Archive for blake’s

2009 Haunt Season Preview

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2014 by bluefall8

This entry served as the official kickoff to the 2009 haunt season and was originally posted on Friday, September 11, 2009. The song at the top of this entry is called “Bag- O’-Bones” and was included on a Halloween CD called Moans from the Mausoleum.

This entry briefly summarized the 2008 haunt season, but focused mainly on the attractions we were likely to visit in 2009.

As with many of these Hallowblog entries, many of the links that were included at the time no longer function and thus have been deactivated. 

Well I heard about this Monster Mash dance
bunch of creatures flailing around
Well listen up cause now’s your chance
to get spooky and get down

Do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
Let the skeleton inside you dance around
Do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
Let the skeleton inside you dance around.

Now get up on the bony feet
And give those bony hands a clap
Well then you move those bony knees
And give that funny bone a slap
And that’s the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
That’s the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
Let the skeleton inside you dance around
That’s the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
Let the skeleton inside you dance around.

I think you really outta be knowin’
wherever you might be a goin’
well there’s a skeleton walkin’ round
they ain’t just buried in the ground
Cause you’re a bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
You’re a bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
So let the skeleton inside you dance around
Do the bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
You’re a bag o’ bones (bag o’ bones)
So let the skeleton inside you dance around.

Whoa, you’re so creepy
I think you’re scaring me a little bit now

I saw the first true signs of fall today; a few leaves had fallen from their summer perch. I knew then that the time was ripe for the first edition of Hallowblog 2009. The 2009 haunt season is nearly here and yet the memories of last year are still so fresh in my mind, it’s hard to believe that the annual celebration of all things frightful and mysterious is so close. Ahhhh, a haunting we shall go indeed but first we have much news to discuss.

The 2008 haunt season was unparalled in scope, in fact the season was such a success it will be the focus of an upcoming edition of Hallowblog. Today however we gather here at this hallowed hearth for a glimpse not into the past, no today we look into the creepy things to come.

My fellow haunters will be excited to know that a majority of haunts have already updated their websites for the coming season one of the noteworthy few that has not is TerrorTown. It is with great anticipation that I await an update from those that provided such a memorable experience last year with The House of the Dead.

Like last year Pigman’s Lair in Chelsea will be dark and it doesn’t seem as if the operators have a definitive plan for the future either. You can amuse yourself with the legend of the Pigman though; I think it’s worth a read anyway.

Legend of the Pigman

While driving on Biddle in Wyandotte last week I made a sad discovery: the building that held 2007’s Hell’s Hospital and 2008’s Templin’s Night Terror has been demolished. I have yet to hear where the Wyandotte Jaycees will hold their attraction this year but you can trust that I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.

I don’t know about anyone else but I still long for a return visit to the Nautical Nightmare. The rug was pulled out from beneath us last year and it just wasn’t right my friends. The Haunt Trinity could have been cannibalized by famished hobos! I’ve emailed somebody involved with the restoration of the Ste. Claire regarding the possible return of the water bound haunt but I have yet to receive a response.

Zioptis will apparently initiate a new rating system for haunts this year. It states on their website that too many people were failing to understand the star system or more specifically for example how a mega-haunt such as Erebus could receive the same rating as a locally produced modular haunt. Well Zioptis clearly states that the ratings are a reflection of how well an individual haunt executes what it sets out to do. They are not meant to serve as a comparison from one attraction to the next. I’m not sure how people fail to understand that, retards. Zioptis also claims that the ratings have inadvertently pitted haunts against each other. The site isn’t exactly clear on what this new system will look like but I can assure you that Hallowblog will continue to grade haunts on the star system. I’ve always enjoyed the information that Zioptis displays and I think the star system is a fine way to rate haunts. If Zioptis is guilty of anything it’s granting far too many 5 star ratings. Too often the site fails to give in-depth details of any haunt and has a tendency to give glowing reviews to mediocre attractions.

The Fear Finder may be released as early as next week but realistically I look for it to flood the area the following week. When it does come out I and my fellows haunters will have some tough decisions to make. We visited a lot of great haunts last year but it’ll be near impossible to revisit them all this year if we also plan to hit some new haunts. The 2009 haunt season will have to be the most carefully planned to date if we’re to make this year as successful and entertaining as the last. Let’s take a look at a sampling of possible first time visits then shall we?

The first haunt that jumped out at me this year is The Haunt in Walker. It’s quite a drive from my apartment, clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes so that would obviously be a factor but I encourage all fellow haunters to check out each haunt and bring your own opinions to the table.

An Ohio haunt that has hit the Haunt Trinity radar is The Haunted Hydro. This haunt is located in Fremont which is approximately 30 minutes south of TerrorTown in Maumee. This pair of haunts could make for an adventurous night in the Buckeye State.

In Michigan I discovered a brand new haunt in Jackson called Jackson’s Underworld. I first came across this while looking at the Homer Mill’s myspace page, I’m unsure as to whether it’s operated by the same people or if the two haunts have simply formed an alliance. One thing is for certain if the folks at the Homer Mill are either endorsing or producing this new locale it’s worth checking out.

Also in Michigan is Darksyde Acres in Jonesville. Darksyde Acres features a number of attractions and is produced by Bodybag Entertainment, the same company that was supposed to produce the Nautical Nightmare last year. The sheer size of this place and the ambition of those involved makes this location intriguing but last years disappearing act at Hart Plaza, while not totally the fault of Bodybag Entertainment, has left a bad taste in my mouth. For the time being we’ll place this one in the wild card category.

And there’s plenty of potential first time haunts that we simply didn’t make it to last year like Haunted Farm of Terror in Lenox Township and it’s nearby neighbors Slaughtered at Sundown and Blake’s in Armada. There are also dark horse contenders to consider like The Deadland Haunted House in Davison, The Crypt in Burton, or St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum in Grand Blanc.

And then the waters really get muddied when you start to consider which of our favorite mainstays will have to sit on the sidelines during the 2009 season. Last year we opted not to visit The Scream Machine in Taylor or The Lab in Grosse Ile but where will the axe fall this year? I’d like to visit The Scream Machine this year although The Lab is up for debate. The Lab is changing things up a bit this year offering guests an opportunity to traverse the haunt in total darkness with nothing to guide your party but a single glow stick. This “Lights Out” feature will run at midnight every Friday and Saturday.

It has been suggested that perhaps we skip Pontiac’s twin terrors this season: Erebus and The Realm of Darkness. These two haunts have served as our biggest night out the last three seasons and excluding them borders on sacrilege…but if we are to maximize both our time and dollar it may have to be a sacrifice we’re willing to make.

One place that I definitely want to return to is Deadly Intentions in Warren. This haunt scorched our frontal lobes last Halloween and the recently released 2009 theme has set my horror juices a’ bubbling: City of the Living Dead. I don’t think I have to say any more than that to those who witnessed this balls out effort last year. Jason and Disco I ask you this, can the dynamics we experienced at this haunt last year coupled with the excitement of an apocalyptic zombie theme result in anything less than an all time classic? This is a dark alchemy not soon to be forgotten.

Nor can we simply forget about Extreme Scream in Taylor or The Realm of Haunted Minds in Romulus both put forth worthy efforts last year and we’d be remiss to dismiss them so easily. And there’s also Chainsaw Creek in Toledo which delighted us last season with a slew of tasteless characters. It also remains to be known whether or not Adrian’s The Haunting deserves a second chance after a relatively disappointing visit in 2007. I would also like to propose a possible visit to Cedar Point HalloWeekends which features two new attractions this year, one of which is called Happy Jack’s Toy Factory. Can you think of a more devilishly fun theme for a haunted attraction than that?! It’ll be like Chucky, Puppetmaster, and Goosebumps all rolled into one!

We have many decisions to make this season my haunt brethren, let us choose wisely.

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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.

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.)

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

Bound in Purgatory

Posted in 2013, Purgatory's Revenge, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2013 by bluefall8

It was by a considerable amount of chance that we came to visit Purgatory’s Revenge in New Haven on October 25th. Originally, John and I had planned to visit House of Fear in Hazel Park but we discovered that Purgatory’s Revenge worked much better with our route for the night which included stops at Blake’s and Slaughtered at Sundown in Armada. As we are always on the lookout for new attractions, it seemed like a natural fit.

In several ways Purgatory’s Revenge put me in mind of Sinister in Utica, it’s constructed outside and must be completely dismantled once the haunt season has concluded. Secondly, it featured a dedicated, in-your-face cast. Several of the standouts prowled the grounds, stirring up scares. The ring leader was a strange creature indeed and can best be described as the result of a demon who had possessed the corpse of a deer. He may have walked upright but the creature displayed a marked animalistic instinct, his speech and actions were certainly something other than human.

The entrance of the attraction is well detailed and created the sensation that haunters had entered into a tomb. We would find out soon enough that Purgatory’s Revenge prided itself on basic haunt fundamentals, a strategy that served this location well. Thick patches of fog swept throughout many areas of the haunt and when coupled with strobe lights, created a highly disorienting effect that had us groping the air as we searched for a path — easy prey for any lurking deadites.

The haunt also utilized a good mix of pitch black hallways, an increasingly underutilized element in haunted attractions. Such perfect dark can wreck havoc on the psyche and has the added benefit of providing fertile ground for opportunities to launch a scare. In one such hall I received one of the best jolts of the season. As I blindly fumbled in the dark I was surprised when I felt my hand come in contact with some sort of barrier — mesh, perhaps fencing? Immediately an unseen actor lunged from within the structure and provided a quality startle.

The use of tactile sensation was yet another fundamental technique put to good use. In the area above, there was merely a change in the texture of the wall and as soon as my mind began to process that information the trap had been set. This tactic worked in rooms with greater visibility as well, for instance, one narrow path forced us to claw our way through a series of thick spider webs. As another example, various areas had thin veils that hung at odd angles from the ceiling — these too we had to push aside. Additionally, the veils served to block our line of sight which in turn created a mild sensation of misdirection; all of this forced us to carefully concentrate on the path.

All of this talk of tactile sensation, misdirection, and darkness may not sound too impressive but when used correctly these old school techniques will enhance any haunted attraction. Sure, a particular haunt may succeed in spite of such attributes — for instance, a great cast may collectively steal the show — but why deny such a cast the opportunity to ply their craft on an ideal canvas? The proper application of haunt fundamentals will always enhance the experience.

The final room of the haunted attraction also played upon such fundamentals, although here it was accomplished when those principles were turned on ear. Generally, haunted attractions will send guests through a series of tight passes which is a great method used to heighten a condition like claustrophobia, but what would happen if those same people were suddenly thrust into a very large space?

This was exactly what the final room put to the test and the result was a sudden sensation of exposure and vulnerability. Those small, narrow spaces do produce a particular kind of fear and suspense, but in such a limited area the inevitable scare has precious few options from which to originate — in an odd way it can almost begin to feel, safe. A wide open space has the opposite effect, suddenly patrons are naked  in the dark and highly susceptible to attack from all angles.

As I mentioned earlier, Purgatory’s Revenge featured several characters who treated the scare as an art form, and the first one that we encountered was the aforementioned Demon Deer.

When we first entered the haunt a strangled voice used bird calls to attract our attention and then beckoned, “Heeeere humans, heeeere humans.” The nightmarish abomination led us to a vacant church and after he had muttered what seemed to be mindless ravings, we were directed into opposite rooms. One was labeled “Men’s” while the other read “Women’s.” John and I briefly separated before the paths wound back into each other. It was a fun bit of interaction and an idea I’d love to see the operators expand upon in the future.

Another scene of interest was a detailed swamp complete with a bridge. Here, we were introduced to a miniature pet alligator and when I crouched to stroke it’s head, we were blasted by a spray of water. The owner bade us farewell (although he did so rather ominously) and we entered into the next room, a vibrantly painted area flush with disturbing depictions of Barney the Dinosaur aside children who bore, what I can only assume, were drug induced grins. The theme from the once popular television show echoed throughout the room, lending a distinctly perverse quality to our surroundings.

What the hell were we about to witness here? My mind ran wild. Would we find girls bound and gagged (Could we be so lucky)? Was a half naked Barney to be found waltzing with the corpse of Baby Bop? Or would we simply discover the purple dinosaur tweaked out on the floor with a needle in his arm? Yes, these are the things that run through my head; it’s a weird place.

Okay, none of the above came to pass, but we were attacked by a large dog with a purple head which gave John a fright, and a good startle is always worth a mention. Even though the bizarre visions in my head did not manifest, it is precisely these kind of creative ideas that keep us on the road chasing that next great haunt fix. The skewering of pop culture isn’t exclusive to late night comedians, it’s also prepackaged fodder for the haunt industry. When viewed through a particular lens just about anything can become creepy, surreal, or downright horrifying.

2013 was the sophomore season for the folks at Purgatory’s Revenge and it definitely didn’t seem to have suffered any kind of a slump. The team here is led by a mixture of seasoned veterans and bold, new blood. With a solid cast on hand, strong emphasis on haunt fundamentals, and plans to expand, it would seem that Purgatory’s Revenge has many souls yet to ensnare.

Rating: 4 stars