25 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

6. Village of the Living Dead – 4.25 (St. Charles, MI.)

7. Purgatory’s Revenge – 4 (New Haven, MI.)

8. Realm of Haunted Minds – 3.75 (Romulus, MI.)

9. Sinister – 3.75 (Utica, MI.)

10. Haunted Corn Maze – 3.5 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

11. Slaughtered at Sundown – 3.5 (Aramada, MI.)

12. Bloodbath on Biddle – 3.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

13. CarnEvil 3D – 3.25 (Pontiac, MI.)

14. Terrorfied Forest – 3.25 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney, MI.)

15. Slaughter House – 3.25 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

16. Catacombs & The Rusthole – 3 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

17. Dark Abyss – 3 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

18. Funeral Home – 3 (Inkster, MI.)

19. Hillside Mortuary – 2.75 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney, MI.)

20. Jackson’s Underworld – 2.75 (Jackson, MI.)

21. Realm of Darkness – 2.75 (Pontiac, MI.)

22. 3 Story Haunted Barn – 2.25 (Blake’s – Armada, MI.)

23. Scream Machine – 0.5 (Taylor, MI.)

Screwball Cast Ignites Exit 13

Posted in 2013, Exit 13, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by bluefall8

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The final haunt of the season always brings with it a mixture of excitement, sadness, and a tinge of disbelief. For the better part of two months my companions and I eat, sleep, and breathe haunted attractions and when the season inevitably draws to a close there’s a lot of information to process. We believe in going out with a bang and we could think of no other place to be on the final night of the haunt season than Exit 13 in Mt. Morris.

Our first trip through Exit 13 came in 2012 and both John and I were very impressed with what we witnessed. Ownership of the attraction changed hands last winter but the iconic name stuck and the new crew set out to top their predecessors. John and I arrived past the eleven o’clock hour on a chilly, dreary night eager to inject that final haunt fix directly into our veins.

Our journey began in front of a black door, a narrow slot had been inlaid at eye level. Suddenly the slot was thrust open, a bushy handlebar mustache was accompanied by a pair of bulging eyes. After a brief exchange the door was opened and I couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just been sucked into some bizarre Wizard of Oz scenario. Once inside the wizardly wanna-be got a bit physical before he allowed us to continue on our trip.

As we delved deeper into the darkness of Exit 13 we would discover the ghastly cast to be energized, abnormal, and without restraint. We were attacked by a mustachioed, little man in a dress, accused of terrible acts during a forced confessional, and roughed up by a gruesome gal who wildly spun yours truly about and then pinned me to a wall (and she didn’t even charge!).

In other areas of the attraction we enjoyed some scenery and a few jump scares. While we traversed a dense woodland area populated by frightening tribal figures, one creep emerged from the brush to deliver an effective moment of terror. Conversely, we were also treated to some humor when we were violently admonished for ogling the mountainous breasts of a convalescing grandma.

However, Exit 13 had saved the best for last as John and I would soon find out. We found ourselves in a strobe-lit hall, in the shadowy distance a sinister shape lumbered toward us. As the figure drew closer the ghoulish features of its face came into full view — darkened eyes leered at us hungrily above a mouth full of jagged teeth. The whole hideous facade was caged behind a metal box that had been mounted to the freak’s head.

Moments later we entered a neatly constructed room that featured cornstalks, a scarecrow, and a murder a swirling crows. And just as we departed that inventive scene we found ourselves first inside of a crypt and then an adjacent cemetery where we were pursued by some famished zombies. We fled that nightmare landscape only to soon find ourselves surrounded by a pack of disturbed clowns who first threatened and then tickled us with buzzing chainsaws.

We were very impressed with the job that the new staff was able to do. The operators overhauled much of the attraction from 2012, in addition many of the scenes or gags that were left intact from the previous season had been successfully tweaked. But make no mistake, the heart and soul of Exit 13 was the lovable cast of loonies who displayed such passion for their craft. The gang here was a versatile bunch equally skilled in both fun and fright.

Once we had emerged from the darkness of Exit 13 we had a lengthy conversation with the owner and a senior staff member who has served as a helping hand at Exit 13 since its introduction to the Flint horror scene. As we learned from the tandem, in 2014 Exit 13 will undergo a complete overhaul and that is an exciting prospect.

With shades of old school, in-your-face aggression, and instances of tasteless, odd ball humor — Exit 13 has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit during the haunt season.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Death Knell for the Scream Machine

Posted in 2013, Review, Scream Machine with tags , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2013 by bluefall8

A steady rain had begun to fall as we neared our final destination on Devil’s Night — the relocated Scream Machine. The one time Downriver power house has slipped over the years, but we had hoped a change of scenery would breath some new life into the sputtering attraction.

Sadly, relocation has only seemed to exacerbate the problems that have afflicted the Scream Machine in recent years. What we witnessed during our visit on Devil’s Night was a haunted attraction teetering on the brink of death.

The popular Hellivator has been eliminated as has the vortex tunnel that followed it at the previous location. Instead we began our journey in the church setting that has been a staple at the Scream Machine; often it has appeared in the middle of the attraction or near the end. I didn’t mind this shift but the dummies seated in the pews seemed to be the exact same props used in years past, and they looked as worn as ever. There was one live plant amongst the stiffs and he was all too easy to spot.

Still in the church, a panel opened to our left. A large, masked actor proceeded to provide what was perhaps the most listless scare we’ve ever witnessed. He issued a growl so thoroughly devoid of all emotion it was almost as if he purposely meant for it to carry a mocking tone. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come as the rest of the cast seemed just as disinterested and passionless.

As we wound our way through the darkened halls it became painfully obvious that there was little creativity that went into the uninspired design of the attraction. It went from bad to worse and then some how sunk even lower. It was a pathetic and shameful display from what used to be a highly entertaining haunted attraction.

The cemetery scene, although diminished as well, was at least enjoyable from a visual standpoint — a small alcove decorated with numerous pumpkins was a nice touch. Other than that, John and I were hard pressed to come up with anything that was enjoyable, inventive, or exciting. Each scene, prop, and scare was merely rehashed fodder that the Scream Machine has run into the ground in previous seasons.

Incredulously, the Scream Machine ended as it has for years — by winding guests through the same leftover hallways that used to serve as part of the Carnevil of Lost Souls 3D attraction. I suppose it was a fitting finale for a haunted attraction that had us wishing for the end by the halfway point.

The cast, as I mentioned above, was particularly detrimental to the overall experience. In as blunt of terms as I can put it, the cast of the Scream Machine was abysmal. They displayed no ability to adapt, no penchant for improvisation, and their interaction was amateurish at best. A group of three or four actors tailed us through much of the attraction and appeared briefly to bang on objects in order to elicit a scare, and when that didn’t work they just banged some more…and then banged some more.

John and I would later agree that, collectively, the cast seemed annoyed by our very presence. It was as if we had interrupted a break and we picked up an almost antagonistic vibe. We’ve witnessed poor casts before, our 2011 jaunt through Anxiety Alley comes to mind, but this experience was without a doubt the worst. Never before have we been treated to such unprofessionalism by a cast that plainly lacked a knowledge of or passion for a proper haunted attraction.

It gives me no pleasure to write such a review. I absolutely love haunted attractions, but this was a travesty. Without knowledge of the inside story, I am at a loss to explain how this once prominent haunted attraction declined so rapidly. I would rather see the doors chained and the windows shuttered than watch it linger on in such a state; the once mighty Scream Machine is dead.

Rating: 0.5 stars

Terror Tracker Scares Up Ads

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by bluefall8

I mentioned previously in my review of the Wyandotte Jaycees’ Bloodbath on Biddle that while there I happened upon a haunted house publication called Terror Tracker. It’s published by Your Hometown Shopper and as Jon Dehring told me that night, the publishers hope to compete with the Haunt Guide and Fear Finder.

My search for additional information on Terror Tracker was fruitless — I have no idea when it was first published or what kind of circulation it has. The 2013 edition does feature four orange slash marks located on the upper right hand corner of the front page, perhaps that indicates that this was the fourth annual installment.

Featured inside it’s pages are the usual heavy hitters who run regularly in the Fear Finder or Haunt Guide such as Blake’s, Night Terrors, and Saint Lucifer’s just to name a few. However what’s more interesting are establishments such as Past Tense After Dark and Erwin Orchards which ran 1/8 and 1/4 page ads in the Fear Finder this season, but landed full page layouts inside Terror Tracker.

Terrorfied Forest & Manor in Pinckney had advertised in the Fear Finder for what seemed to be more than a decade, but disappeared from the its pages this year only to crop up in the Terror Tracker with a 1/2 page ad. Seventeen haunted attractions or events were listed inside Terror Tracker this year, by comparison the Haunt Guide featured the same amount while the Fear Finder advertised 46.

Personally, I welcome the new addition — anything that aids in the continued success of the haunted attraction industry in Michigan is good for all of us who celebrate Halloween around the calendar.

As an aside, I’m still in search of past issues of the Fear Finder pre-2006 — for that matter I’m now interested in obtaining past copies of Terror Tracker as well. I encourage anybody with copies to contact me via the comment section here on Horrorlust or at the following email: joel@bluestarproductions.net

Big Crowds take a Bite out of Blake’s

Posted in 2013, Blake's, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2013 by bluefall8

We were in high spirits when we arrived at Blake’s were business was booming; the parking lot was packed and there seemed to be people everywhere. There was a country store, a petting farm, a dance floor, and one monstrous pile of hay! Oh yeah, there was also the haunted attractions — Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn and Nighttime Spooky Hayride. We’d waited a long time to sample Blake’s haunted offerings, finally we had arrived — and we were ready to have our fill.

RETRO VIBES STALL INSIDE HAUNTED BARN

Our first clue to the nature of this haunt came while we waited in line where a large wall read, “Welcome to the Loonie Bin Gallery”. A series of holes lined the walls and inside of each depression was a video monitor. Every screen displayed a lunatic in a state of excitement or confusion, some babbled nonsense while others merely leered. I came to think of them as the special cousin or pervert uncle that everybody tries to avoid at family gatherings.

The first level of the barn put me in mind of a dark ride, those old staples of countless county fairs. There wasn’t a single actor in this area, rather it was filled with numerous animatronics — most of which were somewhat outdated. It felt more like a fun house than a haunted barn, although we did get a kick out of the large monkey who clung to a fence while being electrocuted.

As we came to the second floor I thought perhaps the lack of live monsters on the first was just a tactic to catch us off guard; perhaps the dusty automatons were simply meant to elicit cheap chuckles? Were we being softened up for what was to come next? For a moment it seemed like that might be true; as we began our trek on the second level we came to a stop.

A top a small stage, a man sat in an electric chair. A metal box covered his head, his face visible only through a the monitor at the front of the contraption. The switch was thrown and as the electricity coursed through his body, the man screamed in agony. When the current had ceased he slumped over dead, the box was retracted from his head.

His body hung limp for a moment, and then the charred cretin sprung into action and hurled himself at the barrier between us and the stage. The close proximity revealed detailed make-up effects, his face and head appeared to have been burnt to a crisp. This was by far the most effective scene in the 3-Story Haunted Barn.

The design of the haunt had potential — ramps, narrow passages, and low ceilings were all present but the remainder of the attraction featured only a handful of actors who seemed to simply go through the motions. Outside of the aforementioned electrocution, we didn’t witness any creative scenes or even come across a noteworthy prop.

As we neared the conclusion of the 3-Story Haunted Barn we did encounter an intimidating sight, the Big Boy Clown — dubbed such for both his stature and his girth. He would lead us through the Black Hole, a spinning vortex speckled with a thousand pinpricks of laser light. Admittedly, this was an eye catching site as the area near the vortex appeared to twinkle with the reflection of innumerable crystals.

I expected more from Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn, the throwback appeal of the first level never reached full potential and there was just too little of anything else to make an impact. We didn’t find the experience all together unenjoyable, it just felt like a lot of prelude without much rising action or climax. In the halls of our haunted history, Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn is likely to blend into the background.

Rating: 2.25 stars

NIGHTTIME SPOOKY HAYRIDE EQUIPPED WITH TRICKS AND TREATS

As I stated, I was disappointed in Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn but I wasn’t altogether surprised. An acquaintance of mine had previously informed me of his experience and his overall sentiment proved to be true, but this realization actually heartened me because he also went on to rave about the hayride — and his enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced.

The Nighttime Spooky Hayride was a good length, featured an energetic cast, and even made a stop in the middle of the apple orchard so that guests could enjoy complimentary cider and donuts.

The madness all began when our jovial guide, a thin man with a skeletal face who will henceforth be referred to as the Wagon Keeper, explained the rules of the land. However, before our wagon could gain any traction we were attacked by a pair of wild harlequins. The duo frightened and harassed various patrons which yielded comical results — a number of teenaged girls screamed and cowered to the delight of all.

The path wound through plenty of scenes and silos, riders were assailed by explosive leapers, a collapsing sign, and outlandish executions. One maniac chopped off the head of an unlucky lass and then chased after the wagon while he waved the head in the air.

Elsewhere we watched as an accused witch burned in spectacular fashion, shortly thereafter we encountered a man who begged for our help — his head in a noose, and his toes barely touched the box beneath him. Suddenly, yet another witch (and quite a sexy one at that) emerged from the darkness and punted the box from beneath the man’s feet! He swung he did, he swung.

In another fun scene a woman broke loose from a prison, but was brought down shortly when an ill tempered guard chased her into the corn and fired a round into her back. It was all wonderful fun but I had the distinct feeling that the recently deceased were likely innocent of the crimes they had been accused. Oh well, we cheered their deaths just the same.

As we neared the end of our ride we pulled through a structure that the Wagon Keeper referred to as the Tunnel of Love. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and jets of light danced romantically all around our carriage. Several expertly still characters sprung to life as we passed. The whole experience put me in mind of a scene from 1962’s Carnival of Souls.

However we weren’t free just yet — those dreadful clowns who had kicked off our journey decided it was time to have some more fun. As our wagon chugged along the path, I noticed a small shack to the right and to the left was a garish gallery of marionette clowns. The exhibition featured half a dozen or more stiffs and I found it darkly fascinating.

As I absorbed the striking scenery a sudden, bright flash from the shack left many of us temporarily blinded and beneath such cover the horrible harlequin attacked our party once more. He was soon joined by his cohort who was, of course, a plant among the hanging puppets.

The Nighttime Spooky Hayride was an undeniably fun romp through orchards and corn fields. It featured a plentiful cast and enough laughter and shrieks to keep things interesting.

Rating: 4.5 stars