Archive for The Mind Shaft

2014 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2015 by bluefall8

2014 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.

2014 Rotten Pumpkin: The Haunted Funeral Home

The Haunted Funeral Home was the first attraction I visited last year, thankfully it was not an indication of things to come. Most of the cast delivered below average performances, several were even caught out of place. That was particularly unforgivable due to the fact that, at the time, we were the only group present. Little to nothing has changed here since an initial visit in 2011; this was uninspired and lazy haunting.

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.

2014 Eerie Vibrations: The Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

Honorable Mention: District 13 (The Fear Experience)

The former pig farm has presence and nowhere is it as oppressive as in The Catacombs & The Rusthole. What can I say? The story of a ghoulish spirit and mysterious third floor made an impact when I traversed the attraction all on my lonesome. This is the second time that The Catacombs & The Rusthole has captured the Eerie Vibrations Award; the first was in 2011.

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  Horrorlust’s way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2014 Dark Horse: Psycho Path

Honorable Mention: Corpse Barn Shock Haunt

For just $10 this hidden gem offered a serious bang-for-your-buck in 2014. The volunteer effort mixed a creative flair with haunted house fundamentals and struck the right balance of fun and fright. The facade was excellent and a surprise, introductory stage show served the narrative well. A brief stroll through the woods beforehand and a wagon ride after the fact further enhanced the atmosphere.

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.

2014 Killer Automatons: Dark Legacy

Honorable Mention: The Realm of Darkness

Dark Legacy had a little bit of everything and in 2014 put to use their electronic baddies better than any other haunt in town. There were caged monkeys, a slick electrocution and even a massive mutation contained inside of a large shipping crate. Several actor-matronics were used to maximum effect as well.

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.

2014 Monster: Hush

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

The core group of characters at Hush are polished, professional and capable of giving the best that we’ve witnessed a run for their money. Led by the inimitable Dr. Phineas Phun, the cast of Hush featured a handful of unforgettable freaks and weirdos — from an android receptionist to the supercharged loonies who went bonkers behind a pane of glass to a lullaby singing doctor and her reanimated specimen. The key players each understood their role which was crucial to the central theme of the attraction.

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.

2014 Prop Master: Centralia County Fair (The Fear Experience)

Honorable Mention: Dark Legacy

The scenery inside Centralia County Fair was detailed, thorough and impressive. The abandoned carnival theme was so immersive and striking that it overwhelmed my senses. Keep in mind that this was an attraction that featured relatively few live actors and it excelled in spite of that fact. The scenes and set dressing were so complete it was the one attraction to which I wished I could return for the sole purpose of documenting it through photographs.

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.

2014 Pulse Pounder: The Mind Shaft (Wiard’s Night Terrors)

Honorable Mention: Zombie Uprising at Braxton Estate (The Fear Experience)

The Mind Shaft got the heart racing through expertly tailored sound fx that helped drive the pace of the attraction. Like 13 Feet Under, Mind Shaft made it easy and fun for guests to suspend their disbelief — if a collapsing mine doesn’t put some pep in your step then what the hell will?! The attraction concluded with an exclamation point when a Sasquatch roared out of nowhere and delivered one of the best jump scares of the season.

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.

2014 Samhain: October 18, 2014 (Wiard’s Night Terrors)

Honorable Mention: October 30, 2014 (Dark Legacy, Hush)

2014 delivered a number of great nights of haunting but the plethora of attractions that comprised Wiard’s Night Terrors put it over the top. I was highly amused by the reactions of my sister-in-law, Madison, who provided me with the kind of valuable feedback only a fresh set of eyes can bring. Brandon Wiard was a most gracious host who allowed us the run of the place and engaged in great conversations about the ideas that fueled the haunted houses at Night Terrors.

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.

2014 Haunt of the Year: Exit 13

Honorable Mention: Hush

This was no easy choice; the number of top-notch attractions we toured in 2014 was unprecedented. After garnering several honorable mentions in 2011 and 2012 (in various categories) this is well deserved for the lovable loonies at Exit 13. An ambitious renovation delivered multiple new scenes in 2014 which served as the ideal playground for an in-your-face cast. The haunt utilized a wide array of scare tactics while it pushed the envelope with taboo characters, tasteless humor and physicality.

2014 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2015 by bluefall8

This list is not meant to be used 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 (and that happened often in 2014) those attractions are listed in 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.

2014 STAR RATINGS

1. Centralia County Fair – 4.5 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

2. Dark Legacy – 4.5 (Wixom, MI.)

3. Exit 13 – 4.5 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

4. Hush – 4.5 (Westland, MI.)

5. Bloodview – 4.25 (Broadview Heights, OH.)

6. Zombie Uprising at Braxton Estate – 4.25 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

7. 13 Feet Under – 4 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

8. The Asylum – 4 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

9. Centralia Mental Facility – 4 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

10. House of Nightmares 3D – 4 (Pontiac, MI.)

11. The Mind Shaft – 4 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

12. Psycho Path – 4 (Flat Rock, MI.)

13. The Realm of Darkness – 4 (Pontiac, MI.)

14. Alien Caged Clowns – 3.75 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

15. Corpse Barn Shock Haunt – 3.75 (Napoleon, MI.)

16. Ultimate Haunted Barn – 3.75 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

17. District 13 – 3.5 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

18. Hayride of the Lost – 3.5 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

19. The Crypt – 3.25 (Burton, MI.)

20. St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum – 3.25 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

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

22. The Dark Abyss – 2.75 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

23. Fō-bē-ə – 2.75 (Wyandotte, MI.)

24. The Haunted Funeral Home – 1.25 (Inkster, MI.)

Haunted Hexad Fuels Wiard’s Night Terrors

Posted in 2014, Review, Wiard's Night Terrors with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2015 by bluefall8

Map-of-Night-Terrors-2014

The air was dry, the sky was clear and the revelers were out in throngs to experience the haunted happenings that Wiard’s Night Terrors had to offer. Less than 24 hours ago I had been in the Cleveland, Ohio area to tour both The Fear Experience and Bloodview and now I stood in Ypsilanti, Michigan on the threshold of six additional haunted attractions.

The flurry of activity near the entrance of the thrill park was matched by the dizzying buzz inside my mind. I had attempted some ambitious haunt endeavors in the past but this schedule was a whole other beast. When combined, The Fear Experience, Bloodview and Wiard’s Night Terrors featured roughly a dozen haunted attractions and I was on pace to tour them all in little more than a 24-hour period! Was I mad?!! Had I lost my mind?!!! Was it even possible to enjoy the hallowed pastime of haunting at such a breakneck pace??!!! Would I be able to commit enough details to memory in order to draft a review???!!!

This blog isn’t called Horrorlust for nothing.

It was time to switch off the mental machine and simply soak in the energy that surrounded me. I had brought my teenaged sister-in-law, Madison, along for the night of frights as she had never before experienced a thrill park of this magnitude. I thought it would be fun to gauge her reactions in contrast to those of the more grizzled veterans who are usually by my side for these nocturnal horror shows.

We were shortly joined by Brandon Wiard, one of the operators here and the man who had extended us an invite. He had been making the rounds, snapping photos and when he arrived he had with him a camera which led us into a conversation about photography and another passion of mine, videography. When able, Brandon served as a tour guide throughout the night and the first attraction he recommended we visit was the Hayride of the Lost.

PROTECT IT WITH FIRE

Hayride of the Lost pulled us through the backwoods of Wiard’s Orchard where a gang of unruly moonshiners had set up shop. There was a frail old man who popped out of a window and issued a comical warning near the beginning of the woodland jaunt; I can only assume it was his kinfolk we encountered deeper into the woods.

The hayride was highlighted by several impressive fire balls, detailed facades and one flying, chainsaw wielding maniac who assailed us from above inside of a barn. The tour did suffer from a couple of lulls in the action and I would’ve welcomed a little more interaction — especially from the creepy but relatively stoic firemen who guarded the aforementioned barn — but on the whole the Hayride of the Lost was a fun experience capable of being enjoyed by all ages. Did I mention we were given cider and donuts at the conclusion of the ride?

Rating: 3.5 stars

Once we had disembarked and wolfed down our treats, we gleefully watched a fire juggler perform for the crowd. I always appreciate quality side shows with my haunted attractions, and this chap delighted us with his skillful fire play and timely wit.

When his act had concluded we reconnected with Brandon who led us to the entrance of Splattertown, a zombie paintball shoot. This was actually the first time I’d participated in such an attraction and I was looking forward to unleashing multi-colored mayhem all over some rotting enemies.

However, before we could fight the undead menace, we had to place headphones onto our ears and listen to some rules and strategy about safely defeating the oncoming uglies as they were called. Once that business had finished we got down to the task at hand as a wave of zombies shambled into view.

I took a few pot shots at a distant zombie and then keyed on the walker nearest my location and prided myself on head shots. It wasn’t long before my juvenile instincts kicked into overdrive and I sent repeated shots to that same zombie’s crotch, and it was evident from the splattering of paint in the region that plenty of other previous participants, like myself, possessed the maturity of a 12-year-old boy.

The whole affair only lasted a minute or two but it was fun and ludicrous. I appreciated that the creators of the attraction had decided to include the recorded instructions as it really added to the atmosphere and overall fun factor of the event. As we exited, I conferred with Maddie and she too had shamelessly peppered the private parts of some dim-witted zombie.

A LITTLE CIRCUS, A LITTLE SCI-FI

One of my favorite attractions of the night was Alien Caged Clowns, a short haunt that possessed a lot of charm and creativity. A series of stagecoach wagons served as the queue line to enter the attraction, a few of them featured colorful banners that advertised wondrous acts.

A metal pole was situated at the end of the stagecoach wagons and atop it sat a small alien spaceship that housed a single clownish occupant. It was aglow with various lights and exuded a kitsch, throwback style; it reminded me of something found at a county fair in days gone by.

The final stagecoach emptied into the interior of Alien Caged Clowns where a short passage had been decorated with large wooden crates and clown memorabilia. There was even a monitor that displayed a clown who creepily danced (sometimes with balloons) to old timey music.

We were greeted by a most curious ringmaster when we entered the attraction, the fact that his spinal cord was exposed did nothing to diminish his spirits as he lively regaled us with wordplay and silly puns.

As Brandon would later explain to us, the creatures inside Alien Caged Clowns weren’t necessarily clowns in the traditional since but instead a feral alien race. I thought that was an interesting wrinkle and a fresh, fun perspective on a tried and true haunted house troupe.

The haunt employed a heavy dose of fog and strobes which made navigating the maze-like passages quite a challenge and also provided ideal cover for numerous pop out scares. Unlike other attractions in this vein, Alien Caged Clowns did not use chain-linked fence or wooden planks to form the twisting path, instead the maze was constructed of white bars which allowed the bizarre creatures to grab at us along the way.

We were treated to another bit of fun at the end of the attraction when we were made to play a guessing game before we realized we had to crouch and exit through a concealed box.

Alien Caged Clowns was colorful, quirky, fun and has, in my opinion, plenty of potential for growth.

Rating: 3.75 stars

MIND SHAFT MAYHEM

The facade outside the Mind Shaft haunted attraction was easily my favorite — a collection of wooden beams and barrels, mining tools and even a small train. The interior of the structure was no less impressive — highlighted by immersive sets, heart-pounding sounds and a fun-filled, breakneck pace.

Several characters and areas of note included a grubby, beady-eyed miner who entertained waiting guests, also a second minor who was the victim of an unfortunate ,and rather creative, cave-in scene. Finally, I was delightfully surprised by a large, hairy, Sasquatch-like prop which sprung up from beneath a bed of fog near the conclusion of the attraction.

Mind Shaft was a well-balanced haunted attraction that was true to its theme and delivered timely jump scares mixed with moments of excitement and laughter.

Rating: 4 stars

A TRIP TO THE FUNNY FARM

The next demon to be slain was the formidable, Asylum. We entered the building with a group of strangers and were greeted by a Dr. J. Wiard who seemed anything but a competent medical professional. We found ourselves in a small reception area, several chairs lined two opposing walls. The maniacal medicine man didn’t seem in a hurry to be rid of us so most of us took a seat while a couple of people stood awkwardly.

Dr. Wiard eyed the group with what appeared to be a mixture of curiosity and contempt. The little room had grown silent and suddenly I was all too aware of a rising tension. It felt like something bad was about to happen, an impending doom inched closer. Suddenly, Dr. J. Wiard picked up a phone that hung on the wall and when his conversation was finished we were instructed to leave our seats and begin down a nearby hallway.

The Asylum featured a collection of highly detailed and memorable scenes which included an electrocution that so convinced Maddie of its authenticity that she slammed herself with great force against a wall when the condemned delivered a posthumous jump scare. I could be found hunched over in laughter just a few feet away; the expert timing of the actor combined with Maddie’s shocked reaction created one of the best electrocution gags I’ve ever witnessed.

Two other scenes of note occurred near the end of the attraction — in one we found ourselves inside a high-ceilinged room adorned with twinkling lights and festive Christmas decorations. A scrawny, surly Santa Claus bemoaned our presence although he wasn’t a complete grinch as we did exchange a couple of light-hearted quips before Maddie and I departed his dwelling.

The last scene of interest consumed us entirely in an oppressive fog that left me disoriented and with a sensation that this white nothingness stretched out endlessly across space and time. It was an odd and unsettling feeling, I stopped momentarily in an attempt to gauge my sense of direction. There was nothing but a thick swirl of white abyss before my face, I turned to say something to Maddie and when I turned back around I was startled to find myself nose to nose with a gruesome face. A hideous, hanging prop was mere inches in front of me and had quite literally appeared as if from nowhere. The distinct chatter of a chainsaw ripped through the whiteout and hastened our search for the exit.

Rating: 4 stars

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF APPLE THIEVES

The Ultimate Haunted Barn is the oldest of all the haunted attractions at Wiard’s Night Terrors and as such is arguably the premier event. We entered the structure and were told to wait in front of a bank of monitors that all displayed the same bizarre sequence of flashing images. There were pigs, a laughing puppet and other unnerving oddities. It felt like we were being brainwashed in advance of some unethical psychological torture.

In the next room we were introduced to Curtis, a tall, lean young man with a hint of a southern drawl. Curtis spoke rapidly of his vast collection of goods which were displayed throughout the room. He intimated that he had amassed such a treasure trove by less than honest means but in the next breath stated plainly that any accusations of such would not be met with politeness. Curtis spoke with quickness and clarity; his voice possessed a mesmerizing cadence dashed with a pinch of wit. He was, without a doubt, the most well-rounded and fully formed character we encountered during our tour of Wiard’s Night Terrors.

The remainder of our trek through the Ultimate Haunted Barn was a mixture of humor, tension, jump scares and a bit of gore. In one darkened corner a grimy man appeared behind a window of chicken wire and sent a shower of sparks in our directions while he zestfully shouted, “Sweet Meat!” Although I fought the urge, the dark recesses of my mind refused to be denied and up to the surface swam a peculiar selection of banjo music accompanied by that infamous scene from Deliverance.

Other highlights from the Ultimate Haunted Barn included a crawling creep who popped out of a cabinet, a chainsaw-wielding nutter who swung above our heads and one seriously imposing butcher who momentarily assailed us before he returned to his twitching and bloody victim who had been hung from the ceiling. There was also a moment of separation where men and woman were forced to traverse different paths, a time-honored psychological ploy.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Wiard’s Night Terrors offered us an array of fun and diverse haunted attractions. It’s a full-fledged operation complete with concessions, bonfires, line entertainment and even Scareyoke. The atmosphere is festive and on a clear night the sky is beautiful. Wiard’s Night Terrors was a pleasure to tour and an ideal way to spend a night during the hallowed month of October.

Maddie and I capped off the night by posing for a picture with this fine gentleman.

Maddie and I capped off the night by posing for a picture with this fine gentleman.