Archive for extreme scream

Abandon All Hope, Old School is Back

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

abandon-haunted-house

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

The Psycho Path Headlines Downriver Haunt Stomp

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2015 by bluefall8

It’s a nice night to stay close to home and hit some haunts in the Downriver area. It wasn’t so long ago that nearly a dozen haunted attractions populated the region but recent years have witnessed the demise of The Lab in Grosse Ile, Leo’s House of Horrors in Riverview and Scream Machine and Extreme Scream in Taylor. Still, a healthy number remain and we’re set to tour at least two, possibly three local attractions tonight.

First, we’ll travel The Psycho Path in Flat Rock where the Mad Hatter has unbound a storybook and is primed to thrill guests with a one-of-a-kind fairy tale horror show. In 2014, The Psycho Path presented the Gosch Brothers Circus of Horrors and it became the sleeper hit of the season. I was pleasantly surprised by the costuming, make-up and level of theatrics — I have high hopes for the twisted fairy tale theme.

2014 Review of The Psycho Path

Psycho Path Sleeper Cell

Once we’ve finished there we’ll decide what to tour next; in the mix is Delirium by the Wyandotte Jaycees, Woods of Darkness in South Rockwood and Realm of Haunted Minds located at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus, an old favorite.

Happy Haunting!

Trio of Downriver Haunts Spark Season

Posted in 2009, Extreme Scream, Hallowblog, Review, Scream Machine, The Lab with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2014 by bluefall8

Few nights of haunting contain three separate attractions as enjoyable as those we experienced in this post from Thursday, October 8, 2009. And as you’ll read we were in desperate need of such a night after suffering a disappointment of historic proportions just one week earlier. It pains me to say that all three of these haunted attractions are no longer in existence.

When the book is closed on the 2009 haunt season it’s likely that we’ll point to Friday, October 2 as the night that saved the Haunt Trinity. One week earlier we had suffered the most disappointing outing in our history. The experience had left us skeptical about the 2009 season; our enthusiasm had noticeably waned. We needed a night like last Friday, an outing that will forever be enshrined in Haunt Trinity lore as Redemption Night.

The night began when Jason, Richard, and Disco arrived at my apartment just past 8:00 p.m. We planned to hit three area haunts and after a little debating we decided to start at The Scream Machine in Taylor. We skipped Scream Machine last year because previous visits in 2006 and 2007, although quite enjoyable, were fairly similar. We plopped down our $15 and enjoyed the castle facade before entering the haunted halls of The Scream Machine.

In 2006 The Scream Machine premiered The Hellevator, a cursed elevator that wildly transports haunters to the bowels of a forgotten land. It’s always a lot of fun and a great way to start any haunted adventure. We’ve experienced this feature at several other haunts but we have yet to find any place that does it as well as Scream Machine. The Hellevator is pitch black as you enter and when the door shuts the wild ride begins with violent tremors followed by electrical noises and flashing lights that reveal a long, black-haired girl creeping out of the far corner. When the Hellevator comes to rest an unsettling whisper seeps into your skull, “We’ve been waiting for you.” I’m positive that the line is from a horror movie although the title escapes me at the moment nevertheless the effect is well timed and very creepy; it feels as if the sound has actually formed a cushion around your head. The ride comes to an end and guests are released into a spinning vortex tunnel before entering Scream Machine proper.

The majority of this attraction sends haunters winding through an elaborate cemetery complete with dank crypts and prowling creatures. This is the same basic layout that The Scream Machine has employed in the past except this year it’s much more immersive, so much so that Jason likened the experience to The Realm of Darkness. The scenes are highly detailed featuring a great blend of still props and animatronics that provide the eye candy that has become a staple of Scream Machine.

Eye candy is great but live actors are the heart of almost every haunt and The Scream Machine had warm bodies in spades. On the whole the actors were committed and persistent with several ghouls assailing our group more than once. The actors were also very well timed in fact the crew here made Jason jump more than he ever has at any one haunt. A great number of those scares came from an old trick of the haunting trade: drop down panels. There is nothing spectacular about this gag as a matter of fact they’re usually easy to spot, for example if you see a picture or a squared shaped panel on a wall it’s a safe bet that a monster will appear from behind the wall but The Scream Machine integrated them so well into the attraction that we were surprised numerous times. Deadites sprung from wooden boxes adorned with skulls and materialized behind casket shaped designs covered with skeletons that had been in-laid into the walls. It was a new twist on an old trick and it served the overall effect of the haunt very well.

The Scream Machine also features a church scene which has been a favorite of mine since my first visit in 2002. In that year as well as 2007 haunters are made to wind their way through a series of pews where a gruesome assortment of characters await your passing. In this year’s version the church is significantly scaled down which does detract from the overall grandeur of the scene but in its place is a sense of foreboding intimacy. Guests enter the room and travel a single, narrow path flanked on both sides by a set of pews containing half a dozen freaks and weirdoes. An actor does pounce on your group but it isn’t one of the seated patrons of the church which I feel would be the most appropriate scare in this setting; however this is merely a minor, even subjective flaw in what is an otherwise great attraction.

Yet another scene of note is the chop shop setting near the end of the attraction. Haunters are treated to a prelude of this scene while traversing a dark hall in which the right wall is made up of wooden planks. The gaping boards offered a glimpse into the next room which contained a pasty faced ghoul who eyed our gang hungrily as he cocked his head to and fro sizing up his potential meal. Once inside the room we discovered a smattering of body parts hanging from the ceiling and no sooner were attacked by the pasty faced one and a deranged buddy of his. Pasty Face pursued us through the chop shop and into a room with jars of pickled body parts.

We shook him as we entered a series of rooms that were formally used as part of Carnevil of Lost Souls, a 3D attraction that once followed The Scream Machine. These attractions are universally distinguishable by the special paint used to decorate the walls, paint that glows underneath a blacklight. The change of scene did not seem disjointed from the rest of the haunt and I think it was a cool decision by the operators to incorporate some of this space into this year’s version of The Scream Machine. A cackling jester pranced about the maze like rooms and seemed to delight in our inability to navigate the structure. Eventually this happily demented creature pointed us to the exit, pleasantly cackling the entire time.

If I had to describe Scream Machine in one word it would be execution. Nearly everything here from the actors to the props to the very pace of the haunt is executed with extreme precision. There is room for improvement but any such changes would be described as subtle at best. The $15 price tag does sting a bit but if you live in the downriver area and want to experience an excellent haunted attraction without driving a half an hour or more then The Scream Machine will suit yours needs nicely.

“I’ve been threatened with a pickling!”

-My warning to the rest of the group when a sadistic mad man threatened me after I observed a jar of pickled eyes

“The big one’s jumpy!”

-A nasty ghoulie alerting his monster brethren to Jason’s nervous nature

“The antithesis of stretch face.”

-Richard, commenting on a shrunken faced skeleton that put him in mind of an unsavory lass

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Next up was a stop at the Wyandotte Jaycees’ 2009 effort, Hellblock 13. Located at the corner of Biddle and Ford Avenue the haunt is located in what used to be a police station. However, when we arrived the place was oddly deserted and lit rooms were plainly visible through the windows from the street. The haunt was supposed to open on Thursday night but an employee informed us that it wasn’t quite ready and it would instead open on October 8th. I would think that a local group that has placed ads in both the Fear Finder and Haunt Guide would be open on time but clearly I’d be wrong. It strikes of unprofessionalism and brings to mind the disappointing effort we witnessed from this group last year. It remains to be seen if we’ll find the time to return to this local venue.

This set back would do little to deter our haunting spirit as we immediately decided to head over to the old school haunt Extreme Scream. There was only one group of people in front of us when we arrived and thus our wait was minimal. If you find yourself at Extreme Scream take a moment to appreciate the throw back artwork splashed across the walls while you wait in line, it puts me in mind of the Halloween imagery of my early childhood.

The haunt stumbled out of the gate when I began to open the door to the first room and saw three actors making a slow exit. I purposely delayed to allow them a moment to scram but they seem disoriented and out of sync as we traversed the first series of rooms. Luckily business picked up from here and we experienced yet another knock out, old school effort from Extreme Scream.

The hallways were pitch black as usual which naturally heightens the other senses for the eventual scares just around the corner. I enjoyed the off beat sound effects employed here, a mixture of breaking glass, power tools, and other loud disconcerting noises of a similar vein. The sound system did go oddly quiet at times and the overall experience would have been better served had it not because during these brief lulls distant chatter could be heard. Thankfully it was brief as such a thing can kill the atmosphere of an attraction; we witnessed this last year at Templin’s Night Terror in Wyandotte and boy was it lame.

One feature I absolutely love at Extreme Scream is the creative ways in which haunters are made to traverse the haunt. We experienced this in 2004 when we were made to crouch through a hallway only to be loaded into a cart at the end and then again last year when we were forced to crawl through entire passageways and shuffle sideways through others. This year guests come upon a hallway lined with lockers and when that hall dead end’s into more lockers a hidden ghoul emerges and reveals a hidden passageway within the lockers. Haunters crawl through a narrow passage while creeps stalk from above offering threats and insults.

I also enjoy the unique strobe effect employed at Extreme Scream. Most haunts use a standard strobe effect which pulses quickly making movements appear staggered or jittery and while that’s visually startling in its own right Extreme Scream has mastered a technique that serves its purposes well. Here the strobe flashes very slowly perhaps one burst of light every five seconds. In this way guests get a very quick glimpse of their surroundings before being swallowed by total darkness once more. The effect is similar to that of a camera flash and in this way it is blinding.

Another room of great interest was what we came to call the silhouette room named for the outlined druids surrounding the walls perimeter. As each outline is painted black haunters are left to guess which outline will act as a door and guide them to the next room, it’s simply another example of old school tactics put to good use. This room led to an interesting scene indeed something we’ve never witnessed before, a scene so bizarre that perhaps it would have been more at home at Terrortown’s House of the Dead. Initially the room was pitch black like many others but one of those patented strobe blasts later I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a painting of the head of a massive monster on the wall. There was a hole near the top of the wall and from that void was draped a massive tongue which gave my leg a grazing lick. I had just been violated by a 13-foot monster tongue and it amused me something fierce!

The haunt draws to an end with a series of narrow hallways which routes guests into a room with thin PVC pipes hanging from the ceiling. A feature like this may not sound very impressive but it compliments the haunt well and adds just a tinge of fun house flavor. The finale is slightly improved over last year replacing a rather mild puppet in an electric chair with a hefty live actor who gets zapped instead and issues shrieks of agony. This scene leads haunters into the final room where the archetypical chainsaw wielding maniac makes sure that you vacate the grounds.

Extreme Scream is a hell of a bargain at just $10; you’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger bang for your dollar. This haunt is a throw back in every sense of the word and any self respecting haunter would be wise to pay Extreme Scream a visit. Attractions like this are a dying breed and that’s a shame because this is what haunting is all about at its roots. Extreme Scream isn’t perfect in fact some additional training for the actors would serve the haunt well, but the up side here far out paces any shortcomings and therefore Extreme Scream should be an essential destination on anyone’s list of must see area haunts.

“It’s just a junkie in his bed.”

-My reaction to the guy who squirmed from beneath bed sheets and ordered us out of his room

“Extreme Scream…old school haunting done right.”

“Was that your attempt to be quoted in Hallowblog? Cause you’re gonna fuckin’ have to try harder than that.”

-Jason delivering a line so bad it was good followed by my derisive retort

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

The final destination of the night resided on the isle of Grosse Ile at a little haunt known as The Lab. This particular attraction was not on our radar last season but we were eager to see if it had improved since our last visit in 2007. The haunt is in a great location; located near the southern tip of the island it borders woodland that provides an ominous rustic ambience. We were allowed to select one of four Lab buttons with the purchase of our ticket, a nice bonus to a haunt nerd such as myself.

The infamous Dr. Pickles engages haunters at the entrance of the haunt flanked by an armed guard meanwhile a 9-foot mutant insect harasses guests. We were not made to wait long as the line was quite short. The good doctor has us step into a hallway as he explains a few basic rules before allowing us to proceed into a small lobby where a second armed guard is present. Here haunters view a short video featuring a Gen-Tech Labs scientist who explains the bizarre situation into which you and your friends are about to be thrust. I’m a fan of the video introduction even if it is slightly corny but I wish the creative team here would use this opportunity for a fun scare. As I mentioned this takes place in a small lobby so there isn’t a lot of places to hide but the room does have this cool balcony that would be an ideal place to spring a surprise. Maybe a dummy could be thrown from the perch or perhaps a crazed ghoul attempts to lower a noose over the neck of an unsuspecting rube. Better yet, perhaps a mutated scientist could emerge and warn your party of the folly upon which you are about to embark only to be gunned down by the armed guard. Now that would set the tone of the haunt quite nicely. Anyway, after the video the guard asks your group to pick a leader, the person who will carry the data collecting keycard around their neck and this year Jason was afforded the honors.

Two years ago one of my biggest complaints about The Lab was its lack of live actors but to their credit they improved in this area offering up plenty of warm blooded monstrosities. The first creature of note was an irradiated skeleton lodged in a barrel of toxic waste, a comically creepy scene indeed. As we ventured deeper into the madness of Gen-Tech Labs we were assaulted by spitting lizards and nearly chomped by an enormous plant creature with a bulbous head. Later we came upon a research lab which contained alien fetuses preserved in large tubes. When we leaned closer to the glass that separated us from the room a fiendish ghoul smashed his face against the glass. As we departed this ghastly scene we came upon a hallway filled with ankle deep smoke, green lasers swept through the mist creating a swamp like atmosphere; an effect I like very much.

Shortly after we entered a lab and were greeted by an eccentric nutter who called himself Dr. Sprinkles. Apparently, as he informed us, Dr. Sprinkles had been conducting experiments with cadavers in an attempt to raise the dead. He made a spectacle of demonstrating his technique and became excited to the point of orgasmic euphoria when it seemed his wretch of a specimen would indeed rise. However, the experiment went awry and Dr. Sprinkles became incensed demanding that we leave the room. As we exited his creature rose and the doctor returned to his blissful state.

It wasn’t long that we came upon yet another doctor, Dr. Pickles. Apparently the situation inside The Lab had become dire enough as to pry him away from his post at the entrance. A werewolf burst forth from a crate and Dr. Pickles diligently fought the furry fiend off with a crowbar. He offered up some solid banter before urging us to strike forward. I shook his hand for valiantly defending us which the doctor told me was foolish owing to the fact that everything in The Lab was contaminated, I’d been hoodwinked. We left Dr. Pickles to deal with the werewolf and were meet shortly thereafter by a creature who would have felt at home in the Black Lagoon. He made desperate gurgling noises and gestured wildly for us to continue down the path. It was a neat sound effect and quite appropriate for the character in question.

We were nearly at the end of the haunt when we entered a dark room where a fair, young maiden lay gutted on a slab. More than one member of our group had their heart set on a juicy squibbing but those hopes were dashed when the keeper of the room emerged with his chainsaw. A light flashed before us and a second girl screamed from behind a door urging us to flee the scene. A few twists and turns later we found ourselves traversing a uniquely shaped triangular hall illuminated by orange lights beneath grates in the floor. The smoke filled room gave me the impression of a giant honeycomb which caused me to flash on that scene in the 1998 X-files film where Mulder and Scully find those weird structures that contain genetically modified bees.

The shouts of an armed guard called out to us as we passed a security room containing a petrified corpse, a shrieking harpy assailed us from the right and then offered a flirtatious greeting which Jason took as evidence to support his long standing claim about females that work at haunted attractions. He would not however get the opportunity to explore the situation further as the armed guard appeared and insisted that we dart down a nearby staircase. We did as he suggested and found a hungry T-Rex snapping at our heads from above but we avoided the beast and came to the bottom of the staircase, turned in the keycard, and exited The Lab.

The 2009 offering at The Lab surpasses the effort we witnessed two years ago. There do remain a number of scenes involving prop animals and plant creatures which served as a detriment in 2007 but the haunt has been balanced nicely by the addition of many live actors. The layout of the attraction has been modified as well, it isn’t a total overhaul but the tweaks that have been made serve the theme of the haunt well. I love the structure of this building especially the area near the end with the ramps. There’s still work to be done here if The Lab is to join the ranks of the elite but the show is heading in the right direction.

“I think he said he’s got an itchy taint.”

-Me, attempting to translate the swampland gibberish of the Black Lagoon creature

“You moron, now you’re infected too.”

-Dr. Pickles, after I insisted on shaking his hand

“Nothing could redeem last week.”

-Richard, responding to claims that our successful night of haunting had a redemptive nature after our lackluster visit to Jackson’s Underworld and Homer Mill one week prior

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

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.

Horrorlust Radio is Hatched

Posted in Horrorlust Radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2014 by bluefall8

I’m pleased and excited to bring to you the inaugural edition of Horrorlust Radio! My plan is to release a new episode of this podcast each and every week throughout the Halloween season and then once-a- month beginning in December. Each episode will be featured here on Horrorlust but will soon be on other forums as well such as iTunes.

I’m actively seeking sponsors for Horrorlust Radio, if you own or operate a haunted attraction or are otherwise involved or connected to the haunt industry and are interested in such an opportunity you can contact me at the following email address: horrorlust@bluestarproductions.net

In this frist episode of Horrorlust Radio I’m joined by my brother, Jason, to discuss sensationalism and hyperbole in haunted attraction advertisements. We also debate how those same ads, in addition to various news outlets and previous visits form customers’ year-to-year expectations of haunted attractions.

This episode also features the debut of two original Horrorlust Radio segments, Lost to Time and Oddments & Urban Legends. The former pays tribute to haunted attractions that are no longer in operation, today we lay to rest the beloved Extreme Scream. In the latter segment we debate the merit of various urban legends, focusing this week on whether or not mummies were once used to fuel locomotives.

Also, we delve into the origins of modern haunted attractions and what role the Jaycees has played in popularizing this unique form of entertainment. Finally, we recount the harrowing tale of our fabled 2010 visit to Demonic Demons in Detroit.

Email any questions or comments to the address above or feel welcome to post any reactions to this podcast in the comments section below.

Welcome to Horrorlust Radio.

HORRORLUST RADIO: EPISODE 001 

SHOW NOTES

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a three-part series of children’s books, which as the title suggests, contains spooky stories derived from urban legends and folklore. Written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, the book was originally released in 1981. The series continued appropriately on October 31, 1984 with the release of More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and concluded with the 1991 release of Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.

Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.

Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.

The Woods of Darkness promotional video that was mentioned briefly during the podcast was shot during the course of the 2010 haunt season. The operators there began using it the following year and credited their surge in attendance that season to the video. The Woods of Darkness is located at 11665 Haggerman Road in South Rockwood, Michigan.

Here is a link to that video: Will You Survive the Horror of the Woods?

During the Oddments & Urban Legends segment I referenced a poem by Charles Webb, here’s a link to a Slate.com article where you can not only read the poem but also here the author read it himself: Mummies to Burn

Lastly, the musical pieces and audio clip featured in this episode are referenced below in the order that each played during the podcast.

“People Who Died” by Jim Carroll Band (Catholic Boy, 1980)

“Gargoyles Over Copenhagen” by The Nekromantix (Return of the Loving Dead, 2002)

Peter, from George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978)

“Life is a Grave and I Dig It!” by The Nekromantix (Life is a Grave and I Dig It!, 2007)

Realm of Haunted Minds & The Extreme Scream

Posted in 2008, Extreme Scream, Hallowblog, Realm of Haunted Minds, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2014 by bluefall8

This entry was originally posted on Sunday, October 12, 2008 and chronicled an enjoyable night of haunting that took place at The Realm of Haunted Minds in Romulus and Extreme Scream in Taylor.

This particular trip through The Realm of Haunted Minds would later notch the 2008 Horrorlust Dark Horse Award. 

On October 4 (the Saturday before last) the same group of haunters that survived the Homer Mill one week prior braved the terrors of two local attractions: Realm of Haunted Minds and The Extreme Scream.

Jason, John, and Cherette arrived at my apartment just past dusk and we set out for Realm of Haunted Minds at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus. When we arrived the area was nearly deserted but the sound of Michael Myers’ haunting music reassured us that the ghastly denizens of RHM were awaiting the arrival of some unlucky souls. There was a type of country store in which customers purchase their tickets and the decorations here were noteworthy. A number of realistic, life-size dummies dotted the walls on the left side of the room one of which appeared to be Lon Chaney’s portrayal of the title character in the 1925 production of The Phantom of the Opera.

After buying our tickets we hit the grounds were various clubhouse style buildings dominated the landscape, we would explore these after we exited the Realm of Haunted Minds. Upon entering the haunted house guests listen to the wisdom of a slightly creepy animatronic wizard. The haunt features a recurring theme of hallways speckled with neon paint and lit by black light; I think it works fairly well here achieving a disorienting effect without seeming repetitive or disjointed.

One major drawback was the timing of the actors, often off it served as a double dose of disappointment when paired with lackluster deliveries which plagued numerous workers. However, one particular actor was dead set on precision. After being herded down a narrow passage guests approach a turn to the right that forces them to crouch very low to the floor; all would’ve been fine if it hadn’t been for a hungry, undead girl stooped in the corner. The position of the corner and the low ceiling forces the haunt goers to come face-to-face with the frightening creature who barred her teeth in a menacing snarl. As we passed she made her desires known stating, “I want to bite your ankles”. She proceeded to follow us through several rooms, dragging her body across the floor as if her legs were useless. Her persistence was appreciated and I thought it only proper to offer her a just reward, shaking my exposed ankle at her as we rounded a corner I said, “Earn your meal biatch.” She didn’t just steal the show at RHM; she made the show and will no doubt be remembered as one of the top actors of the haunt season.

The rest of the haunted house featured passable if not forgettable scenes perhaps the most awe-inspiring was the room that contained a massive Frankenstein strapped to a medical table. I also was struck by a hallway that featured a high arching ceiling with bright pink tube lights running up either side of the walls and crossing over guests’ heads. As with the Homer Mill there was a “Womb of Doom” just prior to the end of the haunt. Upon exiting haunters wind their way through a small maze comprised of wooden fence posts. We eventually escaped the maze albeit by questionable means when Jason insisted on ducking beneath a wooden structure and barreling through a rather small opening between wooden planks, that opening needless to say increased in size once we had made our hasty exit.

The Realm of Haunted Minds has potential. It’s a great place for someone looking to get into the spirit of the Halloween season who isn’t quite prepared for the scares offered at more intense or graphic attractions.

Rating: 3 stars

We departed the Huron Turkey Farm and began the trek to Taylor for the Extreme Scream. The Extreme Scream wasn’t open in 2007 but during the 2004 Halloween season Branden, John, Amanda, and I discovered just how effective this haunt could be. Needless to say I was very excited to return to this haunt with an old school slant.

The Extreme Scream still features a lot of plain, dark hallways and the desired effect is pulled off here better than any other haunt I’ve visited. The operators here smartly allow haunters to psyche themselves out allowing them a lot of time to think about what lies around the next corner while feeling their way through these basic but effective hallways.

Prior to entering the haunt the guy at the door runs a shtick in which he cons the party weakling (typically the girl in the group) out of their name. Once he has the name he announces it to the foul ghoulies inside and as you may have guessed such dubious honors were bestowed upon Cherette. The monsters wasted little time in taunting Cherette, one depraved creature suggested that we, “Take Cherette to the bedroom”. I’m fairly certain I heard a satisfying slurp escape Jason’s lips.

The Extreme Scream features a strong blend of dark passages, props, actors, and simple yet effective gags. This haunt really starts to hit its’ stride at the midway point with a series of shrinking hallways that force guests to turn sideways and push their way along. While this occurs an agile clown scampers across the tops of walls taunting visitors below. Another neat feature of the Extreme Scream is the various locations at which haunters are forced to crawl their way along, sometimes while grunting creatures pursue you from a parallel path separated by intersecting wooden planks. The timing of the majority of actors is precise here and most seem committed to scaring the guests.

At one point we entered a room where the walls were lined with lockers, a single door stood at the far corner. We went through it and immediately suspected that we had strayed from the haunt. We were staring at the haunt’s sound system and standing in what seemed to be a type of access pathway to numerous rooms throughout the attraction. I could also hear the distinct chatter of employees; in fact I spotted two of them not far from me. After several attempts to find an alternate path and failing to do so I simply approached one of the workers and he directed me back to the locker room where I reunited with the group. Apparently there was a small door near the floor; we had to crawl to get through it. I’m fairly certain that haunt goers aren’t expected to find this for themselves because a ghoul had now appeared in the room behind the secret door this room was actually visible from the employee pathway we had mistakenly entered but it was so small I wasn’t sure that we were supposed to enter it. The ghoul who had suddenly appeared I assume was suppose to have jumped out at us and then directed us in the right direction in the first place, I guess he was busting a ghoulie feke.

The haunt concluded shortly and suffered from a terribly anticlimactic finish. Guests enter a room where a man in an electric chair, bathed in red light slowly raises his head. The prop is merely meant to distract you as a plainly visible slot in the wall houses a masked actor who provided a would be mild scare.

The misguided trip into an employee area as well as an uninspired finish put a blotch on what was an otherwise very enjoyable and well done haunt. I did miss the cart ride that the Extreme Scream featured in 2004.

Rating: 4 stars

Grab Bag of Oddments

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 it is hard for me to believe that this entry is nearly six years old. The 2008 haunt season was a memorable one for so many reasons and remains one of my favorites to date. I’ve always enjoyed collecting information on the upcoming haunt season and little posts such as this remain very enjoyable to craft; already I look forward to ruminations about the 2014 season.

I’ll admit that even I never expected to post an edition of Hallowblog during August; wait at least until September I told myself, you must pace yourself man! But I have so much news to share I just couldn’t bear keeping it to myself any longer.

I was at Aco Hardware a week ago and it made me smile to see that the Halloween merchandise has already arrived. It’s a testament to the growing popularity of the holiday that stores now begin stocking props and supplies a whole two months in advance. I haven’t visited any of the major retailers just yet but I did stop by Walgreen’s today and I enjoyed the entire aisle worth of Halloween items the store had to offer. I’ve also noticed that the quality of the props at the drug store chains has improved. It used to be that all the drug stores had to offer was cheap novelty items but now they’re stocked with certified animatronics and detailed foam latex dummies. Halloween enthusiasts can find some decent deals on merchandise if willing to devote a little time at the drug store scene.

I also have some new information regarding several area haunts. My fellow haunters and I have discussed hitting a few new haunts this year and Jason in particular has displayed a fondness for Pigman’s Lair which is held at the Chelsea Fairgrounds. I did a bit of digging and was disappointed to learn that Pigman’s Lair will not be operating this season.

I found an article at freep.com that lists information on area haunts and was pleased to see that the Extreme Scream in Taylor is indeed back for the ’08 season. I called the operator last season who told me the haunt would return this year and I’m happy to see that he was true to his word. In 2004 Branden, Pudge, and Disco joined me on a trip to the Extreme Scream that was quite memorable. I recall that the haunt relied heavily on long, dark hallways, an effect that was complimented well by the running sound effects. The highlight of the haunt involved a shrinking path in which one must nearly crawl through the dark only to be loaded into a small, cage-like cart that is then detached from the path and wheeled about wildly before being reconnected elsewhere. It was a good time and I look forward to visiting it this year.

This same freep.com article also listed the price of many haunts and if it’s correct then a number of them have slightly reduced rates. Erebus scaled back admission $1 matching the price of $19 featured in 2006. The Realm of Darkness has followed suit and slashed a $1 per guest as well reducing admission to $18 a ticket. I did call the Realm of Darkness and talked to someone who assured me that the show will indeed be ready to go for the Halloween season. As the undisputed top haunt last year it will be interesting to see what type of show the Realm of Darkness will put together after last winter’s flood destroyed most of the haunt. The Lab’s Myspace page has been updated and admission remains at last year’s rate of $12.

I’m checking the Fear Finder website daily, as soon as it’s available I’ll download the online version of the 2008 FF and see what’s in store for haunt enthusiasts this season.

I had an interesting experience at work today. I began a new job with the city of Lincoln Park on Monday and today I discovered the storage area for Anxiety Alley. I’ve often wondered where the city kept the modular haunt during the off season and the answer is the DPS building on Southfield next to Kentucky Fried Chicken. There’s a large open area behind the building which I don’t believe is visible anywhere from the road, I’ve never noticed it anyway. My co-worker and I were dropping off some garbage when something out the driver side window caught my eye. It was the demonic face featured on the side of Anxiety Alley. The trailers are set in a row against the tree line. Now I’m wondering if the rooms and props are haphazardously displayed in the trailers year round. I may just tempt myself into finding out.

Downriver Haunt Review

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, Review, Scream Machine, The Lab, Wyandotte Jaycees with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 this entry chronicled our visit to three haunted attractions located throughout the Downriver area. To the best of my knowledge this was the only time I formatted a review in such a fashion (placing haunters and attractions in list form at the top of the review).

I never did uncover the mystery haunt referenced by Pudge in this post; I’ve come to believe she was mistaken about the year and that the haunt in question was indeed Extreme Scream. Also in this post I provided a mini-review of the Pumpkin Factory in Belleville which my wife and I had visited that fall.

As with previous Hallowblog entries, the pictures that are mentioned in the posts are not posted anywhere on Horrorlust at present. 

Date: 10/12/07

Haunters: Jason, Joel, John, McCreary

Haunt Targets: The Lab, The Scream Machine, Hell’s Hospital

Last Friday night marked a trifecta of terror as we set out to explore some downriver haunts. The night was fraught with excitement as we headed to our first haunt, The Lab. We weren’t able to visit The Lab last year but the venue was highly entertaining as The Chop Shop in 2005, Jason and I in particular were looking forward to the experience.

Prior to entering the greater haunted house guests are shown a video featuring a scientist who explains the events surrounding the mysterious lockdown and the reason for your involvement. The group then selects a leader (yours truly, thank you very much) who is given a keycard which will presumably give you access to other areas of The Lab. This was a nice touch but the experience would have been enhanced ten fold if the keycard actually did anything. I thought perhaps I’d have to swipe the card to open doors but no such interaction.

The haunt stuck to the theme throughout with several scenes offering up some very cool props; one man had been completely covered in a green fungus that had seemingly taken his life. I waited for his infected ass to leap at us and beg for help but it turned out to be simply a prop after all. That became a theme in and of itself; too many props and not enough live actors. I think this severely detracted from the experience at The Lab. The theme of this haunt would do well to feature live actors in make up as opposed to masks. The story goes that strange genetic tests were being performed so show me some freaks and mutants.

There was a hefty chainsaw wielding fellow who played his role well, trapping us against a wall while repeatedly asking for McCreary’s eyes with apparent sexual zest. Another memorable actor was featured in a room with blue tubes, he had spooky white pupils and an I’d-like-to-eat-you-grin. Just prior to exiting the haunt you come to a scene on the left of a deceased security guard. He sits in a chair behind a desk, the whole set enclosed by a mesh steel security fence. There is even a monitor on the desk which guests can view themselves on. The dead security guard never moves, instead someone pops out of a drop section of the wall behind you, the same gag that was run at the Chop Shop and Giyra before that.

This was another drawback of the haunt; the layout was far too similar to its predecessors. I was able to picture what the rooms looked like during their previous incarnations as we walked through it. This excess of familiarity made it harder to suspend disbelief. I also felt that The Lab featured far too many “crazed” animal gags; the animal based animatronics were especially weak although the breathing alien babies were quite sweet.

The haunt ends rather abruptly when an armed government official encourages you to rush down a flight of stairs only to transcribe the number on your keycard onto a chalkboard with the all too obvious result that the writing surface drops to reveal a screaming creature. I however thought the keycard was a cool souvenir and therefore stowed it in my back pocket and proceeded to inform the guard that I had lost it. After you write down a number he opens the back door and the terror is over.

I was slightly disappointed but The Lab does have plenty of potential to improve. The operators present a fairly unique premise but fail to properly utilize the atmosphere inherent to such a haunt.

Rating: 3 stars

Our next stop was The Scream Machine in Taylor which delighted me both last year and in 2002. The Hellevator has undoubtedly improved now featuring an ultra creepy actor dressed up like a deformed life-sized doll lurking in the corner. She initially offered Disco what I believe was a teddy bear and then proceeds to get right in each group member’s face when the lights flicker on and off. I’m a big fan of the Hellevator, it’s truly a great gimmick to jump start a haunt.

After exiting the Hellevator and surviving a dizzying black hole the majority of the haunt is dominated by an impressive graveyard scene. It’s great eye candy but the lack of confinement is not very conducive to suspense. Guests wind through a series of hallways all just off the graveyard path which ultimately causes the group to view the same scene several times which quickly becomes stagnant. The Scream Machine doesn’t suffer from a lack of live actors but does feature repetiton of said actors to a fault.

When I visited The Scream Machine in 2002 the back end of the haunt featured a funeral scene which I found quite eerie. Guests were forced to walk a center path with pews on either side filled with ghoulies. It was a great scene but failed to deliver a real thrill when nobody leapt from a pew. Last year the scene was omitted but its back this year. This time around guests have to wind through a path of pews as opposed to walking down a center aisle but again no one springs forth from a seat. Someone does pop out of the top of an organ located near the exit of the room but I really feel one of the zombie looking creeps in the pews would provide more of a scare.

The Scream Machine is too short and too wide open. Granted a handful of grand scenes provide a wow factor but sheer scares and general creepiness are distinctly lacking. The Hellevator may have improved but overall I think The Scream Machine has experienced some slippage since last season.

We didn’t hit the 3D feature The Carnevil of Lost Souls having not forgot the lackluster experience it provided last year but I do plan to revisit this attraction November 1-4 when both haunts will be available for the low price of $10. I just have to meet Chunk the Clown who happens to reside somewhere in the mysterious annuls of the 3D realm.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

After The Scream Machine McCreary professed that she had pissed her pants and thus departed. I think she was joking…but I’m not entirely sure. It was down to the trio and we were determined to knock out one more haunt. We zipped down to Anxiety Alley which looked deserted, a lone worker stood outside the haunt. He told us they had actually closed early because of a lack of customers. That news left me slightly sad but at just $6 I’m planning to visit Anxiety Alley this season. I think the last time I was there was about nine or ten years ago.

We knew we still had time to hit Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte and so we were off. Admission to Hell’s Hospital was $10 and without a doubt was the best deal of the night. The Wyandotte Jaycees converted both an old mechanic garage and an old house into a quality haunt. While you wait in line a gimpy little fellow entertains the masses with a combination of guttural sounds and questionable gestures. He amused us greatly and even posed for a picture which has of course been posted. Hell’s Hospital employed the classic haunt approach utilizing pitch black hallways and deliberate sounds to build tension.

There is nothing very flashy hear, just a creepy and sometimes smelly old house meant to scare you shitless. The timing of the actors was excellent especially during the scene with the nurse. I don’t want to ruin this scene for anyone planning to go so I’ll only say that you shouldn’t pay to much attention to the nurse or her large friend. This scene was an excellent fusion of timing, lighting, and structure. In the end it resulted in the biggest surprise of the night.

A few of the actors fooled me into believing they were props which is something I’m quite adept at recognizing, none did it better than a ghoulie chained to a chair in the room that was strangely cold.

This attraction absolutely nailed the fundamentals of a haunted house and I can’t think of enough good things to say about it. If you live downriver and plan to visit just one haunted attraction this season then make it Hell’s Hospital. The only true criticism we had of the place was the lack of a climactic finale. It was so good I’m thinking of dragging Missy there before the season ends.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

A successful night of haunting and still there are four downriver haunts to hit before the season ends. Those include Anxiety Alley, Leo’s House of Horror, Papp Park Panic Attack, and The Realm of Haunted Minds. Pudge claims to have visited a haunted house on Telegraph in Taylor near I-94 which is where the Extreme Scream usually resides but that isn’t operating this year so I am left to wonder where the hell she went. Of course she failed to get the name of the attraction so I’ll have to do some detective work.

It’s worth mentioning that I started work at Halloween USA today. I spent the day half-heartedly greeting people while perusing the products in my section. Needless to say I found a bundle of props I’d love to adorn throughout the apartment…Missy I suspect feels otherwise. Ah well, you can at least view some of the props in the picture section.

I also made it to a haunted hayride on Saturday. Missy and I ventured to Belleville where we visited The Pumpkin Factory. It’s a quaint farm that features several free minor attractions which are worth a look as well as a neat country store that has some delicious doughnuts.

The hayride itself was alright, it wasn’t bad but it certainly wasn’t spectacular. I felt that the actors timing was generally sub par. It was lengthy and for that it deserves positive marks but the lack of any real shocks or impressive scenes left much to be desired. It was a fun experience though and I’d really like to give a few more haunted hayrides a whirl before I judge this one too harshly. At the least it’s a nice place for families with young children.

Rating: 3 stars

Horrorlust Haunt Awards: A History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rotten Pumpkin

2008: Templin’s Night Terror (Wyandotte Jaycees)

2009: Jackson’s Underworld

2010: Leo’s House of Horror

2011: Anxiety Alley

2012: Scream Machine

 

Eerie Vibrations

2008: Homer Mill

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: The Haunted Farm

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Bloodview

 

Dark Horse

2008: Realm of Haunted Minds

2009: Extreme Scream

2010: Woods of Darkness

2011: Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom

2012: Dimensions of Darkness

 

Killer Automatons

2008: Erebus

2009: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2010: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2011: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2012: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

 

Pulse Pounder

2008: County Morgue (Chainsaw Creek)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure)

 

Monster

2008: Deadly Intentions

2009: Deadly Intentions

2010: Realm of Darkness

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

 

Prop Master

2011: Tent of Terror (The Boneyard)

2012: Barn of Horrors (Erwin Orchards)

 

Samhain

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

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

 

Haunt of the Year

2005: Nautical Nightmare

2006: Erebus

2007: Realm of Darkness

2008: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

Spirit Endures through Wet, Dreary Halloween

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

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

PROMISE AT DIMENSIONS OF DARKNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.5 stars

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

SUBTLE TWEAKS BOLSTER BIG TOP TERROR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3 stars

CLUTTER ABOUND IN HOUSE OF THE DEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3 stars