Archive for hallowblog

Somnambulism at the Sinner’s Ball

Posted in Hallowblog, Word of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2015 by bluefall8

This edition of Hallowblog Flashback recalls a Word of the Week entry originally posted on Monday, October 26, 2009. The title of this entry was taken from some lines I had jotted down for a poem during the spring of 2007. The poem was never finished but I do remember that the lines were partly inspired by the song “The Bird and the Worm” by The Used. 

Alas, as it is the last Monday in October this will be the final entry in this year’s Halloween themed Word of the Week. In the true spirit of the season we shall not let this week pass quietly. On Devil’s Night the Haunt Trinity will end the haunt season with a triple shot of horror and then I’ll accompany Missy’s younger siblings for some prime trick or treating.

I’ve long been fascinated by sleep disorders, for a glimpse of a somnambulist check out The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, a very interesting silent thriller circa 1920. If you enjoy Tim Burton’s stylistic film making then you’ll appreciate the influence that this early film clearly had on him.

somnambulism [sam-nam-bye-li-zem]noun: an abnormal condition of sleep in which motor acts (as walking) are performed

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Jason’s Curse, Ohio Haunts Highlight Night

Posted in 2009, Hallowblog, Haunted Hydro, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2015 by bluefall8

In this edition of Hallowblog Flashback, we relive a notable night of haunting in the Buckeye State. Originally posted on Sunday, October 25, 2009 this entry documented a rather interesting and amusing excursion to Terror Town in Maumee and The Haunted Hydro in Fremont.

Terror Town’s House of the Dead would go on to win the 2009 Horrorlust Killer Automatons Award, an award the vaunted haunt would claim four consecutive seasons from 2009-2012. 

To this day my brother, Jason, is still ridiculed for the events of this night and I suspect it ‘ll be some years yet before the rest of us let him live it down.  

Our haunt excursion on Friday the 16th was a memorable experience but perhaps just as memorable as the haunts was the dilemma in which we found ourselves that jeopardized the entire night. Jason, in keeping with his rich tradition of procrastination and tardiness, once again delayed the start of our night. However that would turn out to be the least of his infractions on this night. While driving La Pleasance Road en route to southbound I-75, Jason debated aloud the pros and cons of stopping for gas at the present or putting off the menial task for some time later in the night. Prone as he is to laziness and indifference Jason nonchalantly proclaimed that later suited him just fine.

Twenty minutes later the car began to decelerate and within a minute we were at a crawl and out of gas. I am convinced that the man is cursed. Richard and I decided to jump out and began to push the vehicle while we still had some momentum. So there we were, a couple of jackasses pushing a car down US-25 in Toledo several miles from the nearest gas station. Jason relieved Richard of pushing duties after a quarter mile at which time Richard thought it pertinent to document the proceedings by snapping a few pictures. We’d gone about a half mile when a car pulled up behind us, a bearded man asked if we needed gas; somewhere in the distance I swear I heard a banjo. Thankfully he had a gas can and even more than that nobody was raped or maimed; many thanks to Beardo the Kind. We proceeded to the nearest gas station which likely would have taken well over an hour to reach had it not been for the kind stranger. The night was back on track and Terrortown was in our sights.

Last year Terrortown’s House of the Dead earned the Haunt Trinity’s top honor as Haunt of the Year and so it was with great excitement that we returned to this location. This year the offerings at Terrortown include Toxic Terror in 3D, The Asylum, and of course the incomparable House of the Dead. After purchasing our tickets we headed to the entrance for the 3D attraction. It was evident upon entering the haunt that something was amiss as nothing about it appeared in 3D, in fact the structure was completely dark. We wandered about the maze like interior for a couple of minutes amusing ourselves before making our exit. Given the situation I don’t feel that it would be fair or accurate to rate this particular attraction.

We jumped in line for The Asylum next, held in the same building that housed Slaughterhouse in 2008. Asylum offers haunters a very unique feature at the beginning of the attraction. We entered the lobby and stood before a steel door, in the middle of the door was a window which flickered and revealed its true face as a video screen. A short video began; a woman in a white dress with long, greasy black hair stalked a row of abandoned prison cells. She dragged an ax at her side and her intentions became clear. She battered the window with the ax and the door began to dent as if something would shortly break down the door. We’ve never witnessed an effect quite like this anywhere else. I could only guess at the cost of such a prop. The only downside was the fact that the door was apparently not functional because no actor erupted from the door which would have set the tone nicely.

Asylum wasn’t a lengthy attraction but it accomplished quite well what it set out to do. The haunt was comprised almost entirely of dark, maze like passages which were periodically streaked with the flash of a strobe light. A series of highly creepy full size props ward haunters away from various dead ends and I do mean highly creepy. The props looked identical to the girl from the video, each of them armed with an ax. Due to the realism of the dummies we initially mistook them for live actors but even after concluding that they were props nobody wanted to get too close to these fierce bitches. It turned out that The Asylum was actually light on genuine fleshies which definitely would have helped push this attraction to the next level. Those that were present weren’t bad but they certainly weren’t great either. However, this attraction will without a doubt raise some goose bumps on every visitor, if the props and ghouls don’t do it the cold air certainly will. The building is very cold which is no doubt done on purpose as the operators at Terrortown are known for their penchant to assail the senses in nontraditional ways. It was an effective maneuver, by the time we exited the haunt our hands were like ice; an interesting ripple to a solid dark maze. The haunt concludes with the largest vortex tunnel you’re likely to see anywhere. Last season it stood as a solo attraction titled The Beast but it works much better in a complimentary fashion paired with The Asylum.

Rating: 3 1/4 stars

After staggering out of the vortex we headed to the entrance of the main event, House of the Dead. We must have caught Terrortown on a slow night because there was absolutely no wait for the feature presentation in contrast we waited well over an hour last year to gain entry. We stood in the lobby and were shortly greeted by the same middle aged creep that welcomed us to Dead House last year. He received us warmly and seemed to be genuinely thrilled that we’d come to “play with his children” as he put it. I like this character and I enjoy the demented patriarch shtick he runs, it’s a fun way to start the haunt. We packed into an elevator and descended into the bowels of the rotting estate. I will not mince words, House of the Dead just wasn’t quite the acid trip induced wet dream that we experienced last year, it’s still a fine haunt that much should not be questioned but the wicked juices that fueled last year’s mind fuck have abated a bit. The attraction is notably shorter and the infamous room of killer babies has been omitted which left us particularly disappointed.

Last year one of our few criticisms of this attraction was the lack of live actors, there are many more live actors this year but unfortunately most of them have less personality than most of the animatronics. But oh, how awesome these animatronics are! The first room of the haunt held about five animatronics alone, one man had a stream of blood issuing from his stomach while another struggled futilely against the restraints that held him aloft. We were attacked by an alligator and witnessed the aftermath of a gruesome slaughter of a unicorn by a pack of burly wolves.

One of my favorite scenes involved a prop I’ve come to call the Goliath Man, a massive crucified ghoul who lunges at haunters from his post. We came upon a hallway which had a long mirror on the wall to the left, a mixture of eeriness and vanity drew our gaze and then Goliath Man struck from the other side when a partition dropped out of the wall. Pay attention folks because this is a great blend of an old school technique (misdirection) and modern technology. Another great scene involving a member of Terrortown’s automated army came in the form of a feasting alien devouring the half eaten carcass of a young girl, classy.

Another aspect of House of the Dead that scores well with the Haunt Trinity is the attraction’s attention to detail. The operators play up the House angle well sending guests through a series of narrow passages and rooms designed to look just like somebody’s home, a deranged nutter’s home yes, but a home nonetheless. The hallways are decorated with freakish family portraits and the various rooms nearly all feature still props that could just as well be the stuffed remains of family members, I especially enjoyed the sinister looking children.

House of the Dead also commands recognition for its implementation of innovative techniques such as the use of holographic projections. Also of note are unique set pieces like the stairs that break under the weight of an unseen presence. And of course any mention of all things strange and bizarre at House of the Dead would not be complete without calling attention to the odorous decay that seems to permeate the walls within the manor. The foul smell nearly overwhelmed us when we entered a room full of dead animals. Thankfully this was a small room and before we could contribute to the overall stench of the place by unleashing the contents of our stomachs we entered an adjacent meat cooler. Inside the cooler hung the bodies of many a victim but we had no time for sorrow because the keeper of the shop had arrived with a chainsaw. During the ensuing melee I heard squealing and I thought that was an odd thing to hear in a room full of dead humans. It was then that I looked about and realized that the bodies hanging from the ceiling weren’t exactly human…they were some sort of pig people hybrid! The monstrosity nearest me was squealing incessantly and arching his freakish head toward my calf. We fled the meat cooler content in the knowledge that those pig people would soon be bacon on some lucky fellow’s plate.

House of the Dead is indeed an interesting and rare piece of work. Last year the attraction was an absolute hit with hardly any live actors at all and this year Dead House seemed to gain success in spite of the lackluster performance of said actors. I don’t believe we’ve ever come across any place or situation quite like this. I would obviously like to see the haunt return to its 2008 length but I dare say it seems counter intuitive to suggest that the operators scale back the number of live performers, but perhaps House of the Dead would be at its best with a few well placed warm bodies. The animatronics are simply the best we’ve witnessed; some really seem to take on a life of their own. The unique oddities inherent to this attraction add a layer to the experience and atmosphere that a lot of haunts just can’t touch. I hope the brain trust at Terrortown continue to evolve the idea of homestead gone bad because it has a lot of fun possibilities I’d love to see brought to life.

Rating: 3 3/4

We departed the Lucas County Fairgrounds and nearly forty minutes later arrived just in time to purchase our tickets at the Haunted Hydro in Fremont, Ohio. The adventure marked our first visit to this attraction and as with all first time trips we were eager to sample the offerings. There are two primary attractions here the crown jewel and namesake, Haunted Hydro and Industrial Mayhem; an outdoor attraction that truly exceeded all expectations.

Industrial Mayhem forces haunters through a long series of narrow paths bordered on both sides by chain linked fence. The attraction features a differently themed creature of the night each weekend; thus far it had been home to demons and nightmarish clowns but as fortune would have it our visit coincided with an outbreak of the living dead. Zombies littered the grounds and their jaws were a’ gnashing. The workers featured elaborately gruesome make up and some even donned those twisted contacts that warp the eyes. The actors were hard working and refused to be content with a single scare, several hungry ghouls stalked us through the gritty path and attacked us three or four times each. Much of the cast added to the genuine zombie appeal by refusing to break character responding to our usual hijinx with garbled grows and menacing snarls; these flesh eaters meant business.

The haunt featured two set pieces in particular which ensured that the repetitious setting did not become monotonous. The first was a boat and as we passed a starving zombie crawled from beneath the watercraft and began thrashing at our legs. Later the path led directly into the back of a hearse through which we were made to crawl. Midway through the dreary mobile a portion of the floor lights up, a ghoul trapped beneath a pane of glass pounds frantically in an attempt to procure the just out of reach delicacies.

Near the end of the attraction we came across a small junk yard that housed a hungry female zombie who was currently gorging herself on the neck of a once proud but now dead, stallion. She glared at us greedily as if the hardy meal she had already won wasn’t enough. The glint in her glossy eyes told us she had a zest for man flesh. Jason appeared a little too eager to oblige so we quickly pushed forward before he made a fatally embarrassing mistake. We wound our way into a burnt out dump, a revolting mutant wandered amidst the rubble. He wore construction gear and had a face that looked as if it had been washed in an acid bath. His skin was raw and tinged red, it looked like a lump of bloody hamburger. He entered a shack with shelves lined with grim trinkets; on one shelf a jar filled with orange slime contained a multitude of eye balls. He began pouring muddy, waste water from one barrel to the next offering us a drink as he did so. He also engaged us in a bit of tasteless humor involving one of our mothers.

We rounded the shack and attempted to exit Industrial Mayhem but we were chased away from the double doors by a deranged man who was very concerned about the damage we may cause his doors. Jason managed to escape on the first attempt barreling through the flimsy doors with wanton disregard. We had to retreat several times behind the mutant’s shack before making a run for it and escaping one by one. I was the last to breach the threshold; the little, angry man was still shouting about his doors.

Rating: 4 1/4 stars

We crossed the court yard and made our way to the entrance of the Haunted Hydro where the eccentric owner, Crazy Bob was entertaining some female patrons. Ole Bob rambled on for a bit about never forgetting a face and tried rather futilely to rattle Disco. Crazy Bob shortly relented and allowed us to enter the old hydro dam now home to a soggy army of ghouls and weirdoes. The building is an impressive sight to behold featuring a ceiling that towers far above the heads of its guests. We enjoyed Haunted Hydro but the haunt lacked a cohesive theme and that was disappointing because the structure would be quite believable as a medieval castle.

The first two scenes were highly detailed and would have felt at home at The Realm of Darkness. The first was a bedroom scene and the second a dining room, the latter scene offered up a hilarious worker who really pushed the envelope. After leaping out of a chair the portly ghoul offered us what he referred to as eyeball soup and then suggested that he add a special ingredient. He squatted slightly and began rubbing his hand on his ass; he then brought his hand to the bowl and proclaimed that the secret ingredient was “brown sugar.” We of course responded with bales of laughter and our sides nearly split when this repugnant wretch gyrated his hips and rubbed the personal concoction on his nipple. He responded promptly to our ribbing by wiping his fingers on my nipple which was actually quite surprising because haunt workers are not supposed to touch guests but I found the whole scene to be ludicrous and took no offense. Brown Sugar Man, I salute you!

We were lead shortly through a narrow hall filled with various clown props; the passage was lit by black lights and concluded when a simpering French clown provided a mild scare. The path took several more turns and we ended up in a security room, the walls lined with monitors, a woman occupied the chair behind the desk and our presence clearly disturbed her. She rose from the chair with great jerky movements and stalked our party to the end of the room.

Near the conclusion of the attraction haunters are treated to display both rare and bizarre in nature. A brightly colored, old fashioned puppet booth stood before us standing in surreal contrast to the dimly lit and grimy surroundings. A scrawny, high pitched male appears from behind the curtains holding a dirty teddy bear in his left hand. The bear would like to sing us a song and of course we agree to witness this odd side show. The puppeteer disappears behind the curtains and shakes the teddy bear about as he sings a dark rhyme about death. At one point the bear disappears behind the curtains and a large, clawed hand shoots quickly toward the guests functioning as a dovetail for the lyrics. When the song concludes the slimy puppet master cheers his own depraved lyrics and encourages us to do the same, we happily offer a round of applause and exit the scene.

We headed up an inclined path; a large shadow could be seen high upon a wall in the distance, another neat feature. The path turned and took us into a room with a deep pit, several nutters patrolled the room including a manic judge but to my disappointment the pit of despair held no captives. The path briefly led outside which afforded us the opportunity to appreciate the exterior of the Hydro. When we reentered we soon came to the conclusion of the haunt, a large graveyard setting that featured either a hopelessly drunk or helplessly insane pirate who blathered nonsense and begged us not to leave him.

The haunt concluded on a some what lackluster note but it did feature a lot of live actors most of which were quite good at what they set out to do. The unique features mentioned above were all welcome surprises and something I’d like to see the haunt build on. We had a lot of fun at the Haunted Hydro and I’d like to plan a return trip in a future season.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

“Oh, I hope they’re not too old.”

-Richard responding to the House of the Dead patriarch’s enthusiasm when he expressed delight that we had come to play with his children

“(Strangled laughter) Your mother…(more strangled laughter)…douche.”

-The reaction of the construction mutant when I suggested that his filthy, barrel water had been used as a douche by Richard’s mom

Wicked Ways on Tunneled Paths

Posted in Hallowblog, Word of the Week with tags , , , , on January 27, 2015 by bluefall8

This Word of the Week entry blinked into existence on Monday, October 19, 2009.

The third installment of the Halloween themed WOTW has a lot of descriptions, enjoy.

wicked [wi-ked]adjective: morally bad: evil, sinful; fierce, vicious

Zombies Everywhere, Haunt Schedule

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by bluefall8

This installment of Hallowblog Flashback was originally posted Friday, October 9, 2009. In this entry I wrote about some horror and science fiction of the day; there’s also a dash of haunt schedule speculation included for good measure.

In addition to that, this entry detailed our plans for a fateful night of haunting, plans that were altered in a most historic way. You can read all about the results from this trip when it becomes the focal point of Hallowblog Flashback in just two weeks.  

It’s a Friday night in October which means The Haunt Trinity is set to lurk about the state hitting Michigan’s finest haunts. It’s a wet, dreary evening but that will do nothing to deter us haunting fanatics. Tonight we have two very exciting visits; the first stop will find us at Deadly Intentions the winner of the 2008 Monster Award for best live actors. Deadly Intentions delivered a smash mouth, high intensity show last year when we visited on Halloween night and this year’s theme has us frothing at the mouth: City of the Living Dead! Zombies, man! Fuckin’ zombies!!! A whole haunt packed full of my favorite flesh eating dead heads! Listen to this description from the ad in the Fear Finder:

Though the infection has only been spreading for a few weeks almost the entire city has been affected. Will you be able to make it through town without becoming a victim of this terrible outbreak? Can you escape the City of the Living Dead?

HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT. I have been waiting for a haunt like this since the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead. I’ve dreamed us this day since I discovered the brilliance of Dawn of the Dead. I have hoped for this since I first experienced the wonderful horror of Resident Evil 2 back in February 1998! I’m not kidding when I say that this has the potential to be the greatest haunted attraction that I have ever witnessed. My friends at Deadly best not disappoint!

If I some how manage to survive the sheer horrible awesomeness of this event we’ll continue north to the Haunted Farm of Terror in Lenox Township. This place has drew my gaze for several years now and I’m very excited to finally experience the much ballyhooed hayride which Zioptis says is a spectacle to behold. There are also some zombies to shoot with paintball guns which will no doubt afford a gander from us fine fellows in the Haunt Trinity.

The usual slew of horror films has hit theaters just in time for Halloween a few of particular note include Zombieland, Paranormal Activity, and Saw VI. Zombieland opened October 2nd and devoured an estimated $25 million on opening weekend. The previews reveal it to be more in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead than Day of the Dead but that’s just fine with me. I enjoyed the off the cuff, devil-may-care humor on display in the trailers and I like the possibilities inherent to a carnival atmosphere. I’d like to catch this one as soon as possible. I’ve only seen teaser trailers for Paranormal Activity but it looks interesting. I did a bit of reading and discovered that it’s actually a 2007 mockumentary that has played at several film festivals. I won’t rush to the theater to see it but I’ll definitely give it a view when it’s released to DVD. Saw VI premieres in theaters October 23 and like Paranormal Activity I’ll wait for it on DVD. The last two films have swept the story into some fairly convoluted territory but I like the Saw movies; it’s the first series to carve out a legitimate niche in the horror lexicon in some time and for that it deserves recognition. Can you think of a more recognizable new face on the horror landscape than Jigsaw’s puppet over the last decade?

I absolutely love Fringe. I got into the series when it premiered last fall and I’ve grown to like it more and more as time has passed. The premise has an obvious correlation to The X-files which naturally appeals to me but more than the absorbing story arch I find the main characters fascinating. Has there ever been a more deeply conflicted eccentric genius in television history? He’s wonderful when playing the mad scientist but equally compelling as the flawed and broken father. There’s a redemptive quality about Walter which is appropriately underscored by much of his tragically poetic wisdom.

Below is a rough schedule for the remainder of the haunt season:

Friday, October 9: Deadly Intentions (Warren) and Haunted Farm of Terror (Lenox Township)

Friday, October 16: Terrortown (Maumee, OH) and Haunted Hydro (Fremont, OH)

Friday, October 23: The Haunting (Adrian) and Darksyde Acres (Jonesville)

Friday, October 30: Undecided, although we’re contemplating a visit to either Armada or Genesee County area haunts. We’re also debating a return to some Pontiac area haunts; a selection from all three locations is also a possibility.

We’ve also kicked around the idea of hitting additional Downriver haunts on a Saturday.

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

Disappointment Ravages Opening Night

Posted in 2009, Hallowblog, Homer Mill, Jackson's Underworld, Review with tags , , , , , , on December 3, 2014 by bluefall8

This entry was originally posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 and is the infamous chronicle of our highly disappointing journey to Jackson’s Underworld and subpar return to the Homer Mill.

I hadn’t slept much on the day in question and did experience a memorable hallucination as we drove home that night; as we approached an underpass on the expressway I witnessed a thick, hairy spider, much larger than our car, clinging to the underbelly of the bridge. It began to move slowly as we approached, flexing it’s legs as if to crawl topside.

I had the presence of mind to realize that it was merely a figment of my imagination caused by sleep deprivation but it was horrifying just the same; the thought of it gives me goosebumps to this day.

What was supposed to be an electric start to the 2009 haunt season was quite possibly the biggest disappointment in Haunt Trinity history. After making the one hour and twenty minute drive to Jackson we made a quick stop at Luke’s new apartment and then with Luke and Heather in tow we drove the short distance to Jackson’s Underworld.

The building was imposing; I had the distinct feeling that it used to be a school although nothing would ever confirm my suspicions. After purchasing our tickets (tickets we were charged $5 too much for, more on this later) we proceeded to the entrance of the haunt and divided into two groups. Luke, Heather, and John entered first. Jason, Richard, and I followed several minutes later after receiving instructions from a condemned animatronic freak featuring an amusing extend-o-neck in the fashion of Inspector Gadget.

Unfortunately it was all down hill from there. I wouldn’t say Jackson’s Underworld blew its load early; it simply had no load to give. Everything started off okay I suppose, a very creepy zombie couple waltzed as we entered one room, a two-faced corpse lurched from a casket in another but ten minutes into the haunt we had yet to come across a single live actor. The worn school house hallways would have been conducive to some quality scares but not a creep lurked and soon the eerily quaint setting gave way to black hallway after black hallway. Let me be clear, this was not an attempt at an old school haunt; in fact the hallways were only semi-dark. At times these halls meandered so long without anything happening that the whole experience took on the feel of a maze, a maze without the enjoyment of a challenge that is. This cycle of sterile boredom would become a theme throughout the haunt as a series of hallways gave way to an uninspired scene which would trail off into another series of hallways.

There was a decent sheet room and a dizzying vortex that threw me strangely off kilter for some time but it was painfully obvious at the half way point that this place just didn’t have it. We had caught up to Luke, Heather, and John by this point and it became clear that we were resigned to make our own fun. I turned my attention to scaring Heather as a collective sense of tomfoolery took hold of the group. Shortly, we came upon a “womb of doom” and Luke joined the prestigious ranks of those who have likened the experience to that of birth. We were coming to the end now and while I kept hoping to find some redeeming feature no such thing would manifest.

We did witness some first rate animatronics but nothing seemed to be integrated very well and it was all stuff we’d quite literally witnessed before at the Homer Mill. There were a few actors of note but they were only noteworthy due to their inability to produce a scare. I was amused by a child ghoulie who stood behind a set of bars wielding a knife. He seemed hungry so I extended my index finger and wiggled it near the bars as to solicit a chomp but the diminutive monster ignored the tasty morsel and instead slipped through the bars and once among us seemed merely bemused and bewildered. A short while later we came upon a gutted corpse lying on a slab but despite our lengthy provocations (threats that included a right squibbing from the JVD) the actress made no attempt to frighten us. The incident so piqued Jason’s curiosity that he later offered up what I’m sure he felt to be a succinct observation.

The greatest disappointment by an actor however was reserved for what was quite possibly the coolest room in the entire haunt. We entered what looked like a massive boiler room, to the left a man hung above our heads, a sickle stuck through his chest. To the right a body lie in decay, a dark path ran between bulks of machinery and something lurked in the bowels; a big scare was sure to come. A shrouded ghoul stumbled forward slowly and as it approached I wondered aloud what type of creature it could be. It was then that Heather made a remark that did not fully register until we had exited the haunt, as the ghoul grew close I thought to myself, “Surely she didn’t just say that.” The promise of a big scare was quickly evaporated as the rotting cretin turned and skulked away as slowly and silently as it had approached. A collective confusion gripped the room while a part of me wondered if Heather’s comment may have hastened the ghoul’s retreat.

Nobody will accuse Jackson’s Underworld of offering a short attraction but everybody should lament how poorly the space is utilized. The haunt takes approximately thirty minutes to traverse more than half of which is spent walking through scarcely inhabited hallways. The scenes are average at best offering little to no suspense or actor interaction. The few good areas that could have produced solid, creative scares yielded nothing which displays a lack of creativity and caring. Jackson’s Underworld excels in no area of haunting to call the experience mediocre would be a compliment bordering on outright exaggeration; Jason summarized it best by labeling Jackson’s Underworld anemic. An imitation of the Homer Mill would have been preferable to this bastardization.

“I think it’s a half-breed”

-Heather, speculating on the nature of the boiler room ghoul who was ironically portrayed by an actor that very well may have been a “halfie”

“She was probably just pretending to be a prop so that we didn’t have our way with her.”

-Jason, continuing his rich tradition of making compulsive, sexually deviant remarks while haunting

Rating: 2 stars

Luke and Heather headed back to their apartment while the rest of us pushed forward to the Homer Mill. Before we hit the dusty trail a stop at the liquor store was in order as Jason and Disco harbored a desire to get blind drunk which they did with amazing rapidity. Thirty minutes later the impressive structure of the Homer Mill came into view and our night of disappointment would continue.

As with Jackson’s Underworld we were once again charged $20 to enter the attraction despite the fact that both had been advertised as $15 during the month of September. We debated the point with an employee who claimed that the ad in the Fear Finder was a misprint. We paid the admission and proceeded to the entrance of the haunt where we were informed that the third floor of the haunt had been closed for the season. If you’ve never visited the Homer Mill it’s important to understand that the third floor is truly what separates this haunt from all the rest; it’s the reason Homer Mill was such a special experience last year and its removal was tantamount to castration.

Due to the omission of the third floor the haunt was considerably shorter which the operators compensated for with a healthy increase in live actors. The actors were well timed and displayed some heart; fundamentals that are always appreciated by the Haunt Trinity. The animatronics were great once more and a series of statically charged walls zapped our senses in an unexpected and unfamiliar way. There was also a brand new meat cooler featuring a hyped up, chainsaw wielding lunatic who thrilled us with his macabre charisma. Unfortunately a familiar layout sapped some of the punch from the commanding aura of the building.

We emerged from the haunt and were highly disappointed to find the Homer Mill’s unique restaurant closed. We proceeded to the bar where Jason, John, and Richard paid $10.50 for a pitcher of beer. Apparently it was the night of a thousand disappointments. The ridiculous prices and lack of food acted as a stimulus upon our departure. It was a long drive home; one filled with tasteless jokes, sleep deprived hallucinations, and plenty of discussion about the disappointing outing.

Rating: 3 stars

2008 Numbers & Awards

Posted in Awards, Hallowblog, Haunting By Numbers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2014 by bluefall8

2008 marked the first season that I compiled numbers such as those listed below; it was also the first year that I assigned awards on such a scale.

On occasion I will look back over past awards and wonder if perhaps I didn’t shortchange a haunted attraction in a particular category; I bring this up now because in 2008 I gave a lot of thought to the Pulse Pounder and Killer Automatons Awards. Those awards would be won by County Morgue (Chainsaw Creek) and Erebus respectively, but there was spirited debate amongst myself and fellow haunters both during and after the fact.

There was certainly a case to be made for House of the Dead (Terror Town) with respect to the Killer Automatons Award and both John and Jason told me that they felt Deadly Intentions deserved the edge where the Pulse Pounder Award was concerned.

Situations such as those would, in future seasons, lead me to name not just the award winner but also an honorable mention; which is a system I prefer as I feel it provides a more complete picture for each award.

This entry was originally posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2009.

The 2008 haunt season was full of unprecedented fun and fright. In order to put things into perspective I’ve compiled the following numbers.

10: The number of Hallowblog entries posted throughout the season, the most since its inception in 2006.

9: The number of haunts visited by the Haunt Trinity, a one year record.

136: The amount of money each of us spent on those nine haunted attractions.

6: The number of nights we set out to visit haunted attractions.

2: The number of states we traversed on our quest for Halloween fun (Michigan and Ohio).

96: Miles traveled to the Homer Mill, the furthest haunt of the 2008 season.

446: The total number of miles we traveled throughout the haunt season.

If all goes as planned many of those numbers will be surpassed this season, what is less certain however is the performance and subsequent rating of the haunted attractions. Let’s take a look back at last year’s noteworthy performances. Presented here in Hallowblog for the first time are the 2008 haunt awards as chosen by the Haunt Trinity.

Rotten Pumpkin: The Rotten Pumpkin award is given to the haunt considered to be the most disappointing of the season. Disappointment may be the result of an over hyped marketing campaign or the failure of the haunt to live up to expectations set forth in previous seasons. Whatever the case may be let there be no doubt that the haunt receiving this unwanted distinction truly dropped the ball during the 2008 season.

2008 Rotten Pumpkin: Templin’s Night Terror

The Haunt Trinity had high expectations after experiencing a superb, old school experience at Hell’s Hospital in 2007 but the Wyandotte Jaycees wasn’t able to recapture the magic. It wasn’t just that a number of actors were undisciplined and ineffective or that their less than whispered conversations were clearly audible over an oddly mute sound system, no more than anything the largest detraction of the Jaycees’ 2008 effort was that it felt like a bad imitation of its usual product.

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

2008 Eerie Vibrations: Homer Mill

A lot of haunted attractions possess a great atmosphere but in the end it was the Homer Mill that jumped out at us the most. Homer Mill is like no other haunt we’ve ever visited, as if the structure of an old mill adapted to a haunt isn’t a unique enough atmosphere for you then consider the Halloween themed restaurant and bar connected to the haunt. The seemingly opposing but strangely complimentary buildings forge a rare synergy that creates a comfy, fun atmosphere whether you’re traversing the haunt or enjoying a bite to eat and all the while you can hear screams of fun or fright as it may be heralding from the other side.

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

2008 Dark Horse: Realm of Haunted Minds

Realm of Haunted Minds is located at the Huron Turkey Farm and is one of those haunts that is fun for all ages, it’s not too intense but it isn’t geared toward children either. There’s room to expand here and the haunt benefits from a semi-rural locale which by night creates a creepy small town farm atmosphere.

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

2008 Killer Automatons: Erebus

A number of mega haunts have awesome animatronics these days but nowhere are they put to greater use than at Pontiac’s four story monster. The integration of animatronics at Erebus is impressive, the willingness of the operators to push the envelope with robots that literally attack patrons shows a commitment to fright that warrants high scores in my book.

Pulse Pounder: The Pulse Pounder award is given to the haunt considered to be the most intense attraction of the season. Intensity can be gauged by a number of factors including commitment of actors, gory or realistic scenes, and harsh or loud music and sound effects. However at the end of the experience the most important element is the level of one’s own fear.

2008 Pulse Pounder: County Morgue (Chainsaw Creek)

Chainsaw Creek’s crown jewel is not a long or intricate haunt but it is frightening. County Morgue is slim on live actors but those that do inhabit its cold corridors are a credit to their craft. County Morgue is a dark brew of ultra-gory props, ear splitting heavy metal, and mind numbing strobe effects. It might not sound like much but the place brought me to a level of fright I don’t often feel. I was tentative when approaching objects and less than comfortable when turning corners. The fear I felt here brought me back to my youth.

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

2008 Monster: Deadly Intentions

When you talk about a commitment to scaring guests any conversation that doesn’t include Deadly Intentions is just plain wrong. The collective energy put forth by the staff here in 2008 was unmatched. These people are relentless in their quest to scare you and don’t think you’re going to deter them with sophomoric quips. The group at Deadly Intentions clearly loves what they do. It’s primal, in your face, non-stop insanity.

Haunt of the Year: The Haunt of Year award is given to the haunt considered to be the best overall attraction of the season. When deciding on this award several factors are taken into consideration including the timing and intensity of actors, the pace and length of the haunt, attention to detail, use of special effects, realism of props, and most importantly the haunt’s ability to leave a lasting experience in the minds of guests.

2008 Haunt of the Year: House of the Dead (TerrorTown)

In a season packed with worthy contenders House of the Dead rose to the top of the corpse pile. An unlikely amalgam of innovative techniques and bizarre visuals propelled this stench laden living tomb to haunt super stardom. It was fun, it was scary. It was a wild, haunt riot that assailed all five senses and had me wishing I’d possessed a sixth for I’m certain it would have been delightfully thrown off kilter. Experiencing House of the Dead isn’t like visiting a haunted attraction it’s more like being ripped from reality only to be dropped in a wacky, bygone era video game world complete with a giant enemy eyeball. If you’ve ever played Monster Party for Nintendo then you’ve got a pretty good idea of what House of the Dead is all about.