Archive for catacombs

Cleveland Trip Underscored by Mix of Emotions

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2018 by bluefall8

This past Saturday, I took to the road with 7 Floors of Hell and Bloodview on the agenda. It was a fun outing despite some rain but overall I did expect more from my maiden voyage to 7 Floors of Hell. The same can be said of my beloved Bloodview; this was my third trip to the haunt called home by the Legion of Terror  and although it had its moments, I found myself nostalgic for years gone by.

7 Floors of Hell, as the name implies, featured seven separate haunted attractions — Chaos, The Basement, House of the Dead, Catacombs, The Butcher Shop, Mental Ward and Phobia. Chaos and The Basement were the best executed, House of the Dead also had several redeeming qualities but on average the various haunts offered too few unique scares or interesting characters.

The set designs fit the bill and each attraction featured plentiful, impressive props, but only a handful of actors engaged in fun and creative interaction, the vast majority delivered simple jump scares and bland, cliched vocalizations.

Bloodview remained a beautiful, macabre Mecca but the cast on this night was largely missing that magical spark. There were memorable moments sprinkled here and there but that was the exception. Perhaps the lack of punch was caused by the rain, or the false emergency that was in full swing upon our arrival or maybe it was simply the effect of the passage of time on yours truly. Such things are difficult to discern these days.

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Dark Magnetism: Rob Johnson of Darksyde Acres

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2014 by bluefall8

Founded in 1828 Jonesville, Michigan is not a booming population center. Officially listed  as a village, Jonesville had a total population of 2,258 people at the time of the 2010 United States Census. It would seem on paper to be an abjectly boring place, but the theater of life doesn’t play out on the uniform black and white pages of government documents. A mere glance will not reveal the hidden gem that lies therein; peer a little closer and you’ll find that here is a place that cast a lure into the night and hooked many wayward travelers. Here, there exists a parcel of land, an epicenter of dark magnetism simply known as Darksyde Acres.

Rob Johnson grew up in Detroit, Michigan and it was his love of Halloween that led him to create the special FX and makeup company, BodyBag Entertainment, in 2002. For a period of five years his love and dedication to the holiday spurred a home haunt so wildly popular that it often required the attention of local law enforcement. As fate would have it, Rob would soon field a phone call from an old friend — it was a conversation that would lead him to a pig farm in Jonesville, Michigan.

Since 2008, Rob Johnson and his crew have been building a reputation as one of Michigan’s premier haunted destinations. His team has done this by transforming a former pig farm into an altered reality populated by perverse clowns, witty wenches, and a cabal of vivacious vixens. The experience at Darksyde Acres is fueled by a wanton disregard for the status quo, and indeed it is that attitude that has cast a glow upon Darksyde Acres in a veritable sea of haunted attractions.

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Horrorlust recently conducted an interview with the owner of Darksyde Acres — what follows is the first in a two-part series.

Horrorlust: What motivated or inspired you to get into the haunted attraction industry? How did Darksyde Acres come into existence?

Rob Johnson: I’ve always loved Halloween much like all children; I looked forward to it every year, and would spend months trying to figure out what I would become on that wonderful night. There was an old man in the neighborhood I trick or treated in and every Halloween he would set up a simple homemade casket and passed out candy dressed as a vampire. I looked forward to seeing him every year and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to do the same.

In the same timeframe, there was a Saturday afternoon TV show titled Sir Graves Ghastly and while dressed as a vampire (the real vampires of yesterday, not those glittery, shimmery vampires of today) he would show vintage horror movies with in between campy skits of wacky characters. One of my favorite things he did was an art gallery where the young viewers would send in artwork of monsters; as an aspiring young artist, I would send in my offerings every week, sometimes as many as ten drawings at a time , hoping to see one of my monsters on the show. Persistence paid off and soon my art work had its own 4 drawing scene during the gallery portion of the show. I was in the big time!

I was invited down to the station to meet Sir Graves Ghastly, I practically had to beg my grandfather to take me to the studio and on the big day dressed in my best, I went to meet my hero, who I met however was an actor named Lawson J. Deming dressed in a turtle neck and tweed sports coat. After a quick tour of the set and a few autographs later I was on my way home, saddened by the experience of reality. The awesome sets I had watched for years on Saturday afternoons were nothing more than cardboard cut-outs and the vampire I had idolized was nothing more than an old man in a sports coat. I would like to say that I continued watching the show, but the illusion had been shattered for me. I learned a valuable lesson that day, that I incorporate in everything we do at DarkSyde Acres Haunted House. The lesson? You can create any illusion you want with proper set design and lighting and more so that all characters are to remain in character.

Years flew by and life has a way of sidestepping ones dreams from youth, but I never outgrew my love for Halloween or forgot that old man in the casket, and soon I was creating my very own home haunt. My house was a favorite destination for kids near and far come Halloween night, and everyone said that I should be doing this stuff for real. One year I took the leap and created BodyBag Entertainment, my very own Horror FX company. I focused on realism and detail so as never to have to hear some wise guy saying, “That ain’t real” and soon we were showing at all of the big haunt conventions — Transworld, Hauntcon, Midwest Haunters Convention, where we were regularly told, “You can’t do that”. Apparently we were doing something right; if our work could offend haunted house owners, we were on the right track.

After a few years of doing the shows, I grew tired of all the politics within the industry and wanted to do our own haunted attraction, when as if by design I received a phone call from an old friend wanting to know if I still did that “Halloween stuff”. We hadn’t seen each other in 15 years or so and he had no idea of what I had been doing, other than he used to make fun of me for my love of Halloween. Turns out he had picked up a 40 acre pig farm and everyone told him he should do a haunted house; his thoughts turned to me and DarkSyde Acres was born.

Horrorlust: How did you decide on the nature or type of haunted attractions that would be featured at Darksyde Acres?

Rob Johnson: I always knew that I wanted DarkSyde Acres to be something unlike anything the Haunted House industry had seen before. I wanted to create an illusion that would envelop our guests and transport them into our altered state of reality. From the very start I decided that we would be an actor based type of attraction; animatronics are cool to look at but offer very little in actual scares. A good actor can not only adapt to each group, a live person offers something no animatronic can… the fear of the unknown. I knew in the beginning that I wanted to cater to an older crowd, less typical of most haunted houses and planned on using beautiful girls to distract and disorient our guests. This was influenced by the fact that 99% of horror movies have attractive girls and everyone loves seeing them mutilated. However the slight spin we utilize is that rarely are our girls “victims”. We have a very rare problem at DarkSyde Acres that has never been seen in the haunted house industry, I will dwell on that later in the interview.

Fast forward five years and our original goals have changed to meet the desires of our guests, we created an outdoor family friendly environment to draw in larger crowds. You may not know this but apparently blood, guts, gore and more doesn’t actually appeal to the general market…who knew? The outdoor events consist of a non-scary hayride, a non-scary outdoor maze, the original Zombie paintball, and new in 2013 our DarkSyde Carnivale midway show featuring a bonfire, midway actors, jugglers, fire breathers, a fortune-teller and more. We still continue to push the envelope within the 3 indoor haunted houses, and go even further on our 18 and older nights.

DarkSyde Acres Haunted House has been berated within the industry as nothing more than an over glorified whore house and I was personally accused as single-handedly destroying the haunt industry, and yet what was once frowned upon by all has become a staple within the industry with haunted houses hiring scantily clad models covered in blood to promote their attractions. I heard that you can’t be everything to everybody, and that you can either be extreme or family friendly but we had to find the line and separate the extreme indoor haunts and yet still be able to cater to the family friendly market, and I think we have done a good job with it.

In addition to the outdoor attractions, DarkSyde Acres has also been working on community relations through family friendly events throughout the year geared to the much younger guests, such as our Easter Eggstravaganza and friendly monster days. This past Easter we had our largest crowd ever at DarkSyde, nearly 1,000 guests came to partake in our activities.

Horrorlust: The cast at Darksyde is a rare, twisted assemblage. What qualities do you look for in prospective haunted house actors?

Rob Johnson: We look for different qualities in each actor and shoot to identify and bring out the best in each and every one of them. Some people show up for auditions and are a natural, others show up and struggle through auditions with little to no chance of making into a spot for season. One girl in particular surprised me so much, I would like to share the experience with you. She showed up for the 2011 auditions, looking like Justin Beiber, small , frail, quiet as a mouse, unable to perform a single task presented to her. We gave her a shot in the Catacombs Haunted House that opening weekend to see if per chance she would step up her game.

I was doing a security walk thru, the first of the night, following a group through the haunt when we turned the corner to her area, she hit her first scare spot so hard that the guests threw themselves into the wall across the way, then as they scrambled to get away she busted through a hole in the lower wall attacking them on her hands and knees then leapt into the air and smacked into the wall behind them as they turned the corner in their getaway, growling and snarling all the while. It gave me goosebumps to see this little imp of a zombie terrorize group after group all season.

With that said, we look for actors that have initiative, the ability to think on their feet, and comedic traits, due to the fact that you cannot scare everyone, but everyone has the ability to be entertained. During auditions we always ask if there is something that they can do that no one else can. One gentleman proceeded to take out his eyeball, then followed that up by dropping it on the ground and almost losing it in the sewer system, but he wasn’t done yet, he then in turn hit one of our staff with a big stick…weighing the positives with the negatives, he didn’t land a role at DarkSyde, as much fun as it would have been with the gross factor of pulling out his eye and chasing people around with it, the liability of him actually whacking someone with a big stick due to him being legally blind outweighed the novelty of the eyeball pluckage.

The number one thing we ask out of our staff at DarkSyde Acres Haunted House is to RESPECT one another, we treat all of our staff like family and ask them to do the same. To date we have nearly 50 core members of our acting staff, they return year after year and each year accept more and more responsibility to ensure we have a great show. Lets face it, you can build the world’s scariest haunted house, but without good actors it can quickly becomes the world’s lamest haunted house. I’d like to give thanks to our staff at DarkSyde Acres, without them we wouldn’t be here.

Horrorlust: What kind of instruction are the actors given in regard to interaction with guests?

Rob Johnson: DarkSyde Acres acting staff are giving a wide range of liberty regarding guest interactions. Some actors are limited to their spots and limited interaction is required, most of these actors are new comers, not yet earning their stripes until they prove worthy of a higher spot on the food chain. Some never rise up to the challenge and usually don’t last very long, others stand right up their first year, go above and beyond and become core members their first year, and in turn are allowed to have more interaction with the guests.

All staff are instructed to know their target audience, meaning common sense dictates that you probably aren’t going to treat a family of four with a toddler in one arm and granny in the other the same way you would treat the two teenagers on their first date. During our 18 and older nights, DarkSyde Management is hesitant to enter the haunted house, due to the no questions asked policy, to this date my anal virginity is still intact, primarily because I’m faster than our damn clowns.

Seriously though our staff is trained throughout the year, by the wife of one of the partners at DarkSyde Acres . Katie Lane is a haunt industry superstar, doing multiple seminars within the industry during the year, teaching acting, costuming, basic make-up and more. She has guest acted at many of the top rated haunted attractions across the nation. You will never meet a more sadistic, depraved, twisted individual as sweet as Katie Lane. Above all else our staff knows that the entertainment value is equal to the scare value within the haunt, and if they cannot scare the guests, they make them laugh and the overall mood is one of a good time.

Horrorlust: Old Man Cox is a character featured in much of your social media and advertising; how did he come about?

Rob Johnson: Character recognition is a huge effort at DarkSyde Acres Haunted House. Many of our characters have fan clubs and are a solid staple to the DSA lineup every year. Old Man Cox is a gentleman fashioned after a serial killer by the name of Robert Pickton who murdered prostitutes on his pig farm. One of the original DSA partners last name was Cox, and he could be a bit crotchety at times so I created the red underwear wearing , foul-mouthed, butt farting, combat boot wearing character to honor him. Old Man Cox and his storyline quickly became a crowd favorite, and local legend supports the fact that he was a real person and that the buildings are actually haunted by his victims. To this day many of our staff believe the legend.

Old Man Cox as you may or may not know is quite the ladies man, and has been requested for personal appearances throughout the year for many events, including Bachelorette Parties. It’s sad to say but many a poor groom has been left at the altar after his bride to be ran off with Old Man Cox. Other well-known characters at DarkSyde are Bodybags, our resident maggot infested, brain juice slurping, bone gnawing zombie. Richter Mortis, a rather dapper yet cynical zombie who awaits you in the Catacombs Haunted House with his hoard of zombified minions, and of course there’s our all time favorite — a pole dancing tranny, who brings a whole new meaning to the RustHole Haunted House. Between Tranny and her lineup of cage girls, they keep you guessing and definitely make you wish we’d turn the lights back on. The Dark Abyss is stuffed full of icon characters as well, as it was designed to be our premiere attraction and one not to be forgotten. From Captain Carcass to Lady ChopChop, the Dark Abyss is full of personality.

Creating recognizable characters helps build a personal relationship between the staff and guests. Many of our guests come back year after year just to see their favorite character and interact with them.

The second part of the interview with Rob Johnson will be posted next Friday.

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.)

Friday the 13th at Darksyde Acres

Posted in 2013, Darksyde Acres, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2013 by bluefall8

It’s no secret to the readers of Horrorlust what kind of show you can expect from the cast of Darksyde Acres; over the past two years I’ve written reviews that detailed zany characters and preposterous scenes tantamount to haunt legend. It’s truly a unique frequency on the haunted spectrum, one any thrill seeker would be foolish to ignore. Tucked away in scarcely populated Hillsdale County, on a dirt road in Jonesville, Michigan there is a former pig farm poised to empty your bowels.

CATACOMBS & RUSTHOLE FORM FORMIDABLE DUO

The queue area is interesting and expansive and as always featured a hodge podge of macabre scenery. The burly Dr. Ickk spoke to us about his love for the dead…well mostly his love for dead girls and boy did this guy have a lot of uses for a dead girl. Meanwhile a pair of haunt hotties made threats of sinister showers as they bobbed throughout the line, there was even a mention of an oven. The chatter was as tasteless as it was tantalizing. Elsewhere a proud mother stood with her newborn baby, Char — and I do mean newborn. Mother’s dress was stained with blood, in fact the umbilical cord still connected mother to child!

As it was opening night we were not made to wait long to enter the haunted attraction which is a good thing of course but I do wonder what the queue area must look like when Darksyde Acres is abuzz with a crush of guests. We have failed to visit this location during the peak of the haunt season — in 2011 we stopped by in early October and then the last night of operation in 2012; of course this season it was opening night. If time and the haunt fates should permit, I would very much like to return when Darksyde Acres is positively rip roaring.

The costuming and make-up are two aspects of Darksyde Acres that are excellent — the ghouls and goblins sported everything from vibrant contacts and rotten teeth to wild hair and dingy clothing. The Catacombs housed numerous creepy crawlers, some mocked while others snarled. One unkempt lass informed us that she hadn’t had her shots but expressed an interest in dry humping all the same, deeper into the earthen tomb a skeletal figure dubbed me Giggleshorts after we shared a laugh.

It wasn’t long after I’d earned my new nickname that we met Humpy the Clown and his pet beaver which he implored us to stroke…and we did. Hey, don’t judge us! When the pale-faced ones at Darksyde ask you to do something it has been my experience that it’s best to simply comply. You wouldn’t want to upset them! After we had petted Humpy’s furry friend we entered a door to our right into a room that contained Humpy’s kin. A harlequin hottie skipped silently through the room while the ever rambunctious Pickles let fly a perverted stream of consciousness diatribe. He and his sister seemed to have some unfinished business as the pair squared off as if ready to do battle. Just as we thought a brawl would erupt Pickles lunged at dear ole sis and began using her ample breasts as bongos. He was of course greatly amused with his antics until Humpy entered, approached Pickles from behind and bent him over — that’s when Pickles nearly hit the roof, shouting as he was with glee. He’s a tough one to figure that Pickles.

The Rusthole is as dark and difficult to navigate as ever it was, but it’s here that I feel the haunt could really amp up the scare factor with live actors or perhaps even some tactile effects. This area did however feature several caged vixens who swayed to the delight of many to be sure, it’s also the home of Darksyde Acres professional pole dancer. Yep, they have one of those.

There were a few design changes made to the path this year, perhaps most notable was my personal favorite that utilized a casket for a doorway. There’s still a ton of room to expand here which means that Darksyde Acres is positively brimming with further haunted potential. The actors I’ve noted throughout this review were very good, some of them were even great but there were a few who left something to be desired. As it was opening night that is to be expected, it takes time to shake off those cobwebs and hone that special energy that fuels the haunt season.

Rating: 3 stars

BUSTY, LUSTY WENCHES NEVER BETTER

The Dark Abyss was very well themed, detailed, and well stocked with a cursed crew. We enjoyed some banter with a pair of foliage draped sailors who were found swatting a tethered head to and fro. The duo took a liking to us; indeed they seemed to have a distinct preference for boys in general. They expressed great interest in a game of pink sock. There was also a gangly, imposing fellow who accosted us near the end of the ship who made for a memorable sight.

However, without a doubt the stars of this vicious vessel were the buxom wenches. This gaggle of sultry sirens displayed a touch of bi-polar disorder, flirtatious one moment and then woman scorned the next. The unquestioned leader of the pack is one Lady Chop Chop and this gal meant business. Armed with a meat cleaver she made her wants and desires well known. She often insisted on a game of find-the-bone and when she wasn’t doing that she dared wayward travelers to reach into her honey pot or crow’s nest. Lady Chop Chop was never at loss for a euphemism and loved to engage in word play, her high pitched cackle could be heard throughout the Dark Abyss. She went from sexy to enraged and back again in the same sentence and was truly one of the best characters we’ve come across in all our haunted travels.

Rating: 3 stars

When we had exited the Dark Abyss we wandered over to the midway area where the Darksyde Carnivale had taken up residence for the season. We witnessed a display of sword juggling and fire breathing, and who doesn’t enjoy that sort of thing? As I understand it the midway will also feature a block head, fortune teller, sideshow freaks, and hoopers throughout the haunt season. We also had a chance to meet the owner of Darksyde Acres, Rob Johnson. He was a friendly and hospitable host who even turned us on to a nearby attraction, Ladd’s Evil Acres.

2012 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by bluefall8

For each haunted attraction I visit a 1-5 star rating is ascribed. This list is intended to reflect those ratings only and does not indicate any other type of rank such as favorite to least favorite. Nor is the star ratings system meant to pit one attraction against another it’s just my way of summing up the overall effectiveness and enjoyability of that particular haunted attraction.  A lot of factors are taken into consideration when I determine the rating such as — actor performance, theme, quality of props and special effects, originality, and level of excitement — just to name a few but at the end of the night the rating comes down to my raw gut feeling of the overall experience. Below is a complete list of the haunted attractions I visited during the 2012 Halloween season ranked by their corresponding star rating. Again, it’s important to note that the star rating isn’t meant to serve as a way to compare one attraction to another rather it’s a reflection of how well each individual haunt executed what it set out to accomplish.

2012 Star Ratings

1. Sinister – 4.75 (Utica, MI.)

2. Slaughter House – 4.5 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

3. The Rusthole & Catacombs – 4.25 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

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

5. Exit 13 – 4 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

6. Bloodview – 3.75 (Broadview Heights, OH.)

7. Dark Abyss – 3.5 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

8. Dimensions of Darkness – 3.5 (Maumee, OH.)

9. Krazy Hilda’s Camp of no Return – 3.5 (Chelsea, MI.)

10. Haunted Laboratory – 3.5 (Akron, OH.)

11. Barn of Horrors – 3.5 (Erwin Orchards – South Lyon, MI.)

12. Hayride of Doom – 3.5 (Scarefest Scream Park – New Haven, MI.)

13. Haunted Schoolhouse – 3.25 (Akron, OH.)

14. Big Top Terror – 3 (Terror Town – Maumee, OH.)

15. House of the Dead – 3 (Terror Town – Maumee, OH.)

16. Haunt for Hunger – 3 (Allen Park, MI.)

17. Deadly Intentions – 3 (Warren, MI.)

18. Corn Stalkers Maze – 3 (Erwin Orchards – South Lyon, MI.)

19. Castle of the Dead – 2.75 (Scarefest Scream Park – New Haven, MI.)

20. Scream Machine – 2.25 (Taylor, MI.)

21. Nightmare Sanctum – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

22. A Nightmare on Elm Road – 2 (Webberville, MI.)

Average Rating – 3.36 Stars

Haunt Season hits 13th Hour at Darksyde Acres

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by bluefall8

Tonight — John, Richard, Cikalo, and I will venture to Darksyde Acres in Jonesville, Michigan where a twisted breed waits to deliver the final scares of the 2012 haunt season. For John and I, it is a return to a truly unique location that zapped our minds and thrilled our bodies last year during our maiden voyage. No night is an ordinary night at Darksyde Acres but tonight will be especially interesting, for one night only, the salacious and sexy deadites that populate every corner of the former pig farm are set to pull out all the stops for an 18+ night of all out debauchery. We’ll experience the Rusthole and the Catacombs as well as Dark Abyss. In addition we’ll tour the haunted maze, The Labyrinth. It’s a fitting end in so many ways to what’s been an interesting and lengthy haunt season — it  all concludes tonight when the clocks roll back.

Happy Haunting.

2011 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by bluefall8

As my small but faithful group of readers know I write a review for each haunt that I visit during the fall. In addition to that at the end of the review I assign the attraction a 1-5 star rating. It’s just my way of summing up the overall effectiveness/enjoyability of that particular haunted attraction. I take a lot of factors into consideration when I determine the rating things like — actors, theme, props, special effects, originality, and level of excitement — just to name a few but at the end of the night the rating comes down to my raw gut feeling for the overall experience. Below is a complete list of the haunted attractions I visited during the 2011 Halloween season ranked by their corresponding star rating. It’s important to note that the star rating isn’t meant to serve as a way to compare one attraction to another rather it’s a reflection of how well each individual haunt executed what it set out to accomplish.

A quick aside before we get to all those goodies though — once more I’ve had a dream about haunted attractions and the beloved Fear Finder. In this dream I was riding around Lincoln Park in a car with my dad and my two sisters when I suddenly realized that it was Halloween. I began to sweat knowing that I hadn’t yet participated in any seasonal activities and then I reached a full blown panic when it dawned on me that it wasn’t just October 31 but also kids were out trick r’ treating! My sisters were dropped off at a friend’s house or something else similarly boring. I apparently was going to do something with my dad (unrelated to Halloween) and that simply could not stand. My dad tried to calm me down but his words mattered not! How in the blue hell had I forgotten about Halloween?! I opened the door to the car, jumped from the vehicle, and ran into the night in search of Halloween fun.

Next thing I knew I had entered the lobby of a haunt which was strangely situated on the grassy median of what seemed to be Electric Street. I found a stack of Fear Finder and greedily thumbed through one to see what haunts I could possibly hit. I quickly decided their was no time for such planning, I would merely run about feverishly looking for the next available haunt once I’d finished at my current location. On the cover of the Fear Finder was a depiction of a hooded character similar to Ghostface from Scream. The hooded phantom had strings attached to its’ fingers as if it were puppeteering the letters that comprised the phrase ‘Fear Finder’ below. The background of the cover was strikingly designed as stained glass windows; all things considered I think something in this vein would make a pretty damn cool cover for the actual Fear Finder.

Suddenly I was joined by my fellow haunters, John and Jason but before we could enter the attraction I wandered into a bathroom. The walls separating the stalls were comically short and in no way provided a sense of privacy. The stall next to me was completely filthy with feces and toilet paper spilling over the sides of the porcelain throne. I ignored the mess and began to urinate and then I noticed a large window in front of me. I peered out the window and discovered the turret of a castle mere yards from my current position. I took it to be a second haunted attraction and for the first time in this dream I started to feel as if I could salvage the night. I was brought out of my reverie by the arrival of my cohorts and a man I assumed ran the haunted attraction. He made some comment about the filthy stall next to me and then proceeded to jam his hands into the disgusting mess. He yanked a jagged block of ice out of toilet — excrement and used toilet paper jutted out at odd angles. As John and Jason stood by watching the man then acted as if he was going to heave frozen fecal bomb in my direction. After a few moments of  anger and disgust the man relented and began to laugh, turned out that the turdsicle was merely a prank he used to rile up haunters. An odd and tasteless tactic perhaps but now I was excited to see what this haunt had to offer to its customers.

However, as is the case with cool dreams, that’s when I woke up. Does anybody find it strange that as a grown man I’m having a recurring nightmare about missing out on the haunt season? What an awful prospect that would be!

2011 STAR RATINGS

Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom – 4.25 (Saline, MI.)

The Catacombs/Rusthole – 4 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Chelsea Feargrounds – 4 (Chelsea, MI.)

Tent of Terror – 4 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

13 Feet Under – 4 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Haunting – 3.75 (Adrian, MI.)

The Deadland – 3.75 (Warren, MI.)

House of the Dead – 3.75 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum – 3.75 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Crypt – 3.75 (Burton, MI.)

Realm of Haunted Minds – 3.25 (Romulus, MI.)

The Dark Abyss – 3.25 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Scarecrow Hollow – 3 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Barn of Blood -3 (New Boston, MI.)

Scream Machine – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

Deadwood Forest – 2.75 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Papp Park Trailer – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

The Funeral Home – 2.5 (Inkster, MI.)

Woods of Darkness – 2.25 (South Rockwood, MI.)

Lockdown – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

Papp Park Hayride – 2.25 (Taylor, MI.)

Big Top Terror – 1.5 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

Anxiety Alley – 1 (Lincoln Park, MI.)