Archive for 2015

2015 Haunt Season Rewind

Posted in Haunt Season Rewind with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2016 by bluefall8

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Late September has crept up awfully quickly and many haunted attractions have already opened their doors to customers. 2016 is going to be a pivotal season here at Horrorlust for several reasons, but before any of that fun can begin we must pause and peer into the rear view mirror for a glimpse of the year that was — submitted for your approval, here are some of the most memorable moments from the 2015 haunt season as recorded here on Horrorlust.

On an overly-friendly character at The Deadland, 9/17/15

“Mr. Snuggles was a clown — at least I think that’s what he was. He looked like a clown but he made a few comments that led me to believe that perhaps the face was not his own. Yeah, we’re talking some freaky skin suit stuff here.”

On an unexpected bit of interaction at The Deadland, 9/17/15

“However, our absolute favorite was Mikey’s birthday party where we sung a boisterous rendition of Happy Birthday at the insistence of the dead boy’s busty mother.”

On a curious ringmaster at the Haunted Farm of Terror, 9/17/15

“Rigby stood head and shoulders above the fairgoers and seemed to have pilfered his outfit from Uncle Sam. One side of his face sported a nasty burn but the disfigurement did nothing to stem his voice which boomed theatrically through a mega phone.”

On a bizarre yet humorous broadcast at the Haunted Farm of Terror, 9/17/15

“Transfixed, we stood and listened to the queer tale that was being broadcast — some weird business about a degenerate rabbit.”

On the charged finale at Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors, 9/26/15

“The air suddenly felt electric, pregnant with anticipation. For a moment time stood still and then like a phantom in the night Junior answered his mother’s call…”

On a tough and unlikely decision at The Dark Box, 10/03/15

“It was a testament to the raw weirdness of the odd ghoul that we accepted the word of the pig-man.”

On the panic-inducing conclusion of The Dark Box, 10/03/15

“Further investigation would reveal the existence of a peculiar path, a path that at least one of our group members refused to travel. Needless to say, it proved to be a harrowing, heart-racing and claustrophobic road to freedom.”

On the importance of good banter at The Bone Yard, 10/03/15

“As we stood at the threshold for The Freak’s Show there was talk of pickled punks and the potential existence of a woman with the rare condition of a double uterus — never let anybody tell you that the person who acts as gatekeeper isn’t a vital part of the haunted attraction.”

On a lost youth inside the Cornmaze of Fear at Past Tense After Dark, 10/10/15

“I like to think that Tiffany will be among the scarecrows next year.”

On a riveting scene inside House of Horrors at Past Tense After Dark, 10/10/15

“The heads were talking, possibly plotting and they were all around us! Neither John nor myself had any desire to become one of their legion, so with our own heads on a swivel we ducked and dodged our way out of that most macabre menagerie.”

On unforgettable actors at Psycho Path, 10/16/15

“In one memorable passage a group of animate dolls, in various states of disrepair and degradation, begged for our assistance. One twitched in robotic spasms while she meekly pleaded for help, another, scarcely more than a torso with a head, merely seemed confused by the state of her sad existence.”

On a scene at Hallowe’en Nights reminiscent of an episode of The Twilight Zone, 10/22/15

“Old-fashioned music drifted across the intersection of Christie and Main Street while the carousel spun haunting rotations as if propelled by a ghostly hand.”

On a dedicated actress at Clio Manor, 10/24/15

“In one room a randy temptress tried to lure us onto her bed which was occupied by the body of her former lover, some poor bastard named Sammy. The temptress shamelessly mounted the corpse and began to grind her hips.”

On a near tranny hookup at Exit 13, 10/24/15

“While my companions howled with laughter, Francine was denied the kiss she so desired by the timely magic of a hidden door that whisked me into darkness and away from her eager, puckered lips.”

On a horrifying clown outside Total Blackout at Exit 13, 10/24/15

“It was as if two separate entities had decided to take up residence in the same body and I got the distinct impression that at least one, if not both, of those personalities had some molester tendencies.”

On Simple, a unique character on the Proving Grounds Trail at Dreadlands Haunt of Davison, 10/24/15

“When we inquired about his state he indicated that he was both “special” and intoxicated; indeed all signs suggested that both were true.”

On the sheer fun inside Zombie Sniper Arena at Dreadlands Haunt of Davison, 10/24/15

“After some initial confusion in which my gun seemed to jam, Steve, John and I fired upon the undead menace with wild abandon that I daresay bordered on glee.”

On a threatening actor at Hush, 10/30/15

“A physically imposing, snarling nihilist fervently pursued us spewing graphic rhetoric on the meaninglessness of life itself.”

On an effective, psychological scare at Dark Legacy, 10/30/15

“What? That doesn’t sound hair-raising to you? Have you ever been followed by a hobo with a shopping cart in the dark?! It’s unsettling stuff.”

On a child-actor at Rotten Manor, 10/31/15

“We also encountered a kid named Billy who possessed an unsettling, gravely voice, exercised the odd skill of scaling walls and seemed for all the world to have been recently unearthed from Pet Cemetery.”

On the genuine terror of Abandon, 10/31/15

“My heart raced like it had not raced in a good many years while inside a haunted attraction. I turned to John and inquired about his own state, his heart too threatened to beat straight out of his chest.”

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Haunting By Numbers: 2015 Haunt Season

Posted in Haunting By Numbers with tags , on September 22, 2016 by bluefall8

2015 offered a haunt season not soon to be forgotten. Let us now ponder some pertinent numbers.

31: Number of attractions at 21 unique locations visited in 2015 — this total topped the previous record of 24 attractions set in 2014.

10: Glorious fright-filled nights spent touring Michigan’s scariest places, a total that matches the all-time high established in 2011.

10: First time tours, another single season record.

8: Counties in Michigan where we stopped for haunted attractions. Those counties included Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, Ingham, Oakland, Genesee, Lapeer and our home county of Wayne.

6: Number of haunted attractions toured on the night of Saturday, October 24, 2016 comprised of events at Clio Manor, Exit 13 and Dreadlands Haunt of Davison.

11: Attractions that were either a trail, hayride, corn maze, blackout maze or paintball event.

966: Total miles spent burning rubber during the 2015 haunt season. This tally falls short of the all-time single season record of 1,203 miles which was set in 2012.

9: Consecutive years visiting the Wyandotte Jaycees haunted house; an unparalleled streak.

2015 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2016 by bluefall8

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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.

2015 Rotten Pumpkin: Scarecrow Hollow (The Boneyard)

Scarecrow Hollow had potential but it was squandered early and often; a couple of would-be standout moments felt clunky and incomplete. A few actors delivered average performances while the rest of the cast was unmotivated and uninspired.

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.

2015 Eerie Vibrations: Terrorfied Forest (Terrorfied Forest & Manor)

Honorable Mention: The Dark Box

After receiving an honorable mention in this category two years ago, the namesake of Terrorfied Forest & Manor snagged the prize in 2015. It’s hard to beat the natural ambience of the Terrorfied Forest, a half hour trek through ghoul infested woods.

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.

2015 Dark Horse: Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors

Honorable Mention: Psycho Path

Krazy Hilda’s is the quintessential feel good story and embodies the true spirit of the little haunt that could. Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors recaptured that classic Halloween feeling in 2015 with a show that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. This is the second time that Krazy Hilda’s has earned the Dark Horse Award, the first came during the 2011 season at the Barn of Doom when the old witch was stationed in Saline.

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.

2015 Killer Automatons: Dark Legacy

Honorable Mention: Rotten Manor

Dark Legacy built on the success of the 2014 season with a superior second act in 2015. This attraction gives visitors a little bit of everything and after securing this award two years running, it’s clear that automated monstrosities are a big part of the game plan for Dark Legacy.

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.

2015 Monster: Hush

Honorable Mention: Clio Manor

This was the award that I grappled with the most because 2015 offered up a serious field of haunted houses that featured talented and diverse casts. After much consideration Hush locked down the Monster Award in 2015 with a loaded back half that just wouldn’t be denied. This marks back-to-back Monster Awards for Hush.

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.

2015 Prop Master: Research Labs (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Honorable Mention: The Freak’s Show (The Boneyard)

Research Labs was so completely littered with household items and all sorts of common (and uncommon) junk that one might surmise it was actually occupied by the world’s most slovenly family. There was a level of authenticity here that most haunted attractions never approach.

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.

2015 Pulse Pounder: Abandon

Honorable Mention: The Dark Box

Heart-racing and hair-raising, Abandon was one of the most purely frightening haunted attractions I’ve ever visited. There was tension here fueled by a basic psychological, primal fear of the dark.

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.

2015 Samhain: Saturday, October 24, 2016 (Clio Manor, Exit 13, Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Honorable Mention: Saturday, October 31, 2016 (Rotten Manor, Abandon)

The immediate reaction from Saturday, October 24, 2016 was that it was one of the best overall nights we’d ever experienced. It was the kind of outing that leaves one exhausted and in need of a day of rest and reflection.

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.

2015 Haunt of the Year: Rotten Manor

Honorable Mention: Research Labs (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Rotten Manor burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 2015. On Halloween, Rotten Manor put the pedal to the metal and never blinked. The facade is second to none, the attention to detail among the best and the scares a jumble of fright that kept us guessing with every step.

2015 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2016 by bluefall8

This list is not meant to compare one haunted attraction to another. The star system (1 – 5 stars) is merely meant to reflect how well I felt each individual haunt executed their particular show. Haunted attractions are a unique breed of entertainment and the quality of a show can vary from night to night, hour to hour and guest to guest for a great many reasons.

As you’ll notice, haunts are listed below in descending order. Where there are multiple haunts with the same star rating those attractions are listed alphabetically.

Again, this list should not be used to gauge which haunt is better than another. Primarily, I use these lists for archival purposes so that I can have a record of the haunted houses I visited and how those attractions performed in a given year.

2015 STAR RATINGS

1. Rotten Manor – 4.75 (Holly, MI.)

2. Research Labs – 4.5 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

3. Clio Manor – 4.25 (Clio, MI.)

4. Dark Legacy – 4.25 (Wixom, MI.)

5. Exit 13 – 4.25 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

6. Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village – 4.25 (Dearborn, MI.)

7. Abandon – 4 (Melvindale, MI.)

8. House of Horrors – 4 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

9. Hush – 4 (Westland, MI.)

10. Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors – 4 (Ypsilanti, MI.)

11. Zombie Sniper Arena – 4 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

12. The Deadland – 3.75 (Warren, MI.)

13. Haunted House – 3.75 (Haunted Farm of Terror – Lenox Township, MI.)

14. The Dark Box – 3.5 (Pinckney, MI.)

15. Haunted Hayride – 3.5 (Haunted Farm of Terror, Lenox Township, MI.)

16. Proving Grounds Trail – 3.5 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

17. Psycho Path – 3.5 (Flat Rock, MI.)

18. Terror on the Blvd. – 3.5 (Lincoln Park, MI.)

19. The Freak’s Show – 3.25 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

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

21. Cornmaze of Fear – 3 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

22. Deadwood Forest – 3 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

23. Fear Factory – 3 (Mt. Clemens, MI.)

24. Hayride of Despair – 3 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

25. Realm of Haunted Minds – 3 (Romulus, MI.)

26. Tunnel of Terror – 3 (Rochester, MI.)

27. Total Blackout – 2.75 (Exit 13 – Mt. Morris, MI.)

28. Bubbles’ Fun House – 2.5 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor, Pinckney, MI.)

29. Delirium – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

30. Scarecrow Hollow – 1.75 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

31. Route 666 – 1.25 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

Abandon All Hope, Old School is Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4 stars

Rotten Manor Howls at Halloween Moon

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

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

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ROTTEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO HELL AND BACK

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4.75 stars

“I wanna hang your skin on the wall.”

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

Dark Legacy Pens Another Grave Chapter

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

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

BIG HAUNT FEEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4.25 stars