Archive for the boneyard

2015 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2016 by bluefall8

2015-horrorlust-haunt-awards

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.

2015 Rotten Pumpkin: Scarecrow Hollow (The Boneyard)

Scarecrow Hollow had potential but it was squandered early and often; a couple of would-be standout moments felt clunky and incomplete. A few actors delivered average performances while the rest of the cast was unmotivated and uninspired.

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.

2015 Eerie Vibrations: Terrorfied Forest (Terrorfied Forest & Manor)

Honorable Mention: The Dark Box

After receiving an honorable mention in this category two years ago, the namesake of Terrorfied Forest & Manor snagged the prize in 2015. It’s hard to beat the natural ambience of the Terrorfied Forest, a half hour trek through ghoul infested woods.

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 our way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2015 Dark Horse: Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors

Honorable Mention: Psycho Path

Krazy Hilda’s is the quintessential feel good story and embodies the true spirit of the little haunt that could. Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors recaptured that classic Halloween feeling in 2015 with a show that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. This is the second time that Krazy Hilda’s has earned the Dark Horse Award, the first came during the 2011 season at the Barn of Doom when the old witch was stationed in Saline.

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.

2015 Killer Automatons: Dark Legacy

Honorable Mention: Rotten Manor

Dark Legacy built on the success of the 2014 season with a superior second act in 2015. This attraction gives visitors a little bit of everything and after securing this award two years running, it’s clear that automated monstrosities are a big part of the game plan for Dark Legacy.

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.

2015 Monster: Hush

Honorable Mention: Clio Manor

This was the award that I grappled with the most because 2015 offered up a serious field of haunted houses that featured talented and diverse casts. After much consideration Hush locked down the Monster Award in 2015 with a loaded back half that just wouldn’t be denied. This marks back-to-back Monster Awards for Hush.

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.

2015 Prop Master: Research Labs (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Honorable Mention: The Freak’s Show (The Boneyard)

Research Labs was so completely littered with household items and all sorts of common (and uncommon) junk that one might surmise it was actually occupied by the world’s most slovenly family. There was a level of authenticity here that most haunted attractions never approach.

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.

2015 Pulse Pounder: Abandon

Honorable Mention: The Dark Box

Heart-racing and hair-raising, Abandon was one of the most purely frightening haunted attractions I’ve ever visited. There was tension here fueled by a basic psychological, primal fear of the dark.

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.

2015 Samhain: Saturday, October 24, 2016 (Clio Manor, Exit 13, Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Honorable Mention: Saturday, October 31, 2016 (Rotten Manor, Abandon)

The immediate reaction from Saturday, October 24, 2016 was that it was one of the best overall nights we’d ever experienced. It was the kind of outing that leaves one exhausted and in need of a day of rest and reflection.

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.

2015 Haunt of the Year: Rotten Manor

Honorable Mention: Research Labs (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison)

Rotten Manor burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 2015. On Halloween, Rotten Manor put the pedal to the metal and never blinked. The facade is second to none, the attention to detail among the best and the scares a jumble of fright that kept us guessing with every step.

2015 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2016 by bluefall8

This list is not meant to compare one haunted attraction to another. The star system (1 – 5 stars) is merely meant to reflect how well I felt each individual haunt executed their particular show. Haunted attractions are a unique breed of entertainment and the quality of a show can vary from night to night, hour to hour and guest to guest for a great many reasons.

As you’ll notice, haunts are listed below in descending order. Where there are multiple haunts with the same star rating those attractions are listed alphabetically.

Again, this list should not be used to gauge which haunt is better than another. Primarily, I use these lists for archival purposes so that I can have a record of the haunted houses I visited and how those attractions performed in a given year.

2015 STAR RATINGS

1. Rotten Manor – 4.75 (Holly, MI.)

2. Research Labs – 4.5 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

3. Clio Manor – 4.25 (Clio, MI.)

4. Dark Legacy – 4.25 (Wixom, MI.)

5. Exit 13 – 4.25 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

6. Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village – 4.25 (Dearborn, MI.)

7. Abandon – 4 (Melvindale, MI.)

8. House of Horrors – 4 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

9. Hush – 4 (Westland, MI.)

10. Krazy Hilda’s Trail of Terrors – 4 (Ypsilanti, MI.)

11. Zombie Sniper Arena – 4 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

12. The Deadland – 3.75 (Warren, MI.)

13. Haunted House – 3.75 (Haunted Farm of Terror – Lenox Township, MI.)

14. The Dark Box – 3.5 (Pinckney, MI.)

15. Haunted Hayride – 3.5 (Haunted Farm of Terror, Lenox Township, MI.)

16. Proving Grounds Trail – 3.5 (Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Davison, MI.)

17. Psycho Path – 3.5 (Flat Rock, MI.)

18. Terror on the Blvd. – 3.5 (Lincoln Park, MI.)

19. The Freak’s Show – 3.25 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

20. Terrorfied Forest – 3.25 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney, MI.)

21. Cornmaze of Fear – 3 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

22. Deadwood Forest – 3 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

23. Fear Factory – 3 (Mt. Clemens, MI.)

24. Hayride of Despair – 3 (Past Tense After Dark – Lapeer, MI.)

25. Realm of Haunted Minds – 3 (Romulus, MI.)

26. Tunnel of Terror – 3 (Rochester, MI.)

27. Total Blackout – 2.75 (Exit 13 – Mt. Morris, MI.)

28. Bubbles’ Fun House – 2.5 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor, Pinckney, MI.)

29. Delirium – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

30. Scarecrow Hollow – 1.75 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

31. Route 666 – 1.25 (The Boneyard – Stockbridge, MI.)

Mass Exodus

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2016 by bluefall8

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While the cover art of the 2016 edition of the Fear Finder dazzled, the content inside the treasured seasonal publication left me yearning for more. Very few new haunts were featured, in fact, if you exclude the returning Scream Machine, there was just one new entry — Haunting in the Hills. Haunting in the Hills will include an outdoor trail of sorts, a haunted hayride and Train Car of Terror. This event will be held in Onsted, Michigan at the Stagecoach Stop Western Resort.

BLOODLETTING

So, who’s not in the Fear Finder this fall? Quite a number of places, actually. Below, I’ve highlighted some notable omissions.

Abandon, Bonadeo Farms, Exit 13, Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village, Haunted Elementary, St. Charles’ Village of the Living Dead and A Terror in Townsend Forest are not listed in the Fear Finder for 2016 but each of these attractions will be open and are advertised elsewhere.

WAITING GAME

Also missing in action are Erwin Orchards as well as Krazy Hilda’s; no word yet whether these haunts will be open or closed this season.

SHUTTERED

The Boneyard in Stockbridge announced several months ago that it would not be operational in 2016 so that particular vanishing act came as no surprise. Also dark for 2016 is Heck of a Haunted Barn in Monroe.

The big shock however was the announcement just days ago that Dark Legacy in Wixom would be closed. Dark Legacy is a powerhouse and had advertised everywhere since exploding on the scene in 2014, no specifics are known as to why it will be closed this season.

The biggest disappointment was word that The Dark Box will not be open after an intriguing rookie season. According to the folks there, the City of Pinckney took issue with the physicality employed at The Dark Box.

Wanted Dead or Alive: The Freak’s Show, Deadwood Forest Lasso Victims at The Bone Yard

Posted in 2015, Review, The Boneyard with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by bluefall8

Logo2014In terms of weather it wasn’t an ideal night to tour The Bone Yard which featured four haunted attractions, three of which were located outdoors. But we decided to brave the elements and were soon headed in the direction of Deadwood Forest. We would later discover that we had taken a wrong turn and bypassed Scarecrow Hollow which is now the first stop at The Bone Yard. Luckily, we happened upon Randy (Bone Yard head honcho) who pointed us in the right direction before we departed. But at the time we were unaware of our foible and strode headlong to the gates of Deadwood Forest.

DeadwoodForrestOLD WEST GHOST TOWN

Deadwood Forest is an ideal setting for a ghost town and appropriately sported a series of sizable structures that fit the old west theme. My only wish was that the various buildings were incorporated more thoroughly into the attraction; for the most part guests stick to the path while the intriguing wooden store fronts loom intermittently on either side of the trail.

The Lucky Saloon in particular would’ve made for an ideal scene for substantial interaction — perhaps a gun fight were staged or a buxom wench attempted to woe your party into an illegal game of cards? Absent such immersion and with a scarcity of live bodies, much of what we saw in Deadwood Forest was solely scenery and very good scenery at that. Just beyond the Lucky Saloon a corpse swung from the hangman’s noose.

The quiet ghost town did offer a few solid startle scares by way of chainsaw and one falling ceiling that crashed loudly just above our heads. We experienced a surreal moment while we traversed a swath of forest bathed in eerie blue ovals that resembled peacock eyes. Later, we squeezed through a narrow cave passage.

There was also an excellent junkyard scene near the end of Deadwood Forest where a torso had been roasted on a spit. Not far from there a snarling creature had contorted its body into a back bend and dashed toward us on all fours — perhaps he was saving the charred remains over the grill for a midnight snack.

Rating: 3 stars

route666ROUTE 666 IN SEARCH OF EVIL

We emerged from Deadwood Forest and walked a short way into the corn where we found a gathering of people around a bonfire. We were almost immediately loaded onto a wagon with high, metal framework on either side. It was a cool look and different than any other wagon I’d previously ridden.

The hayride featured very few actors although one strange ghoul who boarded the wagon did serve up some laughs when he oddly panhandled for food. There was a trailer scene with potential as well as a lone foreboding statue that put me in mind of the grotesque idol from The Shrine.

I can appreciate that The Boneyard offered an alternative to walking the distance to the next attraction and I understand that, as Randy explained the hayride was missing a key component, but Route 666 was abbreviated for a standard hayride and failed to engage those aboard.

Rating: 1.25 stars

theFreakShowTHE FREAK’S SHOW A GRAB BAG OF SIGHTS & SOUNDS

As we stood at the threshold for The Freak’s Show there was talk of pickled punks and the potential existence of a woman with the rare condition of a double uterus — never let anybody tell you that the person who acts as gatekeeper isn’t a vital part of the haunted attraction.

The Freak’s Show, The Bone Yard’s signature attraction, was home to a large, vocal cast who relied on jump scares and the occasional use of profanity to elicit screams. The halls of The Freak’s Show were filled with laser lights, a haunted photograph that appeared to be alive and one vibrating section of floor; we were twisted and turned in every direction.

The haunt was superbly detailed and had enough eye candy to induce an instant sugar coma — there was a doll room with a message scrawled on a dusty mirror, a rotten Christmas scene and elsewhere a carnival food vendor who had corn dogs gouged into his eye sockets!

We were made to crawl through a miniature womb of doom, pursued by a fat, mute dolly boy and blasted with some sort of fanciful air canon. There was even a clown who convinced one guest to enter a closet only to make a cheap crack about his sexuality once said guest had complied.

The actors did suffer from a creativity deficit where responses were concerned but balanced that with otherwise active, enthused performances. The Freak’s Show was an odd jumble of scenes at times but to its credit each area was highly decorated and not without some gag or scare. It was an assault on the senses and with some fine tuning can be better yet.

Rating: 3.25 stars

SINFUL SCARECROW HOLLOW

Scarecrow Hollow began with the whispered suggestion of a game — The Bone Yard Game. It was a point that I pondered as we pounded the dirt beneath our feet, my idle thoughts were soon interrupted when a scarecrow sprung to life and jumped from a wooden post.

Scarecrow Hollow did possess a solid amount of actors but few offered substantial interaction while most uttered forgettable one-liners. We did enjoy the hidden creep who amused us with a Yogi Bear routine, the demon too who patrolled the so-called Devil’s Lair put forth a fair performance. However, there would be no further mention of the tantalizing Bone Yard Game.

I regret that we failed to tour Scarecrow Hollow first as was intended — this attraction is not the closer and would’ve certainly serve best as opening act. Stupid wrong turn.

Rating: 1.75 stars

It has been my experience that bad weather and haunted attractions don’t mix well and that is especially true when a venue has outdoor events. The cold and wet sap energy from people, creature and customer alike. It was a concern that John and I discussed as we traveled toward The Bone Yard. True, the skies had never truly opened up with a downpour that day but the cumulative mist and drizzle was enough to dampen the overall effect.

Horrorlust Radio Episode #015

Posted in Horrorlust Radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by bluefall8

horrorlust radio

In episode #015 of Horrorlust Radio, I’m joined by fellow haunted attraction enthusiast, Mike Marvel.

In this installment of Horrorlust Radio, Mike and I discussed the highs and lows of the haunt season with particular focus on Mike’s recent trip to The Fear Experience and Bloodview as well as my visits to The Dark Box and The Boneyard. We also chatted about home haunts and explored the daunting task of going pro.

This edition of Horrorlust Radio also featured an installment of Pop Horror which examines the latest horror happenings in film and television.

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 015

SHOW NOTES

No creepier actors could’ve been cast for the parts of Isaac and Malachai; John Franklin and Courtney Gains’ respective portrayals of violent, child zealots provided serious nightmare fuel when I was a child. To this day I find their mannerisms unsettling and disturbing.

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

“Sally’s Song” by Catherine O’Hara (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)

Children of the Corn Theatrical Trailer, 1984

“Cemetery Drive” by My Chemical Romance (Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, 2004)

Isaac’s Sermon from Children of the Corn, 1984

“Helena” by My Chemical Romance (Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, 2004)

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Omens & Amulets

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by bluefall8

Hurricane Joaquin is dumping buckets on much of the eastern seaboard and here in Michigan a smattering of rain has fallen throughout the day and the forecast indicates that patches of rainfall are likely to continue across the region for much of the night, but this is what divides the weak from the stout of heart.

The game plan has us back on the road to Pinckney where a mysterious object has been found in the woods — The Dark Box. This attraction jumped off the pages of the Fear Finder three weeks ago with a stripped-down presentation and ominous warnings. The following is directly from the website of The Dark Box:

The dark box will be the SCARIEST haunted attraction you will ever attend. This is a real in your face haunt. You will be touched. You will be trapped. You will see what’s in the box?? Ask yourself do I have what it takes to make it through the box??”

I want to know what is in this box. Furthermore, just what is the exact nature of this box? Scariest haunted attraction ever? That is a bold statement and it is one that I intend to put to the test tonight.

The second half of our haunted journey will bring us to nearby Stockbridge where The Boneyard has a quartet of dark attractions — The Freak’s Show, Route 666 Haunted Hayride, Deadwood Forest Haunted Woods and Scarecrow Hollow Corn Maze. We last visited The Boneyard four years ago and absolutely loved the headline feature, Tent of Terror. What horrors will the demented souls who reside at The Boneyard unleash on this night?

2011 Review for The Boneyard

Thrills & Chills Dominate Hilda’s, Feargrounds and The Boneyard!

Pins & Needles

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2015 by bluefall8

I’m putting the finishing touches on plans for the night, we’ll either be heading west to tour The Boneyard and Jackson’s Underworld or shooting north in hopes of visiting The Deadland, Fear Factory and Haunted Farm of Terror.

Our one and only trip to The Boneyard in Stockbridge came during the 2011 season which proved to be an enjoyable night. Twice we’ve toured Jackson’s Underworld, we were disappointed with what we experienced in 2009 but then noted a considerable improvement during our most recent visit in 2013.

We’ve also toured The Deadland just once and that too was during the 2011 season. Despite the fact that it has been in operation for twenty years, this would mark our first journey to The Fear Factory in Mt. Clemens. And of course, how could I forget our excellent Devil’s Night adventure at Haunted Farm of Terror from 2009?

The decision will be made very soon and the open road will be ours. In the mean time, I encourage curious readers to experience all of the journeys mentioned above through the magic of Horrorlust reviews. Use the drop-down window on the right hand side of the screen to search by haunted house or year.

2015 Haunt Schedule: Never is Enough

Posted in Haunt Schedule with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2015 by bluefall8

The haunt schedule can be a restless beast — there are time restraints, geographic considerations, unexpected vehicle maintenance and of course the threat of inclement weather. The 2014 schedule was made all the more problematic when some friends and I decided to produce a home haunt for a Halloween party. The CikNis was held on Saturday, October 25, 2014 but the build began in early September and as it was quite an undertaking, the project limited the number of haunts I visited that month to exactly one.

In addition I acted in the Wyandotte Jaycees haunted house on three or four nights in late October and unfortunately several of my Friday nights were effectively wiped out because I was needed at work. Don’t get me wrong, both The CikNis and the opportunity to act with the Wyandotte Jaycees were worthwhile and fruitful experiences but my participation in each did eliminate potential nights from the road schedule.

This year there is no home haunt to consider and I have yet to determine whether or not I’ll reprise my role as the irrepressible Gerkins with the Wyandotte Jaycees, so with that said the haunt schedule will feature more flexibility this fall. Although, a number of my Fridays will once again be hampered by work responsibilities. But, over the years I’ve learned to roll with the punches and leave it in the hands of the haunt fates.

Below, in no particular order, are possible outings for the 2015 haunt season.

HIGHWAY TO HELL

Night #1 – The Deadland (Warren), Fear Factory (Mt. Clemens) & Panic at Pine Stump Hollow (St. Clair)

Night #2 – The Dark Box (Pinckney) & The Boneyard (Stockbridge)

Night #3 – Jackson’s Underworld (Jackson) & Shawhaven Haunted Farm (Mason)

Night #4 – Heck of A Haunted Barn (Monroe) & Haunted Hydro (Fremont, OH.)

Night #5 – Past Tense After Dark (Lapeer), Scott’s Rooms of Terror (Oxford) & Tunnel of Terror (Rochester)

Night #6 – Haunted Elementary (Bridgeport), Clio Manor (Clio) & Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Night #7 – Wiard’s Night Terrors (Ypsilanti)

Night #8 – Rotten Manor (Holly), Bonadeo Farms (Highland) & Dark Legacy (Wixom)

Night #9 – Abandon (Melvindale), Hush (Westland) & Krazy Hilda’s (Ypsilanti)

Night #10 – Woods of Darkness (South Rockwood), Psycho Path (Flat Rock) & Delirium (Wyandotte)

Night #11 – Slaughtered at Sundown (Armada), Haunted Farm of Terror (Lenox Township) & Scarefest Scream Park (New Haven)

I paid special attention this season to attractions that Horrorlust has never toured; there’s 13 listed and Krazy Hilda’s has relocated since our last visit in 2012. Once I identified some fresh blood I sprinkled in some old favorites that we haven’t patronized in a few years. I like that there’s wiggle room in the schedule to allow for unexpected circumstances, for instance, we could easily slot Shawhaven Haunted Farm alongside The Dark Box if need be.

I also wanted to be sure to hit each of the sponsors for Horrorlust Radio and furthermore limited the number of locations toured on any given night to just three. John and I did manage to hit four separate locations on November 1st last year but it was a breakneck pace that did suck some of the enjoyment out of the experience. Admittedly, some of the haunts listed are wild cards but we’ve gambled before and come away with enjoyable experiences.

OTHER HAUNTS OF INTEREST

Bloodview – One of my all-time favorite places. A different theme each weekend is a tempting prospect indeed. I wish it weren’t so damn far from my home.

Bates Haunted Saw Mill & JC’s Axe House – If Haunted Elementary or Clio Manor don’t pan out for any reason this Millington haunt could fit the bill.

Corpse Barn Shock Haunt – Enjoyed it last year, confident an even better show is possible. Plus, it’s hard to pass up if we’re near Jackson.

Darksyde Acres – The old pig farm has become a staple in recent years and it’s hard to resist that wild, unpredictable cast. It’s a haul though without much else in the area.

Dreadlands Haunt of Davison – Might be placed into rotation during trip to Past Tense After Dark if limited dates render lesser knowns unlikely.

The Haunt – I was once told by a veteran haunted house owner that, “If you haven’t been to The Haunt, you haven’t been anywhere.”

Realm of Haunted Minds – It’s close to home and has a throwback charm; I like to visit every couple of years.

7 Floors of Hell – That’s a lot of floors and I need that much haunting in my life. Plus, I love my overnight Ohio trips; especially those that give me an excuse to hit Bloodview.

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)

Dark Magnetism Part 2: Rob Johnson, Darksyde Acres

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by bluefall8

Last weekend the haunt community was shocked to learn of the untimely passing of Adam Ladd. Adam was the owner of Ladd’s Evil Acres in Hillsdale, Michigan and by all accounts was a man with a big heart and lots of friends; among those friends was Rob Johnson. As you’ll read, Rob spoke highly of Adam Ladd during our interview and emphasized the positive partnership that Darksyde Acres had forged with Ladd’s Evil Acres.

I hadn’t meet Adam myself, and yet I am saddened just the same because I know that a kindred spirit has departed this mortal plane. I’d like to extend my heartfelt condolences to all that knew and loved him; may his family find peace during this time of grief.

-Joel

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Horrorlust: What kind of obstacles/criticisms have you faced from community members, local officials, or even patrons?

Rob Johnson: Honestly, we have been blessed at DarkSyde Acres, before I made any commitment to build the haunted house I spoke with many of the local officials and residents surrounding the property to let them know my intent. I was met with the typical, “You’re gonna do what?” type of response, but overall the feedback was of a positive nature. There was a semi-local haunted house in a neighboring town, The Homer Mill, and everyone knew that and assumed that was what we had in mind. Heading into our seventh season, they all know now that we are not that type of haunted house and see us growing every year by leaps and bounds. Side Note: The Homer Mill burned down to the ground in 2010, destroying the haunted house and taking a historic local landmark with it.

We really haven’t faced a lot of criticisms at DarkSyde Acres, the majority of any negative press comes from other over enthusiastic haunted house staff trying to support their haunt by bad mouthing others, People that have never even visited DarkSyde and the occasional ex-DSA staff members that couldn’t follow the rules, and were asked not to return. From time to time, we will get a jealous girlfriend upset that her boyfriend was ogling the stripper on the pole in the RustHole Haunted House, until we point out that, we have no strippers at DarkSyde Acres and the girl on the pole is actually a boy and then the conversation goes to a whole new level. Typically we go out of our way to ensure that all of our guests leave with a positive memory of their visit to DarkSyde Acres, however as any haunted house owner can tell you, it is physically impossible to please 100% of the people.

Horrorlust: Are there any haunt operators who you look to for advice or with whom you actively engage in cross promotion?

Rob Johnson: Early on, I spoke with lots of haunted house owners, their advice was simply to not open a haunted house. Wait, what? That’s not what I wanted to hear, of course I’m going to open a haunted house, It was my dream after all — looking back I understand what they were saying. What once had brought me years of enjoyment quickly turned to work and frustration now that we were trying to make a living at it. I quickly learned what worked for other attractions across the country simply did not work for us out here in the boonies. I had to start from scratch and redesign the mouse trap.

I have always been of the belief that cross promotions are the way to go, and have tried to promote that within our industry. I would much rather cross promote with someone rather than compete with them for the limited market we have. Its a proven fact that most people who attend Halloween attractions, visit more than one a year, many visit more than one a night. Unfortunately, many times promoting another attraction can have a negative outcome, when the attraction you are actively promoting is in turn doing their best to turn guests away from your attraction, which we have found to be the case nearly every single time. Nothing stings more than having personal friends contact you to let you know that the haunted house you insisted they go to, told them that your haunted house sucked and was a waste of money. Hard to believe, but true.

There are many haunted houses that we recommend to our guests when we are asked about them, we highly encourage our guests to visit them and the few haunted houses that have not been quite so friendly toward us — we simply say that we haven’t been there and haven’t heard anything about them, be sure to let us know how you liked them, if you decide to go there. We have a strict policy at DarkSyde Acres never to bad mouth another attraction. We have one local attraction that goes out of their way to destroy our billboards, vandalize our actor’s cars, steal any advertisements they see and so on, we instruct our staff to be the better person and say nothing regarding them. Side Note: It makes me happy knowing that our lil’ ole crappy haunted house way back in the sticks terrifies the big scary haunted house.

Early last year we were contacted by a fellow that had a haunted hay ride nearby, and asked if we could give him a few pointers in regards to marketing, seeing that everywhere he looked he was seeing something referencing DarkSyde Acres. I explained to him that while I would love to be of assistance to him, I couldnt in clear conscious do so, with our past track record. He persuaded me into meeting with him, and by the end of our conversation I had agreed to give him a hand. Adam of Ladd’s Evil Acres in Hillsdale has proven to be a man of his word and we have a wonderful cross promotional relationship to this day. Ladd’s Evil Acres has since added a corn maze, and a pumpkin patch to his attraction, be sure to check it out in 2014. We have a similar relationship with the BoneYard Haunted Attraction in Stockbridge. By working together we can all help drive traffic to eachothers’ attractions and ensure we all have a successful season.

Horrorlust: Is it difficult to attract large numbers of visitors in such a rural location, and if so what kind of measures do you employ to draw in greater attendance?

Rob Johnson: This is where Old Man Cox and a burlap bag come into play, but even on a good night he can only scrounge up two or three if he cuts them up just right. Seriously though 80% of our guests travel two to four hours one way to visit us, which thankfully puts our target market into the Metro Detroit area and beyond. As I mentioned earlier what works for other attractions does not work for DarkSyde, such as radio advertisment. Our local market is swamped by one haunted house on the radio every year, you would be hard pressed to turn on a radio during September and October and not hear their ad on every station, on every single station break, so obviously trying to compete with that would be a waste of time and money. One year they went as far as to say ,”Don’t go to the DarkSyde” in their commercial, I don’t think it hurt us, but I’m sure it didn’t help us. The past two Halloween seasons we have not done any radio advertising at all, however when asked how did you hear about us during our exit poll, we get a surprisingly high amount of we heard your commercial on the radio.

We have had great success with our mobile marketing, and currently have over 120 cars, trucks, vans showing their love for the DarkSyde by sporting a large DarkSyde Acres Haunted House decal on their back window. We receive messages all of the time regarding their sightings. One of my favorites came from a fan who was visiting Disney World in Florida, when while in a traffic jam , the car next to her started beeping their horn to get her attention, apparently the other car lives locally and loves DarkSyde Acres Haunted House too. We also have good success with our roadside billboards, when the other previously mentioned haunted house staff are not tearing them down and throwing them into rivers and fire pits. Thankfully we put signs up within a 2 hour drive and the ones outside of our local market are not destroyed. Our first year open we put out these really awesome road signs that looked like actual road signs with a zombie crossing on them, we had 80,000 flyers printed that said just follow the zombie crossing signs. 90% were stolen the first night, with the remainder stolen the following night. We received calls all season asking where the damn signs were.

Social media has also helped get the word out to a larger audience and DarkSyde Acres has a strong Internet presence. In 2012 if you were to Google the word Michigan, DarkSyde Acres Haunted House would pop up on the first page. In the beginning Myspace was a huge help to spread the word, then Facebook took over, now unfortunately Facebook limits the amount of our fans that can actually see our posts which sucks zombie nuts because we put a lot of effort into the DarkSyde page. Ultimately, the number one success we have with our marketing would be our staff and FANS. They spread the word like no other, they vote for us in every contest , making us the number one haunted house in the Metro Detroit area, they drive around with our three foot long DarkSyde decal on their new cars, they wear our shirts and hoodies everywhere they go, and most of all they do not hesitate to tell you about their all time favorite haunted house in Michigan. I would like to take a second to say thank you to all of our staff and fans that make it possible for us to what we do. THANK YOU! From Rob, Atalie, Shane and all the guys and ghouls at DarkSyde Acres Haunted House.

Horrorlust: What are your long term goals or plans for Darksyde Acres?

Rob Johnson: Wow, our long term goals have changed a lot over the years, originally I wanted DarkSyde Acres to become the Bronner’s of Halloween. A Halloween attraction that would be open year round and attract guests from all over the world. (Sidenote: Have I mentioned that DarkSyde Acres has had visitors from nearly 40 different states, and 19 different countries?) Not to shabby for a little ole haunted house way out back in the sticks. While I would like to say that our original goal is still on the chalkboards, once reality set in, it was not a realistic goal. Staffing an attraction of this size is hard enough during Halloween season, seems as though we could always use just one more person here or there, but trying to staff DSA off season would be nearly impossible and a huge drain on the finances. I suppose we could create a separate haunted attraction all of its own and utilize nothing besides animatronics, and then flip the switch when guests arrive, but let’s face it, that’s not how DarkSyde Acres does things, so it was better to just place the original goal on a back burner.

One of the side goals to the original goal was to be the world’s largest haunted house, and that’s a goal that is easily accessible. Currently we rank in the top five largest haunted houses and once we have fulfilled our dreams of utilizing every square inch of our facility we will take and hold onto that title for a long time. We are currently using 6 of our buildings out of an available 14, and once we turn the remaining buildings into part of the attraction, it will take quite a lot to knock us out of the title. Not only would we like to be the largest haunted house in the world, but eventually we would love to be one of the best Halloween attractions in the world. That’s where actor training comes in — a haunted house is nothing without a core group of well trained actors. (Have I thanked our staff yet?) This goal is a harder goal, because there are some amazing haunted houses in the industry out across the country and they constantly raise the bar, with their set designs, character development, actor training, and FX makeup. I remember years ago just prior to the start of Bodybag Entertainment at a Transworld show, while at the costume ball, people kept walking up to me and mistaking me for Ben Armstrong of Netherworld Haunted House — that was a huge compliment for me at the time.

Back in 2010 I met Shane Rapkin, owner of Raven’s Wolf Entertainment. While we had admired each other’s work within the industry for years, we hadn’t made the step forward to actually become acquainted. He and his wife accompanied by a few other haunters from Ohio, had joined us for a weekend out here on the ranch. Shane soon became a fixture of DarkSyde Acres and is now a partner in the attraction. ( Sidenote: Years earlier Shane had been one of the many haunters that had approached me at Transworld, saying that I couldn’t do that. He had meant it in a good way, and years later here we are , doing “THAT” together.) Shane’s arrival came at a much needed time, a time where I really needed a boost to get DarkSyde moving forward, his positive outlook and fresh eye helped me regain the desire to do more, and he had a goal of turning Darksyde Acres into a travel destination. While I transformed the inside of the Haunted House into something out of a horror movie, Shane has transformed what was once the outside of an old pig farm into the illusion of a destination spot, much like Cedar Point and other well known amusement facilities. Combined with his phenomenal graphic work to promote our attraction, the overall view of DSA is one of pure awesomeness. Together our long term goals don’t seem that far away.

Horrorlust: What are some of your most memorable stories from your time operating Darksyde Acres?

Rob Johnson: OMG. Where would I even start to answer that question? Every night of operation at DarkSyde is a story in itself, you cannot collect as many freaks and geeks as we have and throw them all together and not expect there to be a story or two at the end of the night. When I orginally designed DarkSyde Acres Haunted House, I designed her to be a four tiered assault on the senses, starting with distraction, then startle , winding up to the hammer and ending with an oops I pooped my pants climatic ending to most key scare points within the haunted house. I’m proud to say that DSA has lived up to that and has provided us with many poopsie stories nightly.

Two of my favorite “Ooopsie I Poopsied” stories are as follows. One slow night a lone gentleman approached the entrance to the queue line. Before he entered I had a few minutes to chat him up, asking him where he had come from, how he had heard about DarkSyde, etc. In closing he had said that haunted houses did nothing for him and that he never got scared. I let him know that was about to change, and that he should be prepared to change his undies, He left me standing there with a “Yeah right” response and entered the queue line. An hour had passed and I saw him waddling toward me, I asked if he had a good time, and if he would like to go thru a second time, seeing how we were slow, and I wanted to like to keep the staff busy. He mumbled “Yes” and said he would like to go thru again and pushed past me. The stench was nearly unbearable as I watched him enter the haunt for a second time. Later that night while the staff sat around at the after party, that guy was the talk of the night. It seemed that he had let loose of all bodily functions at the very first scare and had managed to waddle through the haunted house not once but twice, gagging our staff all the while, before heading home without bothering to clean himself….. eeeeeeewwwwww!

The second “Oops I Pooped” story isn’t nearly as long nor detailed. One night I received a call over the radio that a porta potty was in need of a cleaning, That was odd because it was a Friday night and relatively early, but I made my way to said porta potty and opened the door to find what looked like an exploded atomic turd, there was POO everywhere, top to bottom, side to side. To this day I have no idea what that person had ate for dinner and no idea how they survived the explosion. Speaking of porta pottys, one of my favorite gags is to put a actor inside one of our porta pottys and wait for guests to run up to it after driving for 2-4 hours to get here, they always knock once, pause, and then open the door, that’s when our porta potty surprise jumps out, and our guests nine times out of ten have an accident right there and then. They get so mad and yell that they haven’t even bought a ticket yet, and we inform them that the first scare was on us, and if they want to pee their pants again, it’s gonna cost them twenty dollars — much to the enjoyment of their friends.

Other memorable experiences come from a different type of activity out here at DarkSyde Acres. We are one of the few haunted houses in operation that are actually haunted year round, and the paranormal activity always picks up during the haunt season — I would imagine due to the increased activity within the buildings. In 2012 during our opening weekend, we had numerous reports of actors touching, grabbing, and scratching our guests. We take these reports very seriously and investigate each one. The one thing in common was the location of the encounters, a ninety foot stretch of empty hallway where there are no actors present. When asked what the actor looked like, the answer was always the same — they didn’t see anyone. Insert creepy music here.

Many of our staff reports paranormal activity on a nightly basis, and many of our staff refuse to go into the buildings alone and avoid some sections at all costs, including two of my partners. Personally, I enjoy the interaction and every once and again the buildings will get the hair to stand up on the back of my neck, and I let the buildings know — well played building, well played and then make a hasty departure.