Archive for twilight zone

As Summer Fades…

Posted in Preludes and Nocturnes with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by bluefall8

A blue moon hangs above me, high in the sky as August peels away and reveals September. These transitory periods make for strange, hazy, and sometimes anxious days. Every year I begin to see hints of the magic to come but it’s wistful and elusive. Still, as I sit here and write glancing occasionally out the window I can almost smell it on the air. I know it’s out there, indeed I know it’s coming.

Soon I’ll begin visiting drug stores, browsing with delight at the selection of Halloween related items and eagerly awaiting the release of the treasured Fear Finder. I’ve wondered at times if the thrill of this enchanting season would ever wear off but it hasn’t yet and I suspect that, for me, it never will. It is undeniably my favorite time of the year, a time when I feel the most alive — most at peace. This season is about more than just horror movies, haunted houses, and trick r treating — it’s about nostalgia, and wonder, and love.

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

I have long had a desire to work in a haunted attraction and on a few short occasions I’ve had the pleasure of dipping my toe into the murky waters and it was blissful. Truth be told though I’ve never simply taken the plunge and that’s due almost entirely to the fact that working at a haunted attraction would severely limit the number of haunts I could surely visit in a given season. I strongly considered it after last season — I had managed to visit 18 separate locations with a total of 23 haunted attractions, it would be difficult to top that. Furthermore over the past seven years or so I feel that I have witnessed a solid sampling of all varieties of haunts and yet here we are on the cusp of another season and the lure of the open road and haunted adventures seems just to great to pass up. I love the thrill of the hunt — that adrenaline rush that races through my body when a new and exciting haunt has been discovered. There is nothing else quite like it. This whole haunting business is in my blood, etched into my very DNA.

SPOOKY STORIES TO READ IN THE SUMMER

I’ve been reading a book this summer, a compilation of stories to celebrate Halloween called October Dreams. It’s been a fun read, in addition to short stories and poems, the book also features genuine Halloween memories from various authors. Thus far my favorites include one recollection entitled A Condemned Man, where the author tells the story of feeling to old to go trick r treating but several hours before dark is compelled to give it a go anyway. He threw together a crude costume which consisted of an old checkered shirt, brown corduroys, and an old pillowcase for a mask. He proceeded to cut holes in the pillowcase and secured it with a piece of rope when he discovered it was loose. He hunted for candy in complete anonymity that Halloween going from house to house in his small town. When asked by one resident what he was supposed to be he respond with, “a condemned man.” Near the end of his nocturnal jaunt he approached a house and was shocked at the sight of what was approaching him: himself. Another trick r treater stood opposite him in a nearly identical homemade costume. The two stared at each other wordlessly for a moment before the mysterious doppelganger ran off into the night. As the tale ends the author writes,

“Most importantly, I hadn’t a clue who this fellow was behind the mask, and I never found out, although we had to have gone to the same school — hell, there was only the one school, and I knew everybody, absolutely everybody in it, and I couldn’t begin to guess who this could have been. It really creeped me out. It creeps me out still.”

Another tale that grabbed me titled Yesterday’s Child told the tale of a middle aged man whose wife had left him, whose daughter hated him, and if truth be told he had come to hate himself. He accepts a post with the neighborhood watch on Halloween and has an eerie encounter with his adolescent self. I thought it captured the nostalgic power of Halloween very well not to mention the magic of childhood. It put me in mind of so many bittersweet episodes of The Twilight Zone and as a matter of fact, in the afterword, the author acknowledges both Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling for being formative influences.

FUN WITH URBAN LEGENDS

Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good urban legend? A friend informed me of the Slenderman earlier this summer and at first I laughed at such a notion but I soon found myself quite taken with the mythos even if it is entirely steeped in fiction. If you aren’t familiar with the Slenderman a simple Google search will reveal the staggering internet subculture that has helped to popularize the mythos. There’s pictures, stories, parodies, and memes — there’s even a creepy little video game. It’s a strange world out there.

I think he’s a neat character though and my cousin Ryan and I have decided to feature the Slenderman in an episode of our sketch comedy show the Mud Puppets — our Halloween special to be precise. We’re greatly looking forward to it — I know it’ll make the entire season a little more special to me. It’s just one more fun event to anticipate with glee. If you’re interested we can be found on youtube under the username: themudpuppets.

Terror Town, Barn of Blood Conjure Haunted Time Warp

Posted in 2011, Barn of Blood, Review, Terror Town with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by bluefall8

During the final weekend of the 2008 haunt season I found myself at both Terror Town and Apple Charlie’s Barn of Blood on separate days and as the unseen Haunt Fates would have it, that is exactly where I found myself once again last weekend…on two separate days. First Terror Town, then Barn of Blood. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a detour into The Twilight Zone but it was close damn it!

Our first stop actually found us at Heck of a Haunted Barn in Monroe but when we arrived the place was simply dead, a few workers roamed the grounds in very basic make up and costuming. Outwardly there was nothing to suggest that this was anything but a heck of a waste of $12 so we decided to depart for Terror Town.

BIG TOP FLOP

The House of the Dead looms as large as ever at Terror Town and is joined this year by a 3D attraction called Big Top Terror; a combo ticket will set you back $25 and for that price haunters expect a unique, memorable experience. Big Top Terror however is just the latest in a long line of 3D attractions to fall flat. The attraction is thin on workers and those that did inhabit the paint splattered halls were lethargic at best. The haunt was also extraordinarily short clocking in under five minutes. There were some cool props but nothing in the way of haunting fundamentals was employed, it was simply a stroll through neon painted rooms. Near the end of the attraction a large box sat against a wall, a wicked clown’s face adorned the front. Of course the box had to be opened right? That was the whole point of the gag! As I approached the mystery box a clown appeared from it’s side and bellowed, “Open it!” We were finally going to experience some interaction in this haunted house but just as quickly as my heart jumped it fell back to its usual steady beat. Nothing was in the box. I could see that it was open on the other end and wondered aloud if we were supposed to go through it but the worker just looked at me and breathed heavily as if his loud proclamation had yielded some satisfyingly dreadful result. I reiterated my query only to be met with more heavy breathing. I noticed a path in front of us and decided to take it. We exited the attraction. As it was the most enjoyable part of Big Top Terror was the jazzed up jingle playing outside the attraction, Killer Klowns by The Dickies which of course is the title track from 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Rating: 1.5 stars

DEAD HOUSE AWAKENS ANEW

House of the Dead once again spans two separate buildings connected by an impressive array of black holes and one well decorated, cemetery. As we first discovered in 2008 this haunted attraction will attack from every angle and assail every sense. House of the Dead is a lengthy trek through ghostly corridors furnished with possessed furniture, blood thirsty creatures, and all manners of strangeness.

The mood for this house most macabre is set from the get go as haunters make their way down a long, narrow hallway illuminated by a cold, blue glow. This first section of Dead House is merely a prelude for the grand horrors to come but was punctuated by a passageway full of deafening poppers; a room full of questionably lively freight, and the ultra-realistic and creepy full sized dummies that we witnessed first at Terror Town in 2008. My personal favorite was a child ghoul who stood around a corner near the exit of this first area. I’ve referenced these particular props on numerous occasions and they are without a doubt the most convincing dummies the haunt industry has to offer. I do not know what company produces them but when I find out I’ll relay the news and post some pictures.

Following the first building is one of the most impressive vortex tunnels you’re likely to find anywhere on planet Earth, no less than six end-to-end tunnels spin in unison. Upon exiting and taking a moment to restore our collective equilibrium we proceeded out doors to a cemetery full of life. This graveyard scene functioned as a wonderful transition between the first half of the attraction and the second. Highlights here included a stone gargoyle which surprisingly leaped from its pedestal and bounded toward us like one of the evil, flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Also of note was the foggy funeral procession which featured a casket, four ghoulish pall bearers, and the distinct smell of mold.

Shortly thereafter we entered the second building, what I like to refer to as House of the Dead proper. We were immediately assailed by a crawling girl with stringy hair who spoke of a ‘master’ that had horrific plans for our body parts. As she wailed and swayed inappropriately close to our crotches an eye opening effect erupted in front of us. The floorboards seemed to crack before us, a strange light poured out from beneath them; it seemed as if something was racing at us from under the floor. It was undoubtedly a neat effect that employed several elements, something we’ve never quite witnessed anywhere else. Just around the corner we ascended some stairs to a bridge and as we crossed, the walls adorned with skeletons, on either side of us collapsed inward. On the other side of the bridge we descended yet another set of stairs, putting us squarely within the limits of Mayer Wormface’s realm.

As always a litany of strange, gruesome, and truly spectacular animatronics dotted the haunted halls of Dead House although it was with some disappointment that we found several of the rampaging robots non-operational. We were also less than impressed with the scant cast of live workers inside House of the Dead. The darkly jovial patriarch however remains as entertaining as ever, stationed this season by Hellivator, the rest of the cast would do well to take their cues from him.

New horrors inside of House of the Dead this year include highly convincing animatronic snakes that descend upon haunters from above, hissing menacingly. My favorite addition was a room in which the walls were smeared with children’s handprints and foreboding nursery rhymes. As we attempted to leave the room a huge, green hand shot out from a slot in the wall and attempted to snatch visitors. Shortly after escaping this scene we arrived outside once more surrounded now by fog and hanging corpses. As we traversed this last area of Dead House we were surprised by a tall, chainsaw equipped butcher.

Terror Town is a haunted attraction that I would recommend to anyone who has not yet paid it a visit. The sheer volume of animated props and creatures is overwhelming and the average haunter will witness things here that they aren’t likely to see anywhere else. You won’t breeze through this haunt in 5-10 minutes either, this year we spent a solid 25 minutes navigating our way through the dark confines of House of the Dead. Also of great interest at Terror Town is the effort to engage all five senses, a touch most attractions pay no attention. House of the Dead is not without flaws of course, the workers as previously mentioned left a lot to be desired this year. The animatronics, as impressive as they might be on their own, oftentimes feel out of place or poorly implemented. I prefer to see a haunt stick to the theme that it has set forth — a gigantic Rancor-like creature may not play into the continuity in this setting. I was also highly disappointed in the conclusion this year, a simple chainsaw surprise may be fitting for many haunts but not one as over the top as Terror Town’s House of the Dead. I can’t help but wonder if the operators at Terror Town aren’t resting on their laurels to some degree. Still, House of the Dead has an excellent atmosphere, top notch props, and loads of potential. I’d like to see more focus on the scare factor here and less on the wow factor.

Rating: 3.75 stars

“Show us your udders!”

-Cikalo, commanding a hefty street walker in Toledo with an old favorite

APPLE ORCHARD HORROR

On Sunday I paid a visit to Apple Charlie’s and experienced a completely different haunted attraction – Barn of Blood. Barn of Blood is a brief haunted jaunt, appropriately priced at just $5, and evokes the spirit of a bygone era of haunting. This was bare bones haunting and when executed properly it can be just as effective as any mega-haunt. It was a very dark and deathly quiet journey through the barn, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of workers hidden inside as well. There is room for improvement – some creative alterations to the interior structure and a little more intensity from the cast would make for an excellent if not small haunted attraction.

Rating: 3 stars