HELLO HAUNT FANS, THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL FIND ARTICLES OF OUR EXPERIENCES WHILE VISITING EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS. THIS SIDE OF SF, WE DO NOT REVIEW IN THE SENSE OF; BREAKING DOWN HAUNTS INTO CATEGORIES, JUDGE OFF CRITERIA, CRITIQUE NOR SCORE HAUNTS. WE WILL HOWEVER BE HONEST IN OUR ARTICLES BUT WANT TO SHINE A LIGHT AND PROMOTE THE MORE POSITIVES ASPECTS OF EACH EVENT/ ATTRACTION RATHER THAN JUDGE, CRITIQUE OTHER PEOPLES HARD WORK AND PASSION. NO 2 HAUNTS ARE ALIKE AND THEY SHOULDN'T BE COMPARED TO ONE ANOTHER.
WE ALSO LESSENED OUR TOTAL VISITS AND DOWNSIZED OUR STAFF. WE BELIEVE QUALITY OF OUR WRITING TRUMPS THE QUANITY OF HAUNTS WE VISIT.
IT'S MORE BENFICIAL TO HAVE 10 QUALITY ARTICLES VS 90 VISITED HAUNTS WITH LAZY WRITE UPS.
WHICH IN TURN, MAKES AN OFFICIAL SF VISIT TO A HAUNT THAT MORE MEANINGFUL.
WE HOPE YOU ENJOY OUR 2023 ARTICLES.
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS
The year was 2002 and I was in Florida going to a tech school called Full Sail University. A friend and myself decided to go to Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights, due to the fact that it was in Islands of Adventure for the first time. To think of how much of an impression that event gave me is one of the reasons I still am in this industry to this day. 21 years go by and I am a manager at Woods of Terror and Eddie and Peggy tells us that we are going to Halloween Horror nights on opening weekend. Yeah, this fanboy was ready to go at that moment. If you don't know Halloween Horror Nights Orlando then you are missing out on some of the finest attractions and story telling a haunt could ever have. HHN to the point right now has not only a cult following there are YouTube, tik toks, and discords all about HHN. The biggest thing everyone talks about is during the speculation season before the 10 houses and the 5 scarezones are even announced. Yes I am one of the many that follow along every speculation season. So lets get into those 10 house, 5 scarezones and the show Nightmare fuel. As the Woods of Terror crew made it to the front of Universal we met up with TJ the VP of Design Entertainment met with us and ended up being our tour guide through the entire event, and yes he was there till 2am with us. As TJ led us to a stay and scream spot before the houses opened, he began to enlighten the ones in our group that had never been to the event on how everything works. As we began our journey we went to the first house Stranger Things. This attraction is based off of the 4th season and without giving out any spoilers of what scenes and characters are in the house. Oh did this house deliver with some amazing effects to make you feel like you were in the upside down. The cast did an amazing job on bringing this moments to life. As TJ explained to us how they have 2 teams of actors for each attraction and scarezone. There was a time during the night one of the scarezones went through shift change and it was a sight to see one team leave and then the other march in like a well oiled machine.Tj took us to the next attraction which was Yeti: Campground kills. Oh did this attraction put you in the middle of a campground being attacked by some crazy yetis. The silhouette effect was used a couple times in this attraction and even in a few other attractions as well. This effect showed some yetis just mauling campers in their tents which was so great to see. As we finished with Yeti, TJ continued to answer our haunt question and surprised us all with an actual behind the scenes tour of make up, and costumes. It was part of the night we were able to ask question and learn how one of the 4 make up and costume stations worked each night. This part of the tour really opened my eyes to the 1200 cast members and then all the managers and other staff that keep this event going is insane. The next attraction we went to was the one that I fanboyed like no other. Yep that is right Scorn smiled a lot during this trip the most in this Dueling Dragons choose your fate haunt. Yes I am a huge fan of the Dueling Dragons ride that Islands of Adventure use to have. There were points in this haunt that I could just sit in and remember the cue for the coaster. The team at HHN really brought the battle between the 2 wizards to life in this attraction. The costumes were either a bright blue for the ice dragon or the bright yellow and orange for the fire dragon. The actors were on point with each scare spot as we went through. Seeing the 2 dragons just like they were in the front of the ride just had me me grinning from ear to ear. I will say this HHN did an amazing job with how they took a ride that has been gone for years and was able to bring back elements from the que and a story line that put it into a horror genre so perfectly. As we left to head to the next attraction we hopped in to the Tribute store for HHN that was themed into an old comic book store. This is the main store that has majority of the merch for the season. We continued to the next attraction Universal Monsters: Unmasked. This attraction is based on some of the monsters they have not used before like the phantom of the opera, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the invisible man all in Paris as you descend into the catacombs. This had some very unique effects that make you feel you are in Paris. It is a mix of the monsters and some victims and oh the invisible man just likes to show up out of nowhere to remind you he is always around. TJ then took us to the next attraction which is based off of the story that a blues singer went to a crossroads and sold his soul to a diabolical entity ( cough Dr. Oddfellow cough) through this attraction you will see the blues singer using his new found fame to create some interesting music. As the entity follows him around at each venue causing so much chaos and even taking more souls. The one thing HHN can do perfectly is the lore of their original content. Dr. Oddfellow’s Twisted Origins is the next attraction we went to. This is the events Icon, unlike most years they would produce some commercials with the icon of the event. This year the commercials went for the IP properties. So this attraction is based off of the Dr. Oddfellows traveling circus. This is filled with clowns and carney’s and is a lot of fun. You will see some old HHN lore of Dr. Oddfellow killing off Jack the clown HHN’s most popular Icon. That one scene is part of jack’s backstory. As the woods team continued over to the One show they have at HHN Nightmare Fuel we got some great seats a couple rows down from the top in the middle. This show is a continuance from the last couple of nightmare fuel shows but it does have a twist from what they did last year. This show was amazing and a nice break time between attractions. This show has tons of pyro and strobes with some very loud fun music. As our journey around Universal continues we hopped in line for The Last of Us this IP house is based on the video game. You are immersed into a run down Pittsburg where you can find Joel and Ellie fighting off a bunch of clickers. The team in this attraction did a great job with the attraction feeling like you were in the destroyed streets of Pittsburg. Even though I have never played this game I understood the story they were portraying from the game. As we made it out of the attraction we got a little behind the scenes view of Universals prosthetic and mask team as they were available to answer questions we had, even got to talk to a couple of the actors as they were on break. Our next stop was the house that was announced at the end of the HHN last season Chucky’s house called Chucky Ultimate Kill Count. This house is a 4th wall break type house. The story goes that Universal has created a Chucky Haunted house for HHN and have invited the one and only chucky the doll to come see the Attraction. He hates it so much that he attacks the Universal team and kills them off through out the house. This was a fun spin on a attraction with so many animatronic chucky dolls causing chaos. The death scenes were bloody just as you would expect from a Chucky movie. Our next stop was the last IP The Exorcist: Believer Attraction. This is based off of the trailer of the new movie coming out the first week of October. I will say this you are put right in the middle of the scenes from the trailer. The cast in this house really put forth the effort with only having a trailer to go off of. From the scenes to the smells this attraction made you feel like there were forces making you feel uneasy as you walk through. We ended our journey of HHN with Universal’s Original house Bloodmoon Dark Offerings. This attraction is where you come to a colonial-era village where some of the villagers have started to worship the moon. These villagers start attacking the non-believers and blaming them for the bad things that have been happening in the village. As you walk into the first scene you see a blood moon at the top of the façade. If you pay attention you will see that moon in a few spots and even see it cast in the glass of the windows. This house uses the height factor very well. There are actors up in the bell tower multiple second level areas to distract you so the actors on the bottom floor can scare you. Bloodmoon also uses a lot of practical effects to mask where the scare actors are hidden. This event you don't ever want to sleep on especially when it comes to the 5 scarezones that keep the scares going throughout the night as you walk from one house to the next. When you walk through the event this year Universal has a story of Dr. Oddfellow ( the events Icon) and his journey of immortality and some of the creatures he has collected over the years. The first scarezone you will come to see is Dr. Oddfellow’s Collection of Horrors this is the just some of the creatures he has brought to the event. The next is where all the Woodstock hippies can chill and enjoy some awesome music of the 60’s with those actually scary Vamps attacking the concert goers in Vamp ‘69: Summer of Blood. Next you will walk into Shipyard 32: Horrors unhinged where a bunch of shipping creates from Dr. Oddfellow has some creatures have escaped and run wild in this shipping yard. The next scarezone you come across is where Dr. Oddfellow finds a very mysterious green crystal and where he performs horrific experiments on nature. The last Scarezone is The Dark Zodiac where you will meet some very interesting creatures of the zodiac signs from Scorpio to Gemini the universal team brings to life a very demented version of each sign. This is the first time they have used an original icon in the story line for each scarezone. The question is can you spot Dr. Oddfellow in each zone... The Cast, the crew and all the ones that work on HHN are the best in the business especially when it comes to telling an original concept to bringing to life an intellectual property. There is a reason this event has youtubers and podcasters covering the speculation season ( the offseason when houses are being announced) to when HHN is running. I want to send a huge Thank you to TJ for being such a great host to the Woods of Terror team and we look forward to talking shop next year. If you are looking to go to this event this year get your tickets in advanced and get those express passes so you can get through all the houses. For the Florida event go to: https://www.universalorlando.com/web-store/en/us/add-ons?tab=Halloween%20horror%20nights
THE BARON & SINDEE NYTE
Stop #1 Of The Baron & Sindee Nyte 2023 ScurryFace Michigan Haunt Tour: Jackson's Underworld We start the 2023 Haunt Tour with a longtime mid-Michigan favorite; Jackson's UnderWorld, in, you guessed it…Jackson Michigan. When you pull up to this haunt, you are met with a massive, creepy, old and historic building. We were told this building used to be a hospital for Civil War soldiers. In fact, some of the props in the lab were actually relics from when the building was a hospital. When we arrived in the parking lot, we were enthusiastically met by "Jingles." Her energy and excitement was just a precursor to the type of high energy that all the haunt Actors displayed throughout the haunt. Once we had a little fun with "Jingles", we made our way toward this very intimidating three story brick building. The sound of thunder radiates all around you and creepy faces appear out of windows high above you. Just the sight of this building alone will give you the heebie-jeebies…What's inside just gets better. Before we actually went through the Haunt, we met up with Lei (pronounced Lee). Lei, along with her husband, are the Owners of Jackson's Underworld. The Haunt has been around for many years, however, Lei purchased the Haunt in 2020…Uh Oh! What a dangerous time to purchase or start up any business. PANDEMIC! Well, luckily, Lei says they were actually able to run the haunt all the way through the Haunt season. She said with frequent Sanitation breaks and lots of hand sanitizer they survived that horrible period of time. We spent about 10 minutes in Lei's office discussing the history of the building, which is very fascinating with its Civil War connection and its natural creepy esthetic. We also talked about what lies ahead for us as we navigate 3 stories of hell. She wouldn't spill the beans, so we ventured off into the unknown. Well, this is our experience and it was fun! First recommendation, wear comfortable shoes. To get through this haunt you're walking well over 1 mile of twists & turns, stairs and hallways. As you navigate this haunt, unlike many haunts that have a specific theme, or multiple haunts at one location, Jackson's Underworld is just one long, big, attraction with no common theme or storyline. It is filled with all your favorite rooms, such as; labs, bathrooms, swamps, disorientations, spinning tunnels, cages, carnivals & clowns, big animatronic monsters, mazes, just to name a few. One of the more difficult and creepy rooms is the disoriented white room. Prepare to wander around aimlessly within a room of all white curtains hanging from the ceiling, fog and flashing lights that makes it nearly impossible to find your bearings. Oh, yeah, there is also an all white ghostly creature popping up just to make sure you are creeped out enough. For Sindee, the most legitimate scare was by far the rickety old metal catwalk that spans across two buildings…3 stories up. She has a fear of heights so this really spooked her and the only way she made it across was to close her eyes, grab the back of my vest and slowly shuffle her way across. It probably didn't help that I kept telling her to open her eyes and look at what was below us in the courtyard. Once you do make your way down to the courtyard you will be treated to a wonderfully horrific weeping bride. She will make your skin crawl as she follows behind you pleading for…Well, you! Bravo to the actress because she really sells it! Another wonderful actress we really appreciated was the very nimble contortionist in the rotating tunnel. She could easily give Regan from The Exorcist a run for her money in scare factor! One thing you may notice about this haunt. Most of the rooms are so large you have know idea how to get out. This could be a blessing or a curse for the haunt. On one hand, guests have lots of room to maneuver…Or run. And, the haunt has lots of room to pack in a lot of props, scares and actors. On the other hand, the haunt has a whole lot of space to fill with costly props, scares and actors. Either way, they made it work and still has room to grow. Being big Distortions Animatronics fans, we were very excited and pleased to see several Distortions monsters. We had the pleasure to meet Ed and Marsha Edmonds at this very haunt several years ago. It was exciting to see some of these props still hanging around. In true Distortions fashion, these are big, gnarly animatronics. The basement was our overall favorite floor. It just had that natural spooky and dirty feel to it. The loooong maze of chain link fences is mind boggling with its seemingly never ending twists and turns. Also down in the basement you will run into some toxic infected "person?" with thee most memorable and haunting squeal. There is no avoiding or getting around him…So enjoy the ride. It has been several years since we last visited Jackson's Underworld and that was with different owners. We truly hope the new owners are successful in building a bigger and better Jackson's Underworld for years to come.
KERSEY VALLEY SPOOKYWOODS
JUSTIN & AMBER
ARCHDALE, NORTH CAROLINA
When there is a sense of fear in the air and chills running down your spine, that is when you know it’s Halloween time! For the first haunt for us this year, we find ourselves in Archdale, NC in the deep dark monster infested forest of Kersey Valley called…. SPOOKYWOODS! We arrive on OPENING NIGHT 2023! As you drive in down the long and slow gravel road you have time to think, “What am I getting myself into here? Did we make a wrong turn?” Once we parked there was just a sense in the atmosphere that you were being hunted by monsters! Now I don’t know about you but for any horror junkie like us out there this is an adrenaline rush for sure… AND WE HAVEN”T EVEN STARTED YET!! We had pre purchased our tickets online prior to our arrival, so this made it a lot easier to get inside! Once we pass through a nice and smooth security checkpoint, which we respect dearly as former Actors, we enter the “midway” of Kersey Valley. Side note, Shout out to the amazing security staff for having all smiles and making this process as seamless as possible but still making sure everyone is safe! Inside the midway area you can find a few photo-op spots as well as all of your fine Kersey Valley dining! All the way from Apple Cider Donuts to TumbleWeeds Grubhouse & Watering hole. There are several other shops and such to check out as well! There was even one shack called “Endora’s Brew”. Now I don’t know if you all have heard… But legend has it, the wicked witch known as Endora lurks these woods in search of her next victims! Will you take your chance at trying her “Brew”?!? This midway experience definitely has that Theme Park feel to it and we are here for it! Off in the distance as you enter this midway, You can here what sounds like a good ole time of party music! But don’t get too excited as the terror is just on the other side! Where this music is located is the queue line to enter into the woods. This is the pre party before the frights! The music was handled by the one and only DJ Dad Mouth! And let’s just say.. He Nailed it! As you are waiting for the frights to begin, there are TV screens in the queue line that have Monster Trivia on it! You can even log onto the website via mobile device and play along. Or just party and dance while you wait! As the night settles in and the air grows colder the scared emotions start to arise and the monsters start showing their faces to prepare you for what lurks inside the trail! They may seem friendly as they dance along and party as well but don’t let this fool you… They can be just as sneaky as the rest of them and will appear when you least expect it! At the time the trail is just about to open, good ole DJ Dad Mouth comes over the loud speakers to make an announcement. Remember the wicked witch Endora we mentioned before? Well get ready because she has ARRIVED! Endora has shown her face and is on the hunt for her next victim! Now on the Spookywoods website it states for a general admission ticket the average wait time is anywhere from 1 to 1 and ½ hours. This is the ticket we purchased this night. Let us be the first to tell you, with the atmosphere in that queue line it most definitely felt at most like 20 minutes! They really do mean it when they say time flies when you’re having fun! As our wait comes to an end we approach this lovely, and yes we use this term lightly, Old boarded up house façade. The lights begin to flicker and a man with a stitched up face stares at us like we are going to be his next puppet and proceeds to open the door. He then motions us in and we have the final realization, we aren’t in party mode anymore! The chills begin to run down our spines as the screams grow louder! As we are making our way through this old bone-tingling house, we realize….. We have entered Endora’s establishment where she has stored her last victims and plans to keep us as well! We weave our way through and find an escape route and are then headed down a long dark road to a miniature line to board a train car pulled by a tractor. We then began to realize that we are going to be DROPPED IN THE WOODS ALONE!! All in all this, in our own terms, Pre-Haunt was just the right thing needed to help the switch over from party mode to haunt mode! Well done Spookywoods! We boarded the train that was lit up by neon green lights all throughout and the tractor begins to move forward. As we approach a very dark area, all of a sudden, the lights go out! Now we are deep in the woods and it is pitch black…. This isn’t looking to be in our favor here! We drive down the beaten pathway and without giving too much away, Be aware of your entire surroundings! This was definitely a unique experience for us as avid horror and haunt enthusiasts and it is one of the MANY reasons we will recommend this haunt! Once you have made your way through the dark and scary path on this train you can see in the distance some bright red neon lights that spell out the words “ICONS” This could only mean one thing… The Green lights on the train come back on and we are asked to exit the car and head towards the big letters. I asked the lady “Uh Do I have to?” and indeed it has only just begun! We are greeted by Dr. Loomis himself as we approach these letters and he tells us to be on the lookout. The Boogeyman is still alive! Once we arrived at the letters we are guided to enter through the letter “O” yes we said the LETTER “O”. Now our adrenaline is on maximum overdrive, no pun intended. We make our way through the woods and meet, face to face, all of the beloved “ICONS” of horror! We then arrive back at the loading zone to aboard the train once more! As we are heading down a new pathway, yup you’ve guessed it… The lights go out yet again! Someone might need to look into this as when that happens, the monsters that lurk in the dark have free reign! Remember folks, THE LIGHTS WILL SAVE YOU! Said no one ever HA! Once the lights begin to turn back on, we are greeted by a lovely, We say wholeheartedly, chainsaw wielding maniac that forces us to exit the train. Yup, we are definitely on our own now! This then leads us to the most well thought out Corn Maze that we have ever seen! This is an article but trust me we are applauding you Spookywoods! This begins the almost seamless transitions of scenes throughout a haunt that we have ever been apart of. This trail had to have been what seemed to be Miles long, or at least felt like it, and every time we switched through scenes with how on point these monsters were, we had to recuperate and gather our thoughts and realize we were in all new nightmares! At one point we arrived at a young kid with a chainsaw and dare we say this kid could give any other monster with a chainsaw a run for their money! Amazing job! As we make our way through the again, what felt like MILES long trail, we find ourselves walking out of one of many houses that we entered along the way and back into the midway at TumbleWeed’s! There is so much to unpack with this haunt and if we told you everything we experienced then this would be a New York Times Best Selling Novel! It’s THAT good! All in all, Actors were amazing, Staff was amazing and helpful and the sets and scenery were absolutely stunning! Extremely wonderful job by this haunt all together and we definitely recommend it as haunt to see! Now for the break down! The ticket tiers on the website and on site vary based on wait times! General admission as we mentioned before states 1 – 1.5 hours (Again doesn’t feel that long when you’re partying!) VIP average of 30 minutes wait, & Immediate access where there is no wait AND you get a group photo and folder! Again this haunt had a spectacular opening night and we will definitely be back for sure! We recommend you check it out yourselves!
Every year, the countdown for the local haunts gets more and more unbearable. Especially knowing that you have one of the coolest jobs in the universe getting to write articles about something you love! Columbia Manor has felt like “home” to me since I first stepped foot there MANY years ago! Columbia Manor is located in Columbia, Alabama. One of those smaller towns where people look out for one another. Where the people have southern hospitality and the first time speaking to someone there makes you feel like you’ve known them your entire lives. I got the pleasure of getting a “behind the scenes” look at Columbia Manor. One of the amazing volunteers AND our tour guide for the sneak peek, Clay Hamm, let us see where the magic begins. All these men, women and kids are volunteers and let me tell you, I couldn’t think of a better place to volunteer for. They are treated so well. We walked around back to see a huge picnic area where some people were eating before they got ready. We walked into a room with a dry-erase board filled with tons of names of all the volunteers and who had what character for the evening. There were tables with makeup artists applying makeup on some of the volunteers and in another room a big vanity for those who put their own makeup on. We walked into the costume area- which was the biggest I’ve ever seen. I wanted to swim in the sea of costumes lol. There were thousands and that’s not counting all the people who already had their costume on. They had dressing rooms and washers and dryers to clean all the clothes once worn. There was definitely organization amongst the chaos. I must first shout out to all these amazing volunteers who work endlessly not only at haunt season, but months before and after. These are people that have full time jobs, some more than one, yet still make time to volunteer to give us the biggest bang for our buck!! Todd Chandler, Clay Hamm and all the wonderful people who go above and beyond for all of us for 15 years now. They are just some of the people who make this place possible, season after season! A huge THANK YOU to you beautiful people!!! Some may not know that Columbia Manor is considered to be a real-life haunted house. There are many articles out there for them, including on the BIO channel called “My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera.” It gives you some history on the house and what all it was before they took it over and created this haunt for us. Columbia Manor offers general admission tickets and fast pass tickets. They were already pretty busy and it wasn’t even October yet. The later in the season you decide to go, you may want to think about the fast pass tickets. Regardless which ones you pick, the lines move pretty quickly. I do recommend getting your tickets in advance because the closer it is to Halloween, the longer the ticket line also gets. Each year on Columbia Manor’s page, they can tell you where to purchase your advance tickets. This allows you to skip the ticket line and go straight to the general admission/fast pass line. As we were waiting in the fast pass line, creepy music plays, music videos are showing on a big screen and the spooky characters come out to play with the patrons. They even stop for a photo-op for the kids and adults. If you get hungry or thirsty while standing in line, they have a concession stand available and also very CLEAN porta-potty’s, with a portable sink outside to wash your hands. That matters to us women, lol. When they have guest stars come visit the Manor, they have a special building dedicated to them called “The Parlor.” The Parlor is where you can go to meet and greet the guests and get autographs and some of them even allow pictures with you! The first house you enter is the “warm up” house. The clown-house. It’s a little different every year that I go. It takes about 5 minutes to go through this house but never disappoints. The colors are so bright and vivid, your eyes are automatically attracted to the colors, almost to a point that you forget what you’re doing until the jump scares happen. This is not something thrown together in a week, this is precise and beautifully done. It’s what I image a good acid trip looking like LOL. Any clown you can dream up is lurking in that house, including old and new Pennywise. After you leave the clown house, you are directed to the line of the main house. Columbia Manor itself. It’s a very short wait and then your group is called to enter the house. You get the rundown on the rules and off you go. One thing I love about Columbia Manor, they take their time. Most of the time, your group gets to go by themselves instead of pushing a huge number through at the time. This gives you a more personable experience and you have more time to stop and smell the dead roses, so to speak. You start in a room that gives you a little history of the lady of the manor, then they send you off to find the creepiness with your group around every turn. From the outside, the house doesn’t look very big, but the looks are certainly deceiving. There’s room after room, so much to look at--- you could literally go through back to back to back and constantly notice something new that you never noticed before. One of the best feelings is the world is the adrenaline rush you receive after going through a good haunt and Columbia Manor always brings it when it comes to that!! Each room specifically designed for whatever theme they are going for in that particular room. There’s twists and turns, upstairs, down stairs, even a space to crawl through, which MAY have something behind you if you turn around, so be prepared to SCREAM! So much to see, every room was planned out perfectly to know when your group was coming. Columbia Manor uses all the tricks and treats with perfect timing! After about 15-25 minutes inside the house, you enter an outside version. The outside is just as amazing as the inside if you can believe that. It almost feels as if you’re in your very own horror flick- make sure you get your fortune read before going outside. From swamp life, to jeepers creepers, to camp crystal lake -with its very own campers lying around- My bloody valentine, if you can think it, trust me, they’ve already dreamed it and made it come true. The outside is about 10-15 minutes, depending how quickly you make it through- IF you make it through!! The final scene is a complete cemetery that you have to make your way through, without getting bit by the unliving out there. Be careful out there, some don’t make it out ALIVE! The cemetery is another 10-15 min, again, depending on how quickly you walk. Columbia Manor truly is a sight for sore eyes. I recommend them if you’re a first- time patron, or even someone who seeks the best ones around. They never disappoint when it comes to screams and laughs and just a good time! Expect to be hoarse when you leave there, if you scare easily, maybe pack a good adult diaper, or two!
THE 13TH GATE
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
I have lived in the South for over five years and come Halloween season, there are always 3 places mentioned as must dos. The 13th Gate is usually at the top of that list and this year I decided to pull the trigger and make the drive; and boy was it worth it. Some generic information about the surrounding area is that if you are trying to make this a whole evening event, it will be easy to do so. Located in the middle of Baton Rouge, there are plenty of restaurants or bars that you can choose to visit before or after the walk through, including two bars that are directly across the street. They also have a midway type of space named Carn-EVIL set up diagonally which includes a food stand, three mini escape rooms for $5 a pop, and a selfie trailer with several different scenes you can choose from. It also looked to have benches set up in the back in front of a screen that plays movies or promo clips. I absolutely loved this because it allows people to have options long after they finished the 13th Gate. My only comment or suggestion would be to add a couple of actors or street performers that guests could interact with. I also must note, I went on a Thursday evening. They may or may not have actors in the space for more high-volume nights, I just can’t comment on that seeing as its non-applicable for the night I attended. This location has a free parking lot to the side underneath the freeway but should it fill up, which I assume is quite common on the weekends, there is also a paid lot and ample street parking if you have the patience. Moving on to pricing options, they have a wide array of packages for guests to choose from. Their general admission ticket is $35 while VIP is $75. I am sure that the closer to Halloween this location gets, the worse their lines are and VIP may be worth the price tag but for a Thursday night, I was able to grab my ticket and walk right through. They also sell combo tickets where it includes the haunt plus an escape room and much more. It just depends on your group and what all you are looking to enjoy for the evening. All the staff I encountered before entering were very friendly, which made the atmosphere quite pleasant. Security was roaming about making sure everything ran smoothly and guests remained respectful which I rather appreciate since Haunts can bring about the rowdiest of patrons. Guests have two ways to purchase their tickets; ahead of time on their website, 13thgate.com or in person at the ticket booths located in Carn-EVIL. My suggestion is to purchase online and go directly to the haunt and hit up the midway after you exit because it includes the merchandise booth which has shirts, hats, pins, pictures (your group gets their picture taken just before you enter the haunted house), and many other options. Moving along to the Haunt itself, please keep in mind that I am going to attempt to review this as a neutral party but also with my personal taste in mind to give everyone the best picture I can. As stated above, I went on a Thursday evening and there was no line. I walked straight through with my group and the very first thing you encounter are Elevator Bellhops that instruct you enter the elevator which will take you down to the start of everything. Now, I have no way to tell how far down you actually go but these things had to be functional due to when the doors open again, you are in a whole new area. Without giving too much away, this Haunt is very story based and broken up into several movie scenes and other “scary” locations. You can find rooms themed to movies such as Evil Dead, Van Helsing, The Nun and several others. Something to note, this year must have been the debut of a whole new Stranger Things section because a lot of their promo material advertised The Upside Down. All their sets were amazingly detailed and so very impressive. It was fully immersive with water effects and even scents in certain rooms being used to add another level of unease. They utilize the space they have to its entirety, and I cannot give them enough praise for the amount of work their set designers put in to make this all that it is. My only question would be if they change the setting every year or if it remains stagnant for a couple and then they change a set here or there to stay relevant with current horror. The 13th Gate spans over 40,000 feet and includes both indoor and outdoor scenes. One of their largest areas to note is a giant “maze” of gravestones mimicking cemeteries in New Orleans. This Haunt also includes almost every trick and talent like stilt performers, bungee cords, and zip lines. The scares come from any and all levels, which is great for keeping the guests guessing where things will come from. The costume department also does a fantastic job of dressing the actors so they compliment the scene they are in rather than being a distraction. The distressing of the outfits is well done and not over the top. I can only imagine their stock room before the season starts and how much of a field day the wardrobe team probably has in creating a cohesive wardrobe rack while meeting the specifications of the current years themes. Make up also seemed to be top notch for the actors I could see. The only negative I can find is that due to low lighting throughout most of the indoor areas, I feel like the make up artists work was in vain since I couldn’t see the actors faces clearly. The Voodoo man in the Cemetery had an amazing make up job of a skeleton spanning the entire length of his torso which I can appreciate since a lot of Haunts seems to end their make up job after the neck. All of this comes to a conclusion after close to thirty minutes by walking through one of those spinning tunnels that are meant to throw you off and feel dizzy. I forgot to time myself walking through but I remember several times thinking, “It has to be over now” only to enter another portion with a new theme. For the $35 price tag, I was more than happy with what I saw. Now, for a few of my personal notes for those of us with a little more horror background, while visually impressive all around, I did not find this place to be very scary. It was incredibly story driven where each actor had to create a backstory or had dialogue on their rooms soundtrack that didn’t leave them with much room to venture away and do something else. There were a few areas, mainly the transition hallways or rooms that the actors had a bit more freedom and it was in those places that I appreciated being startled. The cemetery seemed to have a lot of empty spaces where something SHOULD have been but it remained empty. This could be due to it being a Thursday and them not being able to utilize their whole staff list. They obviously have more important scenes that need bodies so the cemetery is where they chose to go without for the night. As a stilt performer myself, it always pains me to see when a Haunt restricts the stilt actor to a single room, or a pop out door. If you have someone able to stilt walk, throw them out with the general public for photo ops and roaming scares. The spectacle of someone 8ft+ walking around is enough to set the scene and get people talking before even going in to the building. Wrapping the evening up by heading back to Carn-EVIL, my group ended up buying our picture and we enjoyed the fair food that we got at their stand. All in all, it was an evening that was well worth the drive. I never felt rushed by the actors once I entered the house, each actor had a unique scare that didn’t depend on loud screams or visual horror, and they used each and every inch of their designated scene if they were able to. This Haunt has been in the business for over 20 years and it definitely shows. They have their stuff on lock and have elements I’ve never seen before in my many years in the industry. Congratulations on what I assume will be another successful year to The 13th Gate and I hope to make this trip a yearly thing moving forward.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
There are very few cities in the US that make me think of Halloween but New Orleans is always at the top of that list. From the above ground cemeteries to the practice of Voodoo, this city has such a magical and unique atmosphere. Towards the end of famous Canal street, looms a very intimidating Greek Style building with large pillars. It stands out among the few offices and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Most drive past without giving it a second glance, but those of us that are familiar with the dark side of the city understand that there is much more to this house than meets the eye. The home was built in 1872 and then purchased and converted to a funeral home in 1905 where it continued to operate as such for the next 80 years. Throughout its life, there was said to be over 20,000 funerals conducted from autopsy to burial. The house also has had its moment of fame, being featured in Travel Channel’s original show, Ghost Adventures as well as many local documentaries and tours. Last year, in 2022, The Mortuary Haunted House celebrated its 50th year in the Haunt business. Moving on from the minor history lesson, this building is absolutely stunning when standing in front of it. Its large front is decorated and adorned with mood lighting, props that match the current theme, and of course, fog. Parking was easy to find; there’s ample parking all around due to this gem being nestled in the middle of neighborhoods. Theres a hookah lounge and restaurant next door and a dive bar across the street so if you are coming with children, it may be smart to dine ahead of time as your options for food are limited in the local area. A blood bus is parked out front and if you donate, you get a free VIP ticket. Come to find later, this single bus during the month of October provides close to 60% of the cities blood for the year. WOW! I arrived shortly after 7pm and there was a small line, but nothing more than 30 minutes. They had a stage area that had coffins and an animatronic bat on either side of a tv playing this years trailer. The speakers were playing some kind of dubstep so it was a very enjoyable wait with a lot to look at. Two scare actors were roaming around the building. One appeared to be a Victorian vampire dressed in a royal gown, complimented but a white powdered wig. This woman’s outfit and make up were absolutely phenomenal. The attention to detail in everything she did made it such a joy to watch her interact with guests and float around the property. The other woman seemed to be wearing a simple white dress drenched in blood. Her make up was obviously based on the theme, Blood Wedding, where she wore red contacts and had fangs in her mouth. She seemed to be trying to scare the patrons more than interact with them like the first woman but then would break out dancing on the stage. To me personally, I found that to be rather jarring but the people around her taking videos and pictures so she’s obviously doing something right. When you get to the front of the house, they have you break into small groups where there is a timer that counts you down until you are allowed to enter. The theme of this year at The Mortuary is Blood Wedding and the patrons are guests of honor at the wedding for the damned. You start your journey by entering the house and immediately going to the top floor where you are met by the usher, who welcomes you to the wedding and urges you continue forward, pushing you into all the festivities. Moving through all three levels of this house, I could definitely tell that it was very vampire inspired; from make up looks to full latex masks, everything was fangs and bats! A beautiful chapel scene takes place in the middle of the main floor where a bride and groom roam the room looking for blood to make their toast. While I could tell there was a story to be told within the walls of the house, certain scenes made it hard to understand. Each room you enter had its own vibe and the attention to detail was very well done. This house had a plethora of animatronics scattered about, utilizing them in spaces where there was no actor. The Mortuary had strobe lights, water features, and a chainsaw which says goodbye to you as your time comes to an end. Wardrobe wise, this place knocks it out of the park. The details, the dirt, and grime all give the clothes the feeling of being centuries old and truly falling apart. None of the actors seemed to have difficulties with what they were wearing and it all worked together to enable the actor to give their very best performance. You could also tell that their make up team worked very hard seeing as those that wore prosthetics had an almost seamless blend and I couldn’t tell where the prosthetic ended and their real skin began. Again though, certain rooms were so dark that it hid the make up teams hard work and prevented the guests from seeing what I can only assume to be a truly hideous creature encroaching on your personal space. All in all, it a quite enjoyable time; I’d say it took me roughly 15 minutes from start to finish to make it to the end which in my opinion, is just the right amount of time. Obviously this factor also varies widely depending on the speed with which you move through the 3 floors. Each floor had security directing you where to go and making sure everyone is safe on the stairs. One thing to note is this IS a multilevel haunt with stairs leading where you need to go. So for those of you that may have mobility issues, I’m sure this is the Haunt for you. I also didn’t ask if they offer some kind of limited tour for a discounted price to try and work with those of you that can’t do stairs so to my knowledge, I cannot comment. Tickets for this haunt can be purchased two ways; online and in person. I believe if purchased before hand, there is a slight discount. Tickets are $35 for general admission and VIP tickets fluctuate their pricing depending on day and crowd levels. I went with the general admission and my wait was completely tolerable. I do think, when comparing prices to that of 13th Gate, it’s the same price for general admission but the 13th Gate is much much larger so I would suggest maybe moving to $25-$30 to make the price tag easier to swallow. My overall thoughts on my experience at The Mortuary are rather positive. I enjoyed that the house had a theme and you got a sense of it as you moved deeper into the house, the effects and actors play an integral role in making the house come alive and they all had so much energy! My two stand out actors for the night I went through had to be this male actor in what seemed to be surgery room with projections playing on the wall and a woman in the basement who had a whole monologue to draw you in. It felt very Voodoo Queen and she did such a great job at commanding attention; I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The fact that all of this is taking place in a retired funeral home with a haunted past of its own only adds to the creep and scare factor as you never are truly alone inside its walls. Please accept my humble round of applause as I commend all the hard work everyone appeared to put in this season to bring the screams to locals and passerby’s alike in one of the most haunted cities in America.
TERROR ON THE COAST
Sun, water, sand plus great seafood all in one place - the beach! We are not at the beach. We are at the largest haunted attraction on the Mississippi coast! Terror on the Coast in Gulfport, Mississippi to be exact! When you enter the massive warehouse entrance, you immediately know you’re in their world. Filled with movie quality props and scenes (some actually used in your favorite movies and shows), Terror on the Coast is sure to bring awe and fear to anyone who dares to enter. A huge midway filled with all kinds of merch, food trucks, shaved ice, a full bar (filled with your favorite adult beverages) plus reproduction cars from Ghostbusters and Bonnie and Clyde. Get your picture taken as you enter and snap some selfies along the way at one of the photo op areas. Throw in sliding clowns, Sinister with his huge mallet, some very creepy things walking around and add in the cynical laugh of JD Daniels; you know you are in for a fun terror filled night filled with eye candy and screams. With no detail left out from the realistic swampy forest down to the full pirate ship (including real pirates!), there are plenty of scares around every turn. If you’re anywhere near Gulfport, Mississippi don’t miss this attraction. Terror on the Coast does not disappoint.
MILL OF MADNESS
SYDONEY A BANKS
Google may lie to you and tell you continuously Mill of Madness will be or is closed before you get there, but it is very much open in the evening, because it is one of the newest haunts. It might be a little hard to find because it is located in an industrial business area. It is held in a movie studio, Sun Studios of Arizona in the center of all the large businesses. This is not your average run of the mill haunt, this is really an interactive theatrical attraction. They have a storyline and that helps you get into the feel and reality of the haunt itself. This has scenes that you watch and become part of as you are emmerest into it as you walk or run through it, possibly screaming. It is not just a walk-through haunt, please take your time and enjoy every section of it for its real sense and adventure. The characters are believable and realistic with their makeup, masks, costumes, acting and improv. The sets alone tell you they have invested a lot, and are very passionate along with all the rooms including the sounds, lighting, effects, and animatronics and of course the actors. This is theatrical and entertaining with the fear of your imagination. From a military base to an enchanted forest and even to hell you leave the real world and enter into the crazy zany minds of the creators that take you through a journey into the horrifying, creepy, weird dimension of fun and fright. This is a great haunted attraction for everyone from 15 years and older. You can bring younger children but they may be adversely affected and we suggest you do not bring them through unless they truly understand it is “only” a show and they love horror. This is Mill of Madnesses first year and you can see the love, passion, money and time they have put into it. This year they are learning and they are tweaking it daily to improve what they have for their first ever professional haunt. They are trying to do something different from other Arizona's haunts. Give Mill of Madness a try and help support a family operated business. You can also tell they treat their cast and crew well and they even pay their actors…..what, pay, yes pay. They are also still looking for crew and cast so you may apply now and join in the fun! This is a must see on our list for haunts in Arizona; they are in their own league along with Sanctum of Horror and The Slaughterhouse which is in Tucson.
PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA
Come one, come all to Mr. Creepies’! Mr. Creepies’ Demented Labyrinth and Skulk trail is located a couple blocks away from Panama City Beach. Good, family fun for tourist or if you’re a local and needed something to do in Panama City Beach during September/October, this would be a fantastic place to check out. Not only is it a haunt, but 8 months out of the season, it’s an amusement park as well. It’s owned by Mr. Del Lee and is called Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure. The owner made some time out of his busy day to speak with me. I found out that he, in fact, was the creator behind this haunt. All the ideas were his. This is actually on the second year they’ve had this haunt and the night I was there was the 14th night TOTAL that they’ve been open. The actors were great, like they were born for this role. Another fun fact, may of the haunts are volunteer-based. Mr. Lee actually pays his employees to work the haunt. Doing something you love AND getting paid!?? Where do we sign up--- am I right!!?? lol. Cool thing about this place, there is FREE Admission just to get into the park, so if you have smaller children or even elderly people who just want to come walk- around the park and watch, you can do so for free. The only time you need to pay is if you’re wanting to ride the rides, play the games, concessions or, of course, enter the Labyrinth and Trail. While you’re waiting, or even after, they have go-karts, mini-golf, bumper cars, spin-coaster, the screamin’ swing, and others. Price of Admission for both the labyrinth and the trail are $25 per person. It’s well worth the money in my opinion. Trail opens at 7pm (when it gets good and dark). There was plenty of seating around the park, concessions with fair prices and awesome food and drinks and ACTUAL bathrooms, not just porta-potties. Everyone who works there was super friendly and very helpful with any questions we had. They also have a pretty cool backstory about the labyrinth and the trail on their website. I advise that you read it, OR, they have the option that you can listen to it if you’re not big into reading. The backstory really ties the two attractions together. It took about 40 minutes to go through both of the attractions. It could take longer if you walk through and don’t have people in your group that are scaredy cats and RUN through, when you’re not supposed to lol. Let’s start with the Skulk Trail- since that’s the one you actually start at when you arrive. The cool thing about the trail, you are literally in the woods. This wasn’t a “man-made” creation for a haunt, this is actual Florida woods, that they had to use a machete to cut through and make a trail. Then they put down enough ground, whether it was dirt, or whatever they used to ensure the trail wouldn’t wash away. It literally had a swampy smell in some parts of it, like stagnate water. It’s spooky and it’s dark and there’s just enough lit up for you to see that you’re going the right way. The characters did well on timing for the scares and when you thought you knew where they were going to get you, you weren’t always correct lol. It was a very Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Texas Chainsaw- “vibe” out there in the woods. I love the fact that they allow just your group to go and they give you enough time to where you aren’t catching up to the people in front of you and where the people behind you aren’t catching up to you either. You finally see a bigger lit up area to realize you have made it out alive. You wait for a short time to allow the group in front of you to get the “rules” then into the Labyrinth you go…. The Demented Labyrinth, from the outside, looks very small…. But looks can be deceiving because I felt like we were in there forever. The labyrinth is what I would imagine hell to be, lol. Endless turns and circles and “Didn’t we just go this way.” You can’t help but meet up with other patrons because apparently some of them were in there way longer than us- for continuing to take the wrong turn. About the time you think to yourself “Hey, this looks new, I think we may actually have taken the right turnnnn…. Oh damnit, nope… here again.” The actors did a great job of putting you off course without you realizing that’s what they were doing. I’m not sure how some of them get your name, but you can hear them whispering through the walls and stating your name over and over. Really creepy and really well put together for only their second year of ever being open. We stopped to speak to one of the maintenance men out there and he informed us that they plan on adding more to it. This is a haunt I look forward to coming back to. I can’t wait to see how much bigger and better it gets throughout the upcoming seasons. Cool part of this attraction- you get to keep your ticket as a souvenir if you’re a collector, or if you scrapbook. Not a cheaply made ticket either. With all the fun around Panama City Beach, this is one you don’t want to miss!!
SYDONEY A BANKS
Fear Farm 2023! I can say it was better than the last year I went through it. The energy was better from the actors and the acting was better as well. I still would say there is “no fear” at this farm; it was not scary at all for anyone on my team. The midway was not too bad. The characters did okay, some better than others, but I noticed that they only go after the easy scares (mostly young females because they run away and scream) and they tend to pass by you and ignore you if you are not a young female. There were only two that did interact with us: the mascot scarecrow and the monkey clown with the cymbals. There was an adult clown with a little girl clown and they did nothing but just walk around and that was really disappointing. Their midway has food vendors, ax throwing, 4 large carnival rides, photo ops, some seating areas, a small store, and porta potties. I will say all of the staff at the beginning of each haunt were super nice and helpful. They did a great job and they were one of my favorite parts of the entire haunt. We went on a Friday night early in the season and it was not really busy at all. We also noticed that the majority of the customers were middle to high school age to be really honest “they” were the scariest part of the entire haunt. We did not see a lot of adults unless they were with their children and that makes sense because Fear Farm really is not that scary for your older and hardcore horror fans so they may/will not attend because it is more focused on the younger adults and teens and families with children. Great for families with kids, someplace to go for a Halloween activity, but pricey. The first maze we entered was “The Rot Shop”. The actors/actresses did a good job staying in character and interacting with us. The set was pretty much the same as last time. They added a truck and a motel facade. We did not get to go through the hotel, we just walked by the front, which was kind of disappointing. This maze has a ton of vacant spots for great opportunities to scare, but they must have been missing a lot of the cast because this was a problem in all the mazes. The sets are okay and the lighting was fine, just a little sad since it was not scary at all, a bit entertaining, but not “scary”. They have a cool staircase that an actor/actress comes out of and this time nothing, again, very disappointing. The 2nd maze was “Depths of Darkness”. It did not change very much either, but they added a lighthouse and another ship. The sea monster in the beginning was pretty neat and did a good job. You see him again at the end as well. The makeup in this maze was decent and the actors/actresses were cohesive with each other and that was good. They had a couple of really good actors/actresses and also had some really “horrible” ones. Like one guy who just stood there and smiled and hit the wall. It was not even a creepy smile, it was just weird and ruined the atmosphere and mood for the rest of the maze. The lighting was okay and the sets were okay, just not what I was hoping for. In the whole sea dock area that you walk around, you could easily see dry dry spots in the water area and that it had only an inch of water in it. They should use lighting or even the swamp effect with lasers and fog to make it look more realistic. To be honest it just looked like a tarp with an inch of water on it and that set the tone for the haunt because you walk around this dock area with the water feature, but no water. The lighthouse was okay but they could have done more with it. This maze also had a lot of blank spots where there were no characters and for a Friday this is very sad. The 3rd maze was “Hollow House”. I love clowns and the whole funhouse circus theme. Fear Farm was always known for its clowns. I was very much looking forward to this maze and it was a huge letdown. The maze was mostly fencing, just a wood fence and there were some sets but it was a lot of wood fence and it was not painted nor did it have any blood, nor look aged in any way, “nothing”. They had one train car with a really good character standing in it who was a fortune teller and they did a great job with the acting for this part. Then there were a bunch of cages that were mainly empty and the clowns, most of them just screamed and you could not understand anything they were saying. Also, a lot of their voices were already sounding like they were blown and going out. This too was a recurring thing in each haunt. They need vocal training and they should practice to learn to project their voices properly by using their diaphragms instead of their throats. I felt bad for them. Just screaming is not scary, it is more annoying and again we did not understand most of what was being said/screamed. They did not add much to this maze, just a funhouse part and that was decent but again disappointing, why do they not try for a real funhouse that feels like a mirror maze, 3D black light maze, etc.. They had a couple of good clowns and the masks and makeup was cool, but the acting and just screaming really ruined it. I really do miss the original pre-Thirteenth Floor Fear Farm with their original clowns before it became part of the 13th Floor franchise. The last maze “Infestation” we saved for the last to go through, because the last time we came it was the best one; however, this was the worst one of the night. They did not change it much at all from the last time we came and there was no control of the flow of the crowd at all. It was just a long conga line of people going through and it was just horrible the actors/actresses did not get to really do anything because it was just a constant wave of people. Therefore it was not scary at all the characters did try but it was just not working. They had a lot of chain link fencing that zigzagged and this was just bad planning because it felt more like you were just a mouse in a maze. My team really disliked this. I really did feel bad for the cast in this maze because they could not reset or really do anything and this was such a huge letdown. I was so upset with this one. The lighting was horrible in many spots. You could not even see the cool makeup and masks because it was “too” dark. Why even bother? The fifth and final maze we went through was the “Scarecrow Mayhem” and this is an extra ADD ON, so one of my team had to buy a ticket and it took forever to get it because of technical difficulties. This is the corn maze part of Fear Farm and this year it was a lot better since it is actually a maze of corn this year. The corn was high enough to not be able to see everything like last time and the ending and beginning was not the same spot this year, unlike last time when it was both. We only saw 4 actors/actresses in the field and it was mainly on the left side section of the maze. That was sad. I wish they were more spread out and that they had more characters in the maze. Again there were many character spots in the maze and we saw only one scarecrow. Why? One of the characters was Lalarona and that was extremely confusing since she is usually seen around water, and it is called Scarecrow Mayhem after all. Since she drowned her children and now mourns for them. This was very off-putting and felt like she was in the wrong spot. The other characters were one zombie and I did not know what the other character was. The Scarecrow was the best part of the whole maze and really did try to get everyone and hid really well toward the end. He was great! I wish they had more scarecrows, even a dummy would have been nice, it just felt empty and vacant; a lot of missed opportunities. The scariest and worst part is the parking lot; the grass is very high and should have been cut beforehand. It was a tripping hazard when having to walk through it along with the lack of lighting they have for the parking lot. The placement of lighting in the front and the exit makes it hard to see when exiting. You could barely see the other customers in the parking lot and this could be very very dangerous especially if anyone is drunk or not paying attention. Also, it is easy to rob parked vehicles or even take a small child in this large grass lot due to the lack of visibility and the absence of overall lighting. The signage is also hard to see and the grass covers the arrows put to help drivers go the proper way and they are also dark. They need more lighting in the parking lot and staff to help in between various lots. I hope their team takes this information and makes it better and safer for all. Fear Farm was better than the last time we went, I would say it is not scary, but it is a little entertaining and they do have some great staff and cast members. I would say the ticket prices are very high and with inflation and gas prices being so high at this time I wish they would make it more affordable for everyone. I also would say if you have allergies, especially to grass make sure to plan ahead for the corn in the mazes, the grass parking lot, and the blowing dust these can all set off an allergy attack for some people, so bring your INHALERS with you especially if you have asthma. This haunt is perfect for young adults and teenagers who are easily scared but for hardcore horror fans and adults, this may not be the haunt for you. Shoutout to the amazing staff and the cast members who really did try and stay in character and did not just scream! I think if they had better training in acting, improv, and vocal training the cast could go a long way.
13TH FLOOR AZ
SYDONEY A BANKS
Thirteenth Floor Haunted House has moved from where they were and they are just slightly north and east in the same mall between Eludesions Escape Rooms and The Lab, exercise center. How can a bad professional haunted attraction go to being the worst professional haunted attraction in Arizona? I was hoping it would have been different and have a more professional quality such as the House of Torment in Texas, but it is far from that. Thirteenth Floor Phoenix was one of the worst and most disappointing experiences of all this year, 2023. The first thing was I walked up to the front and it smelled so bad because the porta potties are the very first thing you come to see and smell with that horrible putrid potty deposit odor as it “welcomes” you to the beginning of your haunt experience. I waited in the front by the metal detector for the rest of my team and could still smell the porta-potties, it was quite gross. If anyone throws up there, then there will be another smell added to the mix. What a mess for someone to clean up, yuck! Then we went into the actual line and as you got closer to the line to enter the haunt, you were away from the music that was playing in the small midway, so waiting in line was very boring. The icon characters' acting was very poor and unamusing; they mainly just stared at people and not even in a creepy way. The tall old man or zombie or whatever stopped at one of my team members and just stared at him. My team member told me the actor smelled so bad he even turned away from him to breathe. Then the character came up to me and asked, “Is he with you?” I replied, “Yes” and he said, “I feel sorry for you”. That was just rude and so inappropriate, not scary, not entertaining, but just rude, and not even in character. That character was very stinky and smelled really horrible, like wrecking bad BO! Thirteenth Floor do you wash or dry clean your costumes at all or do your actors wear deodorant; you have finally been open for the first 3 days? At least my team members take showers and wear clean costumes because basic hygiene should be important to the costumes and the cast especially the patrons. I don't want to smell your cast’s BO! I was so disappointed at the line characters and this was just sad 13th Floor. They did not scare one person the whole time we were in line. The one young male staff member at the beginning was nice and helpful, but the two girls at the doors who scanned your tickets were yawning and did not look happy to be there, they looked and acted tired and bored. Then you go to a room and they take your photo with a door with hands coming out; not that interesting and you could buy them at the end of the haunt. We asked them how much they were, and they replied, “$5 to $10” and we found later at the end it is $15 for one and again, nothing exciting, so, no thanks. Then after that, we got into another line and we were asked to see our tickets again. Really, how many times do we need to show them, this was the 3rd freaking time. Then we went into a hallway that was again not interesting at all and the line continued around a corner one wall was just black and on the other side some kind of facade of a house or building of some kind. Also, you go up some stairs so this is not a handicap-accessible haunt for wheelchairs and scooters. Some of the other customers in line were taking photos and an employee in an orange shirt came out and yelled “No photos allowed in here this is the beginning of the haunt”! My team member and I were like, “Really this is the beginning of the haunt,” this is a line to get into the haunt. Then after waiting 45 minutes in line we finally went into the haunt with another group that was in front of us and one that was behind us. So we were now in a huge conga line. They did have a really cool spider animatronic that was new and actually working! Although, most of the beginning of the haunt is supposably “The Deadlands”, the sets were just the same sets they have been using now for over 13 years. They just moved and repositioned their original sets, but nothing really new to be honest, except the new animatronic spider. I would know, I worked there in that area and have attended the 13th floor many times and it is just the same but, only so, so disappointing and I did not even see the icon that is advertised for that haunt anywhere. There are characters shown on their website and in their advertising, but nowhere to be seen at the haunt itself. The acting through the whole haunt was just pitiful and sad. Nothing was scary at all or even entertaining, just sad, very sad. I had a 5-year-old boy behind me from another group and he just laughed and kept saying this is not scary at all. I felt a big majority of it was just Zombieland all over again. Then “Repossessed” what part was this? I saw the front of the Asylum that was part of the original Rocky Point Haunted House in Utah and then The Haunting Haunted House before the 13th Floor bought it along with the Haunted Mansion, the Haunted Graveyard but where was the theme for this Haunted House? I mean as you go through the graveyard you come into a church but I did not see a Nun anywhere in the haunt. Again no icon character or theming of the storyline, nothing matched up. “Depths of Darkness” was again just the same old sets they had used that originally belonged to Rocky Point and The Haunting–nothing new. I did not get the storyline again. The transition from maze to maze or room to room was poorly done and was confusing. To be honest, it was just the same sets and everything from the old location just repositioned and moved around, but it all looked the same from masks, to costumes, to the lighting, sets such as the same Kraken, props, and effects. They really did not add in anything new except some animatronics, the spider web set, and the brick hallways with the sewer piping. It only took us 10 minutes to walk through and it was just the same thing, so very disappointing. At least Fear Farm had actors/actresses who tried and stayed in character. I also heard a lot of “get out of here”, “why am I here”, “I see you”, and just screaming, with a lot of “keep moving”, and “keep going”, just to rush us through. I feel bad for the cast because of the conga line they cannot really work in any good scares or do much and they need more training for sure. Especially the icon line characters. The tickets should cost $15, to be honest for how small it is now and nothing has really changed for waiting for such a long time with no entertainment of any kind is just disheartening and headshakingly sad. (Not to mention expensive.) I was really hoping with the new location and the move to a new spot, you would see something different and refreshingly new, not the same old sets the same old characters, and the bad BO. You could not even scare a kid. It was not scary, not fun, not entertaining at all. I thought before you were a bad haunt, but now you're just the worst haunt in Arizona. You should have not opened up this year and really you should have just taken your time and made something fresh and new instead of doing the same thing over and over and over again. It was so confusing that I could not see the actual breaks between each haunt area or the differences between each specific haunt itself. It is getting really predictable and this was a perfect opportunity for some change to really bring a new look and feel to 13th Floor Phoenix. I really hoped you would have brought your world-famous experience to AZ with a new haunt but it's just the same. Hohum boredom! How long are you going to keep doing this to your customers and Halloween lovers? It is overpriced for a shorter haunt, actually the same haunt. Just skip the 13th Snore, even your staff was bored. Go to any other haunt, even Fear Farm. It is not worth the time and money. Save your money for a better experience or even just go to the fair or a movie instead. Even the store at the end was lame and probably overpriced. Come on, 13th Floor! The only parts that really stood out and were cool were the original Rocky Point sets and The Haunting sets: the Mansion, the Graveyard, the Asylum, the Front of the Crypt where the Gatekeeper stood, and the Pirates and the original Mirror Maze as well. I love seeing the old Rocky Point sets and the costumes, but only because it was from Rocky Point and to see how well the sets are still holding up. Please bring something new to AZ 13th Floor. Put more into your training for your cast. The lack of training really shows and I feel bad for the cast. Also, teach proper hygiene to your cast and remember to properly launder your costumes. Avoid the gross factor. I do not know what your works are famous for, but I think it is not for anything very good or professional. Please prove me wrong in the future and next year blow all of us out of the water with something brand new and fresh and entertaining. But for now, it has gone from the bad to the worst haunt, if you can even call it that, I have ever seen. Even a library and high school haunt I have been to was scarier and had better performers. Are all 13th floors this sad? Or is it just here? You could not even do the swamp right and that is not hard to do. I felt like I was in a bad nightmare, but no, it was real. I am so happy I got the pre-sale tickets for $13.99 and did not have to pay more than that. If I did I would have been really upset. Anything over $15 is too much and a customer ripoff. Better luck next year, 13th Floor
SANCTUM OF HORROR
SYDONEY A BANKS
6555 East Southern Avenue in Mesa, Arizona in a mall parking lot. Again they hit it out of the park this year! They just continue to keep getting better every year. The sets, lighting, sounds, effects, make-up, and costumes are all amazing and just make it all work together beautifully. The midway has vendors, food, photo ops, an escape game, live entertainment, and of course characters roaming around. The facades are well done and make a great photo op. They even have a live drummer with a great setup and he plays along with terrific Halloween-themed music. It helps time pass as you wait in the midway. The midway is awesome. Sanctum was great just as it always is. I loved the story and the sets and the acting was spot on. I even jumped a couple of times, a great jump scared for sure. I love how they distract you and hide the characters so well you don't see the scare coming. I love that they don't just scream and yell at you. I could understand what they were saying all throughout the haunt. Again I love the winding hallways so much and the lighting effects they use. I wish it was longer though, LOL! The Breach was so good they got me and made me jump again and again, a great distraction, and where the characters hide you don't see the scare coming. I really love the whole thing. The machine gun effect was so cool. The doctors even got a member of my team and made him jump and got him off guard and he said that was the first time anyone has ever startled and scared him. Well done, Doctor, well done! That scare even made the Doctor’s night great for scaring an unscareable man. Our favorite actor for sure. The fact that that specific scare made him jump back so far so fast it even scared me LOL! I really absolutely loved the whole experience and had a blast once again. I did not want the night to end. You can see clearly the love, passion, time, energy, and money this family has put into their two haunts. I also love the fact that it is a family-run and owned haunt business and not a corporation-owned haunt. I really love the heart and the love that goes into family-owned haunts. They just have a special feeling that permeates throughout the entire haunt as well as through their actors and their vendors. The new escape game they have added is also such a cool add-on to your night of fun. For only $10 you can try to escape from losing your hand. I cannot wait to see what they bring next year. Sanctum of Horror and the Breach is a must-see this year, you do not want to miss it. For one price you get two amazing haunts and they are also handicap accessible. We had one of our team members who was in a wheelchair go through with us and the wheelchair made it and they even gave us extra time to make it through without being rushed. They have also added a lights-on experience for younger customers and for scaredy cats to go through and see the haunt without actors/actresses at specific times and days. Check for those times and days on their website so you do not miss that if that is something your group would prefer to do. Done just like their friends have done for years with UZA, United Zombies of America. Thank you Sanctum of Horror in Mesa, AZ. We cannot wait to see what will be next in the fall of 2024. Something Spooktacular for Sure!
SYDONEY A BANKS
There is a reason why The Slaughterhouse is the best-haunted attraction in Arizona. This year they hit it out of the park again and really outdid themselves. They added new things to the haunt and changed things up. Everything about the Slaughterhouse makes for a perfect haunt. The makeup is absolutely amazing, the costumes are superiorly fantastic and the actors/actresses are the heart and soul of the success of the fabulously famous Arizona Slaughterhouse. Being there and even being backstage you can see and feel the love that is put into the Slaughterhouse haunt. The cast and crew love what they do and have a deep passion for the haunt and for haunting there every year. Being backstage at the Slaughterhouse is almost like being on a different planet and not like any other haunts in Arizona. Everyone is so nice helpful and respectful. It is refreshing and really brings hope to the Arizona haunt industry and community. You cannot put it into words of how great the Slaughterhouse really is. This haunt has so much heart you feel it and it makes for a great experience for absolutely everyone involved. They treat you like family and they really care about you. This is something I look forward to doing now every year and it really makes me happy and I just love it so very much. I wish it was open longer and more often. The location itself is just perfect for a haunt and really adds to the whole ambiance of the Slaughterhouse. Each part and section of the Slaughterhouse is entertaining, fun, creepy, scary, and haunted. The zombies this year were on point and were one of my favorite parts of the haunt this year. The zombies had great energy and stayed in character. They really pushed it to the limits this year and it was just great. If you live anywhere in Arizona this is a must-attend attraction and well worth the price, time, and drive. There are people who come down from Colorado to go through the Slaughterhouse every year because they are that good! They have new things in the Midway along with caged axe throwing, an escape room, games, characters, food, and even a movie screen showing the story of when Zak Bagans and his crew came with Post Malone to see if the Slaughterhouse was really haunted with cute horror musical numbers scattered in between the Zak clips of the haunt. I really wish I could bottle up the energy and passion of the Slaughterhouse and share it with all of you. Even if they don't scare you, this haunt is very entertaining and the most fun you can ever have. Like I said before they really try and it shows if you pay attention to it. They also have a shop with many cool horror, Halloween, and Slaughterhouse products to buy and the prices are very reasonable. And you really get the most bang for your buck right here. This year even 47 motorcyclist friends of ours came to the Slaughterhouse to get frightened or to do the frightening, I am not sure which way that actually went. I already miss the Slaughterhouse this year and really every year. This is the best-haunted attraction in Arizona and still holds this title. I cannot wait to see what they have next year in 2024! I am really going to miss the Slaughterhouse until I get to go again next year! Thank you for being so dang great Slaughterhouse AZ!
SYDONEY A BANKS
Glowing Pumpkins was an exciting blast! This is a fabulous Halloween attraction for the whole family and for all of your friends as well. This year the venue made a huge difference from a small parking lot to a large Tucson botanical garden. Each and every area contained a vastly different themed setting of entertaining brightly lit perfectly designed pumpkins with individual exactly matched up soundtracks playing along with the specific area for those themes. It was done so perfectly there was no sound bleedover from any area of each pumpkin-themed setting. Very Disney-like! Kudos to Bobby, the owner and creator of this unique event! Everything imaginable was included from television shows to wildlife settings to various movies and to wonderful entertainers, and even to various sports. It is such a cool and entertaining investment for everyone to experience. The pumpkins are just mesmerizing and breathtaking artistry that when put into each display is just so well done and beautiful. Each section is individual and was spot on with the area, music, lighting, and different effects which made this so much fun. Watching all the families going through and how there is something for everyone was wonderful and whimsical. The entire botanical garden venue was great for photos and how they utilized the space and placed each pumpkin and pumpkin display was outstanding. It was so entertaining to see the children really take it in and have fun with their families. We also saw adults of all ages there and having so much fun as well. This really is for everyone and for all ages. If you love Disney, dinosaurs, animals, fantasy, Harry Potter, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Star Wars, Day of the Dead, horror, and of course Halloween you will want to make this a must-see on your calendar. The only downside was that there were so many people it was challenging to time groups passing through each display to be able to get a perfect photo of the displays without random people in it as they wandered through. The first outdoor extreme pumpkin extravaganza of its kind. Again well worth the money, the time to travel, the time to experience and enjoy, it is pure fun for everyone! I hope they will eventually bring this awesome event to the Phoenix area. Make sure to get your tickets and bring your friends and family. Don't forget your smiles and are you ready for pumpkin pie season? Me too!
SYDONEY A BANKS
This was my first time to finally get to go to Scarizona Scaregrounds and experience their haunted attraction…unfortunately, it was very disappointing. The price is way too high for what it is worth and there are only two haunts, if you can call them that. The first one I went into was Startled Darkness. This was just horrible and very unsafe. 95% of the haunt was just black walls and very dark with no real sets, actors, or effects of any kind, the ground was unlevel and very, very dangerous creating a possible tripping hazard and maybe a hazardous liability as well. One should “NEVER” do a “blackout” haunt with unlevel ground where someone can get tragically injured. This entire haunt was just a complete letdown and had no creativity at all. My whole team hated it and was just mad about how much we paid for this joke of a haunt. The second haunt we went through was Mayhem In The Madness. This haunt was not much better than the first. The actresses at the beginning were really good, not scary, but they were just fine in character. This haunt was also very dangerous. I almost twisted my ankle just entering into the beginning of the second haunt by stepping into a large dip in the ground because I did not know it was there. You cannot easily see it, so I was very mad. Our excursion in Scarizona was very unsafe from the start. I feel bad for the actors and actresses because they did try, but what they are working with is incredibly disappointing and sad. The haunt had a lot of vacuum-formed walls that just lacked creativity. They had some cool animatronics that worked and a handful that did not work at all, again this was disappointing. The sets were okay, but again, a lot of vacuum-formed walls and banners or vinyl, again this shows a lack of creativity and laziness. All of the materials used should work together to make a good if not great haunted attraction, but here at Scarizona this just looks cheap and lazy. The lighting was okay but there were some parts that lacked lighting and they had some painted sets with detail that you missed because of the lack of lighting. That is sad to miss what cannot be seen due to no light on the subject. The floor was also uneven and dangerous. The makeup was good and again the actors and actresses did try but the haunt is just not scary and the lack of sets and lighting made it difficult to be scary. What potential do you have to be Scary with a few changes. They had some cars you walked under and that was pretty cool and some good interesting sets, but I wish they had more. The midway was also quite sad, they had a part with cars, but you could hardly see them, because they had no lighting! That was just poor planning on the designer's part because this could have been a fabulous photo op, but again no lighting. They did not have much in the midway and it was underwhelming and lame. I wish they had more photo ops and they also did not have any facades for the two mazes. They only had banners or vinyl wrapped around the beginning of the mazes and this sets the tone for the entire haunt. So the beginning was lacking and I decided I was not going to take any photos of this place. I was so very disappointed because this haunt has potential but for now, it feels cheap and like a high school put this haunt together, but I have seen better high school haunts than this one. I did not see any type of entertainment in the midway. They had some food and they had loud music playing and even some characters in the midway but that is it. They had nothing there that made you want to stay and spend more time and more money. This haunt is not worth anything over $20 to be completely honest. They should not count the dark haunt as a part of it because it was just a big dangerous disappointment. They had only two characters in the whole maze and it was dark with very few sets, animatronics, lighting, effects, and sound; it was only scary because of the lack of safety due to the uneven ground. I think there might have been 15 characters overall in both of the mazes. For my first time visiting Scarizona, it was just so very disappointing and I would not go back. I would not pay what I did for this haunt. I was really hoping for something better. Again the characters did try and did a good job performing. When we pulled up in the parking lot they had a character who again was doing a good job and stayed in character. When leaving the haunt the lack of any directions was nonexistent and others also got lost and had to turn around to get out and back on the main way out. The scariest part of this entire haunt was the lack of safety and trying to leave safely. There is “No Scare” in this Scarizona. Please get some more lighting to heighten up the Scare in your Scarizona! Thank you!
Frightmares of Dothan is located right in downtown Dothan on South Foster Street, down a spooky road with very little light and a creepy old house barely lit up red on the second-floor balcony. When you see that, you’ve arrived…. Ticket for Frightmares of Dothan can only be purchased on site. Adult General Admission tickets are $20, Children 12 and under, Military & First Responders (with ID) are $15.00 and you can purchase a Fast Pass for $35.00. They open up a little later in the season than most, but they open on some Thursday nights as well. Frightmares of Dothan had the grill going when we pulled up. The smell was tantalizing- speaking of “smell” – they also have port-o-potties outside for public use incase that BBQ doesn’t hit right lol. When you go inside to purchase the tickets, the room has many masks in there. Many, if not all, were made by the owner. His talent is out of this world. I believe he even said he had some up for sale if you’re a collector of all things spooky. They’re original and very cool looking. You start off in a creepy room with a coffin, cobwebs, old-timey pictures and church pews to hear the rules of the house and as you’re looking around, you see no way in or out. Once your group’s turn is up – what looks like a bookcase opens up to pure darkness. Frightmares of Dothan is unlike any haunt I’ve ever been to. It works a lot on sensory. It’s so dark in many places that you have to FEEL your way through it. They literally tell you to put your left hand in front of your face and your right hand on the wall to feel your way- if you’re the leader in the group- each one’s behind you, hold onto your shoulder, or shirt. It typically ends up that a bunch of strangers end up holding each other’s hands just to have that feeling of being safe and not being alone. In this particular group, I got to be the “leader” – the first one to try and guide the rest of my group through the darkness. Your heart is beating so hard that you can almost hear it over your shallow breaths you keep taking. Some areas may frighten you so much, you have to remind yourself to breathe. Your mind starts playing tricks on you and you start to see shadows and creatures that may or may not even be there. It’s a scary feeling to not have eye sight, walking in a strange place you may not have ever been before. But THAT is what makes it so unique. You’re the hero in your own story!! Or the chicken, as I seemed to play that character very well, lol. Frightmares did a nice job of never having you run into another group- or walk blindly into them is more like it. They may have a little longer wait time per group- but that’s because they’re allowing each group to get the full experience without worrying about hearing or seeing any other group. There is just enough light in the “room” areas that you stagger yourself to find in the dark. They really switched it up this year, so if you have been to this house in the past and you think you know what to expect- think again!! I’ve been going to this Frightmares now for many, many years and this is the best I’ve ever seen it. They really put a lot of hard work into this haunt to give us the best scare for our money! I was very impressed with the “Stranger Things” themed room! That took a lot of time and effort to make it so spot on. Thirteen Ghosts is such a great, under-rated movie and they make one “room” dedicated to the movie. It was by far a group favorite. I must warn you, the Jackal is loose and out for blood and he can smell your fear!!! Frightmares of Dothan did a great job knowing how to keep you guessing. The rooms were perfectly spaced out and all the characters were nice and warmed up and hit every mark with the patrons they were supposed to hit. The masks that were used were quality masks and the makeup that was done was professional looking. Each room was remarkably different than the previous one but they were all nicely put together. There’s so many twists and turns in the house. There’s a staircase, huge slopes that go down to what seems like could be HELL, lol… then you finally make your way outside, where you THINK you are safe. Once you’ve made it outside and take a deep sigh of relief, thinking you survived the house- don’t get too cocky, because there’s more to come. The last leg of the haunt is just as scary. You have a chainsaw man on one side and Jason Vorhees on the other. The chainsaw feels SO REAL. You can literally feel the heat off of it onto your legs. The more you scream, the more they follow you. Over-all Frightmares of Dothan is one of those haunts, I highly recommend. It gets your adrenaline pumping and makes you feel like you’re the star of your very own horror movie. I love the people, I love the atmosphere and it’s one of those places that I plan on visiting every year to see what gets added and watch them grow into the amazing haunt that they already are!
DARK HARVEST HAUNT
AKKA & HEXXUS
GARDEN GROVE, CALIFORNIA
The fun started before we even got to the haunt; we were coming down the street when suddenly we were met by fog in an odd area; it sure does make it easier to find though. Parking was much easier than in some of the locations we have been to, and we could see the fun as we were pulling up. As we exited our car, we could hear the guests screaming and see the sliders doing their thing; this is always a bonus as we walk up to a haunt because it gets us all excited to be there. As we walked into Dark Harvest, we saw clowns and other monsters in the midway area scaring people, and the sliders were doing a great job with crowd control and keeping the people in line in the proper areas; we even happened across Mr. Giggles. It was a lot of fun to watch and get to experience a newer setup of an already newer haunt. One of the things that we found impressive was that the scare actors managed to stay in character even when we were asking for directions; they managed to be able to keep being scary while keeping you in the right headspace. There are three mazes at Dark Harvest: Shady Pines Asylum: The Escape, The Clown Motel, and a third added attraction called: Huntington Beach Manor: The Followers of Pythia. The first maze that we started with was: Shady Pines Asylum: The Escape, this was a great one to start with, they managed to scare both of us separately. As soon as we entered the maze, they were all over us which made it that much more fun; all the scare actors inside the maze were on point and did a great job keeping us in the moment. We exited at the back of everything and swooped on over to The Clown Motel. Inside The Clown Motel, you are greeted by a couple of clowns who check you into your suite… we got room number 69. We got so lost in that maze and even turned around a couple of times, but that was part of the fun, wondering if you were ever going to find your way out of the maze. We were impressed with the sliders inside this maze, they managed to hit some great slides while inside an enclosed area, and they slid and got up without ever hitting a wall, which is impressive because if either of us tried we would slam into a wall, so a big kudos to those sliders. We exited The Clown Motel through the back again and were greeted by someone encouraging us to go to Huntington Beach Manor: Followers of Pythia which has a set up as the third maze at this haunt. Huntington Beach Manor: The Followers of Pythia is an additional attraction brought in by a gentleman named Philip, who is the owner of Huntington Beach Manor and is collaborating this year with Dark Harvest. This attraction is a little more unless you purchase the VIP. Huntington Beach Manor: The Followers of Pythia, this is a maze that you must sign a waiver to enter, we started out joining a psychic for a tarot reading, ours was quite a good one, it was impressive, to be honest. You exit the tarot reading into the maze where you are led into a few different rooms, the most disorienting of the first rooms would be the strobe light room, we were wondering how the scare actors handle being in there for so long, but they truly kick butt at it, you leave this room and enter the swamp room, they had a cool effect going with the lights and the fog machine, we were greeted by Peter the Swamp Monster, he was nice and still managed a few scares on us by popping out of the swamp. When we were in this room the scared actors had a fun time messing with us and the other guests who were walking through, they said that we must get the password to exit, but this was difficult to achieve. All in all, we had a fun time in the mazes; even though we signed a waiver to go into this final maze, the actors weren’t super hands-on, but it still left a lasting impression. Dark Harvest also has an area for the whole family including a blow-up slide, a pumpkin patch, and even a food truck. This is a fun attraction to head out to, it’s on the smaller side, but this is also what makes it more enticing. We had the opportunity to chat with Dark Harvest’s owner, Adam, who was an absolute pleasure to talk to, through speaking with him it’s easy to see that he pours his heart and soul into this haunt; this is the first year that he has decided to offer more than one maze at his attraction, and it works out for the better. This was a fun haunt that we can’t wait to go back to and see what they change or keep next year; we will be back next year.
DOUBLE M HAUNTED HAYRIDES
BALLSTON SPA, NEW YORK
Picture it. The deep woods of Upstate New York’s capital region. Just outside of beautiful Saratoga Springs, where art, music, culture and horse races thrive, the woods of Ballston Spa are hiding a terrible secret. Ghouls, goblins and the undead roam the trees, searching for human sacrifices, those who are brave enough, or foolish enough, to venture through the forest. That’s where our evening begins. A long, dizzying hayride, seated on straw, packed in close with friends and strangers alike, where the undead and never-alive jump out of old churches, abandoned trailers, broken down vehicles, crumbling walls and more. The hayride takes a good amount of time to get through, and the jump scares are frequent, as well as the interactions between the characters and the crowds. Each scene is different from the others, with characters tailored to it, like an undead rock band on a stage, evil nuns in a church, crazed patients in an asylum and more. There is a healthy mix of original characters and familiar ones that have grown popular from movies and media. There are a variety of elements that serve to make the ride more terrifying. In addition to characters popping out, there are also loud noises, flashing lights, creepy sound effects and background music, and a significant amount of fog. If patrons survive until the end of the ride, they are quickly ushered into a decontamination chamber, and are warned about end times before being pushed along to the next segments of the attraction. These include a biohazard compound, an old farm, a creepy bed and breakfast, a trip throughout the year with all the favorite holidays twisted, and a dark swamp full of fog and creepy creatures. Each segment features appropriate characters, loud sounds, flashing lights, fog machines (which smells lovely, actually), moving floors, twisting corridors and uneven ground. The attention to detail and commitment to a theme in each section of the attraction is remarkable, with everyone involved (actors and crew) being on point at every turn. The level of coordination that it takes to successfully run a haunt like this is clearly evident with the size and scale of this attraction, and it is readily apparent that the cast and crew of Double M truly commit to it. After you survive the entire attraction, you can return to your senses with a yummy snack, or buy yourself some merch, or even take an “I Survived” photo. This is one attraction to be sure not to miss, as it is well worth the admission price. Double M is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in October, as well as a couple of dates in September. November 4 is blackout night if you truly wish to be terrified. Admission prices begin at $39.95, with fast-lane and VIP upgrades available for an additional cost. Tickets are sold as online or phone reservations for a set time, with a limited number of tickets for each time slot. Visit https://doublemhauntedhayrides.com/ for more information.
When you work in the haunt industry, you gain an understanding of the inner workings of each haunt you visit or go to. With absolutely honesty, I can say it's one of my favorite things about visiting haunt houses now. To kick off the season this year, I went to the one Colorado haunt open earlier than all the rest, The Frightmare Compound in Westminster Colorado. I had the privilege of going opening night in September, as they were open a full week earlier than every other haunted attraction. Once there, I found out this is The Frightmare Compound's 40th season in operation! This makes it Colorado's oldest haunted house. I also had the immense pleasure of introducing someone to their very first haunted house. Before I get into all of that, however, I want to talk about what I lovingly refer to as housekeeping, or all the details you need to know if you plan on attending this haunted house. Tickets for the Frightmare Compound are mid range for an attraction, running you anywhere from $30-$32 general admission, or upwards of $60 if you'd like VIP faster admission. Pricing also varies depending on what day of the week you go, so I suggest checking out their website for the accurate cost. Purchasing tickets online is easier than last year as well! They have completely done away with the timed entries that they had in the past, and you are now able to show up whenever throughout the night. You can also purchase tickets on location, and it's pretty quick and painless as well. This is by FAR one of the best parking systems I've seen at a haunted attraction. Thier venue is well lit, so much so you can see it at a distance as you navigate the back roads. They have parking attendants too who help guide you to an unmarked parking spot in a field. It may sound sketch, but they have their parking organization on lock. Second, this attraction has a lot of hills, stairs, tight spaces and intricate scenes. It makes this attraction gorgeous, but if you are looking for a place that can accommodate a wheelchair I wouldn't suggest it. In fact if you plan on attending this haunt PLEASE wear appropriate footwear. You don't want to hurt yourself by stumbling over a flip flop or high heel. Last on the housekeeping notes, on opening night we waited in line for nearly an hour, and we got there 30 min after open. To me, I love waiting in line and conversing with whomever my haunted house partners are. It's a great time to get to know each other better. However, if you don't like your companions, are on a time crunch, or just have no patience for waiting, I suggest going there when it opens, attending during a week day, or purchasing a fast pass. It is only going to get busier the closer to Halloween we get. Now for the fun part- talking about the haunt. I had the privilege of having someone in my group whose never been through a haunted house before. Adam is a friend of a friend, and was noticably antsy in line, unsure what to expect. This tells me that the ambiance outside of the haunt was absolutely effective. We also took note of the refreshments available mid-line, where you could get snacks or drinks that you could consume until it was your turn to go inside. I have never seen this at another attraction and think it's very smart. I offered to take the back of the group so Adam didn't have to, and of course this was where I made my mistake! Every actor in this house found a way to target me - whether it was stalking behind me, picking on me initially upon walking in last, or cornering me away from my group with a chainsaw (major kudos to this actor too, as they nearly made me fall from how they wielded that chainsaw.) The actors managed to get my friends several times as well. It became really fun to watch as they also felt the uncomfortableness of haunt actors breathing down your neck and saying crazy things. Adam later said he had a lot of fun because of the actors. My friend Joe, who is somewhat harder to scare, was even scared several times leading the group. Besides the chainsaw, I want to give a shout out to the individual who kept asking my name in the trailer park. When I didn't give him my name, he started calling me "hairdo" and was able to slink around the building to get me a total of 4 times. I may have already been on edge from earlier scares, but that is incredibly hard to do, especially if I've already seen the actor before. The new set design is beautiful as always in this haunt. I am continuously floored by their design and dedication to the craft. 40 years is a lifetime in haunted house terms, and to see this attraction going stronger than ever honestly brings my heart joy. Keep an eye out this year as you walk through, and look for any new illusions they may have added! I even found out that the family who owns The Frightmare Compound actively works the haunted house throughout the season. That blows my mind as not every haunt owner is that in touch with their business. They experience what it's like for actors in their house, and I'm guessing that may be why there is such great pathing and attention to detail. My only negative comment is similar to my comment last year, and that is the walkway back to the parking lot needs more lighting. Someone who struggles to see in the dark may fail to see the rope and get tripped up. Otherwise though? It is always a pleasure to start my season with the Frightmare Compound. If you are in the Westminster area you should absolutely go see this attraction. Happy 40th anniversary!
CREEPY HOLLOW WOODS
Frankie and Mikey and Moto- OH MY!!! (In the tune of Lions and Tigers and Bears- Oh My) If you’ve never been to Jay, Florida or Creepy Hollow Woods, let me give you a heads up- it’s smack in the middle of “You sure do got a purdy mouth and BFE” If you hear banjo’s playing, it’s okay, it’s totally worth the serial killer vibe it puts out lol. It has been a few years since we’ve been to Creepy Hollow woods, so if you’ve been before and you think it’s one of those haunts that you’ve “seen before” -think again! They work tirelessly and endlessly as soon as haunt season is over to make it bigger and better for the next season! It was totally changed up since the last time we attended. This is their 11th year open and each time they get bigger and better than the previous year. They parking is plentiful, which is $5.00 to park. You have people out there directing you how to get in, then once you leave, the best way to get out as well. Tickets are $20.00 per person Friday and Saturday nights and Thursday they offer a kid friendly haunt for $15.00 per person. You can purchase tickets ahead of time on their website, or you can purchase tickets there at the ticket booth. We got there over an hour early and there was probably already 60 people ahead of us, so get there early if you want to go through and then hang out afterwards. The closer it is to Halloween, you may want to consider getting a Fast Pass if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to stand in line. You start off in the entrance of the woods. This is just a warm-up that leads to the ticket booth, but they have skeletons and coffins and little creepy things here and there for you to look at and what a cool way to get you used to walking in the woods. They have caution tape all the way down the trail to ensure you’re headed in the right direction. Creepy Hollow Woods is always a favorite. The atmosphere is a vibe all in itself. They have a live band playing with flashing lights that go all around the grounds and way out into the fields. It makes any wait time you may have standing in line feel more like you’re attending a concert. They always have lots of characters roaming the grounds. We seen Frankenstein, a super buff Michael Myers and Creepy Hollow’s very own Moto the Clown. They all take time to take pictures with you if you ask them to. There were so many more lurking around and tons of people everywhere, it almost felt like Woodstock lol. They have food trucks set up all along the field and tents set up with freeze dried candies- which is a whole new level of euphoria if you’ve never tried them- hotdogs, pizza, popcorn, soda’s, water and all super reasonable prices! Port-a-potties are also available outside- but if you happen to feel an “earthquake” while you’re in one, it’s just one of the characters that have it rigged up. When 7pm hits, the band does a Jimmy Hendrix style guitar solo for the American anthem- then BOOM- pure chaotic bliss as the characters run through the lines at all the patrons getting everyone pumped up before you enter the woods. Once it’s almost time to start, groups are lined up in stalls of usually about 8 people to a group. You walk into what looks like an old mining entrance. There you get to hear the rules of the haunt in a cool, bright looking cave- then off you go! There was so much to look at and so many twists and turns. There was a bunch of Aliens trying to invade the hollow. You felt as if you were walking through a maze leading you away from the aliens, but low and behold with each turn they were there. One of our people may have even gotten beamed up and probed, I didn’t look behind to count and make sure we were all still there, lol. There were zombies that barked and growled and hissed at us. Some were slow, some were running, but all did a fantastic job! As we got deeper into the woods, you come across lasers that felt as if you were wading through the water. You catch yourself being mesmerized, looking all around it, feeling like you’re really in water, but keep your guard up, there’s always someone or something lurking in the waters at Creepy Hollow Woods! There was a section that looked like psychedelic shag carpet from the 1970’s on wall to wall, very bright, very vivid colors! We called it the neon room. I caught myself wanting to touch it and feel the softness of the carpet. Remember looks can be deceiving. There’s always a trick up someone’s sleeve at Creepy Hollow woods. The Vertigo spinning tunnels (yes, plural, tunnel(s) MORE. THAN. ONE.) are a nice touch in the middle of the haunt. You’re no longer grounded and you get a little dizzy trying to make your way through them. It’s beautiful and bright, but it’s a tricky one to walk across for sure. One of our groups favorites was the “Dancing section.” There’s a girl on stage dancing and would pull one of the patrons up on stage with her to dance. Then a guy dressed up in a wig and a dress who corners up the guys, dancing on the dudes and tries to earn a few bucks in the process. Lol. It was a good place to sneakily hold the groups up for a few minutes so one group didn’t catch up to the next. You get to the foam party room! That was fun. Bubbles and foam everywhere, but they didn’t overdo it. It was enough to just get your feet and your pants a little damp but was already dried by the time you finished the haunt. You come to a point where there’s a few port-a-potties. One leads to the next leg of the haunt, the other will slime you. Choose wisely! You went through the black air maze which you cannot see anything at all and have to feel your way through it. The very end of the haunt was pitch black. The person in front had to feel their way through and each person behind was holding onto your shoulder or your hand to form a line so no one was left behind. Creepy Hollow Woods did a wonderful job putting all the best parts of a haunt together. It’s one of those haunts that you could go through 5 or 6 times and still can’t take it all in. There will be something new you notice each and every time. From the time we entered, it took about 30 minutes to go completely through it. I do know our group was a little fast-paced, so it could take longer if you walk a little slower. It’s worth every penny and truly an awesome place to hang out! I must give a shout-out to Moto the Clown. He’s scary and could absolutely hurt your feeling with his wit and sharp-tongue if he wanted to, but his heart is as big as the moon and I truly enjoy seeing him! Go check out Creepy Hollow Woods in Jay, FL this season, it’s definitely worth the drive!!
TERROR IN THE CORN
The more opportunities that I get to see haunted houses around my home state and around the nation, the more I find that one theme stands out among the rest: Corn Mazes. I never really enjoyed them as a kid, but now that I am going into it with the intent of being scared, I am realizing just how amazing the environment is for pure terror. One of the well known haunted corn mazes in Colorado is Terror in the Corn, located in Erie. The last two years I’ve sincerely enjoyed my experiences there, and I’ll get into this year’s excursion in just a second, but first, I want to get into the housekeeping details. Terror in the Corn is located on Anderson Farms. The drive to the venue takes you through backroads by several fields, and you really feel like you are in the middle of nowhere for a little while. During the day you will spot their giant pumpkin that resides over the park, however at night, you will have to rely on the bright lights to find where you are going. Some of the turns are a little hard to spot, so definitely have a GPS on hand. Ticketing was a little complicated online, as the attraction’s website redirects you to the Anderson Farms ticketing site. There you will find ticketing information on both their fall festival going on throughout October, alongside the haunted house tickets. There is a lot of information under each ticket option, some of which is a little redundant. However I will say the ticketing site looks much cleaner on the desktop vs mobile, so if you are having issues purchasing via your phone, you can always try desktop as well. Tickets are also available on location, which my friend Joe ended up doing. The process was quick and we were inside the park within minutes. Ticket prices vary based on the day you go, but General is right around $40, and VIP is around $55. You can find accurate ticket prices on the website. They also have timed entries in place, so you will have to get there and in line within the 30 minute time period your ticket is for. This haunt is ADA accessible too! On the website however, they do remind customers that the attraction does take place outside. There may be mud, tight spaces, or environmental factors that could affect your experience. On this note, I recommend wearing good shoes, I wore sneakers, and definitely left covered in dust and had sand in my shoe. I also got the chance this year to walk the entire park while waiting for my friend. The fall festival portion, outside the haunted attraction, is absolutely family focused. All the pumpkins in the park are available for purchase, and all you have to do is go to a sizing station, then to a cashier, where they will put a sticker on it once you pay. I absolutely bought a pumpkin this year! Their main shop is also super cute, they have everything from anderson farms merch, to jams and snacks that you can purchase as well. Other things to note about the park is that it has a zombie-themed bb gun shooting range, jump pads, food trucks, a tractor “train” for the kids to ride, and even changing tables for the families with really young children.I can understand the appeal of the fall festival. They also rearranged the park since last year, and I honestly really appreciate the new flow. Now onto the actual haunt experience. Joe and I got into line about 8:15, and were in the haunt within 20 minutes. We were put with a group of teens, which I am absolutely okay with because in my personal opinion, teens are hilarious to watch when they get scared. They were no exception. Within a few minutes of walking into the attraction, those girls were jumping at everything left and right. One thing in particular I enjoy about this haunt is their use of microphones by the actors. When you have a high volume of customers each night, it can really strain their voice. The use of microphones cuts down how much they have to project, and it allows the audience a better understanding of what they are trying to convey. I mentioned it in my article last year, and I’ll mention it again here, it's one of the few gripes I have. They use burlap curtains along the walls, and actors will often use them to scare. This year I got hit in the face about 4 times walking through. Even with my glasses on, I pulled a strand of burlap out of the corner of my eye. So just keep that in mind, and maybe give those burlap curtains a little bit of extra space. The corn field was eons beyond what it was last year. This year, the scares were unpredictable, and while they have stations throughout the maze that serve as places for actors to interact with, the way those actors used them was constantly changing, and evolving as we walked through. The teens were screaming, and even though we ended up in a conga line (where several groups back up into each other) near the end of the maze, the actors absolutely knew how to work the crowd. From this point forward, we were in a pretty consistent conga line for the rest of the attraction. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact you will usually find that this happens at most haunted houses. The best way to help mitigate the problem as a customer is to let groups that are faster than you pass. This allows you and the groups around you to walk at your own pace, and still get enough separation so you have your own unique experience. It also allows the actors to breathe for a moment between groups so they can reset. Even though we were in a conga line, the experience the actors provided was top notch. It's obvious they have been taught how to act for a constant stream of people and keep it entertaining. That isn’t an easy task, and I sincerely applaud them for staying in character. Their sets are so fun to look at, and their costumes and makeup are very well done. There were only a few actors that I saw with simplistic to no makeup, but it worked in the areas they were in. I can also see the influence of themes in other haunts within this one. Without spoiling anything, I can definitely see how “reversed gravity” or “illusion rooms” are gaining traction in the industry. Talking to my friend, we both agreed there were several stand out actors in this haunt, one was a “little girl” who timed her creepy laugh just right, and got both of us to swivel our heads around in shock. She even got a compliment out of me. The next was the individual in the greenhouse threatening people to turn them into plant food. I really enjoy when actors can banter back with me, and this actor in particular had a few good retorts to what I threw at her. On that same note, the woman outside the laundry house absolutely KILLED her conversation with the passing conga line. I heard her talking about her life in the laundry house to the conga line before we got to her, and continued after we left. When I spoke to her, she made sure to tell me her dress was the cleanest of everyones, in fact, she said that she has the laundry house wash it 6 times a day. She made me laugh, and when you have a long line of customers, sometimes the best thing you can do is entertain. Our last shoutout goes to an actor who said nothing at all, but got us to stop in our tracks. He looked like a ventriloquist puppet, and has some of the most insane muscle control I have ever seen. He was located in front of a cash register, behind a counter. All he did was move, like a puppet, and bent at angles I didn’t think were possible. His movements were so fluid, and he got his face so close to Joe’s during his scare that we had to stop for a second cause it was STELLAR. He obviously knows which targets to choose when doing that move, and that scare alone made the trip worth it. They’ve made a lot of fun changes to the finale of the haunt as well, though I won't go into them too much, so you can get that surprise. However I did really enjoy the addition of new actor-controlled props, and can’t wait to see how they evolve this haunt going forward. I also attempted to ask the teens what they thought of the haunt, but all they could say was they enjoyed the entire experience. Overall I agree, while I didn’t get scared too badly, everyone around me did. I absolutely enjoyed my experience at Terror in the Corn. I will be making it a stop on my October calendar for many years to come.