Homer Mill Delivers Explosive Kick Off

Posted in 2008, Hallowblog, Homer Mill, Review with tags , , on September 2, 2014 by bluefall8

This review detailed the first trip we ever made to the Homer Mill and was written Saturday, October 4, 2008. We would return to the Homer Mill a year later but by the spring of 2010 the historic building had burned to the ground. I’ll always remember this inaugural trip fondly; it’s a shame what happened to the Homer Mill.

The drive to the Homer Mill took just under two hours most of which was spent on westbound I-94. As Jason, Disco, Cherette, and I drew near Homer, Michigan we traveled M-60 which did provide some interesting local scenery winding through a number of small towns including one that featured a creepy cemetery sitting just off the road.

The Homer Mill bursts out of the wooded setting that surrounds the haunt and instantly the impressive nature of the building leaves an imprint on its visitors. There was a sizable crowd milling about in front of the haunt which also sports a bar and restaurant. We parked in the rear near an old Silo and entered through into a lobby sandwiched between a bar (to the right) and a restaurant (to the left). Initially we were going to grab something to eat before entering the haunt but after learning that there was a forty minute wait for a table we left our name and went to buy our tickets. We shortly joined the line out front that we had previously witnessed upon entering and waited maybe fifteen minutes before entering the haunt. I snapped a number of pictures and soaked in the atmosphere to pass the time and soon we were swallowed by the Mill.

The Homer Mill is a rare haunted attraction; the structure of the building lends itself to a natural ambience that most haunts are unable to replicate. The owners have smartly integrated the mill’s stairways and catwalks into the attraction and in doing so provide haunt goers with a truly unique experience.

The haunt begins with a humorous gag; entering a cavernous room guests get a full view of the bare ass of a man slumped over a barrel. When approached the animatronic begins spewing into the barrel while speakers pump the sound of retching into the room. The scene is funny but reflecting on this singular moment in contrast with the rest of the haunt causes it to seem a tad disjointed.

Guests next cross a bridge which actually has water underneath it and are quickly confronted by an alligator that sprays mist in their direction. As the misting begins the bridge tilts slightly creating the sensation that guests may be chucked into the glowing green depths. I’m a big fan of water being used in haunted attractions and I’d like to see it implemented in increasingly creative ways. The sudden jolt of the bridge shifting was a nice touch as well but it was relatively subtle as the owners probably don’t actually want anyone projected from the safety of the bridge.

The Homer Mill features some truly awesome animatronics; three in particular come to mind and rival anything you’ll see anywhere else including mighty Erebus. The first is an execution scene, a man lies face down locked into a guillotine and after the blade falls the body twitches in a gruesome and hilarious manner. The next instance of animatronic mayhem comes in the form of an apparent psychiatric patient. As guests pass through a darkened hallway a strobe flashes from the right and a straight-jacketed man bound by chains begins flailing desperately. The effect is enhanced by the bouncing chains that crash to the floor and also thrash in unison with the dreadlocks upon the puppets head. The prop was very convincing and mimicked human mannerisms in a very believable fashion. The third and final animatronic was also shockingly realistic, a man sitting behind prison bars is strapped to an electric chair, an ominous pause is palpable. I thought for a moment that the figure would break free from his restraints and lunge forward but no sooner had the thought taken hold the chair lit up and the man began wildly shaking and screaming as smoke filled the room. It was indeed an animatronic as I have stated but when it was hoisted so high out of the chair I thought it likely even probable that the figure was an actor, a very impressive sight. Jason later stated that he has saw that same prop online selling for $10,000.

Another interesting feature of the Homer Mill is the external bridge that connects two of the buildings. Haunters actually leave one structure and cross a bridge that temporarily leads outdoor before entering a second building. Once inside the next building guests enter a room with a floor composed of only 2 x 4’s and wire mesh. It was a great effect because the mesh flooring sinks under the weight and visitors have a direct view of a nearly 30-40 foot drop below. It’s in this part of the haunt that the natural structure of the building really shines. Haunters climb stairs and cross catwalks with immense drops on all sides.

When considering the sheer size of the haunt it’s tempting to suggest that the Homer Mill is thin on live actors but this surprisingly doesn’t detract from the show. The Mill is a little heavy on animatronics but it’s hard to view this as a point of criticism when the puppets are so damn good. The Homer Mill also makes good use of traditional black hallways forcing haunters to grope in the dark as they make their way to safety through a very well paced attraction. Another interesting feature of the haunt is the ability to hear music and crowd chatter coming from the bar and restaurant. It would be easy to dismiss this as an obvious detraction and maybe in a traditional sense of haunting that is accurate but this fact creates a sensation of disorientation. Yes, you can hear the band playing and a cacophony of conversation but you can’t tell where it coming from or how one would come to find the source.

The haunt comes to an end with a final bridge to cross which leads to a doorway filled with a bulging inflatable. Guests must force their way through the oppressive structure; the entombing led to many vaginal jokes as I quibbed, “I feel like I’m being born.” Cherette would later dub this particular feature the “Womb of Doom.”

After exiting the haunt we snagged a seat in the Halloween themed restaurant and enjoyed a bite to eat, I opted for some tasty chili-cheese fries while Jason and Disco concerned themselves with the blood red beer.

The Homer Mill has it all and fires on all cylinders. It satisfies guests with a wonderful show and a neat restaurant as well. As we departed, after I mistakenly drove across a pedestrian bridge that is, I reflected on what a fun and fulfilling experience the Homer Mill had provided for the premiere of the 2008 haunt season.

Rating: 5 stars

Horrorlust Radio: The Next Evolution

Posted in News with tags , , , , on September 1, 2014 by bluefall8

This past spring I added interviews to the Horrorlust mix and now with fall in rapid approach, I’m pleased to announce the impending arrival of a podcast. Horrorlust Radio is an idea I’ve been working on for several months and I’m thrilled that it will premiere at the onset of the 2014 haunt season.

Horrorlust Radio will include haunted house reviews, music and horror news. In addition the podcast will feature original segments such as Lost to Time and Oddments & Urban Legends. The former will highlight defunct haunted attractions while the latter will explore the veracity of strange and mysterious tales.

A new episode of Horrorlust Radio will be posted once a week throughout the Halloween season, beginning with the first in mid-September. Once the haunt season has concluded new episodes will likely be posted once a month year-round. Each episode of Horrorlust Radio will be hosted by myself and I’ll be joined by a rotating cast of personalities. The inaugural episode will feature fellow haunted house enthusiast, the Disco Devil as my co-host.

The program will be housed here, on the Horrorlust blog of course, but also on iTunes. I am looking for sponsors so if you’re an owner/operator of a haunted attraction or otherwise entrenched in the Halloween and haunt industry, you can advertise on Horrorlust Radio. I’ve put together flexible pricing options that allow potential sponsors to buy spots on a per episode basis or purchase a discounted package that would encompass the entire haunt season. For more details email me here: horrorlust@bluestarproductions.net

2014 Fear Finder Cover Art Released

Posted in News with tags , , , on August 31, 2014 by bluefall8

There’s no better prelude to the haunt season than to jump on the Internet to find that the cover of the 2014 Fear Finder has been released; and on the last day of August no less! The release of the Fear Finder is just one of the many fall traditions I enjoy as a Michigan boy. According to several sources the Fear Finder will hit the streets on Friday, September 12 and let there be no doubt that I’ll visit my usual stomping grounds until I’ve obtained a copy.

This year’s cover features a Nosferatu-style vampire and he seems to be fleeing a would-be attack through a candle-lit chamber whilst our hapless hero is left to fend off an army of bats. I love the atmosphere created by the artwork and find myself particularly partial to the detailed features on the face and heads of the monster. The 2014 cover is yet another worthy addition in a long line of memorable artwork.

The Fear Finder first fascinated me as a child when my brother and I found it at a Taco Bell inside the Southland Mall during the mid-90’s. I can remember thumbing through it as we ate lunch and imagined we would visit so many of the spooky places that beckoned to us from the pages within.

I made it a point to collect the Fear Finder while in college but a couple of my copies were discarded during a move in 2005. Currently, I possess at least one copy of every issue since 2006 and am actively trying to track down every issue prior to that dating back to the inception of the paper when it was merely referred to as the Halloween Events Newspaper.

If there are any other Fear Finder collectors out there (or pack rats as my wife calls us); shoot me an email here: horrorlust@bluestarproductions.net

On first impression this cover put me in mind of the science lab featured on the 2004 edition of the Fear Finder.

On first impression this cover put me in mind of the science lab featured on the 2004 edition of the Fear Finder.

2014 Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House Location Revealed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by bluefall8

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The Wyandotte Jaycees annual haunted house will be located at 4560 Biddle this year. The building was originally constructed in 1970 and in recent years has been run as a bar and restaurant under several names. Each year the Jaycees is able to work with city leaders to obtain a building that is slated for demolition or otherwise vacant for the seasonal haunt. The nexus between the Jaycees and city officials is one that dates back to the late 1970’s which means that Wyandotte boasts one of the oldest haunted attractions in the entire country.

The current location will be a tough sell to the public because it isn’t conveniently located down town as it was last year. No, this year it’s situated near the fringe of the city south of Wyandotte Shores Golf Course just north of Pennsylvania. I hope the location doesn’t negatively impact attendance numbers. I’ll patronize the group as I have each year since 2007 and hope they can build off of the successes from the 2013 effort, Bloodbath on Biddle.

Below, I’ve posted star ratings and other pertinent notes from our trips through the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House over the years.

Hell’s Hospital (2007) – 4.5 stars: Held primarily in a mechanic’s garage, but also utilized an old house. Hell’s Hospital executed classic haunt fundamentals and thrilled us in the process.

Templin’s Night Terror (2008) – 3 stars: The old house was gone and the mechanic’s garage was a bit too familiar; one of the fews years the Jaycees utilized the same location consecutively. Templin’s Night Terror was a significant step back from the 2007 effort and would go on to win Horrorlust’s infamous Rotten Pumpkin Award for worst haunted attraction of the season.

Hellblock 13 (2009) – 3.75 stars: Bounced back in a big way with a lengthly trek through the old police station and courthouse; solid jump scares mixed with unsettling imagery.

Massacre Manor (2010) – 2.75 stars: Massacre Manor was held in an old homestead on Biddle which made for an excellent location although the production turned out to be a mild disappointment punctuated by missed opportunities and some amateurish acting.

Lockdown (2011) – 2.25 stars: Housed in a former bar, Lockdown featured a couple of enjoyable scenes but on the whole felt unprofessional and uninspired.

Nightmare Sanctum (2012) – 2.25 stars: Similar to 2007’s Hell’s Hospital, Nightmare Sanctum had the benefit of being held in a mechanic’s garage and a house. It suffered from the usual lows of a Jaycees haunt and can best be described as a mixed bag.

Bloodbath on Biddle (2013) – 3.25 stars: Held at former City Hall, Bloodbath on Biddle was easily the best effort by the Wyandotte Jaycees since Hellblock 13 in 2009. This haunt featured a lot of actors, creativity in design and a few visually impressive scenes. Bloodbath on Biddle went on to win Horrorlust’s 2013 Dark Horse Award.

Summer Scream More Fun than Fright

Posted in 2014, Erebus, Review with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2014 by bluefall8

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We arrived at Erebus in the late afternoon hours of a sunny summer day and if that didn’t seem strange enough, there in broad daylight was a drooling zombie who worked the queue line that wrapped around the side of the imposing structure. The haunt season had come early and it felt bizarre, surreal and almost as if we had all cheated in some way. The Summer Scream Total Blackout event at Erebus had the feel of a wild card and by the time we had emerged from the haunted edifice it was with a mix of emotions and thoughts on our latest trek through the monster Erebus.

For my stalwart haunted house companion Disco Devil and myself, it was our sixth trip through the 4-story haunted edifice but with us we also brought our friend and Erebus virgin, Cikalo. He’s joined us on a handful of excursions since 2011 and I was very interested to hear his thoughts on Michigan’s most well-known haunted attraction.

Despite a fair crowd our wait to enter wasn’t overly long and we were soon handed glow-in-the-dark necklaces to wear through the haunt — our only apparent means to light the path ahead. I was disappointed with the necklaces because I had hoped for a glow stick so that I could hold it aloft like a torch and light the way as if I was some kind of modern day Indiana Jones. I suppose management felt that a glow stick was much more likely to be dropped and lost than a necklace, and thus my cinematic fantasies were dashed.

Our journey began as all of our trips through Erebus have — first with a brief stop in front of a large video projection and then a few moments locked inside the scanning chamber. Each of these are fun but after so many years something fresh would be a welcome change.

John and I had visited Erebus as recent as last fall, so it was no surprise that the layout of the attraction was relatively unchanged but the operators had implemented various tweaks and twists. A serpent burst forth from the vase near the Snake Charmer, a moving wall threatened to cast us into a bottomless pit, a wrecking ball sprung from the darkness and crashed into our path and we were made to kneel in the buried alive chamber.

Present also was, of course, the usual legion of actor-controlled puppets that I affectionately refer to as lurchers, leapers and grabbers. A number of these puppets were quite aggressive, on several occasions a member of our party found themselves ensnared by their hairy clutches.

Elsewhere in the belly of the beast, a pack of crazed monkeys descended from the ceiling and one of the sneaky simians nearly snatched the hat from my head! Moments later, while we traversed the liquid sky corridor, a strategically placed ghoul popped me right in the face with a bloody stump; who doesn’t like a bloody stump to the mush?

A couple of actors of note included the large fellow who stalked the hall of mirrors, which made for an interesting and eerie setting under the dimly lit conditions, and also Dolly Boy who seemed lost in a fantasy land where toys could speak and was only peripherally aware of our existence.

It was during the early stages of Erebus that I believe the haunt was the darkest and it was at this juncture that we witnessed several solid jump scares, but on the whole the attraction did suffer from subpar acting and an excess of light for an event that was billed as a total blackout. I knew heading into the event that it would be difficult for Erebus to pull off such a feat because the animatronics and various special effects, that indeed make Erebus what it is, are dependent on at least some light. Regardless, I would have personally preferred to have these visual aspects sacrificed in the spirit of the event. The glow necklaces gave off a decent amount of light as it was and alone may just have provided just enough illumination to truly create that lost in the darkness sensation.

The acting as I mentioned left something to be desired; many of the actors didn’t seem equipped to effectively interact with guests once initial contact had been made. The immediate scare wasn’t bad but there wasn’t much there in the way of dialogue or unique mannerisms and often one after another became a generic blur. An army of actors who are essentially little more than worker bees can be pulled off without detracting from the show, in fact we’ve witnessed it on numerous occasions at Erebus, but on this night there simply weren’t enough characters with substance to balance the equation.

In the end, we did enjoy this trek through Erebus but it wasn’t the total blackout we had hoped it would be and because of that we couldn’t help but feel like we’d just traversed Erebus on a night where some of the lights simply weren’t working. With that in mind, Cikalo, who again had never toured Erebus, commented that he would’ve preferred to have seen it all full power. For all of these reasons, I hope that if this event is held again that the operators see fit to take the concept further as to truly differentiate the Summer Scream Total Blackout from the fall production.

The one thought that kept swimming to the surface of my mind was just how strange it felt to be at a haunted attraction in the middle of July, and as I sit here and share my thoughts on that day I’m still struck by that feeling. There’s no doubt that there’s an unmistakable element of magic in the air during the haunt season and for whatever reason it just wasn’t there on that summer day. Now that’s not to see that we didn’t have a good time because we did — I guess it was sort of like eating ice cream in the winter; it was simply out of season.

Rating: 3 stars

Official Launch of the 2008 Haunt Season

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2014 by bluefall8

This flashback erupted into existence on Saturday, September 27, 2008. For a few years I enjoyed this style of entry as a way to provide highlights of the previous season at the cusp of the latest season of screams. It’s an idea I’ve considered resurrecting and honestly it brings back a lot of good memories. Here I provided snippets from reviews of all the haunted attractions we visited in 2007 and also touched on our then impending visit to the Homer Mill. 

Bring out your dead, bring out your dead! Tonight the haunt season blasts off with a visit to the Homer Mill. Jason and Disco will arrive at my apartment at approximately 7 p.m. The estimated drive time to the village of Homer is 1 hour and 45 minutes and I suspect, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “This shall be a night to remember.” As we kick off another wonderful season of tricks and treats I suggest we step into a portal and experience once more the magic that thrilled us in 2007.

Last year Hallowblog became the forum in which I chronicled all things Halloween, throughout the season many memorable moments were enshrined in Hallowblog lore, here’s a look back at the best of the best.

It was last year on this very weekend that we visited The Haunting in Adrian. The trip was detailed in a September 29th edition of Hallowblog entitled, Haunting Season Begins.

On the Haunting’s main attraction, The 13th Floor

“The remainder of the attraction was less than stellar but the fat lady with the butcher knife managed to elicit some laughs when she leapt at us and proclaimed, “Meat! I looooove meat!””

“The last item of interest was an immensely large man who sat upon a bed gnawing at a brain. I wasn’t quite sure why anyone would fear this as I harbored serious doubts that he could so much as heave his gelatinous form from the space he occupied.”

On The Haunting’s Manic Maze

“Absent were any actors or props but the maze did give us the opportunity to run around like idiots attempting to frighten other, unsuspecting guests.”

Friday, October 12th marked our next outing. On this night we targeted three downriver haunts, The Lab in Grosse Ile, The Scream Machine in Taylor, and finally Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte. The shenanigans from this trip were recorded in Hallowblog the following day in an entry titled Downriver Haunt Review.

On The Lab

“I waited for his infected ass to leap at us and beg for help but it turned out to be simply a prop after all.”

“There was a hefty chainsaw wielding fellow who played his role well, trapping us against a wall while repeatedly asking for Amanda’s eyes with apparent sexual zest.”

“I however thought the keycard was a cool souvenir and therefore stowed it in my back pocket and proceeded to inform the guard that I had lost it.”

On The Scream Machine and The Carnevil of Lost Souls in 3D

“I just have to meet Chunk the Clown who happens to reside somewhere in the mysterious annuls of the 3D realm.”

“After The Scream Machine McCreary professed that she had pissed her pants and thus departed.”

On Hell’s Hospital

“While you wait in line a gimpy little fellow entertains the masses with a combination of guttural sounds and questionable gestures.”

The final edition of Hallowblog was posted on October 21st and recounted our visit to two kings of the haunt industry: The Realm of Darkness and Erebus. The entry was entitled Haunt Season Home Stretch.

On the Realm of Darkness

“Our first stop was The Realm of Darkness where I looked to avenge last year’s defeat to the elusive Wizard.”

“A few that stood out include the screaming girl in the swinging cage, the massive demon, the clown that stood stock still in the black light lit tunnel, and the man on stilts who would not relent in terrorizing Jason until I yelled rape.”

“The fucking wizard eluded us once more and I was left to curse his wretched name for another year.”

On Erebus

“I like Erebus, I like it a lot but for me it has less of a feel of a traditional haunted house and more of a funhouse on crack.”

Ahhh, memories! The 2007 haunt season was indeed memorable, in fact I visited more haunts last year than in any other past year. If you count my stint working at Pumpkin Forest Hayrides last years’ visited haunts total eight. But last season was hampered by a severe lack of funds on my behalf and a failure to organize an outing past October 19th. I should avoid those pitfalls this year as I’ve been planning like a manic lunatic and working many hours between two jobs. I want this to be the best haunt season I’ve ever experienced and part of that is smashing to bits the record amount of haunts we visited last year.

I’m very excited for tonight’s visit to the Homer Mill. Last year our trip to The Haunting in Adrian required a relatively lengthy drive but that jaunt through small towns and farm country added a layer of mystery, intrigue, and fright to our adventure. The trip to the village of Homer will be nearly double the length of the route to Adrian and I’m hoping that this year’s season opener will find us on a route of similar eeriness. The fact that Homer is a village has me dreaming up scenes of wild-eyed locals chasing us down a deserted country road with pitchforks and flaming torches while the haunt trinity flees the mob while bellowing a spirited “Aweeeeeeeeeeeeel!”

Scream Machine Silenced

Posted in News with tags , , , , on August 24, 2014 by bluefall8

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It’s official — the Scream Machine is no more. It was announced on Wednesday via Facebook that the lack of a building will force the show to go dark in 2014. The Downriver mainstay was at it’s best during the early 2000’s and then again following a jump start in 2006 with the introduction of the hellivator. In recent years the haunt was in noticeable decline and finally hit hit rock bottom last year when John and I were treated to an absolutely lifeless, amateurish production.

Be that as it may I’m sad to learn that the Scream Machine has ground to a halt. It was once a force to be reckoned with; a place where my cohorts and I shared a lot of fun memories. In fact, I’ve visited the Scream Machine more times than any other haunted attraction (8).

I suppose there’s a chance that it could return in the not so distant future and maybe the Scream Machine could even recapture former glory, but this is an industry littered with the corpses of countless lost attractions and the stark reality is that the Scream Machine, in all likelihood, has issued it’s final cry.

Circa 2009: I pose with a fun character we dubbed the Pasty-Faced Ghoulie.

Circa 2009: I pose with a fun character we dubbed the Pasty-Faced Ghoulie.

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