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2011 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by bluefall8

As my small but faithful group of readers know I write a review for each haunt that I visit during the fall. In addition to that at the end of the review I assign the attraction a 1-5 star rating. It’s just my way of summing up the overall effectiveness/enjoyability of that particular haunted attraction. I take a lot of factors into consideration when I determine the rating things like — actors, theme, props, 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 for the overall experience. Below is a complete list of the haunted attractions I visited during the 2011 Halloween season ranked by their corresponding star rating. 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.

A quick aside before we get to all those goodies though — once more I’ve had a dream about haunted attractions and the beloved Fear Finder. In this dream I was riding around Lincoln Park in a car with my dad and my two sisters when I suddenly realized that it was Halloween. I began to sweat knowing that I hadn’t yet participated in any seasonal activities and then I reached a full blown panic when it dawned on me that it wasn’t just October 31 but also kids were out trick r’ treating! My sisters were dropped off at a friend’s house or something else similarly boring. I apparently was going to do something with my dad (unrelated to Halloween) and that simply could not stand. My dad tried to calm me down but his words mattered not! How in the blue hell had I forgotten about Halloween?! I opened the door to the car, jumped from the vehicle, and ran into the night in search of Halloween fun.

Next thing I knew I had entered the lobby of a haunt which was strangely situated on the grassy median of what seemed to be Electric Street. I found a stack of Fear Finder and greedily thumbed through one to see what haunts I could possibly hit. I quickly decided their was no time for such planning, I would merely run about feverishly looking for the next available haunt once I’d finished at my current location. On the cover of the Fear Finder was a depiction of a hooded character similar to Ghostface from Scream. The hooded phantom had strings attached to its’ fingers as if it were puppeteering the letters that comprised the phrase ‘Fear Finder’ below. The background of the cover was strikingly designed as stained glass windows; all things considered I think something in this vein would make a pretty damn cool cover for the actual Fear Finder.

Suddenly I was joined by my fellow haunters, John and Jason but before we could enter the attraction I wandered into a bathroom. The walls separating the stalls were comically short and in no way provided a sense of privacy. The stall next to me was completely filthy with feces and toilet paper spilling over the sides of the porcelain throne. I ignored the mess and began to urinate and then I noticed a large window in front of me. I peered out the window and discovered the turret of a castle mere yards from my current position. I took it to be a second haunted attraction and for the first time in this dream I started to feel as if I could salvage the night. I was brought out of my reverie by the arrival of my cohorts and a man I assumed ran the haunted attraction. He made some comment about the filthy stall next to me and then proceeded to jam his hands into the disgusting mess. He yanked a jagged block of ice out of toilet — excrement and used toilet paper jutted out at odd angles. As John and Jason stood by watching the man then acted as if he was going to heave frozen fecal bomb in my direction. After a few moments of  anger and disgust the man relented and began to laugh, turned out that the turdsicle was merely a prank he used to rile up haunters. An odd and tasteless tactic perhaps but now I was excited to see what this haunt had to offer to its customers.

However, as is the case with cool dreams, that’s when I woke up. Does anybody find it strange that as a grown man I’m having a recurring nightmare about missing out on the haunt season? What an awful prospect that would be!

2011 STAR RATINGS

Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom – 4.25 (Saline, MI.)

The Catacombs/Rusthole – 4 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Chelsea Feargrounds – 4 (Chelsea, MI.)

Tent of Terror – 4 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

13 Feet Under – 4 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Haunting – 3.75 (Adrian, MI.)

The Deadland – 3.75 (Warren, MI.)

House of the Dead – 3.75 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum – 3.75 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Crypt – 3.75 (Burton, MI.)

Realm of Haunted Minds – 3.25 (Romulus, MI.)

The Dark Abyss – 3.25 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Scarecrow Hollow – 3 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Barn of Blood -3 (New Boston, MI.)

Scream Machine – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

Deadwood Forest – 2.75 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Papp Park Trailer – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

The Funeral Home – 2.5 (Inkster, MI.)

Woods of Darkness – 2.25 (South Rockwood, MI.)

Lockdown – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

Papp Park Hayride – 2.25 (Taylor, MI.)

Big Top Terror – 1.5 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

Anxiety Alley – 1 (Lincoln Park, MI.)

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Anxiety Alley, Papp Park Induce Modular Mayhem

Posted in 2011, Anxiety Alley, Review, Taylor Northwest Little League with tags , , on October 31, 2011 by bluefall8

Last Friday was certainly not the most memorable night of haunting we’ve ever embarked upon but it was a night of haunting nonetheless. Earlier in the evening we enjoyed a meal at Mallie’s for John’s birthday where the food was tasty but the service left a lot to be desired. The Wings dropped at 4-2 decision to the rival Sharks and were even robbed of a goal by the often maligned officials but as this was a Friday in October I took it all in stride. Myself, Richard, and a slightly drunken John set out for a pair of local productions, first up was Anxiety Alley in my home town of Lincoln Park.

ANXIETY ALLEY A SHADOW OF FORMER SELF

Anxiety Alley, as best as my memory can serve, was the first haunted attraction that I ever visited. I remember traversing the dark halls with my mom, brother, and Aunt Lorie – I couldn’t have been much older than five or six at the time. Being so young and in such a strange environment my brother and I were both understandably terrified, in fact I have no idea what convinced my mom or aunt that a trek through a series of haunted trailers was just what two young boys needed. I don’t recall much other than screaming in terror as my aunt carried me in her arms. Strangely enough Jason and I each vaguely recall two bizarre scenes both of which seem unlikely to have actually taken place. During a moment of particularly horrific terror I can remember a monster resembling the creature from the black lagoon standing up inside of a bath tub washing itself. I said this shit was strange. The second as Jason tells it was a scene involving a well or pit in which visitors peered into a hole in the floor and witnessed an angry monster far below. This second memory if true would have been one hell of a cool illusion for a low budget haunt to have pulled off back in the late 80’s and the first, well that would remain strange in any era. One of these days I’ll make a point to question both my mom and aunt about the events of that night; perhaps they’ll be able to shed some light on what was clearly a very formative trip even if the horror of the experience kept me from understanding it at the time.

As a student at Foote Elementary rumors persisted every fall that there existed a trap door in one of the trailers that comprised Anxiety Alley. As the story went adventurous kids had used this rumored entry point to sneak into the haunted house. I was always quite fascinated by that story. I liked to imagine that monsters and mad men actually lived inside the structure waiting patiently for foolish youths to entire their domain. Over the years I visited Anxiety Alley a number of times, once with Branden when I was around 12 and then with Jason during the fall of ’96 – just before we moved to Frenchtown, and of course there were the nocturnal tropes that Cikalo and I embarked on from 2001-2004.

It was with all of these memories swirling about my mind that the three of us arrived at the familiar location but any hope of adding an exciting entry to the long history of the modular haunt was quickly dashed. When we pulled into the parking lot it was to find the costumed workers milling about outside the haunted attraction. They weren’t outside as line entertainment either; they were simply on a break as we were told. The workers were all teenagers and not one amongst them was remotely professional in their demeanor, we paid for our tickets and chatted briefly with the ticket seller while the rest of the staff scrambled to get into place. The scene didn’t inspire any confidence but I was determined to enjoy whatever nostalgia the old haunt had to offer.

The show began and was over in five minutes and there was a lot wrong with Anxiety Alley but first I’ll concentrate on what was done right. The passageways were dark and tight – two elements that for various reasons are essential to the success of a small, modular haunted attraction. I also noted the persistently haunting theme from Halloween beating steadily through the sound system, perhaps the best auditory band aid a haunt can ask for but alas 1,000 band aids wouldn’t have saved this ill-conceived and poorly executed attraction.

There are typically only a few scenes in any trailer haunt due to a lack of space but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, it just means that these spaces have to be used to maximum effect and Anxiety Alley fell far short of that goal. The scenes were uninspired, forgettable, and dull. There weren’t many props and there certainly were no animatronics, that’s to be expected given the venue but these facts do not have to spell certain doom. These conditions simply require operators to get creative with the space and budget that’s available. What really drove this production into the ground was the cast. I would rate 90% of the staff as entirely incompetent in the art of scaring. They were often found standing in plain sight and when spotted did nothing to elicit a scream, shriek, or startle. Most of them uttered not a word or sound; they simply looked at us and if we were lucky one might cock their head. Two workers in particular were content to do absolutely nothing at all. They were found seated on the floor, curled up in a nook. The pair gazed up as we past and that was it. There was one actor who performed well, a screaming girl who sung in lullaby tones whilst threatening our lives – sadly she became an afterthought amidst so much awfulness.

The folks running Anxiety Alley clearly have little knowledge of how a haunted attraction needs to be run. There’s no professionalism or organization and for $10 haunters deserve a lot more bang for the buck. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was the worst cast I’ve ever witnessed assembled in a haunted attraction. Sadly, this was nothing more than teenagers unleashed without supervision and they acted accordingly – immature, unprepared, and disinterested.

Rating: 1 star

“Got three, Chain Man.”

-The pronouncement that preceded our entry into Anxiety Alley, a fun bit of nostalgia in what was an otherwise very poor attraction.  

PAPP PARK HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS HAVE PROMISE

We drove to Papp Park in Taylor hoping to experience a better show at the Taylor Northwest Little League run haunted attraction. In the past this event has been referred to by several names including Papp Park Panic Attack and Terror Zone. Here, there are two events a modular haunt and a haunted hayride. Fortunately our trip here offered some fun and helped salvage the night.

We hit the haunted house first and were treated to a worthy effort by a team of volunteers. Thick fog blanketed the entire attraction which left us groping our way through shadows and mist; the haze also provided cover for lurking creatures. It was dead silent within the haunted halls and the actors did an admirable job under such circumstances by not carelessly giving away their location. The scenes were relatively simplistic but this approach mixed well with the heavy fog and dark, twisting passages. My favorite sequence saw us blindly stumble through a pitch black hallway only to be momentarily blasted with an overpowering flood of light.  Simple, effective strategies can go a long way at small, volunteer efforts; it’s these light touches that are often the difference between disappointment and success.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Richard and I headed to the wagon while John, not a fan of haunted hayrides, waited for us in the comfy confines of his car. The hayride was certainly amateurish but the operators compensated for this with a veritable army of ghouls. There were various small scenes along the route in which simple misdirection was employed prior to the wagon being assailed by a pack of nutters. The ride was accompanied by music and a bit of narration and all in all was a bit of fun. I was highly amused by a pint sized demon that popped out of a box, stormed the wagon, and manically brandished a sword at haunters. Another laugh came later when we witnessed a girl being munched on by a neatly placed wolf puppet. As the wagon wound toward the end of the trail we were surprised by slithering mummies, pursued by a gang of clowns, and paid a very special visit by Michael Myers. Taylor Northwest Little League has a nice, little production at Papp Park. With some tweaks this could become something special for the Downriver area.

Rating: 2.25

Forecasting the Final Outings

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , on October 28, 2011 by bluefall8

Tomorrow a number of us will gather at Mallie’s in Southgate to celebrate John’s 29th birthday, afterwards it’s off to Anxiety Alley in Lincoln Park, Psycho Path in Flat Rock, and finally Papp Park in Taylor to experience the offerings of the Taylor Northwest Little League.

Plans for Halloween night will take shape over the next few days however one place we will not visit is the beloved Extreme Scream. After much speculation the haunt is indeed closed for the 2011 season.

Altered Realities, Altered Plans

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , on October 1, 2011 by bluefall8

I talked to my contact at the Woods of Darkness just a short while ago and the weather conditions have once again forced them to close up shop for the night. I have been assured however that the attraction will be open tomorrow night. Nothing to fear though for we have found a replacement for tonight in the form of the Funeral Home in Inkster. It’s held in a genuine former funeral home and that at the least is reason to be optimistic. In conjunction we’ll also visit the 2008 Dark Horse Award Winner, the Realm of Haunted Minds at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus. I wonder if our creepy, crawling dark dame still inhabits the halls therein? One can only hope.

One last update before we’re off, on a whim I called the folks with Taylor’s Little League that runs the haunted attraction out of Papp Park and it too is open tonight. We’ll keep this in mind for future nights of haunting in our nearby area.