Archive for haunted school house

2012 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2013 by bluefall8

The Midwest Haunters Convention was held this weekend in Columbus, Ohio and that means two things — Summer has arrived, and with the passing of MHC the official countdown to the haunt season has begun! I loved the EC Comics inspired promotional piece for the 10th anniversary of this event.

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So as the Midwest Haunters Convention wraps up tonight and haunt vendors, owners, and enthusiasts look forward to the fall, let us take a few moments to look back at the best that last season had to offer.

Horrorlust recognizes nine dreadful categories. Our traditional seven categories include: Monster, Killer Automatons, Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Dark Horse, Rotten Pumpkin, and of course, Haunt of the Year. In 2011 the Prop Master and Samhain Awards debuted; descriptions precede each award.

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

2012 Rotten Pumpkin: Scream Machine

Dishonorable Mention: Nightmare Sanctum (Wyandotte Jaycees)

This wasn’t an easy decision because the Scream Machine is not a bad haunted attraction, but it has become stagnant and predictable. I’ve visited this attraction more than any other over the years and the 2012 incarnation was guilty of mailing it in more so than at any other time. It lacked precision, passion, and any truly pulse pounding moments.

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

2012 Eerie Vibrations: Bloodview

Honorable Mention: Krazy Hilda’s Camp of No Return

A malevolent aura permeated throughout Bloodview from the moment we stepped through the gates that bore its’ namesake. It featured both indoor and outdoor attractions that seemed to pulsate with the energy of 1,000 lost souls.

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

2012 Dark Horse: Dimensions of Darkness

Honorable Mention: A Nightmare on Elm Road

All of the fundamental elements are in place for Dimensions of Darkness to become something special. Dark, in-your-face, actor driven haunted attractions are becoming rarer with the passing of each Halloween season, but with a few inspired tweaks the gang here might just have the moxie to deliver old school back to the mainstream.

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.

2012 Killer Automatons: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

Honorable Mention: Haunted School House

Despite a number of ill timed or malfunctioning animatronics last year, House of the Dead still offered enough impressive robotic baddies to win this award going away. Without fail the operators here take care to integrate a couple of new mechanical monsters into the show each year. Indeed, House of the Dead has a stranglehold on this category, winning the Killer Automatons Award four years in a row.  

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

2012 Monster: Sinister

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

The cavalcade of creatures at Sinister worked as a cohesive unit, the group was so in sync it was as if their minds had forged a singularity. This was a collection of professional scarers who regard haunting as a craft and worked tirelessly to hone their formidable skills. The staff here simply did not miss a beat and wasted no opportunity to engage guests. The vocalization, physicality, and improvisation were all expertly executed.

Prop Master – The Prop Master award is given to the haunt considered to have best implemented props into the attraction. A prop may be considered a piece of furniture, a weapon, or a dummy. The haunt that claims this award will have paid special attention to placement, function, and realism.

2012 Prop Master: Barn of Horrors (Erwin Orchards)

Honorable Mention: Haunted Laboratory

The use of props inside the Barn of Horrors put me in mind of 2011 winner, Tent of Terror. Nothing was overdone or out of place, each prop provided a key visual element for its’ respective scene. The warped clock with a human face and giant dwarf stand out as favorites.

Pulse Pounder – The Pulse Pounder award is given to the haunt considered to be the most intense attraction of the season. Intensity can be gauged by a number of factors including commitment of actors, gory or realistic scenes, and harsh or loud music and sound effects. However, the most important element when considering this award is genuine fear factor.

2012 Pulse Pounder: Slaughter House

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

Admittedly this year’s selection of Slaughter House is a bit of a departure for this particular award which traditionally has gone to the scariest haunted attraction of the season. Slaugher House certainly offered some spine tingling moments but their specialty was more fun than fright. None of this is a knock on Slaugher House, quite the opposite in fact, it’s a testament to what the haunt did so well. Heart racing scares were supplanted by mind boggling illusions, the race to freedom was replaced by the race to the next room where another eye popping stunt was lying in wait. Slaughter House was a refreshing mix of fun and fear that got the blood pumping to be sure.

Samhain – This award recognizes the most enjoyable night of haunting in a given season. A plethora of factors are considered when deciding this award but at the end of the season it comes down to the night of haunting that provided us with the most scares, laughs, and memories.

2012 Samhain: October 5, 2012 (Erwin Orchards, Slaugher House, A Nightmare on Elm Road)

Honorable Mention: October 12, 2012 (Deadly Intentions, Sinister, Exit 13)

The night of October 5th didn’t get off to a promising start due to the weather but the magic of the haunt season would not be denied. As fate would have it we braved the Barn of Horrors twice, witnessed a haunt classic at Slaughter House (and made a friend to boot), and capped off the night with a visit to the charmingly ramshackle A Nightmare on Elm Road. It isn’t often we get to experience such a wide spectrum of the haunted landscape in a single night.

Haunt of the Year – The Haunt of Year award is given to the haunt considered to be the best overall attraction of the season. When deciding on this award several factors are taken into consideration including the timing and intensity of actors, the pace and length of the haunt, attention to detail, use of special effects, realism of props, and most importantly the lasting imprint left on guests.

2012 Haunt of the Year: Sinister

Honorable Mention: Slaugher House

Our experience at Sinister was pure happenstance, a visit that seemed to warp the very fabric of space and time, the sort of thing that usually only occurs within the confines of The Twilight Zone. On every measurable scale the cast was brilliant; somehow providing John and I with a fresh and, dare I say, even more energized experience during our second pass. It was like being in one of your favorite films except all of the familiar scenes had been supernaturally charged and then quite amazingly we discovered new scenes and characters who hadn’t existed moments before. Sinister spun a rare gem in 2012 and will live on in haunt lore for years to come.

A Brief Note on Awards and Ratings

Many haunted attractions that we hold in high regard did not receive any awards in 2012, but that does not mean these attractions do not deserve recognition. The most notable of these are Darksyde Acres and Exit 13. Darksyde Acres’ Rusthole & Catacombs scored 4.25 out of 5 stars, the 3rd highest rating out of the 22 total attractions we visited last year. Similarly, Exit 13 was rated 4 out of 5 stars and ranked 5th overall in our ratings.

So how can it be that neither of these haunts garnered so much as an honorable mention? Well, I’ve stated numerous times that the ratings are a reflection on each individual haunt and should not necessarily be used to compare one attraction to another. So what does this all mean? I think it speaks to two things — the diversity of the awards themselves and the quality of attractions we were able to visit during the 2012 haunt season.

Blood Bath & Beyond Hayride (4.25 stars) also rated very well and it’s counterpart at Scarefest Screampark, Hayride of Doom (3.5 stars), didn’t do too shabby either. Hayrides, like corn mazes and other haunted off shoots while undeniably related to haunted houses are, in my opinion, different beasts altogether. We currently have no specific award for these attractions due to the fact that we simply don’t visit enough of them each season.

Laboratory Mirrors Successes, Shortcomings of Haunted School House

Posted in 2012, Haunted School House & Laboratory, Review with tags , , , , on October 24, 2012 by bluefall8

Once we were free of the grip of the Haunted School House we walked the short distance to the Laboratory but not before Jason and John made a quick pit stop into some dense brush. Jason carried himself with shockingly little grace and probably had more than a few other haunters convinced that Big Foot, and not a man, was about to burst forth from the shrubbery. It’s moments like these that help make haunt outings so memorable. Shortly, the group reassembled and we finished the walk to the entrance of the Laboratory.

Just as we had at the Haunted School House, we ascended to the top floor before entering the attraction, and at the Laboratory the first leg of the journey is in 3D. I’m not a fan of the 3D gimmick in haunted houses. It’s rarely done correctly and it doesn’t add much to the attraction, usually the glasses simply fog the edges of your vision and leave you feeling a bit dizzy. I’ve given the whole thing a fair shake and I’m ready to see it become a thing of the past. Aside from that, the Laboratory much like the Haunted School House featured greatly detailed scenes and monstrous props. In one lair of scares we traversed a lengthy rope bridge which Richard tilted from side to side with child like amusement. A few other areas of note included the carnival area where several seriously creepy clowns resided. Opposite one, a large harlequin head bobbed dementedly atop a thick coil. The hallway leading to this room was lit with colorful, swirling lights. The direction in which the lights were fixed helped to blind haunters to the snarling freak hiding at the end of the hall — simple, effective haunting fundamentals at work. Elsewhere, a wonderfully detailed dentist scene revealed a haunt hottie — I was sure John would volunteer for some oral surgery but perhaps he was distracted by her mutant partner who ripped the jaw off of what used to be a patient.

There are two truly special scenes at the Laboratory and each will amaze most haunters because what they have to offer isn’t likely to be seen anywhere else. In both instances haunters are forced along a narrow path that circles the perimeter of the room. In the first, a dazzling laser show sends green prisms of light up through several stories — peering over the edge reveals large portions of the floors below to be missing; a mesmerizing sight. The second room is no less awe inspiring as it featured a huge Tesla Coil and this was no mere prop, cracking jolts of electricity exploded in the air. This was not an illusion, the distinct smell of ozone permeated the air — it was as if we were in the midst of a colossal summer storm.

The Laboratory was soon at an end but not before we ventured through an extremely disorienting vortex, one of the absolute best of its kind. The path then led us outdoor where we were routed into an old school bus. We exited through the emergency door at the rear, after a lone deadite gave Jason a fright of course, and wound our way through a path strewn with discarded artifacts from the Laboratory and Haunted School House but little else transpired in this area.

As with the Haunted School House, we agreed that the Laboratory was quite enjoyable but also capable of much more. I’ve already detailed some of the detractions that were present in the Haunted School House but are two in particular that I’d like to touch upon now. Due to the structure of the buildings haunters are required to use stairwells to access each level. These areas aren’t decorated and do not feature actors like the rest of the attraction for obvious safety reasons, and while all of this likely cannot be help it does break up the flow of the haunted houses. Just as your mind and body acclimate to the surroundings, you’re briefly pulled out of the show and the happy spell is somewhat diminished. The second feature I’m not crazy about is the design of the attraction. By and large, haunters traverse a clearly defined path with scenes generally to the left or right, or both. At times this approach took on the feel of a zoo or museum attraction and by never crossing those barriers the workers effectively suppressed whatever fear factor could have existed.

Both the Haunted School House and Laboratory were highly enjoyable haunted houses — the length was fair and as I’ve mentioned many of the scenes were highly detailed and immersive, but neither haunt truly used its building or theme to maximum effect — this was especially true of the Haunted School House. I have no doubt that managing attractions of such size and age is a unique challenge. Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder if years of prop acquisition and endless set modification hasn’t hampered rather than help the respective attractions. Then again, the major detractions at these haunted attractions may be more due to the structures in which they are housed and if that is the case there may be little the operators can do to rectify such. Only a fool would suggest that haunting is easy.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Haunted School House has Presence, lacks Punch

Posted in 2012, Haunted School House & Laboratory, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by bluefall8

There’s a certain magic present on long distance, overnight haunt trips that’s hard to describe. Maybe it’s the effect of being so far from home or the unbridled excitement of visiting haunted attractions you’ve only read about on the Internet. I know, for me much of it has to do with the adventure inherent to the open road. After checking into our hotel room a Super 8 in Richfield, we passed some time by telling old stories. I came across a horror movie on the Syfy channel called Stake Land, a post apocalyptic tale in which zombie-like vampires have pushed civilization to the brink of collapse. I found it surprisingly well done, driven by a raw melancholy and steady pace. We ordered subs from a local pizzeria called East of Chicago, the subs were delicious and a right steal at $6.25 — after all, what’s a night of haunting without some hardy vittles?

After a relaxing spell the haunting hour was upon us and we hit the road for the Haunted School House and Laboratory in Akron, and when we arrived it was amid a flurry of activity. The long line to buy tickets moved fairly quickly, we were soon ascending a series of staircases to the top floor. The stairwells were actually quite a neat feature of the building if not the attraction itself. The walls were covered in years of graffeti — here a name and date, there a lone curse word. The real pieces of interest however included those scrawls that evoked the spirit of the season — some patrons had left foreboding or cryptic poetry, others supplied artwork featuring common Halloween themes such as skulls and pumpkins. Years of haunters had left an echo from the past on the wall and I found myself yearning for a sharpie so that I too could add a memory to the wonderful mural. The spell of the walls was broken only when it was time to hand over our tickets and enter the darkness within the Haunted School House.

I had suspected from the quick pace of the ticket line that this would be an attraction that found many guests herded through at once, and while this isn’t our preferred method of haunting it is understandable for places such as this that draw very large crowds. Understand, groups do enter the attraction separately but the relatively short intervals by which parties are spaced and   the sheer volume of people attending the event, make it impossible to experience this type of haunted house with your party alone. We’ve witnessed this style before at other large venues such as Erebus and the Haunted Hoochie and it certainly has its drawbacks, but those simply force operators to compensate in other areas.

The Haunted School House featured many well detailed scenes, some environments were truly immersive and on occasion put me in mind of the Realm of Darkness in Pontiac. In one early room we witnessed a unique prop in the form of an ugly ogre that was perhaps 15-feet tall. In another scene, this one a vampire’s liar, a winged mutant stood atop what appeared to be the entrance to a cavern. One delightful room actually rocked us to and fro as the entire structure shifted beneath our feet! Another neat gag involved a scarecrow who had meet an unfortunate end, yet his detached arm was making an effort to find the rest of itself.

The Haunted School House also made use of water in several scenes which is always something I enjoy in a haunted attraction. Undoubtedly the coolest animatronic in the entire attraction was a water dwelling worm that broke the placid surface of a pool in search of food. Water was used again near the end of the attraction when we found ourselves traversing what felt to be an underground chamber, in fact the scene reminded me greatly of the set used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A large skull appeared to have been carved from the very stone the wall was made of and from his gaping maw poured a stream of water. In one area there appeared to be a long tunnel similar to a sewer in a major city but the path did not lead that way. Whether the structure was genuine or simply a neat illusion I do not know, but I would have liked to explore it just the same.

The Haunted School House connected most of these beautifully detailed sets with the winding, dark hallways common to haunted attractions only here the halls were often sparkling with green laser beams. There was also a robust amount of ghouls that populated the Haunted School House but most of them were in masks which detracted from the realism. I would estimate that the majority of the cast gave a fine effort but their was little in the way of extended interaction, improvisation, or creative vocalizations. The cast did deliver a few good startles but that was about it where scare factor was concerned.

I liked the Haunted School House, the scenes were superbly detailed and the length was fair but I was hoping the name of the attraction wasn’t merely a name. I can think of only one instance in which the theme that the name suggests was put into effect, that occurred in an old fashioned bathroom where a skeleton perched upon a porcelain hurled tailor made insults at passing haunters. This scene was more in line with what I expected and had hoped to see. Any time a haunted attraction is able to secure a unique building like a former school or funeral home, I feel that it’s important to play upon the history and atmosphere as much as possible. With that said, the Haunted School House is obviously doing something right — you don’t run for 39 consecutive years on luck.

Rating: 3.25 stars

High Expectations for Haunted School House and Laboratory, Bloodview Haunted House

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by bluefall8

This afternoon the original members of the Haunt Trinity reunite for an epic, overnight haunting excursion! Tonight we make our inaugural trip to the Haunted School House and Laboratory in Akron, Ohio. The Haunted School House has a storied history having once been the Thomastown Elementary School and currently holds the title as America’s longest running haunted attraction — scaring guests since 1974. The Laboratory once housed the Guggenheim Air Institute, the building is distinguished in American lore as reportedly being the only decagon shaped structure in the entire nation. Collectively the two attractions boast seven floors of haunted goodness — and are respectively celebrating 39 and 32 years of operation. The Haunted School House and Laboratory  has consistently been rated as one of the top haunted attractions in the country.

In addition to one of America’s most influential haunted attractions we will also pay a visit to Bloodview Haunted House in Broadview Heights, Ohio. Bloodview Haunted House is interesting in its own right, the attraction is staffed entirely by an improvisational theater group known as the Legion of Terror. Each weekend the theme of the attraction is altered and tonight we will bear witness to zombie mayhem. I have read reviews that suggest the queue line entertainment at Bloodview is as much a part of the show as anything inside the haunted house, tales of sirens and rampaging hordes of the undead have reached my ears.

I’m intrigued by what I’ve read about all of these haunted attractions and if tonight’s trip is even half as fun as our nocturnal foray to the Buckeye State in 2010, then we are in for one hell of a time. Happy Haunting!