This review was originally posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2008; it details one memorable weekend from late October 2008. It was that fall that we first visited Terror Town in Maumee, Ohio and experienced House of the Dead.
I have often considered compiling a list of my top five or ten most memorable haunted attractions and without hesitation I can say that our maiden voyage through the dank, rotting depths of Terror Town’s House of the Dead would easily make any such list. House of the Dead went on to become Horrorlust’s Haunt of the Year in 2008.
The following day, my wife and I went to Apple Charlie’s in New Boston which packed a lot of haunt goodness into a very small amount of time and space. I need more weekends like this magical ride now six years past.
The last weekend prior to Halloween was a big one for the Haunt Trinity. On Saturday, October 25 we were once again joined by Cherette for a trip to TerrorTown in Maumee, Ohio. Then on Sunday Missy and I visited Apple Charlie’s in New Boston where for just $5 I entered the Barn of Blood. It was quite a whirlwind weekend of haunting and that’s just the way I like it.
I’ve longed to visit TerrorTown for several seasons now but until this year we had never made time for this particular haunt. Mayor Wormface had beckoned to me from the pages of the Fear Finder on many occasions and it was time to take him up on his delightfully dreadful offer.
TerrorTown features four attractions: The Freak Show, Slaughter House, The Beast, and House of the Dead. After buying our tickets we made our way to the entrance of a uniquely lit graveyard, to our left atop a structure a massive skull peered down with a single glowing eyeball that shifted from side to side. We shuffled excitedly through the cemetery lit be a series of large, black light bulbs positioned on top of fence posts; a skeletal horse stalked the grounds. The path lead us to the line for the Freak Show where we were entertained by a one of TerrorTown’s resident ghouls, a tall, red creature with a talent for swallowing fire.
After about half an hour wait we entered Freak Show and witnessed an eclectic and interesting array of oddities. Each item was accompanied by newspaper articles or plaques providing insight into the displayed piece. The entire room was bathed in the glow of black lights which provided the usual eerie effect. My personal favorites included a fetus in a jar that sported a curious tail as well as the dried and rotting Fiji Mermaid. Freak Show was very cool but it was incredibly short and this fact was very disappointing. I remarked to Jason that had I known it was so short I would have taken more time with each display. Alas it was too late as we found ourselves in line for Slaughter House. Given the nature of the Freak Show attraction I don’t feel it would be fair to assign a rating, it isn’t a haunted house and is by all intents purely a side show.
Slightly disappointed, as I think we all were, we soldiered on to Slaughter House which I was quite curious about. I had read on TerrorTown’s website that guests are given a flashlight upon entering this particular haunt but there was a catch, the operators controlled the flashlight. I thought that this unique twist could provide for an interesting and exciting haunt experience. Slaughter House had the look and feel of an old school haunt but failed to utilize those elements that make this genre so effective, instead the haunt featured a number of amusing and gory animatronics. Animatronics are great but I’m of the belief that an inanimate object can only invoke so much fear, they work best in conjunction with live actors and Slaughter House was terribly short on the latter. The flashlight idea was great in concept but in practice turned out to be ill timed seemingly going off at random. I had thought that perhaps the flashlights would abruptly cut off after patrons were allowed a brief glimpse of a stampeding, chainsaw-wielding maniac but it seemed that perhaps every group’s flashlight simply went out at the same time. One wonderful feature of Slaughter House was an enormous pig head that attacks guests and squeals incessantly, you can imagine the jokes this particular scene invoked. Overall Slaugher House wasn’t bad but it did leave a lot to be desired, what was most disappointing to me was that it had potential to be so much more and really with a few minor tweaks it could have been very good.
Rating: 3 stars
Next we followed the path through a colossal pair of jaws that led to The Beast. We entered the structure and began down a path of three or four spinning vortex tunnels also commonly referred to as black holes. These structures are fun because not only are they typically lit by black light; but also feature spinning circular walls which cause a sensation that one is falling sideways. Guests make their way across a narrow path and watch in amusement as members of their party struggle to maintain balance. I feel that these particular devices work best when beginning or ending a haunt or when switching from one theme to another.
After walking the length of the massive tunnel we returned outside. Once again I was shocked and disappointed by the length of an attraction. The Freak Show had also been incredibly short, Slaughter House was slightly better than mediocre, and The Beast, which I had thought was a haunted house, was merely a monstrous vortex tunnel. It wasn’t that any of the attractions had been individually bad but collectively I couldn’t help but to be disappointed. I had been expecting so much more from TerrorTown after reading a number of glowing reviews. As with The Freak Show I find it equally unfair and misleading to give The Beast a traditional rating.
We entered the line for House of the Dead where multiple television sets played a horror movie from the 70’s or 80’s, this at least provided some seasonal ambience. As we advanced through the line I thought about how disappointing TerrorTown had been so far and without a monumental effort by the main attraction the whole night was going to go down as perhaps the seasons’ most dismal. We discussed this fact as we neared the entrance and each of us seemed resigned to the fact that barring an October miracle there was little chance that House of the Dead could save TerrorTown from haunting infamy. I suppose there was a sense that we had nothing left to lose and so we entered House of the Dead.
Guests first wait in a foyer, ahead an ominous set of large double doors rest. After a few minutes a slightly crazed, middle-aged man appears (he looks some what like Mayor Wormface) and invites us inside to, “Play with his children”. We enter another waiting area before being loaded onto elevators that will transport us to the bowels of the house. So far House of the Dead is doing things right, building plenty of tension in the foyer and then jolting guests with a wild ride to the basement of dead house. Once out of the elevator hauntgoers wind their way through a plethora of eerie rooms. The haunt appears to be an abandoned house, old fashion pictures adorn the walls, and common household objects such as furniture and childrens toys layer the landscape. I notice that the haunt smells foul and I mean bizarrely foul; I’ve never smelled something like this. Later on I would take a blast of the rotten air straight in the face and I gagged profusely, nearly throwing up. I know what you’re thinking faithful readers, you’re thinking that House of the Dead did indeed cap off a disappointing night…well…not even close!
House of the Dead was just getting started with the Haunt Trinity and before we exited this unique haunt we would come to know precisely why it had been described as, “an assault on the senses”. House of the Dead is part Erebus, part Extreme Scream and blends the two schools of thought into a rare haunting endeavor. The animatronics are over the top and impressive, a number of mutant aliens scurry about the walls assailing guests from all angles. One such alien ventured to get too close to the Haunt Trinity and found out just how amused I was when I gleefully squibbed that ugly face! The haunt also featured painfully detailed, life-sized statues. I exaggerate not one iota when I say that these props were some of the most frightening I’ve ever witnessed.
House of the Dead also features a number of sprayers that blast guests with both air and water. In fact just after the aforementioned squibbing took place I was blasted in the face by a cartoonishly filthy toilet. The haunt also held a number of bizarre scenes and props such as holographic projections and a giant, floating eyeball. After making our way through a macabre forest in which multiple leapers attacked simultaneously we struck forth to the frantic finish. While on an ascending pathway an unseen creature swooped just above our heads causing all of us to duck. We then made our way through a series of rooms that resembled those at the beginning of the haunt.
I was the first to enter a room filled with the remains of dozens of baby dolls and was immediately reminded of Dolls and Puppet Master. Some of the dolls were moving robotically, heads and limbs moving methodically from side to side or up and down, it was wonderfully creepy. Some of them were missing eyeballs and a select few even brandished glowing knives. The rest of the group trailed behind me and upon entering I witnessed something truly bizarre. One of the babies was running at Jason! The little son of a bitch scurried across the floor slashing the air with his miniature knife! It was indeed a strange scene at first but my eyes quickly recognized a black mass materialize behind the doll. A black clad worker was puppeting the doll and as this came into greater focus the whole scene grew even more ludicrous in a sense. The little guy slashed furiously at Jason as I doubled over in laughter and then turned his fury to a shrieking girl in the group behind us. The gag may have been a simple one but it was pulled off to great effect and will surely stand out as one of the highlights of the season.
We escaped the blood thirsty infant only to be enveloped in fog and green lasers. It was very difficult to determine a path so I took the initiative and began wandering directly into the thickest part of the fog. Just then a massive wolf head lurched forth from the fog; hands outstretched searching for a tasty morsel. Next we turned into a room and ahead I could see a man holding a chainsaw, he was just staring at us. Hauntgoers cross a platform only to have this lunatic charge from behind (a mirror made it appear as if he were in front of the party) and chase them to the exit of House of the Dead.
House of the Dead did indeed save the night for TerrorTown proving to be a wild, haunt riot. A bold combination of old school techniques and flat out, in your face craziness proved to be an unlikely alchemy for success. My only suggestion for the House of the Dead is the inclusion of a few more well placed live actors. We left the now nearly deserted Lucas County fair grounds with riveting moments flitting through our heads, House of the Dead had just saved the night and launched itself into Haunt of the Year contention.
Rating: 5 stars
I did mention that a bit of haunting was also done on Sunday and so let me tell you the tale of the Barn of Blood. Missy opted not to join me inside the Barn and thus I was left to brave the horrors alone. Two things immediately stand out as one enters the barn, the first — it’s extremely quiet, and the second — it’s extremely dark. This is old school haunting reduced to the barest of elements and it reeks havoc on the psyche. A loud blast of fog issues from the left breaking the complete silence and that seems to act as a cue for a sword wielding deadie. The deadie follows me down a dark hallway, slamming the sword against a wall and then onto a metal slab. The ensuing clang is deafening and the sword looks a bit too real for my liking, I don’t like this creep. He departs and I find myself groping about the pitch black hall, shortly sparks fly from the left as some deranged freak thrashes behind wire fencing. Later a ghoulie comes form beneath a wall and desperately claws at my legs. Shortly a gravely voice informs me to, “Enjoy the show,” and as I turn the corner I watch a darkly ironic scene. A man is strapped to an electric chair, basked in red light, as My Chemical Romance’s “Blood” is pumped through speakers. It was a unique infusion of pop culture weaved neatly into a haunted attraction and as a chainsaw wielding Leatherface ushered me from the premises I reflected on what a solid job this small haunt had just completed.
Rating: 4 stars