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.

Haunt Season Home Stretch

Posted in 2007, Erebus, Hallowblog, Realm of Darkness, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by bluefall8

This post comes to us from Sunday, October 21, 2007 and as you’ll read, it chronicles an outing to Pontiac’s twin terrors — Erebus and The Realm of Darkness. We have visited the acclaimed pair six times each over the years; that total trails only the Wyandotte Jaycees (7) and the current leader, The Scream Machine (8).

Last Friday was a big haunt night as I joined the usual tandem in a return to Pontiac. Last year the three of us hit The Realm of Darkness and Erebus on Halloween night and having never previously visited these haunts I came away from the experience delighted. Needless to say I was ecstatic for the return as I viewed the trip as the likely pinnacle of the haunting season. Our first stop was The Realm of Darkness where I looked to avenge last year’s defeat to the elusive Wizard.

There isn’t much to criticize at The Realm of Darkness; the haunt delivers on all fronts. The attention to detail is amazing, each room is elaborately decorated which creates a unique atmosphere absent from many other haunts. The video that precedes the haunt has been vastly improved and the large fireplace remains a fun way to enter the haunt. The live actors are the best I’ve encountered at a haunt this season. These people are committed to the act and several of them unleash some shockingly loud screams. 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 props too are first rate and utilized very effectively. Most haunts do a half-assed job when propelling a puppet in the guests’ direction but ROD pulled it off expertly on numerous occasions. Visual diversions and timing are the crucial elements when springing these traps and I’ll be damned if ROD doesn’t have it down. Another wonderful prop, perhaps my favorite, occurs immediately upon exit from the room with the dropping spiked ceiling. Actually, to be entirely accurate, the guests don’t even exit the room when the door springs open and a gigantic, stampeding gargoyle charges forward. It’s an impressive sight and if it fails to elicit a scream it’s only because the rubes will be to busy shouting “Holy shit!”

I am a big fan of interactive haunts and ROD does this well allowing guests the chance to collect jewels from ghoulies. These jewels of course tie into the greater theme of the haunt which is the defeat of the vaunted wizard. Speaking of the wizard, well I wish I had a daring tale of peril and triumph to share but I don’t. The fucking wizard eluded us once more and I was left to curse his wretched name for another year.

There is one last part of the haunt that I would like to share before I bring this review to a conclusion. Just prior to meeting the “Black light Clown” guests are forced to cross a drawbridge which happens to be home to an ax-wielding zombie. I like when haunts use the rare actor like this essentially turning the haunting adage on its head. It’s a different kind of fear and suspense when you are forced to cross the unknown willingly as opposed to being repeatedly surprised. It was truly a nice touch and a spot that will stand out as one of the most unique of the season for me.

The Realm of Darkness misses not a beat and annually visitors will only be disappointed at the slightly familiar layout. I’m finding that to be a theme at haunts and it can be a major detraction. Familiarity breeds a sense of direction which can lead to comfort and that is a nasty formula for attractions that thrive on the unknown.

Rating: 5 Stars
Following the festivities at The Realm of Darkness we made the very short drive to Erebus. Last year Erebus made Halloween and I was looking forward to a repeat performance but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being slightly disappointed. Yes, you read that right, the vaunted Erebus was disappointing. Now don’t go nuts with that statement, Erebus remains one hell of an impressive haunted attraction, the experience simply wasn’t the same as it was last year. This could be due to various factors the most uncontrollable of which may have been the fact that the excitement of Halloween night added to the adventure one year ago. But there were plenty of tangible signs of slippage readily available in the haunt itself.

The swamp that Erebus features toward the end of the haunt is quite innovative creating a sensation of both claustrophobia and suffocation achieved through a combination of fog, inflatables, and a steadily steeping path. The effect proved wonderful last year but this time around left something to be desired. The fog was too thin allowing guests not only a better view of the room at large but also the oppressive inflatables pressing in from either side. It is crucial to the success of such an effect that the ability to see is kept to a minimum.

The ball chamber, which was a highlight of the season last year, has been omitted and that was a serious detraction for me personally. The structure of the haunt itself was varied in a number of spots but the majority of the layout is similar or the same and just as it did at ROD the sense of familiarity detracts from the sensation of fear and suspense.

The actors at Erebus are good but there is room for improvement and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more live actors, particularly in the swamp. The back story of Erebus adds an interesting layer not emphasized at most haunted attractions. The introductory video was a great touch this year especially the climax at which a giant insect burst trough the screen and hovers mere feet above the guests.

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. The puppets and animatronics are no doubt the best I’ve witnessed at any attraction but an inanimate object can only invoke so much fear.

Erebus is a lot of fun but this most recent show left me in reveries about how good it was last year.

Rating: 4 ½ stars

Summer Scream, Exit 13 Commercial

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2014 by bluefall8

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John, Cikalo and I had fun at Erebus on Sunday night and I even had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with owner, Ed Terebus. It was both interesting and strange to visit a haunted attraction in July and as always, there will be a full review posted in the coming days.

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In other haunt news, the crew at Exit 13 in Mt. Morris is getting set to shoot their first commercial. The shoot will take place on Sunday, July 27; those interested are asked to arrive by 6:00pm. Organizers are in need of a minimum of 300 people to dress as zombies. The crew will begin shooting the commercial at 8:00pm. For more information check out the Exit 13 page on Facebook.

This is just the second season that Rebecca Pajcz and her team have been in control of Exit 13. I was impressed during our visit last fall and it’s clear from their off-season dedication to Exit 13 that she and her crew want to make a serious impact on the Michigan haunt scene.

Rank Crypt of Rotting Flesh

Posted in Word of the Week, Hallowblog with tags , , , , on July 15, 2014 by bluefall8

A Word of the Week entry from Monday, October 15, 2007. This one provided a little nod to one of my childhood favorites, Tales from the Crypt.

Another fine Monday in the great month of October, another Halloween themed Word of the Week. This entry is sure to put readers in mind of entombed ghoulies as well as that late night creep with the bone chilling screech and tales of the horror.

cryptnoun: a chamber wholly or partly underground.

Downriver Haunt Review

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, Review, Scream Machine, The Lab with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 this entry chronicled our visit to three haunted attractions located throughout the Downriver area. To the best of my knowledge this was the only time I formatted a review in such a fashion (placing haunters and attractions in list form at the top of the review).

I never did uncover the mystery haunt referenced by Pudge in this post; I’ve come to believe she was mistaken about the year and that the haunt in question was indeed Extreme Scream. Also in this post I provided a mini-review of the Pumpkin Factory in Belleville which my wife and I had visited that fall.

As with previous Hallowblog entries, the pictures that are mentioned in the posts are not posted anywhere on Horrorlust at present. 

Date: 10/12/07

Haunters: Jason, Joel, John, McCreary

Haunt Targets: The Lab, The Scream Machine, Hell’s Hospital

Last Friday night marked a trifecta of terror as we set out to explore some downriver haunts. The night was fraught with excitement as we headed to our first haunt, The Lab. We weren’t able to visit The Lab last year but the venue was highly entertaining as The Chop Shop in 2005, Jason and I in particular were looking forward to the experience.

Prior to entering the greater haunted house guests are shown a video featuring a scientist who explains the events surrounding the mysterious lockdown and the reason for your involvement. The group then selects a leader (yours truly, thank you very much) who is given a keycard which will presumably give you access to other areas of The Lab. This was a nice touch but the experience would have been enhanced ten fold if the keycard actually did anything. I thought perhaps I’d have to swipe the card to open doors but no such interaction.

The haunt stuck to the theme throughout with several scenes offering up some very cool props; one man had been completely covered in a green fungus that had seemingly taken his life. 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. That became a theme in and of itself; too many props and not enough live actors. I think this severely detracted from the experience at The Lab. The theme of this haunt would do well to feature live actors in make up as opposed to masks. The story goes that strange genetic tests were being performed so show me some freaks and mutants.

There was a hefty chainsaw wielding fellow who played his role well, trapping us against a wall while repeatedly asking for McCreary’s eyes with apparent sexual zest. Another memorable actor was featured in a room with blue tubes, he had spooky white pupils and an I’d-like-to-eat-you-grin. Just prior to exiting the haunt you come to a scene on the left of a deceased security guard. He sits in a chair behind a desk, the whole set enclosed by a mesh steel security fence. There is even a monitor on the desk which guests can view themselves on. The dead security guard never moves, instead someone pops out of a drop section of the wall behind you, the same gag that was run at the Chop Shop and Giyra before that.

This was another drawback of the haunt; the layout was far too similar to its predecessors. I was able to picture what the rooms looked like during their previous incarnations as we walked through it. This excess of familiarity made it harder to suspend disbelief. I also felt that The Lab featured far too many “crazed” animal gags; the animal based animatronics were especially weak although the breathing alien babies were quite sweet.

The haunt ends rather abruptly when an armed government official encourages you to rush down a flight of stairs only to transcribe the number on your keycard onto a chalkboard with the all too obvious result that the writing surface drops to reveal a screaming creature. 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. After you write down a number he opens the back door and the terror is over.

I was slightly disappointed but The Lab does have plenty of potential to improve. The operators present a fairly unique premise but fail to properly utilize the atmosphere inherent to such a haunt.

Rating: 3 stars

Our next stop was The Scream Machine in Taylor which delighted me both last year and in 2002. The Hellevator has undoubtedly improved now featuring an ultra creepy actor dressed up like a deformed life-sized doll lurking in the corner. She initially offered Disco what I believe was a teddy bear and then proceeds to get right in each group member’s face when the lights flicker on and off. I’m a big fan of the Hellevator, it’s truly a great gimmick to jump start a haunt.

After exiting the Hellevator and surviving a dizzying black hole the majority of the haunt is dominated by an impressive graveyard scene. It’s great eye candy but the lack of confinement is not very conducive to suspense. Guests wind through a series of hallways all just off the graveyard path which ultimately causes the group to view the same scene several times which quickly becomes stagnant. The Scream Machine doesn’t suffer from a lack of live actors but does feature repetiton of said actors to a fault.

When I visited The Scream Machine in 2002 the back end of the haunt featured a funeral scene which I found quite eerie. Guests were forced to walk a center path with pews on either side filled with ghoulies. It was a great scene but failed to deliver a real thrill when nobody leapt from a pew. Last year the scene was omitted but its back this year. This time around guests have to wind through a path of pews as opposed to walking down a center aisle but again no one springs forth from a seat. Someone does pop out of the top of an organ located near the exit of the room but I really feel one of the zombie looking creeps in the pews would provide more of a scare.

The Scream Machine is too short and too wide open. Granted a handful of grand scenes provide a wow factor but sheer scares and general creepiness are distinctly lacking. The Hellevator may have improved but overall I think The Scream Machine has experienced some slippage since last season.

We didn’t hit the 3D feature The Carnevil of Lost Souls having not forgot the lackluster experience it provided last year but I do plan to revisit this attraction November 1-4 when both haunts will be available for the low price of $10. I just have to meet Chunk the Clown who happens to reside somewhere in the mysterious annuls of the 3D realm.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

After The Scream Machine McCreary professed that she had pissed her pants and thus departed. I think she was joking…but I’m not entirely sure. It was down to the trio and we were determined to knock out one more haunt. We zipped down to Anxiety Alley which looked deserted, a lone worker stood outside the haunt. He told us they had actually closed early because of a lack of customers. That news left me slightly sad but at just $6 I’m planning to visit Anxiety Alley this season. I think the last time I was there was about nine or ten years ago.

We knew we still had time to hit Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte and so we were off. Admission to Hell’s Hospital was $10 and without a doubt was the best deal of the night. The Wyandotte Jaycees converted both an old mechanic garage and an old house into a quality haunt. While you wait in line a gimpy little fellow entertains the masses with a combination of guttural sounds and questionable gestures. He amused us greatly and even posed for a picture which has of course been posted. Hell’s Hospital employed the classic haunt approach utilizing pitch black hallways and deliberate sounds to build tension.

There is nothing very flashy hear, just a creepy and sometimes smelly old house meant to scare you shitless. The timing of the actors was excellent especially during the scene with the nurse. I don’t want to ruin this scene for anyone planning to go so I’ll only say that you shouldn’t pay to much attention to the nurse or her large friend. This scene was an excellent fusion of timing, lighting, and structure. In the end it resulted in the biggest surprise of the night.

A few of the actors fooled me into believing they were props which is something I’m quite adept at recognizing, none did it better than a ghoulie chained to a chair in the room that was strangely cold.

This attraction absolutely nailed the fundamentals of a haunted house and I can’t think of enough good things to say about it. If you live downriver and plan to visit just one haunted attraction this season then make it Hell’s Hospital. The only true criticism we had of the place was the lack of a climactic finale. It was so good I’m thinking of dragging Missy there before the season ends.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

A successful night of haunting and still there are four downriver haunts to hit before the season ends. Those include Anxiety Alley, Leo’s House of Horror, Papp Park Panic Attack, and The Realm of Haunted Minds. Pudge claims to have visited a haunted house on Telegraph in Taylor near I-94 which is where the Extreme Scream usually resides but that isn’t operating this year so I am left to wonder where the hell she went. Of course she failed to get the name of the attraction so I’ll have to do some detective work.

It’s worth mentioning that I started work at Halloween USA today. I spent the day half-heartedly greeting people while perusing the products in my section. Needless to say I found a bundle of props I’d love to adorn throughout the apartment…Missy I suspect feels otherwise. Ah well, you can at least view some of the props in the picture section.

I also made it to a haunted hayride on Saturday. Missy and I ventured to Belleville where we visited The Pumpkin Factory. It’s a quaint farm that features several free minor attractions which are worth a look as well as a neat country store that has some delicious doughnuts.

The hayride itself was alright, it wasn’t bad but it certainly wasn’t spectacular. I felt that the actors timing was generally sub par. It was lengthy and for that it deserves positive marks but the lack of any real shocks or impressive scenes left much to be desired. It was a fun experience though and I’d really like to give a few more haunted hayrides a whirl before I judge this one too harshly. At the least it’s a nice place for families with young children.

Rating: 3 stars

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.”

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