Archive for haunted attraction

Horrorlust Radio Episode #003

Posted in Horrorlust Radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2014 by bluefall8

Wrestler, home haunter and haunted attraction enthusiast Mike Marvel serves as co-host for episode #003 of Horrorlust Radio.

In the third episode of Horrorlust Radio, Mike and I discuss the tradition of home haunting in all its various forms and then dig into the pros and cons of multi-attraction venues.

This episode also features the second installment of Lost to Time, a segment that highlights haunts now departed; you’ll also hear the birth of a new segment, Hosts & Hotties where we pay respect to icons of the industry from horror hosts to scream queens and everybody in between. The luscious Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is our inaugural honoree.

Mike and I also banter about the quality of haunted attractions during the month of September and even delve briefly into the crossover elements of professional wrestling and the haunted attraction industry.

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

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

HORRORLUST RADIO: EPISODE 003

SHOW NOTES

Mike Marvel isn’t just a wrestler, home haunter and haunted attraction enthusiast, he’s also the man behind the scenes at Michigan Haunt Central on Facebook.

Brandywine Cemetery, the prominent home haunt cited during this episode, is located at 2727 Brandywine St. Ann Arbor, MI. 48104. Brandywine Cemetery will be open Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31 in 2014. For more information visit their website here: Brandywine Cemetery

I’ve included a scan of The Lab’s 2009 ad from the Fear Finder. My scanner isn’t quite large enough to capture the entire ad but you can enjoy 95% of this colorful, eye-catching advertisement.

Fear Finder, 2009

Fear Finder, 2009

And for those of you who live under a rock, here’s a picture of the gorgeous Elvira, the first honoree in Hosts & Hotties.

She puts the lust in Horrorlust.

She puts the lust in Horrorlust.

The songs and audio clips featured in this episode are listed below in chronological order:

1. “This is Halloween” by Danny Elfman (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)

2. The Return of the Living Dead  Theatrical Trailer, 1985

3. “Living Walls” by Midnight Syndicate (The 13th Hour, 2005)

4. Trash from The Return of the Living Dead, 1985

5. “Born of the Night” by Midnight Syndicate (Born of the Night, 1998)

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Where the Veil Ends: A Walk in Both Worlds

Posted in CikNis with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2014 by bluefall8

I once half-jokingly suggested to my wife that I didn’t just visit haunted attractions for fun — my nocturnal adventures to all things spooky was, as I told her, research. A lot of truth is said in jest and the truth is that a haunted attraction is something I’ve dreamt about building since I was a boy. My brother and I used to construct crude dummies to sit on our porch and on a few occasions we even talked our sisters into helping us build a miniature haunted house in the basement of our childhood home.

In June , a close friend approached me about doing something different for a Halloween party and by the end of the night we’d drawn up plans to build a haunted house inside of his garage — alcohol might’ve been involved. But it was a solid design that utilized nearly every square inch of space and we decided to go ahead with the idea and I’ve been excited ever since.

We began the build two weeks ago today and have thus far been pleasantly surprised with our progress and the lack of any major issues. I plan to chronicle much of our progress on Horrorlust leading up to the party and then of course share my thoughts on the impending results. There’s so much to consider when laying the framework for a haunted attraction but it’s been fun work. The structure is in place and painted; this weekend we’ll focus on the installation of lighting, sound and even a video element. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to construct a show that will leave our guests feeling just as I have on so many of those October excursions.

Prepare to witness The CikNis.

Jackson’s Underworld Rising?

Posted in 2013, Jackson's Underworld, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2013 by bluefall8

Jackson’s Underworld certainly had its work cut out for it when we arrived last Friday; it’s no secret that our 2009 visit has been remembered as one of the worst haunted attractions we’d ever paid to see. I can firmly state that our experience of four years ago was not repeated, Jackson’s Underworld has made strides in the right direction but there remains a lot of work to be done in order for it to become one of Michigan’s must see haunted attractions.

The queue line is the same as it was four years ago and this is actually a good thing, as we waited in line during our first visit I can remember thinking that the haunt had promise based on this area. There’s a rather interesting animatronic here, it sat a top a large chair. Periodically it hummed to life as its head was lifted from the rest of its body by a crane, while it hovered midair the head  went over some basic rules of the haunt and also sprinkled in a few veiled threats.

The doorman was a bit of a character too, talkative and polite enough with guests, he was prone to a little exaggeration as well. When the group behind us began recounting their recent trip to Erebus, a trip they very much enjoyed, the doorman waved a dismissive hand and said, “This blows that away.” Hey, I’m not one to fault somebody for pushing their own product but some comparisons are best left unmade. He did do a fine job of spacing out guests and for that I’ll give him credit, nobody wants to run up on another group while trying to enjoy a haunted house.

Once John and I entered into the guts of Jackson’s Underworld the show began much as it did four years ago — a bit dull and meandering. We traversed a series of rooms with some decent looking props but the environments were far from immersive and we found not a ghoulish soul in sight. A room that featured two caskets contained a pair of oddly animated corpses — this was the highlight of the area.

I began to have an inkling that perhaps Jackson’s Underworld hadn’t changed very much since our last visit; fortunately the ghosts and goblins began to reveal themselves. The interaction was far from great, most of the actors were average at best with only a handful that offered anything more. Too often a creep would appear from behind a drop panel and bellow a generic phrase such as, “Get out of here” or “You’ll never escape alive.” Maybe these phrases worked on haunt goers once a upon a time but those type of vocalizations don’t move the needle anymore; in fact they sound silly and only serve to diminish the effect a haunted attraction is attempting to create.

I mentioned that the monsters frequently appeared from behind drop panels and this was another area of concern. Now, don’t get me wrong — drop panels are a staple of the haunted attraction industry but when not implemented well the gag will become tired and predictable. This was the case at Jackson’s Underworld, the panels were a standard square shape with absolutely no effort made to conceal them. And that’s truly a shame because there’s numerous ways to hide these, a picture frame is a popular option. The Scream Machine in 2009 employed a technique so effective the workers were able to catch us by surprise on multiple occasions.

I did say at the beginning of this review that Jackson’s Underworld had made strides in the right direction and I’d like to talk about some of those now before I become to mired in  the shortcomings here. The owners have taken care to add some fun and flair to the attraction with a flashy vortex tunnel, walls that lurched and shifted, and a laser lit passageway. There was no shortage of animatronics either — a saw blade sliced one man in half, a guillotine decapitated another, and we were even provided an intimate look at an animated electrocution. The attraction also featured a number of sprayers, the most forceful we’ve ever witnessed as a matter of fact. While I admired one of the aforementioned animatronics one of these sprayers positively drenched my pants and left me with the appearance of one who had just wet themselves — it gave John and I a good laugh.

Our favorite areas included a sheet draped maze that featured a wide-eyed crazy who bounded recklessly throughout the landscape while a strobe light impaired our vision. There was also a harlequin hideout that sported a never-before-seen, massive jack-in-the-box. Later we entered a meat locker with an impressive array of cold cuts on display; some of the props here had an unsettling realism. A highly detailed swamp scene near the conclusion of the attraction was well constructed, convincing, and enjoyable.

Unfortunately the moments of magic weren’t enough to gloss over the more glaring weaknesses of Jackson’s Underworld. Another aspect that irked me, as it has at many haunted attractions, is the use of wide hallways and large, open spaces. You don’t have to suffer from claustrophobia to appreciate the effects that small, tight passages inflict on human physiology. As we progressed through the haunted house I noticed just how expansive the hallways were; I even stuck out my arms and was able to easily stretch the entirety of my wingspan. I’m just shy of six feet tall and in my opinion that’s far too much wasted space. Whether it’s a transitional passageway or a key scene, the space occupied should always serve a purpose — it’s up to haunt operators to strike just the right balance.

I was reminded of several other attractions as we traversed Jackson’s Underworld, Adrian’s currently on hiatus The Haunting was one of them, but more than any other I was brought to mind of the sadly departed Homer Mill; fitting of course since the operators here once ran that as well. There was even an area of Jackson’s Underworld that afforded us a glimpse into an exterior courtyard, a scene that evoked a memory from our 2008 trip through the Homer Mill. I looked out upon it and wondered if the crew had done this as a subtle homage.

Jackson’s Underworld seemed to be headed in the right direction but a lot of work remains to be done. I can’t help but wonder if the design of the attraction really fit with the natural structure of the building itself. The owners here have the luxury of a truly imposing and creepy edifice — a man on site told me it was most recently used as a furniture warehouse. Perhaps the attraction is simply experiencing growing pains and will one day play to a theme that is more appropriate for the structure at hand; in the mean time the infusion of additional live actors would flesh out some of the dead areas.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Reviews to Commence Soon, Mud Puppets

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2013 by bluefall8

John and I successfully toured both Jackson’s Underworld and Darksyde Acres on Friday the 13th — just another notch in our belt; it’s the earliest we’ve ever visited a haunted attraction. I’ll have full reviews posted for both by the end of the week but generally speaking, we enjoyed both locations. Jackson’s Underworld has grown a lot since opening its doors in 2009 but still has a long way to go if it wants to become one of Michigan’s premiere haunted destinations. Darkysde Acres served up its usual cast of unusual characters, some of which provide the best interaction we’ve witnessed anywhere. We also had an opportunity to meet the owner of this madhouse and he was a cool guy indeed and as it turns out, a big fan of the Mud Puppets too!

The Mud Puppets, if I may indulge in a gratuitous plug for a moment, is a sketch comedy troupe that I formed with my cousin Ryan a little more than a year ago. We have a YouTube channel where we release new content each Saturday. Last year we produced a Halloween special entitled Our Muddy Nightmare and we’re currently working on this years entry, Our Muddier Nightmare. We also began a cable access show at our local station earlier this year and are in the midst of writing a Halloween themed presentation for that as well. We welcome anybody with a taste for horror and Halloween to check us out and subscribe. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on WordPress. You can follow Ryan @MudPuppetRyan or myself @MudPuppetJoel.

Haunting By Numbers: 2012 Haunt Season

Posted in Haunting By Numbers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by bluefall8

Another haunt season is nearly upon us and like those that have come before it, 2013 is sure to be filled with its own memorable nights of fright. Every season has its highlight reel moments, from five star haunts to eye popping scenes to one of a kind characters. Truly each fall that we set out on the open road is special in its own right. Here’s a look at some of the pertinent numbers behind the October magic.

22: The total number of attractions that we visited last year at 16 separate locations; this total falls just one shy of the record 23 that we toured in 2011.

8: Moonlit nights spent pounding the pavement throughout Michigan and Ohio in search of fun and fright.

10: Haunted attractions that we hit for the first time; a single season record.

11: Counties throughout Michigan and Ohio where we stopped to visit haunted houses; another single season record. In Michigan we traversed Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Ingham, Genesee, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, and Livingston. And in Ohio we cruised through Lucas, Cuyahoga, and Summit counties.

242: Cold hard cash spent on our beloved haunted attractions. This figure reflects solely what was spent on admission and does not take into consideration what was spent on gas, food, or other necessities of the road. As best as I can tell from past figures, this too is a high water mark.

1203: The staggering amount of miles traveled going to and from Michigan and Ohio’s scariest places; yet another single season record.

161: Miles of road between home and the most distant haunted house of the season — Akron’s Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory. This figure falls just short of the 170 miles we traveled in 2010 when we paid a visit to the Haunted Hoochie.

5: Consecutive years that we have braved the horror of Terror Town’s House of the Dead.

0: Strangely, the number of attractions that received a perfect 5 star score in a season that featured a gaggle of great shows.

 

The Haunting Redeemed, Darksyde Discovered

Posted in 2011, Darksyde Acres, Review, The Haunting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by bluefall8

Just as so many October adventures had thrilled us before so too did the excursions of this past weekend. The events of this past weekend will surely go on to live in Haunt Trinity lore for seasons to come, and just as well because many a memorable moment was made. The haunt season never truly begins until we’ve traveled at least a couple of county lines from home. Journey with us then, won’t you? As we gather around this hallowed hearth to share titillating tales full of deliciously macabre monstrosities.

A TRIP FOUR YEARS IN THE MAKING

It simply wouldn’t be a haunt outing if Jason didn’t find a way to complicate matters and while last weekend may not have been his finest effort at such it was certainly notable. But I don’t hold it against him really — after all he is my brother, my original haunt partner stretching all the way back to our youth when we enjoyed stuffing old clothes full of dead leaves in order to make dummies. We departed Monroe at approximately 8:20 p.m. and arrived at The Haunting in Adrian nearly an hour later. We had first visited The Haunting some four years prior and came away from that experience harboring disappointment, but we wanted to give the show a fair shake so a return trip was in order (We actually intended to return here in 2009 but Jason’s prior mentioned shenanigans derailed the trip. We planned a similar trip last year but it too fell to the wayside. I simply let you guess why.) We’d finally returned — Jason, John, and I accompanied also by Amanda McCreary who transformed our typical trio into a quartet. Amanda last went haunting with us during the 2007 season, a night in which she braved The Scream Machine and The Lab.

The grounds were eerily deserted when we arrived, the scene instantly reminded me of our visit four seasons earlier. But there was something different in the air this time and I held firmly to my conviction that The Haunting would be vindicated. We headed for the ticket window and paid a meager $5 (the haunt usually costs $10 but a coupon from The Haunting website, coupled with a canned good donation will net you a $5 discount). It was clear that the operators had majorly overhauled the waiting area and as we would find out shortly half of the haunt was themed in the familiar 3D paint while the back half bore more of a resemblance to a classic haunted attraction. I’ll spare you the suspense just this one time dear readers and tell you outright that The Haunting did not disappoint a second time.

What we experienced was a balanced presentation built on the tried and true fundamentals of haunting. The pace of the attraction was ideal, surprises were well disguised, and the cast delivered a solid, theatrical performance. Attention to detail has been paid to the placement of props – all throughout the labyrinthine structure dark halls and corners are dotted with convincing dummies, effectively keeping haunters on edge. As I mentioned earlier the first half of the haunted house features glowing paint, an element arguably enhanced by the use of 3D glasses; personally I don’t find the glasses necessary. I enjoyed the glow of these areas as well as the beautifully dark works of art peering out from the walls.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the neat trick employed near the beginning of the attraction. A giggling ghoul shepherded our party into a small room and closed the door behind us, a pair of vampire busts on either side of the door near the ceiling issued some sort of a chant. When the door opened the room we had previously occupied had radically changed. The room we initially entered was a basic, back square featuring no props or decorations. What now stood before us was a long, glowing hallway. It’s a technique the creators at The Haunting refer to as the vanishing room. We’ve witnessed similar gags before — The Scream Machine for instance uses the same technique when guests exit the Hellivator – but never has it pulled off better than at The Haunting.

The second half of the haunted house, referred to as The Darkness, began when our party was confronted by a tall, rotund ghoul who collected our 3D glasses. He bore a resemblance to Uncle Fester from The Addams Family and after collecting the glasses began asking us if we were, “…prepared to enter the darkness.” He spoke in a whisper and when satisfied that we were indeed ready to brave the darkness ahead, he allowed us entry. He revealed his true intentions however when he banged his fist on the wall and loudly announced our arrival to his dead brothers and sisters. It was this act that caused me to dub him Fester the Turncoat Bastard.

Shortly after entering The Darkness we came to a wonderfully lit hallway illuminated by a green laser which cast a majestic series of dancing points of light across our bodies and throughout the air. Our interaction with Fester set the tone for the remaining of the haunt as we came across several other actors – all in effective face paint – who delivered worthy performances. Among my personal favorites was an angry, twitchy girl, a stocky zombie who issued an unsettling, air sucking howl, and a hobo who requested change in exchange for access to a secret door.

I stated from the onset that The Haunting did not disappoint as it did back in 2007 and I stand by that statement. What we witnessed here last weekend was nothing short of a quality attraction steeped in the fundamentals of haunting.

Rating: 3.75 stars

BOONDOCKS HAUNT WILL SHOCK AND SURPRISE

A fog crept over the countryside as we headed for Jonesville, a countryside dotted with looming barns, decrepit farm houses, and Victorian estates. It was quiet and nearly deserted when we arrived at Darksyde Acres, a former pig farm. Outwardly it may have appeared docile but within its bowels all manner of creatures lurked both beautiful and hideous, deranged and merry. Darksyde Acres boasts three attractions — The Catacombs, Rusthole, and The Dark Abyss; the first two run concurrently. We purchased our tickets, were told to follow a row of colorful, blinking lights, and warned of the anal trauma ahead. We made a porta-potty pit stop at the entrance of the first haunt, when McCreary opened the door a blood stained, saber toothed, man-sized rabbit leaped from the latrine. Darksyde had used a gag I’d long sought to witness even before we entered the attraction; I already liked the place.

A tall, portly Elvis impersonator welcomed us into the haunt, before us was a winding queue area with small but numerous scenes on either side. We walked down a center path until a deliciously devilish voice informed us that we were going the wrong way. We turned toward the voice — a scantily clad haunt vixen! My eyes may have popped out of my head whilst steam shot from my ears. Beside me John’s jaw dropped to the floor and his tongue rolled cartoonishly from his mouth. There’s definitely a chance that Jason begun removing his pants. Even McCreary was momentarily stunned by the brazen hotness of it all. The dark temptress corrected our path and was soon joined by a second femme fatale. The duo scampered off at times only to reappear and make sexual remarks or would otherwise be found in erotic poses with props. Jason wondered aloud if perhaps we hadn’t crossed over into some sort of blissful haunt afterlife. Such reveries were interrupted briefly when a dainty young man in a dress beckoned us closer and flashed us his nipples, he would later attempt to kiss Jason. Such shenanigans were salacious and attention grabbing and set the stage well for what was to follow. We approached the end of the queue line and came to rest on the threshold of the haunt, the Disco Devil and I took the first shift.

The approach at Darksyde Acres is intense, raunchy, and rare. Guests will not be wowed by flashy animatronics nor can this be accurately called a haunted attraction in the traditional sense, this is something different. Many of the actors are a wild, twisted breed, perhaps the best example of this is a pair of clowns respectively named Bubbles and Pickles. Pickles is a frenzied ball of energy and as horny as a toad, he lovingly spoke of rape and begged that we allow him to grab our backsides. When we obliged Pickles’ excitement grew tenfold an he implored that we return the favor which I thought was only fair. The stimulus propelled Pickles into a crazed euphoria, he whooped and giggled uncontrollably and quite literally bounced from one wall to the next. For an instant I thought perhaps my long time friend Stu was behind the make up. Bubbles in contrast had a more purely sinister nature although even he had a penchant for comedy which was revealed during a conversation about his rumored polka-dotted phallus.

As we traveled deeper into the attraction we traversed crypts, graveyards, and absolute darkness. A steady stream of heavy metal flooded our ears and at one point I was pleased to hear the circus inspired sound of Creature Feature. We were assailed by zombies, demons, and hot, dead girls. You read that correctly — hot, dead girls! Smoking deadites appeared behind bars equipped with stripper moves and it was in a word, mesmerizing. One particular scene even involved a stripper pole and some fancy moves, but that as we would later find out was a cruel illusion.

Rating: 4 stars

A short walk separates the attractions, the final of which is themed after an old pirate ship — The Dark Abyss. Here, Captain Karcass and his crew have been bound for some 300 years and as you might imagine they’re typically eager to add new souls to their league of damned, but on this night they were mostly jovial — a bit sarcastic perhaps but on the whole in good spirits. Captain Karcass delighted us with some witty banter before he sent us on our way through halls full of lusty wenches, decomposing bodies, and malevolent mariners. The ship was elaborately detailed, highlighted by a hallway of askew mirrors and one room full of dead pirates and treasure. The attraction even had a peculiar smell, a hint of bonfire and something else that was strangely familiar yet elusive.

Rating: 3.25 stars

Locations such as Darksyde Acres are the reason we continue to visit haunted attractions. The actors delivered a nearly flawless performance displaying superb interaction, effective vocalizations, and creative improvisation. The recurring threat of anal trauma is emphasized well first by the howling harlequins and then by the angst ridden Cain who dwells in the dank recesses of The Rusthole. Darksyde Acres features a good mix of dark passages, immersive scenes, and surreal strangeness — oh yeah the half naked girls don’t hurt either. In my opinion this secluded homestead of horror is worth the drive from anywhere in the Metro-Detroit area.