Summer Scream More Fun than Fright

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

10469404_10152133966266338_5651802109769557890_n

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

50-percent-off-at-the-scream-machine-haunted-house-530882-regular

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.

Fear is Here

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2014 by bluefall8

This is something of a follow-up to the previous Hallowblog entry and was originally written Saturday, September 20, 2008. In this one I wrote about finding the 2008 Fear Finder and kicked around possible haunt visits.

After several dreams about the seasonal rag I do indeed now possess the 2008 Fear Finder. Last weekend Jason called me and proceeded to taunt me with the news that Disco had procured a Fear Finder from a small restaurant in Monroe. I frantically searched my usual online haunts for any information that would confirm such news and each came back without fruit. Zioptis had not a post about the Fear Finder’s release; furthermore FearFinder.com itself had yet to be updated. Next I called local carriers to check if their supply had yet arrived but again I was left at a dead end without the coveted Fear Finder. I wanted to believe that Jason and John were full of shit but their voices held no syllable of deceit and alas I was left with no alternative than to accept the truth.

While at work on Tuesday I began talking about haunted houses with my co-worker and he also mentioned that he had already obtained a Fear Finder, I was beginning to feel insulted. We happened to be parked directly across from a CVS and, now on a mission, I marched right over and there it was…I eagerly snatched up a copy and felt both excited and relieved. And now that it’s here we shall get down to some fine haunting business.

First I need to amend a few of my previous statements from an earlier edition of Hallowblog, it seems some of the information I obtained last month was incorrect. I cited a freep.com article that listed prices at a few haunts, one of those was Erebus which the article claimed would charge guests a $19 admission, the actual price as listed in the Fear Finder is $20. The same article also incorrectly stated that the Realm of Darkness would charge haunters $18 for admission when in fact the price will be $20.

Jason, Disco, and I have selected the Homer Mill as our first haunt of the season. Like last year we decided to kick the season off with a haunt none of us has previously visited. The Homer Mill is located in the village of Homer and will take us roughly two hours to reach. It’s a long drive but we’re hoping it’s worth it. We’re also interested in the bar/restaurant connected to the haunt which, according to Zioptis, exudes a Halloween-like atmosphere.

We have a lot of haunts in mind that we’d like to visit but as of now the rest of the haunt season schedule has yet to be determined. It’s probably a safe bet that a trip to Erebus and the Realm of Darkness will manifest in fact Jason and Disco should note that the infamous B. Mo has expressed interest in joining us on such a trip. We’ll also surely make a return to the much ballyhooed Nautical Nightmare which has returned to the Detroit area for the 2008 season. In 2005 we were so impressed with the Nautical Nightmare that it was without a doubt the haunt of the year and in my mind it ranks as one of the very best haunting experiences I’ve ever had. It was so original, the ambience so eerily natural, that I don’t hesitate when I say that this endeavor was as memorable as my first trip to Erebus or our visit to the Realm of Darkness last year. If you’re a casual haunter be sure that the Nautical Nightmare is on your short list. The recent history of the boat suggests that it may not be in the area next year; the owners of the boat didn’t originally buy it to make a haunted attraction out of it so you never know when they might decide to stop.

A number of haunts open this weekend but the vast majority will hold their premiere opening next weekend. My fellow haunters should keep up to date with Hallowblog posts as I’ll post important information which will help us craft our haunting schedule as we go forward.

On a final note I found it to be extremely disappointing that the Scream Machine hiked their admission from $12 to $15! I enjoy the Scream Machine but let’s face the facts, aside from the introduction of the Hellevator TSM has been putting on a very similar show year after year. Unless they’ve made some significant additions then the price jump is quite unwarranted. Nor does TSM plan to offer a special preview weekend as they did last year. Last year haunters could visit TSM on the last weekend in September or November 1-4 and pay just $10 for both attractions, the second attraction being of course the 3D exhibit The Carnevil of Lost Souls. These moves are distinctly lame.

Haunt Updates, Haunted Dreams & Haunting Films

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2014 by bluefall8

In this entry, from Monday, September 8, 2008, I recall a vibrant dream about the Fear Finder newspaper. In the years since I have had several similar dreams in which I get a nocturnal sneak peek at the seasonal treasure; my brother believes that it may be an indication of an unhealthy obsession.

There’s also a few tidbits regarding various haunts contained in the second half of this post; originally I provided several links to the websites of a few attractions but those for the Homer Mill and The Haunting no longer function and thus the links have been removed.

The Homer Mill was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of May 16, 2010. The Haunting, which was held at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds, entertained the public for 18 Halloween seasons. The Adrian mainstay closed up shop following the 2011 haunt season; owner and magician Stuart MacDonald now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where he works for a television station.

Terror Town is still going strong, although the link below will actually take you to an old version of the attraction’s website. I think it’s an interesting bit of Internet archeology.

Last week I had a very lucid dream in which me and Cikalo were gleefully rampaging through the streets of Lincoln Park. We drove recklessly, attempted to exploit ignorant youths by selling them over-priced stolen goods, and utterly neglected the duties of the classroom in which we were both substituting. It was great fun and some would suggest that’s it’s not too far off the antics that will some day undoubtedly be printed in my autobiography.

So after all these shenanigans we found ourselves at some type of strip mall. At this point I lost track of Jason and while I stood against a wall I noticed a man walk by me holding the 2008 edition of the Fear Finder. I suppose some may view this as an unhealthy obsession with Halloween and perhaps if I wasn’t so amused and intrigued by the nocturnal meanderings of my subconscious, I’d be concerned too. But to hell with that, check out what the latest version of the Fear Finder apparently looks like in some deep recess of my brain.

It happened very quickly, some non-descript, average Joe walks by nonchalantly and unfurls the Fear Finder. The paper resembles less its usual magazine style and appears more like an actual newspaper. I have an unhindered view of the entire front page which features a brightly colored backdrop; swirls of blue, red, green, yellow, and orange spring from the page. In the foreground and this is most peculiar, stands a leprechaun sporting a maniacal grin with his arm spread wide aloft his head. Yeah, I also got the sense that it was indeed the evil leprechaun from the series of Leprechaun movies. Fairly wacky stuff. Of course from here I embark on an epic quest to obtain a Fear Finder but just as I spot a CVS (a supplier of the FF) I’m intercepted by some former Borders co-workers. I awoke shortly after, having never obtained the prized haunt guide and reflected on what a truly bizarre dream it was.

In the waking world the 2008 Fear Finder has yet to be released but as one of the operators of the Scream Machine informed me, it should find a Taco Bell near you around the third week of September. Yeah that’s right, I sometimes call haunt operators. What? I also learned that the Screamatorium will not be operating this year and that it was indeed a one time shot in 2006.

I also called the Realm of Darkness where an up beat man ensured me that the show will indeed be under way this season. It’s all new and features over 30 rooms.

It seems every store I enter now has Halloween supplies on display; this makes my ghoulish heart smile. The Halloween USA located on the corner of Dix and Eureka in Southgate is also open and hopefully I’ll be working there part time again this season.

Zioptis has begun posting updates and recently visited the Homer Mill in Homer, Michigan. The haunt has garnered some glowing reviews and certainly sounds appealing. Apparently there is a Halloween themed bar and restaurant attached to the old mill that has a great natural ambience. This past weekend marked the haunt’s grand opening and it seems to be a frontrunner for an early season visit. Tickets are $15 during the month of September and then $20 throughout October. My fellow haunters would do well to check out the Homer Mill website here: The Homer Mill Extreme Haunted House

A few additional haunts have updated their websites, most notably TerrorTown in Maumee, Ohio and The Haunting in Adrian, Michigan. Interested parties can view those pages at the links below:

TerrorTown

The Haunting

I finally watched Romero’s Diary of the Dead and I very much enjoyed the style of his latest project. It’s an obvious departure from the style of each of his previous entries in the Dead series but the desired effect is achieved. It’s a fun, engaging story highlighted by some creative shots, inventive deaths, and a few truly grisly visuals. One unforgettable tidbit is Samuel, an elderly, deaf Amish man who doesn’t put up with zombie bullshit; he’s the kindest, cut throat bad ass ever. There are a number of striking visuals as well, my personal favorite may be the pool laden with the living dead.

Grab Bag of Oddments

Posted in Hallowblog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 it is hard for me to believe that this entry is nearly six years old. The 2008 haunt season was a memorable one for so many reasons and remains one of my favorites to date. I’ve always enjoyed collecting information on the upcoming haunt season and little posts such as this remain very enjoyable to craft; already I look forward to ruminations about the 2014 season.

I’ll admit that even I never expected to post an edition of Hallowblog during August; wait at least until September I told myself, you must pace yourself man! But I have so much news to share I just couldn’t bear keeping it to myself any longer.

I was at Aco Hardware a week ago and it made me smile to see that the Halloween merchandise has already arrived. It’s a testament to the growing popularity of the holiday that stores now begin stocking props and supplies a whole two months in advance. I haven’t visited any of the major retailers just yet but I did stop by Walgreen’s today and I enjoyed the entire aisle worth of Halloween items the store had to offer. I’ve also noticed that the quality of the props at the drug store chains has improved. It used to be that all the drug stores had to offer was cheap novelty items but now they’re stocked with certified animatronics and detailed foam latex dummies. Halloween enthusiasts can find some decent deals on merchandise if willing to devote a little time at the drug store scene.

I also have some new information regarding several area haunts. My fellow haunters and I have discussed hitting a few new haunts this year and Jason in particular has displayed a fondness for Pigman’s Lair which is held at the Chelsea Fairgrounds. I did a bit of digging and was disappointed to learn that Pigman’s Lair will not be operating this season.

I found an article at freep.com that lists information on area haunts and was pleased to see that the Extreme Scream in Taylor is indeed back for the ’08 season. I called the operator last season who told me the haunt would return this year and I’m happy to see that he was true to his word. In 2004 Branden, Pudge, and Disco joined me on a trip to the Extreme Scream that was quite memorable. I recall that the haunt relied heavily on long, dark hallways, an effect that was complimented well by the running sound effects. The highlight of the haunt involved a shrinking path in which one must nearly crawl through the dark only to be loaded into a small, cage-like cart that is then detached from the path and wheeled about wildly before being reconnected elsewhere. It was a good time and I look forward to visiting it this year.

This same freep.com article also listed the price of many haunts and if it’s correct then a number of them have slightly reduced rates. Erebus scaled back admission $1 matching the price of $19 featured in 2006. The Realm of Darkness has followed suit and slashed a $1 per guest as well reducing admission to $18 a ticket. I did call the Realm of Darkness and talked to someone who assured me that the show will indeed be ready to go for the Halloween season. As the undisputed top haunt last year it will be interesting to see what type of show the Realm of Darkness will put together after last winter’s flood destroyed most of the haunt. The Lab’s Myspace page has been updated and admission remains at last year’s rate of $12.

I’m checking the Fear Finder website daily, as soon as it’s available I’ll download the online version of the 2008 FF and see what’s in store for haunt enthusiasts this season.

I had an interesting experience at work today. I began a new job with the city of Lincoln Park on Monday and today I discovered the storage area for Anxiety Alley. I’ve often wondered where the city kept the modular haunt during the off season and the answer is the DPS building on Southfield next to Kentucky Fried Chicken. There’s a large open area behind the building which I don’t believe is visible anywhere from the road, I’ve never noticed it anyway. My co-worker and I were dropping off some garbage when something out the driver side window caught my eye. It was the demonic face featured on the side of Anxiety Alley. The trailers are set in a row against the tree line. Now I’m wondering if the rooms and props are haphazardously displayed in the trailers year round. I may just tempt myself into finding out.

Macabre, Wonderful Macabre

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, Word of the Week with tags , , on July 28, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Monday, October 22, 2007, this Word of the Week entry would prove to be the final Hallowblog post of the 2007 season.

This edition strikes directly at the historical roots of Halloween; the celebration of death and the recognition of transient spirits crossing the veil that separates the living and dead, the veil that blurs each year on October the 31st.

macabre – adjective: having death as a subject, gruesome, horrible.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers