Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Thoughts

Yeah, you, sitting there reading this.  You're reading this because you either attend haunted attractions or are looking for information about one.  Since that's what we were when we started this we absolutely want to hear what you think about the haunted attractions/events that you have been to.  Now, we don't want to know how you feel about a place that you haven't experienced.  That wouldn't really help.  If you have been to something this year that was amazing, or even something that made you feel as though you had wasted your hard earned money, then please either post a comment on our blog or send us an email and we will copy and paste your thoughts into a blog entry.  We can't be at every haunt every year, and we certainly couldn't afford it.  As this season winds down take a moment to think about what you have experienced and send us a comment or an email about it.  Please include the name of the haunt, city, state, thoughts, and a name we can use for you.  We look forward to hearing from you and spreading the word on what's out there for fans of haunted attractions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 Must See Haunted Attractions for 2010 Must See Haunted Attractions for 2010

We completely agree about Folklore and Netherworld being must see attractions for 2010.

12 Year Old Girl Cut With Circular Saw at Bluff City, TN Haunted House

12 Year Old Girl Cut With Circular Saw at Bluff City, TN Haunted House

Monday, October 25, 2010

Terrortorium, Oxford, AL

Terrortorium was another stop on one of our Alabama weekends searching for good haunts.  It is located in Oxford, Alabama and was probably one of the easiest haunts to find that we went searching for.  Our navigation system didn't really have any problems with their address either, which was a huge plus since it had a hard time with EVERYthing else in Alabama. 

Terrortorium is a haunted attraction that combines both a house/maze and a "dark" ride.  We really enjoyed standing in line, but not because of the usual characters who interact at most houses.  There was a disco ball that worked and the songs were fun.  We chose to go through the house first.  The theming in the first room was incredible and really set the standard high for what we were going to anticipate throughout the rest of the attraction.  I'm not sure that I can say they lived up to that expectation though. 

There are some reasonably good scares, some great themes, and it takes a reasonable amount of time to complete (based on price of the attraction).  There are a few things we think you should know before going:
*  There are steps involved inside, which are not well lit.  Some of theme aren't even steps, but just minor drops that could easily cause you to twist an ankle if you aren't being careful.
*  If you are a person of some size (yeah, that's us bigger folks) then you may not enjoy some of the tight fits.  They really tried to use their space well, but in doing so they have some really tight spaces that are hard to fit through if you are larger in the chest, waist, or hip areas.  The wooden corners in some of those tight squeezes are also not as well sanded as they could be, so watch out for splinters.
*  Tennis shoes are the best choice for footwear here.  Trust us.  Leave the flip-flops and sandals at home for this one.

After we completed the house/maze we rode the dark ride.  A dark ride is basically a simplistic roller coaster that goes up small inclines and does curves.  The scenes are set up throughout the journey in your little two seater car.  They do use some actors within the ride area, but there is a lot of space where they are missing opportunities to scare in that area.  Again, if you have some meat on  your bones you may find that you have a snug fit to get in the car and that it goes up inclines REALLY slowly (to the point where you worry about it deciding to go backwards instead).  It was definitely fun, and worth the time and money, though we could see that they have plenty of room to reinvest in the theme and staff for this part for next year.

Having done both events we decided that we couldn't rank them as separate haunts as we would normally do, since the ride isn't enough of a haunt for it's own rating that reflects what it is.  Our overall rating for Terrortorium, after some discussion and debate, stands at 3.5 severed heads.

We're looking into creating a scale/score sheet that we can use to make the rating process more universal and fair, but we haven't worked the bugs out yet so that it gives a rating we feel is deserved.  Maybe we will have it in place before the next haunt season.

Mall Massacre, Oxford, AL

On the weekend of October 22-24 we drove over to Alabama to check out some haunts.  Our first stop on Friday evening was Mall Massacre at Quintard Mall in Oxford, Alabama.  Initial impressions can be deceiving, but not really that much in this case.  The wooden que line that reminds us of a cattle pen may still have some splinters, so watch those fingers.  One of the claims made by Mall Massacre is stated in the quote below, which we took directly from their website:

"We are in a 17,000 sq/ft building and we have used every inch of the space to have something waiting for you around every corner. Hope you make it out alive!!!!!!!"

Now let me explain why this is relevant to us.  They have not used every inch of their space for scaring you.  In all honesty they need to revisit their configurations of space in order to do that.  There is a lot of space for a graveyard at the beginning, as well as a huge open space behind the scenes that you stumble into when you reach the end of the trail.  If the spaces within the trail were meant to scare you then it wouldn't be done by only having a motion sensor light turn on in a dark room where there are no characters or animatronics to scare you.  A light coming on?  That's your scare?  Seemed so.  Oh, boy.  Between the nonexistent scares, the confusion of the ending, and the claims that they did not live up to we had no choice but to score low.  We both agreed that there is a lot of potential there, especially since this is an event that was an outdoor/trail haunt in previous years.  Now they need to learn how having a building is different from being outside and figure out how they are going to amp it up in the future.  Mall Massacre rates only 1 severed head from Haunt Review, but we hope they will get better in the future if they can maintain their location and reinvest their finances wisely.  After all, backyard haunts are the foundation that the industry is built upon and we want to see them thrive and develop into marvelous professional attractions that make the entire haunt community proud.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Haunt Lines Poll Results

Does it change the experience at a haunt if you are sent through in one long line instead of in the smaller groups that you arrived in?

yes, it takes away the scares 9 (75%)
yes, but I'm more comfortable that way 0 (0%)
no, it's the same for me regardless of the line 2 (16%)
I've never been sent in a line like that before 1 (8%)
Votes: 12

Well, we may not have gotten as many votes as we would have liked but we got input that is pretty much what we expected.  We just can't figure out why haunts everywhere don't realize this.  Don't get me wrong, a lot of them do it right and understand.  There are always a few that need to be reminded of what we want.  There are still two more polls open for responses and we are looking forward to seeing what you all think.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dixieland Theme Park's Halloweve in Fayettville, GA

     We are not posting the link to this location for a reason.  A good reason.
     This has to be the worst haunted attraction we have been to this year, including the one we refused to name earlier in the season.  It was a good thing we bought the tickets early and got them for ten dollars each, or we would have been even angrier.  If you were to go right now you would pay five dollars for parking (if you don't have a discount coupon for free parking) and twenty dollars for admission for one person.  I suppose I should explain, but I just can't do it in nice little paragraphs.  Here's the low-down in list form:
*  extremely dark park, with no signs (or really small signs that you couldn't see) or maps to help you find where you are going
*  website that promotes events, however they aren't always happening when you arrive (this happened to us when we thought the magician would be performing)
*  website says that they are using "haunted overlays" on their rides to theme them, but all they did was change a program on a simulator and put the coaster in the dark with a strobe light
*  the hayride is so short that it wasn't worth the time, may have only lasted five minutes and included 3-5 scenes (some without actors at all)
*  the cost did include unlimited rides on some of the thrill rides, but that was one of the only good things we found
*  the farm haunt is themed well, but we walked through it in about two minutes and were completely confused by the ending that made no sense at all...and the actors practically followed us through the haunt rather than do their scare (get in and get out)....oh! and the rules part of the haunt weren't given/stated until we were about two scenes into a five or six scene haunt
*  the only good haunt makes you ride their car ride (which you can't steer) and then walk through the house (which is inconsistently themed)
*  the haunt that was okay had only about two scenes that were worth the time and effort to go through
*  on the night we went there were at least two items that we either could no locate or were closed down for the night
*  in their ads they claim to be the largest haunt of it's kind in Georgia, but Six Flags is a theme park like them and they do Fright Fest including a haunted I highly doubt they are the largest (especially if you factor in other Georgia haunts such as Netherworld or Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse)

    Okay, I've ranted enough for now.  As you can see we didn't really enjoy ourselves.  When we left I immediately called a friend who lives near there and was planning on taking her children.  I had to let her know not to waste her hard earned money on this event when there were far better ones in the area.  We ranked this event with 0 severed heads, but then decided that we could rank it at 1 severed head IF we could include the unlimited rides on the thrill rides (but they aren't a part of the HAUNT, so that just doesn't feel right).

Popes Haunted Farm in Salem, Alabama

Popes Haunted Farm

     Located off a dirt road in the middle of what seems to be absolutely nowhere is a large and very busy haunted attraction.  Popes Farm has been in business for seventeen years, according to their website.  We drove to Salem, Alabama to check out this haunt on a Friday night after work.  Our navigation system was completely useless for located their address until about the twentieth time we tried to input the address by searching in a zip code instead of the city and street address.  It was highly annoying, so we weren't really excited about what was coming at that point. 
     Housed at Popes Farm are three haunted events to choose from, or commit to do the entire package of the three.  The price for the full experience is currently at $25 per person.  There is a haunted forest, haunted barn, and haunted hayride.  Of course we chose to do all three so that we could see what their strengths are.
     We decided to start with the haunted forest.  Be prepared, it really is an outdoor trail with ropes marking the path.  The ropes aren't always easy to see, and the roots on the ground are not painted with glowing paint for easy visibility.  That being said this was definitely an experience.  There were several points that produced jumps out of both of us, and the three preteen boys who went through with us were absolutely terrified at points.  The beginning of the path is located within what seems to be an old trailer, and the floors don't feel very solid (though this could be something intentional).  The sets are almost nonexistent or very low tech, but there are some great uses of what we will call "poor man's scares."  Overall this event rated about 3 and a half severed heads for us.
     Next we decided to check out the haunted hayride.  That had to be the longest trailer behind that tractor that either of us has ever seen.  The hay lines the sides and when you sit down you face the interior of the trailer, but remember to keep the aisle clear for the characters that are bound to join you throughout the journey.  The best part of this event was the length.  It took a rather long time to complete the ride and it included many scenes.  The downside was that most of the actors were people dressed in regular clothing who simply threw on a mask for the night.  They needed some improvements in that area, which took us out of the haunt in a way.  Several of the scenes were amazingly well themed, but others required us to turn in uncomfortable ways on the hay in order to see what we were supposed to see.  The haunted hayride ranked at 3 severed heads.
    Finally we went through the haunted barn.  We were completely excited when we entered to see a very interest hearse on display.  If you are in line to wait in the room with the hearse you might get the chance to see how they have pimped out the hearse and watch another group of guests walk through the haunt on the mounted television.  With all of the dust in the air, the camera that is hooked to the TV isn't always that easy to see.  The most memorable part of this event was the darkness.  There were several spots throughout were they did dark mazes very well.  Unfortunately, it often felt as if you walked a long way to get from one scene to another for a minimal scare payoff.  It was probably our least favorite event of the night and ranked at 3 severed heads, barely.
    With all of that said we have discussed our opinions of the haunt and seem to vary between an overall rating of 3 or 3 and a half severed heads.  It is a good haunt for the area, and they must be doing something right to stay as busy as they were in the middle of nowhere.  We wouldn't recommend driving an extended distance for this haunt, or otherwise going out of your way for it, but if you live nearby (within 50 miles in that area) you may want to give it a try.  It has a lot to offer for those who don't attend as many haunts each year as we do.

Haunted Hollow in Valley, Alabama

Haunted Hollow

     On Friday, October 15, we took a road trip to Alabama to visit two haunts and review them.  The second haunt of the night was Haunted Hollow Funeral Home and Casket Company in Valley, Alabama.  We will admit that it was difficult to locate using our TomTom and factoring in road work that is being done in the area, but we had the same problem finding the first one we went to that night as well.  One of the reasons for having challenges in locating the event is that it is remote.  That's actually a good thing.  It is our experience that if a haunt can find a remote location for their site then they will be able to expand more easily, include scares that would not be permissible in a more highly populated area, and they can usually handle a higher volume of customers.
     We were told in advance that there would be a donation taken for parking by their local fire department, but they had already left for the night when we arrived.  The family that runs Haunted Hollow feels very passionately about being able to help out the firemen who helped them out several years ago when a fire devastated their family.  This is a wonderful way to give back to those types of heroes, so please remember your donation when you go.
    Haunted Hollow is a three part haunted attraction, consisting of three different mazes.  You won't find any hayrides or other events tossed in to distract you here.  Your full focus will be on the haunts.  Since we were allowed to go through the three mazes in any sequence we chose we started with The Village.  This particular haunt was what we considered to be the very best one there.  It's more than just the scares, it's the entire environment.  Let's just say you should dress for whatever the weather is and wear tennis shoes.  We won't give away info that might spoil it, but those two things are a must in our opinion.
     The next haunt for us was Spinal Tap.  Um, we got confused here.  Linking the name and website description with what we experienced was a challenge for us, but that happens all the time with haunts.  Factoring out the name of the maze we can focus on the experience itself and fully admit that they got us good a few times.  That's so rare that we have to state it clearly here and own up to it.  This winding trail takes you through a variety of scenes that leave you wondering what in the world you just went through.  That's probably a good thing.
    The final haunt there was the first one built, Finn's Funeral Home and Casket Company.  The introduction scene takes a bit longer than it needs to for you to get the background information, and that takes you out of the experience a little bit.  Once you are moving the theming of the event is remarkably well done and the actors know what they are doing.  Of course, they should know what they are doing as hard as "Spookyman" (the owner) has worked to train them.  Each actor is required to attend "scare school" and watch a lengthy video on haunt scares before they can begin work.  If they can't survive that then they can go somewhere else to haunt.  The owners maintain a high level of expectations for their staff, while creating a wonderful environment to work in.  Though many of the actors and staff are family members, that doesn't effect the level of work ethic that is required here. 
     In conclusion we have rated this entire experience with four severed heads out of five.  Fabulous theming, great acting, and a pleasant experience with the staff made up for the difficulties in locating the facility.  Check them out at their website, which we have linked above, or on Facebook.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We were quoted by Fangoria!!

Fangoria Review of Atlanta Zombie Apocolypse

Taste of Blood, Busch Gardens, Howl-O-Scream 2010

This is a rough cut of our first experience with the haunted house Taste of Blood. We were very excited when we came out of it the first time, but our opinions changed later. I'm posting this because we want you to know how amazing it can be IF they send you through in a SMALL group INSTEAD OF A SINGLE LINE.

A Few Shots from Busch Gardens Howl-O-Screams 2010

Big monsters were scattered throughout the park, and we got lucky enough to run into a good sized group of them right as the night was starting.

Trapped in the Walls is a haunt that takes you in to a paranormal hotspot set up where there are many things trapped inside with you.  After you go through decontamination you will enter the home and experience a variety of their own "paranormal" events.

This haunt wasn't the best one there for sure.  It seemed fairly well themed, but it just didn't always flow so well. 

One of the sorority girls from D.E.D.E.R haunted house got ahold of Bryan at one of their photo-op sites.
Taste of Blood was our favorite haunted house there, but only when we were there early enough to go in alone.  We went back later in the night when you have to walk through in one long line and it lost all of it's appeal.

Death Row Vengeance No Escape is a well themed jail haunt. There were several really amazing special effects used, but as with the other haunts it lost some of it's "pow" when sent through in a continuous line.

Fiends is a great stage show that we saw.  It was fun from beginning to end.  We loved both this show and Blood Relations that we watched during our dinner package that let us in to the haunts early.

Oh, look, Bryan found a friend with brains.  Literally.  Their costumes are really well done.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ScreamParks vs. Independent Haunted Attractions

    Are we becoming jaded to haunts?  Do we expect too much?  What in the world in going on with these attractions?!
    When I was a child I hated haunted houses, and Bryan wasn't allowed to go due to family choices.  Neither of us really grew up with haunts in our experiences, so we REALLY enjoy going now as adults.  The problem we seem to be running into is that some of the larger locations, such as Howl-O-Screams at Busch Gardens in Tampa, don't seem to be feeling like they are worth the money.  What?  Not worth the money?  But they are the top of the line parks! Yeah, well, that's what we thought too...until Saturday.
    Let's start out by saying that there will be more than one post about our experiences there since there are more things to cover than I have time at the moment.
    The first haunt there that we went to was one that blew us away.  I actually jumped, clutched my chest, lost my breath, and screamed.  It was incredible!!  The problem comes when we got father into the night, had some horrible experiences, and decided to revisit that first house of the night to compare the experience between earlier and later.  Here's what we figured out:
     Earlier:  we were sent in alone (just the two of us), we couldn't figure out what was coming so all of the scares were great, we loved it
     Later:  we were sent through as a part of a single-file line that snaked its way through the house from beginning to end, we could see all of the scares coming because we were watching them happen ahead of us, it was absolutely boring and a waste of time
    We won't ever dare to say that their theming wasn't magnificent, because it was absolutely amazing.  We found wonderful actors scattered throughout the houses as well.  The problem comes when we are placed into a long line that often just stops moving so that we are stuck in one of the rooms of the haunt with no way to flow into the next location.  You can't run from the scare, you can't move on to see what is coming, you can't go back to escape the line you are stuck it...just S T U C K.  It completely ruined it for both of us.  I am not normally a person who gets to experience the scares in a haunt because I know what to look for, but in the first time through, on the first house, they got me good.  I only wish that they had counted to 15 between groups later in the evening so that I would have had a similar experience then.
    Yes, that's right, I said FIFTEEN.  It is absolutely amazing what a 15 second gap between groups entering a haunt can do.  When we catch up to groups inside we will stand in a room and count to 10 before moving on so that we get the scares, rather than watching them get the scares.  When we do that we rarely catch back up to the group ahead of us.  Such a short window of time could have made Howl-O-Screams sooo much better.  The saddest part of all was that in talking to staff there and Guest Relations we only managed to find one staff member who cared what we thought and actually agreed that it takes away from the experience to send people through in groups.  ONE!  Really? 
     We have decided that it will be a long time before we go back for Busch Gardens' Halloween events, but we may go back to enjoy the regular park attractions soon since that part was at least something we had mostly good experiences with.   Just wait until you read the rest of what all happened on that trip!  You won't believe it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

Us?  Well, that's complicated.  Our names are Misty and Bryan and we enjoy haunted houses.  This summer we got married (a second marriage for each of us) although we've known each other since the seventh grade.  Some day we might be able to travel farther and longer for our haunt hobby, but right now there are still the real jobs to contend with.

It has been asked of us how it is that we feel qualified to rate haunted attractions.  For three years we ran a backyard haunt that was very popular in our hometown, but that's not what makes us people to listen to on the subject.  We attend an average of 13 - 18 haunts per haunt season, but that's not what makes us valid resources.  The only reason that we are what we consider to be a valid resource on haunted attractions is that we love going and when we first started going we spent time on the internet searching for information on the haunts that didn't come from the haunts.  Do you know how hard it is to find stuff out there that isn't sponsored by the haunt or written by them?  They all say they are the best in their area, and sometimes that's true when they are the only one in their area.  It got really frustrating for us to read all of the great hype and then show up to find that it trully SUCKED.  That's when we decided that two average people with a passion for the industry should get involved.  If we were going to talk about the haunts in the car after we left them, discussing what we thought were strengths and weaknesses, then why not share our thoughts with others and help them out as well.  It all seemed to make sense.  We've never received a free ticket or any form of payment for going to a haunt, and couldn't care less about getting something out of it.  This is a wonderful hobby to us, and if we help other fans out there find places that are the best choices for the money then that's a bonus.  We saw an opening for a missing resource in our area and we took it.  There are other groups that do the same thing all over the country, but we are currently pretty much stuck in the southeast US for now. 

If you enjoy a post on our blog please feel free to leave comments, or even suggestions.  You can join our Facebook page to see the video reviews of haunts as they become available for posting as well. 

Now...on to the next.

Monday, October 4, 2010

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zombie Experience

Have you ever wanted to be in a zombie movie?  Do you think you could make it out alive?  We feel like this is exactly what we did on Saturday night.  Atlanta Zombie Apocolypse is located off of Moreland Avenue and is definitely NOT what you would think of as a haunted house.  If you are looking for a traditional haunted house that moves you from room to room with drastic changes between them, then this is not the one for you.  This attraction will emmerse you in the feeling of being escorted by millitary personnel through a zombie infested world to a safe location.  Your military guides will need your help at points, so listen carefully.  That shouldn't be any trouble since you find yourself automatically calling out things as you go along.  Through there use of actors and some very simple props you literally become a part of the zombie movie of your life.  Can you escape?  Follow the guidance of your military leader and you just might be able to.  Keep a sharp eye out for zombies that might want some brains for dinner and you will be able to help keep you and your party from joining their forces.  There is one point where you look back and find that you are almost surrounded by a hord of zombies that want to have you for dinner, literally.  These are no fast moving zombies, but rather the traditional slow zombies.  You would think that this wouldn't scare you as much, but you would be wrong.  When you let yourself be drawn into the world that they have created for you it's easy to believe that these zombies will find a way to catch you if they can.

Atlanta Zombie Apocolypse has several different choices for your visit.  First, you need to be aware that there is a $3 cash charge for parking that is used to pay for staff that remain in the parking lot to make sure behaviors remain acceptable.  Secondly, the zombie experience (haunt) is $20 each.  Next, there is a paintball experience where you can go into a seperate area and use a paintball gun to shoot zombies who are attacking you.  The paintball area experience can be purchased seperately for $15.  If you want to do both activities you can purchase a combo ticket for a discounted rate of $30.

Be ready, because your experience will actually begin before you have purchased your tickets.  We won't spoil it by saying how, but we will say that it all completely adds up to you believing that you are about to be guided to safety in a world overrun by a zombie infection.  This event was incredible, and we already want to go back.  On our scale of 1-5 severed heads, we rank Atlanta Zombie Apocolypse at 4 severed heads.  Check them out and see if you can make it out alive....or dead.

Update 2011:  The sequel is never as good as the original.  This year has some things that left a bad taste for us, so look for our updated review coming soon.