Archive for the lab

Phantom Forest Hayrides & Other News

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by bluefall8

This is an obscure but neat read originally posted October 9, 2007. The majority of it is dedicated to my experience as member of the team at Phantom Forest Hayrides in Grosse Ile during one weekend that season. Unfortunately the pictures that I reference several times are not available anywhere on Horrorlust.

Also included in this entry is a link to a short, but vital article about Night of the Living Dead — it is highly recommended. 

Last Friday and Saturday I worked at Phantom Forest Hayrides but before I get to my review of that experience I have a number of other Halloween related topics to cover. Well quite obviously I have yet to find a more suitable title for this column although Hallowblog is actually growing on me so it may not change at all. I had thought about titling it Bad Moon Rising after the song but it didn’t seem sufficient and I haven’t thought of anything else. So be it.

A lot of networks feature Halloween themed programming in celebration of the season, a few notable examples are 13 Days of Halloween which runs on the Sci-fi channel beginning Friday, October 19 and 13 Nights of Halloween on the ABC Family channel premiering the same night.

I found a recent article on Night of the Living Dead, it’s short and sweet:

Undead: Year Zero

This Friday we’ll be hitting some combination of the downriver haunts. The Lab in Grosse Ile and Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte make a good natural coupling when considering routes. If time allows for a third haunt The Scream Machine or Anxiety Alley would do nicely. I would also like to do some haunting on Saturday. Missy and I have talked about heading to an orchard, The Festival of the Dead in Belleville has my vote but if we don’t do that we may just knock out a local haunt. If it’s a local haunt The Realm of Haunted Minds in Romulus or Papp Park Panic Attack located in Taylor would make worthy candidates.

My experience at Phantom Forest Hayrides was a lot of fun. When I first arrived I took a tour of the trail and snapped a number of pictures which have been posted in a separate album labeled “Phantom Forest Hayrides.” Initially I thought the sets were slightly lackluster and unlikely to scare very many people but as the sky darkened the woods grew increasingly menacing. The trail offers up a naturally frightening ambience as it is set in a heavily wooded area with active wildlife stirring up mysterious sounds in the brush. I witnessed several deer on the trial and had a number of instances when something large moved in the dense woods out of sight. I told myself it was deer but try to maintain that thought when you’re alone in the woods surrounded by darkness.

As it turned out I was the first and last scare that customers would experience, in all there was only seven people working the event, each responsible for two spots save for the old guy named Leonard. Most members of the staff had walkie-talkies so everybody usually knew precisely where the tractor was. When the tractor was set to enter the driver would radio that they were indeed heading in and I’d hide in the brush and set off a fog machine. Typically I’d let about half of the wagon pass before leaping forth and that seemed to be a good strategy. After each wagon passed me it was pulled through a black tunnel and then around a corner. Obscured from view I’d begin to walk the path to my next spot. I followed the same path as the tractor until the gang of grim reapers at which point a clearing was cut through the woods and it was here that I was able to gain access to the opposite side of the trail which probably seemed like quite a distance to anyone unaware of the short cut.

The hearse scene which is also included in the pictures served as my second spot and what a great spot it was. By night the scene is flooded with an eerie greenish-blue light and I was positioned behind a tree on the opposite side of the road. It was very rare that anyone turned their gaze from the hearse scene probably convinced one of the figures would move and therefore the attack from the other side was almost always pulled off with much success. My favorite scare may have been a woman who literally threw herself off the bail of hay which she sat upon and squirmed on the other side of the tractor floor.

The whole back and forth ordeal became a bit of a workout when business picked up and the operators began running two tractors. It was unseasonably warm last weekend but I opted to wear a hoodie anyway so that I could protect myself from mosquitoes and poison ivy. I worked up quite a sweat hustling back to the first position as the call typically came over the radio that another tractor was pulling out before I’d even passed the grim reapers.

The staff was nice and has been running the attraction for eight years. Its family owned and operated and I feel quite well run for the decided lack of quality help. I asked Leonard (the old guy) how much the ad in the Fear Finder cost and he told me it ran about $600. That’s just to have the basic information printed in the back section by the maps; booming publication Mr. Terebus and company are running, isn’t it?

Phantom Forest Hayrides isn’t going to give you terrifying scares or striking eye candy, it lacks in sleek props and deathly scares but the creepy natural ambience balances things nicely. Much of the experience will rely heavily on the workers whose enthusiasm can wax and wane throughout the night. At just $8 (that includes cider and a donut) I think it’s a great place for younger audiences and ideal for families. Adult and teen haunt-goers will want to seek something more elaborate if tension and fear is what you seek. Although if you’re in the area, for example at The Lab, Phantom Forest Hayrides would serve as a good buffer haunt before hitting that next terror filled endeavor.

Erebus Snuffs the Light with Summer Scream

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2014 by bluefall8

It isn’t often that haunted house adventurers get a chance to experience screams outside of the fall season but this summer that is precisely what Erebus plans to offer. For three days in July the Goliath of Pontiac will open the doors to visitors for a special event. On July 11, 12 and 13 — for the first time ever — guests at Erebus will traverse the 4-story edifice in total darkness, armed with nothing more than a single glow stick.

Other haunted attractions have featured Lights Out nights as well, usually on select days during the haunt season. For example, The Lab which was located on Grosse Ile held a similar event every Friday and Saturday night from Midnight – 1am in 2009. We did tour the Lab that season but it wasn’t during the Lights Out timeframe; that fact only heightens my excitement for a potential visit to Erebus under such conditions.

The total blackout will take place at Erebus on Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 from 7pm – 12am and then on Sunday, July 13 from 7pm – 11pm. Tickets for Friday and Saturday will cost $28 while Sunday admission will run $25. For more information on ticket sales click on the link: Haunted Pontiac

I can’t think of a haunted attraction more appropriate to host such an event, the sheer size of Erebus alone should prove to make the journey through the dark a frightening and psychological affair. After all, as is printed in the pages of the Fear Finder, Erebus is, “…the darkness beneath the earth, which the dead must pass to reach Hades.”

10475461_10152109518656338_1666273208753615192_n

The Haunt List

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2014 by bluefall8

As you’ll shortly read, I was still toying with an alternate name for Hallowblog when this was first written; however the name would ultimately stick.

I suppose this can be viewed as my own pared down version of the Fear Finder; over the years I did end up visiting the majority of these haunted attractions. As of 2013, 15 of the 22 attractions listed remained in operation in some form.

The curtain fell on Deadly Intentions in 2012 although The Deadland currently uses the same building. The Lab and Chainsaw Creek last ran in 2009. To the best of my knowledge, Scare Grounds at the Fairgrounds closed up after 2008 and  Death Sentence, Motor City Massacre and Nox were open only during the 2007 season. This was originally posted October 4, 2007.

I’ve compiled a list of haunted attractions I’d like to visit this season, I realize it is quite unlikely that I make it to each of these but this list is simply meant to serve as a general guideline. If any of these sound interesting just let me know and we’ll make the trek you rotten bastards. Jason and Disco have served as my fellow haunt-goers the last three years but we wouldn’t mind a few new faces.

In other Halloween news, I’ve decided against running the companion blog to the Halloween themed Word of the Week. No worries though, I have plenty other Halloween content to provide and it is quite likely that anything that would have appeared in the companion blog will simply be infused into this column, Hallowblog. And that brings me to my next point; I’ve received no suggestions for an alternate blog title so that means I’ll pick one of my own making in the coming days.

If you’re looking for on-screen horror check out Flight of the Living Dead which was released on DVD October 2. No, I haven’t watched it but c’mon it’s got zombies. 28 Weeks Later will also be available on DVD October 9. At theatres horror fans can watch Resident Evil: Extinction, Saw IV premiering October 26, or the vampire thriller 30 Days of Night beginning October 19.

That’s all the news I have for now so look over the list below and tell me what strikes your haunting fancy.

In no particular order:

The Scream Machine & Carnevil of Lost Souls

Taylor, MI./$12 for Scream Machine or $16 for both

Hours: Sun-Thurs: 7-11, Fri-Sat: 7-Midnight

Run Dates: 9/27-11/4

The Lab

Grosse Ile, MI./$12

Hours: Sun-Thurs: 7-11, Fri-Sat: 7-Midnight

Run Dates: 9/28-10/31

Anxiety Alley

Lincoln Park, MI./$6

Hours: 7-11

Run Dates: 10/12-13, 19-21, 26-30

Erebus

Pontiac, MI./$20

Hours: Sun-Thurs: 7-11, Fri: 7-1, Sat: 6-1

Run Dates: 9/28-11/3

The Realm of Darkness

Pontiac, MI./$19

Hours: Sun-Thurs: Tix on sale @ 7:30, Fri-Sat: Tix on sale @ 7

Run Dates: 9/21-23, 28-30, 10/5-7, 11-14, 18-31

Terrortown

Maumee, OH./$10 for main attraction or $16 for three

Hours: Sun: 7:30-10, Fri-Sat: 7:30-Midnight, Halloween: 7:30-10

Run Dates: Fri, Sat, Sun starting 9/28-10/28, also 10/31

Chainsaw Creek

Toledo, OH./$10 per house or $20 for all four

Hours: Sun-Thurs: Dark-11, Fri-Sat: Dark-Midnight

Run Dates: 9/28-10/15 (Thurs-Sun), 10/18-10/31

Scare Grounds at the Fairgrounds

Michigan State Fairgrounds/$13

Hours: Sun-Thurs: 7-11, Fri-Sat: 7-Midnight

Run Dates: 10/12-10/31

Hell’s Hospital

Wyandotte, MI./$10

Hours: Sun & Thurs: 7-10, Fri-Sat: 7-Midnight, Mon & Wed (Halloween week) 7-10

Run Dates: 10/6-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-31

Realm of Haunted Minds

Romulus, MI./$10

Hours: 7-10

Run Dates: 10/5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, 29-30

The Carn-evil of Fear

Flat Rock, MI./$10

Hours: 8-11

Run Dates: 10/19-20, 26-27

Haunted Hill Acres

Belleville, MI./per event

Hours: Tix on sale @ 7

Dates: Every Thurs-Sun in October

Phantom Forest Hayrides

Grosse Ile, MI./$8

Hours: Fri-Sat: 7-11, Sun: 7-10

Run Dates: 9/28-30, 10/5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-30

The Pumpkin Factory

Belleville, MI./$6

Hours: Fri-Sat: 7-10, Sun: 7-9

Run Dates: Every Fri-Sun in October

Slaughtered at Sundown

Armada, MI./$12 or $20 for both attractions

Hours: Begins @ 7

Run Dates: 9/28-10/27 (Fri-Sat only), 10/21, 10/28

Blake’s Nighttime Spooky Hayrides

Armada, MI./Call for prices (586) 784-9710

Hours: Dusk-?

Run Dates: 9/28-29, every Fri-Sun in October

Fear Factory

Warren, MI./$17

Hours: 7-?

Run Dates: 9/21-23, 28-30, 10/4-7, 10-14, 17-31

Motor City Massacre

Roseville, MI./$15

Hours: 7-till the Massacre ends

Run Dates: 9/28-29, 10/5-7, 12-14, 18-31

Death Sentence

Waterford, MI./$12 (Sun-Wed), $15 (Thurs-Sat)

Hours: Sun-Wed: 7-11, Thurs-Sat: 7-1

Run Dates: 9/28-10/31

Nox

Troy, MI./$17

Hours: Weekdays: 7-11, Weekends: 7-1

Run Dates: 9/28-30, 10/3-7, 10-14, 17-31

Castle of the Dead

Lenox Township, MI./$16

Hours: Thurs & Sun: 7-11, Fri & Sat: 7-1

Run Dates: 9/28-30, 10/5-7, 12-14, 18-21, 25-31

Deadly Intentions

Warren, MI./$13

Hours: Weekdays: 7:30-11, Fri-Sat: 7:30-1

Run Dates: 9/21-30 (Fri-Sun only), 10/4-21 (Thurs-Sun only), 10/25-31

Hush Amping Up for 2014

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by bluefall8

1452073_1439706296248567_603482479_n

Hush Haunted House took the Detroit haunt scene by storm in 2013 — the rookie attraction exceeded all expectations and was dubbed Horrorlust Haunt of the Year. If you follow Hush on social media it’s clear that the minds behind the madness are hard at work for 2014 as well.

Hush had a presence at Motor City Nightmares in April and was visible once more this month at Motor City Comic-Con, and now on Facebook the surging, young haunt has released a mini-documentary chronicling their 2013 build process. It’s a neat glimpse into the nuts and bolts of a haunted attraction and I recommend that one and all give it a watch. I’ve posted a link to the video below; the keen eye might even notice a familiar name.

Hush: Divulgence of a Haunt

The 2014 theme reminds me a lot of The Lab which was a fun haunted attraction that ran on Grosse Ile between 2006-2009. It will be very interesting to see the science-gone-bad template given the Hush treatment. I’m already chomping at the bit to witness the abominations created by the irrepressible Dr. Phineas C. Phun.

Elements Conspire but Erwin, Slaughter House Persevere

Posted in 2012, A Nightmare on Elm Road, Erwin Orchards, Review, Slaughter House Adventure with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by bluefall8

It isn’t often that our haunting party has so few but on Friday night it was only myself and John, the faithful Disco Devil, that were able to participate in what turned out to be a very fun night of haunting. Large portions of the state had experienced rain throughout the day and indeed as we departed the roadways along our path were mostly rain soaked, but it takes more than a little rain to damper our haunting hearts. With John executing his deft skills behind the wheel we arrived in South Lyon at Erwin Orchards just before the eight o’clock hour.

BARN OF HORRORS, CORN STALKERS MAZE FUN FOR ALL AGES

It isn’t easy to strike the right balance of fun and fright but the operators at Erwin Orchards have done just that, successfully creating haunted attractions that can be enjoyed by people of various ages and haunting experience. When we paid the price of admission we weren’t given tickets but rather some quaint, wooden tokens — one for the maze, barn, and one redeemable for free cider and donut. Complimentary treats, I think, are a nice way for haunt owners to show their appreciation to their customers (both the donut and cider were quite tasty by the way).

It certainly wasn’t a busy night at Erwin Orchards but that didn’t stop us from getting acquainted with some fellow haunters, joining us on our wagon was a 20-something couple with roots in Pennsylvania and a mother with three excited boys, aged 10-11. The couple from Pennsylvania confessed that they too were avid haunters and spoke highly of a recent trip to the Niles Haunted House Scream Park in Niles, Michigan. They also talked about their experiences working at a haunted house in Pennsylvania called Hundred Acres Manor. The couple adamantly professed the attraction to be genuinely haunted, regaling us with stories about volunteer groups who routinely report a party of four boys that mysteriously becomes three. As they tell it, the sightings occur routinely and always at the same location in the haunt. It’s an attraction that I’ve heard of before but don’t know much about. I’ll certainly read up on it after the stories I was told.

Once our wagon reached the destination, John and I entered the line for the Barn of Horrors and were as it turned out the first patrons of the night. A bat-like humanoid harassed waiting guests, a giant sized glowing clown stood ominously at the entrance. A friendly witch approached us, beckoned us into the Barn of Horrors and to my surprise failed to collect our wooden tokens (more on this later). The Barn of Horrors turned out to be a very fun haunted attraction, the fear factor wasn’t very high but that’s not to suggest that the workers were at fault, in fact several of them delivered quality startles. The haunt featured a good pace and well placed actors — there were no long lulls in the action or awkward empty spaces. In terms of design, layout, and props the Barn of Horrors reminded me of the Tent of Terror at the Boneyard in Stockbridge which in my mind is a good thing. Neither of these haunts are particularly terrifying  — they aren’t exactly old school but nor do they rely heavily on animatronics, what they offer is more of a mix of styles and as we’ve witnessed the results are generally positive.

The scenes were a bit of a mishmash but there seemed to be enough of a thread to pull the whole thing together. The earliest rooms resembled a haunted estate before giving way to a swamp atmosphere which turned finally into an industrial wasteland that put me in mind of Grosse Ile’s former haunt, The Lab. A few of our favorite features included a hallway with an infinity floor where neon colored portraits of classic Hollywood monsters adorned the walls. There was also a warped Grandfather Clock with a human face where the time plate should’ve been and an arm where the pendulum belonged. We were also mesmerized by a blue vortex effect that had us believing we could walk through walls.

I was particularly taken with the swampland area — foliage covered the walls while a combination of fog and lasers created a disorienting effect that caused me to question whether or not the floor was literally shifting beneath us. I’m not sure if that’s a regular side effect of the illusion or if my equilibrium is simply loopy, but it was pretty cool all the same. We also traversed a rope bridge while a massive alligator patrolled a nearby bank, were assailed by zombies from below and snakes from above, and assaulted with knives, chainsaws, and one incredibly foul odor! The adventure ended with a trek through the familiar vortex tunnel.

Once we had exited the witch who had first directed us into the Barn of Horrors approached us once more and said that she didn’t believe her monsters were quite ready when we entered and thus offered us a second trip through the attraction. As I’m sure many of you have guessed, we graciously accepted her offer but not before we checked out the Corn Stalkers Maze!

Admittedly, the haunted maze is not our preferred choice of haunted attraction but the setting was right amidst the corn and as it turned out the attraction wasn’t without merit. Appropriately timed at roughly twelve minutes, Corn Stalkers Maze featured a fair amount of ghouls, the most notable being a mischievous deadite who asked us not to eat the dead body he was saving for dinner. We soon found his meal, it was being devoured with relish by a canine-like man who issued a warning in the form of a low growl as we passed. There was also a hefty, chainsaw wielding Letherface who made for an imposing sight near the end of the maze.

Rating: 3 stars

After that we headed back to the Barn of Horrors where we sought refuge from the elements under the umbrella of fellow haunters. The man reminded both John and I of a certain family we know, the resemblance and mannerisms were uncanny. For what it was worth we exchanged a few tasteless jokes and some laughs and would later encounter the inebriated pair once more inside the attraction. To the Barn of Horrors credit the second pass was no less enjoyable than the first, the cast no less rollicking. I had a bit of fun with the first actor who shakes patrons hands and asks them for their name. He had naturally forgot my name and when I pressed him for an answer he insisted that my name was Jeremiah — I admired his cool under pressure. In the swamp area we caught up with the aforementioned couple who were shrieking with delight and clinging to each other as if their lives depended on it. For seasoned haunters like John and I it was a highly amusing experience. We halted in a chainsaw room in order to give the couple a minute to separate from us and the actor there did not disappoint and simply stand idly. No, this boy went full gear sawing into a corpse then ditched the chainsaw and with wild abandon tore into the prop with his teeth — full marks for that, my friend. The worker resembled the actor that played Van on Reba and because of this I sort of felt like I already knew him and playfully suggested that he squib the prop. He laughed quizzically and then said, “What?” I left it at that.

In the next room was our absolute favorite moment from the Barn of Horrors. A massive, bearded dwarfish creature was trapped in some kind of contraption — it looked as if something were yanking his head right off his body! And then it happened, his head was torn asunder…and yet…the hulking body shambled forward! This was all pulled off to great effect during the first walkthrough, the second go around was just as fun and ended with a bro hug between John and I and our new headless friend. As I mentioned earlier we were chased out of the attraction by a smell most unpleasing and that smell was indeed the cheesy scent only vomit can produce. No worries, it was all part of the show — a barfing animatronic spilled spew into a barrel near the end of the attraction, the smell of course was added for realism. It worked, a little too well — John and I were covering our faces and gagging quite literally.

The Barn of Horrors was a very enjoyable haunted attraction featuring a lively cast, above average visuals, and a couple of neat surprises. A bit more length wouldn’t hurt nor would a little more emphasize on narrative or interaction.

Rating: 3.5 stars

“…and one more thing, don’t eat the corn.” 

“People eat the raw corn?”

“We’ve had problems.”

-Ghoulish Girl and myself while she explained the rules of the Corn Stalkers Maze

Once we’d consumed our cider and donuts we hit the road to Fowlerville but, as is the custom here in Michigan, we were rerouted due to construction. We ended up on some darkened, strange road and witnessed a large, ominous structure that rose up out of a valley and towered over the road. We always seem to find a least one odd structure on our haunt excursions and we dubbed this one the Buno Road Bizarro Estate. Forty minutes later Erwin Orchards and the weird building were firmly in the rearview mirror as we arrived at Grand River Corn Maze and Slaughter House Adventure!

SLAUGHTER HOUSE DAZZLES WITH CHARACTER AND ILLUSION

I mentioned in a post last week that I’m a sucker for barn haunts and as John and I approached the towering red structure before us I was immediately impressed. This barn had character and a ceiling that rose to a crest at least fifty feet above our heads. I soaked in the decorations and ambiance as a witch near the haunt’s entrance explained the rules of the house. A short while later the door was opened and we were beckoned into the dark depths of Slaughter House.

We emerged roughly fifteen minutes later having witnessed an excellent show highlighted by theatrical performances and dazzling illusions. It isn’t a stretch to say that Slaughter House now resides on our short list of favorite haunted attractions, it is precisely locations such as this that keep us on the road searching for that next great haunt fix.

Slaughter House relied heavily on interaction between haunters and actors.  This strategy can sometimes backfire, if an actor’s timing is off or their improvisational skills lacking the interaction will come across as awkward and disjointed and the show will suffer as a result. However, this was not the case at Slaughter House – by and large the cast was well timed, enthusiastic, and in command.

The various rooms were well designed and adequately detailed, thematically each scene was relatively consistent with the one that proceeded it – save for a few exceptions but these did not detract much from the overall quality of the show.

Without giving too much away one of our favorite features was the most convincing elevator simulation I’ve experienced at a haunted attraction. We also enjoyed the increasingly ubiquitous spinning vortex tunnel and a shockingly tight Womb of Doom. There was also a very cool hallway designed with diagonal walls. There should be no doubt however about the engine of Slaughter House – character and illusion.

There was Billy Wonka, an eccentric inventor, who delighted in his creations most namely the spirit remover or spover as he called it. And how could I forget Junior, the rather special son of Billy who found himself in need of some extra restraint, shall we say. We were also treated to an exorcism, a beheading, and a hanging – all of which left us both impressed and amused. Slaughter House also does something else I’ve never witnessed at another haunted attraction – don’t be surprised if you make some friends along the way and try not to take it too hard when those friends are sent straight to the depths of Hell!

The grand finale to all of this wonderful magic involved a séance of sorts led by an elderly actress who was great in her role. It was oddly refreshing to see someone of her age working a haunted attraction. We particularly enjoyed the ending because it was so unique and full of energy.

Slaughter House was quite simply a blast. Of course not all of the illusions were as impressive as the ones I’ve hinted at above but that’s largely due to the fact that the ones I’ve covered set the bar so high. My favorite scenes and accompanying illusions involved actors persecuting what seemed to be innocent victims. These scenes were visually stunning and the cause of much laughter. My only complaint is that Slaughter House wasn’t longer but heck I say that about most of my favorite attractions. It isn’t often that we find a Haunt of the Year contender this early in the season but surely Slaughter House is in the running. We cannot wait to get back and check out both the Haunted Maze and Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride.

Rating: 4.5 stars

YOUNG UPSTART HAS POTENTIAL, NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Our night of haunting came to a conclusion in Webberville where we checked out two haunts at one location. A Nightmare on Elm Road is the primary attraction, The Sequel is billed as the sidekick but in reality the two are essentially the same haunt. Guests pay $10 to experience the first and an additional $5 for the latter. I don’t bear a grudge to anybody trying to make an honest buck but in all fairness I feel the entire location would have been more appropriately priced at $10, but enough talk of money — there’s a haunt to be reviewed!

A Nightmare on Elm Road seems to be situated at the rear of a homeowner’s property — a shantytown of sorts is propped up near a cluster of trees. There was scarcely a wait as John and I quickly found ourselves shut into a small room. A rather forgettable video played before our eyes, a man dressed half-heartedly like Freddy Kreuger spoke of the horrors to come. The video presentation ended and we entered through a second door and into darkness. I enjoyed the early stages of this haunt quite a bit — the design may have been a bit crude but the twisting passages and oddly angled, low lying doorways harkened back to haunting of old.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the presence of a sound system through a good deal of the semi-outdoor haunt but this was tempered by a dearth of actors. I’ve said before that there’s great strategy in allowing haunters to wander through dark passages for a time unbothered — there is nothing greater at building anticipation than the imagination and in the dark the mind runs wild. However, eventually that anticipation requires a pay off and if it never materializes then much has been wasted. However, we did stumble upon one memorable scene when we strolled into some slovenly living quarters. A body lie covered by a sheet on a couch, blood seeping through the material — a prominent blade jutted out of the area near the genitals. I was digging this scene when suddenly an armed redneck entered the room and stuck a shotgun in our faces! He demanded to know what we were doing in his home — his drawl whether authentic or imitation was convincing and a little unnerving. I jokingly conceded that we were “thieving” which prompted him to cock his gun and retort, “I reckon you’d best get your ass on outta here, unless you wanna leave with a limp.” He pursued us for some time, muttering warnings but ultimately left us whole and intact for which we were grateful.

Technically the portion of the haunt titled, The Sequel began as a haunted trail — one guarded by a bulky demon seated atop a throne. We were granted passage and in this area we encountered a greater concentration of actors. Unfortunately they weren’t very skilled in the art of scaring, a couple of them were merely children. Eventually the path weaved through numerous outbuildings, one was a bit of a maze which concealed a simpering, tricksy harlequin — she was the second most enjoyable actor in the entire attraction. Shortly thereafter we came to the rather uninspiring psycho-with-a-chainsaw finish.

A Nightmare on Elm Road and The Sequel didn’t blow us away but we did have fun. The attraction certainly had an amateurish feel but the operators employed a few haunting fundamentals to their advantage and it was of decent length. Unfortunately there simply weren’t enough live bodies to cover the grounds — there were a couple of scenes that would’ve made for great ambush points but alas no trap had been laid. The semi-outdoor feel reminded me of the Woods of Darkness in South Rockwood and much like that attraction I hope the folks at A Nightmare on Elm Road continue to tweak and grow their show. It’s upstart attractions such as these that can really capture the essence of what haunting is all about.

Rating: 2 stars

The Haunting Redeemed, Darksyde Discovered

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

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

A TRIP FOUR YEARS IN THE MAKING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.75 stars

BOONDOCKS HAUNT WILL SHOCK AND SURPRISE

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4 stars

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

Rating: 3.25 stars

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