Archive for hayride of doom

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.


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.

2012 Star Ratings

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

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

2012 Star Ratings

1. Sinister – 4.75 (Utica, MI.)

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

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

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

5. Exit 13 – 4 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Average Rating – 3.36 Stars

Haunt Season Awakens with Visit to Scarefest Scream Park

Posted in 2012, Review, Scarefest Scream Park with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2012 by bluefall8

I can only hope that our record breaking trip to Scarefest Scream Park is an omen of things to come for the 2012 haunt season. This past Saturday, John, Richard and myself made the journey to the village of New Haven, Michigan to explore, of course, the frights and sights offered at one of Michigan’s numerous scream parks! We were lured to this particular location due to the half off special the haunt offered last weekend. Ordinarily, Scarefest Scream Park charges patrons $45 to experience four unique haunted attraction and that is indeed a steep price. Haunters can find coupons available online and in the Fear Finder, there’s a $5 off coupon which can be used on a single attraction or a $10 off coupon good for the all inclusive package. Anyway, we decided to check out the Castle of the Dead and Hayride of Doom which cost us a grand total of $15 — all in all not a bad price to start the haunt season.

I was struck by just how many people had attended the event this early in the season, we’ve gone to haunts many times during the last weekend in September and aside from the Homer Mill in 2008, they’ve always been very slow. The Scarefest Scream Park was alive with fun and fright however — I would guess that was due in no small part to the half off promotion. We headed first for the Castle of the Dead and were delighted to witness some fine line entertainment. It’s easy for talent at such attractions to view these so called preview weekends as being less important than the October dates but these creatures of the night were up to snuff. A young, energetic ghoul ran up and down the queue line, spouting silly phrases and providing laughs for waiting guests — he even copied my stance as I spoke to John and Richard and cracked wise with us for a few moments. Before long though, it was time to approach the large double doors that served as the entrance to the castle.

All in all, Castle of the Dead was a fairly average haunted attraction perhaps even slightly above average. On the positive side there were ample workers (I counted roughly 20) and it was of fair length, clocking in at nearly 15 minutes. The majority of the workers performed quite well but nobody stole the show or provided us with a particularly memorable moment. Those that did stand out include a black and white checkered hallway where a long haired, stilted ghoul impeded our path as well as a clown room with walls decorated with painted, neon balloons. There was also a cross dressing, bi-polar nutter who made ridiculous remarks only to apologize for his behavior moments later, and finally a funeral setting where an energetic deadite enthusiastically told us the story of how he killed his wife and implored us to lay hands upon her casket. We would learn shortly that she wasn’t dead at all, at least not dead enough — she bounded in from behind us and the two deranged love birds made sure we fled the scene.

Another highlight included the character we met before we even entered the castle walls. Atop the stairs was a couple of sorts decked out in wonderfully elaborate garb and make up. They mocked us according to their custom and then beckoned their brother, Mathias. Mathias was a physically imposing sight, measuring an estimated 6’4″ and 375 lbs. Mathias however was not simply an overgrown brute, he possessed a wit and theatrical knack unmatched anywhere else in the Castle of the Dead. He poked fun at us while displaying good comic timing and improvisational skills, and was a true artisan of his craft.

However, I did mention that Castle of the Dead was by and large an average haunted house. There were several aspects of the attraction that left a lot to be desired. The best example of this is likely the lack of a consistent theme. The haunted house is called Castle of the Dead and indeed the external facade suggests such as did the dress and manner of Mathias and his cohorts but the rest of the attraction was a mishmash of familiar haunt troupes — there was the aforementioned clown and funeral scene but also a radioactive room and a slaughter house setting. It felt some what lackadaisical and uninspired.

We also felt that the transitional hallways were too plain and in some instances too well lit. In my opinion one of the primary benefits of such passages in haunted attractions is the opportunity for guests to psyche themselves out but that doesn’t happen on a clearly lit path, had these hallways simply been dark with possibly some artificial fog this could’ve been accomplished. Our last major complaint was the lack of an interesting ending — what we saw was the all too familiar crazy-with-a-chainsaw. Don’t get me wrong, the chainsaw chase is a classic and it works in the right setting, but not here. Here would have been an excellent chance to rely on the established theme — why not an executioner chasing guests with an oversized axe? He could even slam it into the wall dramatically to spur on those hardier souls.

The haunt also employed a series of interactive rooms, wherein guests are asked to sit down or are told a story. Whatever the case may be, it’s all a set up for the next scare and in some instances this can work very well but as it did here, in conjunction with the inconsistent theme, provided a disjointed experience. The first occurrence of such took place in the first room of the attraction, an area designed to look like the room in the original Saw — this was where Mathias and his cohorts bid us adieu. It had promise but in the end there was little payoff. The second instance was the funeral scene which as I mentioned was one of the haunt’s highlights and the third was the execution we watched with the bi-polar cross dresser. The latter two in particular worked well on their own but as I’ve mentioned already, simply didn’t flow with the rest of the house.

Castle of the Dead wasn’t a bad haunted attraction by my standards but it didn’t provide any truly frightening moments, interesting environments, or cohesive theme. The majority of the cast did a fair to good job with several of them providing above average interactions but at the end of the day it was a pedestrian haunted experience.

Rating: 2.75 stars

The wait for the Hayride of Doom was considerably longer than Castle of the Dead as the crowd had swelled in size, once more I was struck at just how many people had attended the event this early in the season. When we did board our wagon we found our narrator to be a tall, slim male clad from head to toe in black. His dark hair hung in greasy strands across his pale face, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Manson. Throughout the duration of the ride he provided an impassioned and sometimes humorous account of the turmoil that had befell the land, he was excellent in this role.

The operators here have implemented a quiet stroke of brilliance — fitting the underside of each wagon with a series of strobe lights. This widely eliminates the need for lighting at individual scenes along the route, undoubtedly saving boatloads of both time and money. The hayride was a good length, I’d estimate it lasted anywhere from 15-20 minutes as we wound our way by a multitude of haunted landscapes including a village, prison, church, butcher shop, various graveyards, and finally a refugee camp. We passed through a massive barn at one juncture, crossed several bridges, and laid our eyes upon both a giant humanoid bat and an even larger creature that defied conventional description. Each scene supported a fair amount of prowling ghouls, my favorites of which included living doll girlies and , of course, zombies. The zombies ran about wildly thrashing and gnashing as they do — I even saw one haphazardly riding a Big Wheel bike in pursuit of the wagon! In my opinion however, it was the creepy living dolls that stole the show. These femme fatales dominated the landscape in one particular scene and emerged from the woods with a menacing gait that suggested their limbs were indeed molded from plastic and socketed into place. I also enjoyed the church scene near the end of the ride, a wooden walkway rose above the wagon and stretched across the path. A priest or druid of sorts was located in the middle of the structure wearing the skull of a steer of all things, angrily gesturing toward our wagon. The scene seriously put me in mind of the main village and certain baddies in Resident Evil 4 — I have no doubt that it was at least, in part, inspired by such.

The Hayride of Doom may not have been the raucous, rain drenched, Devil’s Night melee we experienced at the nearby Haunted Farm of Terror in 2009 but it was still very good. There was a lot to take in and I wish we could’ve made the trip once more — not only to soak in a more complete view of the scenes but also to enjoy the superb commentary that punctuated the hayride.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Scarefest Scream Park does feature two additional attractions — Terror Zone Maze and 3D Haunted House as well as Forest of Darkness and Yappo’s Fun House. We decided to skip those due to underwhelming experiences with 3D and maze attractions in the past (and the testimony of an acquaintance who attended the event last year). Personally, I would have preferred to check them out if for no other reason than we were already there but I do keep the feelings of my haunt brethren in mind and on this night I did what I rarely do and agreed to skip these final two attractions.

Weekend of Milestones

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by bluefall8

When I checked the mail yesterday afternoon it was to find the current issue of HauntWorld waiting for me. Today I hunted down a copy of the Fear Finder at a local Kmart thus making it the earliest I have ever obtained a copy. Finally, tonight myself and some veteran haunters are getting a jump start on the season with a visit to the Scarefest Scream Park — a trip that will set a mark for the earliest we’ve ever visited a haunted attraction! The current mark has stood for nearly three years, it was set on September 25, 2009 when we ventured to Jackson’s Underworld and the Homer Mill in what will always be remembered as an abjectly disappointing night. We’ll hope for better tonight as we make the trek to New Haven where we’ll experience Scarefest Scream Park’s Castle of the Dead and Hayride of Doom. These discounted September previews can often leave a lot to be desired but we’ve also made some great haunt memories on such trips, so there is reason for optimism.