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Knott’s Scary Farm

  • Posted : November 12th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

No visit to Southern California during Halloween would be complete without a visit to Knott’s Scary Farm, the innovator of amusement park Halloween events. Those we were told by attendees and event staff that it was slightly smaller than in years past, there was still a vast amount of seasonal fun available. The event featured 10 mazes including one with laser guns, two shows, four scare zones,  a re-themed ride, DJs, a variety of food and merchandise and even the event’s own museum. We purchased Fright Lane VIP tickets to get front of line access to both the haunts and rides and allow us to take home one of the collectible metal skeleton keys. The very cool souvenir gave us access to bonus rooms in several of the attractions.

As soon as the gates opened we, like everyone else, made a mad dash for the reservation points for Infected Special Ops. The new attraction tools small teams of patrons along with their “military” guides along on a special mission to fight zombies and militant radicals and to help a valuable scientist escape to freedom. The background story is explained once everyone is outfitted with their state of the art AR style laser weapon. As you make you way through the are shooting zombies, the story unfolds and the group is split up and given different objectives. I enjoyed the developed story and did not find it confusing like some earlier reviews suggested. The actors that guided us through were both convincing and helpful. The groups merge back together at the end of the game; just in time to take their souvenir photo.  The demand for this attraction was high. Everyone, including fright lane pass holders had to reserve a spot at the start of the night and time slots went quick even with two “rendezvous” reservation points.

Gunslinger’s Grave: We went through this maze early in the night and were not that impressed. The westerner themed attraction featured cowboys, horses, shootouts and salons with a Halloween twist. While a few of the scenes or props were cool the acting and timing were off in this one. No one in our group found it at all scary. When we returned later we were able to go through the skeleton key room which was the strongest part of this attraction. It used some visual appealing high-tech effects and was a good edition to the western story.

Toothfairy: Also new this year, the Toothfairy was one of the most original and disturbing of the mazes. Although the front section was slightly thin on actors the innovative scene were enough to engage patrons. With so many people fearing dentist I wondering why I had not seen this idea before. This story combines the legend of the tooth fairy with a deranged dentist and lots of gore. The antique chairs and dental x-rays added to the uneasy mood.

Dominion of the Dead: This vampire themed maze was one of the more visually stunning. The rooms and costumes were incredibly detailed. I especially liked the tone set by led candles and the large vampire near the end. The key room here was very interactive and one of the more fun ones.

Voodoo Village:It seemed like the voodoo theme was everywhere this year, We went through the maze twice because the wait for the key room was too long the first time around. During our first visit the layout got confusing and our small group went in the wrong direction. I later discovered that we missed a couple of rooms. The layout was open to make it feel more like you were wandering through the bayou. This was fine but there needed to be more actors or staff to make sure visitors stayed on the right track. Patrons much venture past a tooth covered hallway and even a giant mouth until the meet the Toothfairy herself who is especially gruesome.

Pinocchio Unstrung: The idea of puppets and dolls are creepy to me. I found several of the props and sets to be visually appealing but the acting here was just okay. I did appreciate that they put a dark spin on the classic story but it was slightly disappointing.

Black Magic: This maze was one of my favorites. The key room here was a great opener because it set up the story. We got to gather round a table and take part in a séance to call upon the spirit of the great magician Harry Houdini. The problem was that Harry was not too happy with being disturbed. The props, costumes and makeup here was some of the best. Besides the effects when Harry’s spirit arrived, I also like the water tank and the crazed bunny. It really felt like you were walking through a magician’s dressing room and stage. I think this attraction also stood out because it was one of the more unique ones.

Forevermore: This maze was a must see for any Edgar Allen Poe Fan. It revolved around a serial killer who based his crimes on works of the Legendary offer. Many of the rooms feature a voiceover soundtracks that reads back sections of the story. The Pit and the Pendulum featured a giant axe that sung over a dark well of a pit. You could her the sound of heartbeats in the “Tell Tale Heart” room and “Mask of the Red Death”featured a very detailed nightclub scene.

Trick or Treat: This was one of the simpler attractions but over all it had a good vintage Halloween feel. I loved the details with the lit jack-o-laterns and old-school costumes.

The Witch’s Keep: The Calico Mine ride is revamped for Halloween with the edition of the green witch. While I still liked the ride and thought it was fun to ride in the wagons, we were disappointed that there are no longer live actors incorporated into the attraction only animatronics.

Shows:

The Hanging:

Elvira’s Big Top

Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood

  • Posted : November 12th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

When we attended the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando earlier this season we were less than impressed. While some of the designs were good, we were rushed through attraction too quick to appreciate them and did not care for the overall direction and management of the event. That being said, we had no plans to visit the park in California. A friend raved about one of the attractions in particular and highly suggested that we work Los Angeles into our calendar. I am glad that we listened.

The Hollywood event included 7 mazes, 5 scare zones and the Terror Tram. While many mazes were smaller than the Orlando event and there were no shows; I did not feel like I missed anything. The same great production values existed  and while there were some voiceovers in the soundtracks to the attraction the actors were more engaged. Most of all, the event was well organized and smoothly ran even when area celebs would pop in. It also helped that alcohol sales were more limited outside of the adjacent City Walk. We opted for the VIP package which I recommend if you can afford it. Not only do you get front of line admittance to the mazes but your ticket includes food and drink, access to the VIP lounges in each section and best of all a tour guide through the attractions in the studio section. Our group boarded our own tram to the studios and were guides through the three mazes here. Each attraction had over a 90 minute wait. We were able to do all three and the Terror tram in 90 minutes. I think this made the experience well worth the price. There were also special surprises as we made are way to the haunts that were just for VIP guests. The ticket including a lavish buffet with quality food, unlimited water and non-alcoholic beverages, a dessert buffet, a private restroom and two alcoholic drinks. We were expecting to be served chicken nuggets and pasta not prime rib and sushi. There was even a photo op and a small private scare zone type area set up for VIP guests. Plus the lounges gave a great spot to take a break and maybe even spot a celebrity (We saw Miley Cyrus.)

I’ll start our review with the attractions in the studio section that were part of the guided tour.

Dusk Till Dawn – Although smaller, I preferred this to the Orlando version. You got close with the vampires and the actors were more engaging. I got sprinkled with”blood” a few times.  I do have to say that Orlando had a more exciting finale for Dusk to Dawn.

Alien Vs. Predator – We loved this maze. It was scary and made great use of puppets in addition to the actors and animatronics. This attraction was equally good at both parks but Hollywood had an incredible finish with a gigantic Alien at the end.

Walking Dead : End of the Line  this one also was much smaller than Orlando and some of our favorite elements from Orlando were missing.  But was still well executed with great acting. The big Spot room was still one of the best.

Terror Tram invaded by The Walking Dead – This was the highlight of the studio section. You left the tram to walk an outdoor trail that was ravished by zombies from The Walking Dead. The were some impressive props here including a downed plane, several abandoned cars and a cabin. If that wasn’t enough you also got to walk past the house from Pyscho . I enjoyed walking through the tighter dark path and tunnels where zombies were able to poke through and grab at you from all directions.

Back in the park we stopped up to eat and grab a drink and then headed out to conquer the remaining mazes

Face Off in the Flesh –  This attraction was in the year around scare attraction Universal House of Horrors.  It was well done with several creations from the contestants from the popular TV show.  Our favorite scene was the Mad Hatter ‘s tea party.  As fans of the show it was great to see those creations up-close.  The make-up department did a fantastic job recreating the looks.

Dracula Untold – This haunt was another repeat from Orlando but like the others here in Hollywood, was better executed. While it did not have as many scenes there were several startles with beautiful sets and make up.

Clowns 3D-This original house featured music from Slash of Guns and Roses fame.  The attraction had some real disturbing and gross scenes yet was funny at the same time.  Universal put a very disturbing twist to this overdone theme to make it entertaining and scary.  We were a little disappointed that the music was not as featured as we expected. At times you could barely hear the music over other sounds.

American Werewolf in London –  This house was the main reason for the trip and we were not disappointed.  It takes you through the classic 1981 movie.  You start in the Slaughtered Lamb where you are told by the bartender to stay on the path.  Then you are in the middle of some of the famous scenes from the movie which include the German army monsters and the adult movie theater scene.  Two different rooms show the transformation from man to werewolf which was amazing and finally several  life-like werewolf puppets.  This is easily one of the best attractions that I have ever walked through and hope Universal will keep this trend.

The Scare Zones

Mask-A-Raid-  This area had several Victorian style costume and masquerade style masks that hid hideous disfigured make up.  While the fog was sometimes to heavy to see every thing it was a good scare zone.

The Purge Anarchy – This area had some high energy actors and great props related to the movie.

Dark Christmas : This was the best and most original of the scare zones. Not only did it feature Krampus but it put a scary twist on traditional holiday characters and scenes. The toy soldiers were bound with bags over their heads. Under the shops and trees lit with bright colored christmas lights, Krampus had bad children caught in his cage. Creepy elves menaced the streets and an evil looking santa had  a baby stuffed in his sack.

Skullz – This scare zone in the studio center was based on the Native American legend of the Wendigo, a supernatural flesh eating half beast with an animal skull for a head. Somehow we missed this zone entirely. Maybe it was crowded out by the long lines for Werewolf and clowns and for the popular rides like Revenge of the Mummy.

The Walking Dead: Welcome to Terminus  This scare zone was located in the Production area next to the Walking Dead House.  It was small and if you didn’t pay attention you might have missed it.

Our final thoughts

This event was well put together.  We enjoyed the idea that  the haunts, not the partying fueled the event.  Hats off to Hollywood. We hope that it stays this way and not like the drunken free for all that Orlando has become.

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

  • Posted : November 11th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Being from Michigan, I grew up with a large number of Halloween hayrides available during the season. So when we found ourselves in Southern California this fall I looked forward to visiting the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. I heard good things about it and wanted to see something different.  The attraction is located in Griffith Park at the old LA zoo, so the location itself made for an interesting backdrop.

Even on a Wednesday night it was extremely crowded. Things were confusing pulling into the park. We saw one sign that directed haunt traffic to the right then we just followed the cars. Parking was quite spread out and you will either need to wait on the shuttle bus or prepare for a hike (sometimes both). We opted for a VIP pass because the regular line was over 2 hours. The park is made up of four attractions: the main hayride, the Seven Sins Sideshow , the InBetween Dark Maze and the new House of the Horsemen. There was also a festival area called Purgatory that featured a carousel, carnival foods and entertainment. The main hayride was about a twenty-minute ride that featured everything from clowns to bird people. The best scene was were the wagon pulled up to a series of old animal cages. Each cage had a different horrible monster in it. A creepy master of ceremonies picked one of the passengers to spin a wheel to decide our fate. There were parts in between scenes that got slow. Actors reaching over the wagon to snort in your ear got old after a while. My biggest criticism is that it felt incomplete. There were sets  and areas that seemed like they were not being used. One spot featured a hill with two guillotines that were lit up. On the other side of the sago were there acrobatic bird people balanced on poles that swung toward the passerby’s. I figured they were a distraction for something that would happen on the other side but there was nothing. There was a section were you saw the silhouettes of actors in shadow behind inflatable. One curtain opened to reveal some actors but there was no grand scene hidden, like there had been in past years. While there were some cool sets and costumes the ride finished with me wanting more.

Next we went through the dark maze, In Between. We were split in to small groups and only one person had a small light to guide us through. It was mostly entirely dark and our group quickly got divided. Actors would pop up here and there and got a few startles but we were stuck there for far too long. There was no guidance and it got frustrating. Groups kept wandering into each other. All in all I did not see anything too original in this dark maze.

Next was the Sevens Sins Sideshow. Even the VIP line was incredibly long. We were told later that the attraction shut down to give actors a break. There was no one around to explain this or no entertainment while patrons waited in line. When we were finally ready to enter they explained that each room would be a dramatic scene based on a different one of the 7 deadly sins and each would require us to do something to start the scene. While it was an interesting concept several of the actors were not strong enough to pull it off. There were no mic’s and it was often hard to hear them. A few of the scenes were entertaining but some were too obscure to determine what they represented. I wanted to like it but many of us exited scratching our heads.

The last attraction was new this year. The House of the Horsemen was based on the four horseman of the apocalypse: Conquest, War, Famine and Death.  You walked through theatrical scenes with each of the characters and their minions. The ending where you meet Death is anti-climatic and could have been done better,

The show was disappointing. Many people we talked to that night said past shows were better and the cast had more energy. While I applaud the desire to try new things they were not well executed. Given the location and past reviews I expected a higher production value. Our biggest problem here was poor management. There seemed to be little staff available throughout the location and things were often congested and confusing. Several patrons got lost trying to exit the parking area. The surrounding areas were  dark and seemed unsafe. We had a personal issue that happened when we visited and were unable to get an help from haunt management or any response from them  after the fact. The quality of the show was not worth the rest of the experience.

13th Floor Phoenix

  • Posted : November 11th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

We did not write a full review of the 13th Floor Phoenix because Haunted Attraction Review has already written about two other locations in San Antonio and Chicago this season. While we generally love the haunts it must be said that each location is not much different. We see many of the same great sets and scenes in each location so HAR just wanted to talk about some of the highlights. There are two attractions: the main house Dwellings of the Dead and ZombieLand Lockdown. My favorite room in the main house was the pirate ship. It is a very unique room that gives you the illusion of  walking through the cabin of the ship and has some interesting pirate characters. I also liked the bayou swamp shack and cemetery. The detailing is great in the entire attraction but especially the manor and funeral home. The actors here were high emergency and the house and a good layout. It does sometimes get crowded you may experience a “conga line” going through but the actors try to make sure everyone still gets scared.  The second attraction, Zombieland Lockdown is my favorite. You are entering and area where the military is attempting to contain the zombie outbreak. The post-apocalyptic design is reminiscent of House of Torment in Austin. You must make your way through the zombie infested city scape while they come at you from all directions.  There are flipped over cars, a train and a pet shop complete with some slithering critters. You really get the feeling that you are in the middle of the chaos and there are even some spots you must crawl through. My only criticism is that I would add even more sliders and actors on bungee or harnesses. Although lines can get long, they do a good job and managing things.  If you find yourself in Phoenix it is one of your best bets to find scares.

Reindeer Manor Halloween Park

  • Posted : November 11th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

When going down the list of Haunted Houses that have been in business for several years, you find very few that have been around as long as Reindeer Manor. The oldest Haunt in Texas celebrates its 40 Year anniversary with new additions and a major change for the Manor itself. For the first time in its history the “abusement park” has united into one major thrill park featuring 4 attractions, a festival area and plenty of scares to keep you entertained all evening long.

When travelling down Houston School Rd in Red Oak, TX. You eventually arrive at the Reindeer Manor entrance that is guarded by the flaming torches that proudly illuminate the manor name. You then travel down a long and dark gravel road that kicks up rocks and dirt that gives off a ghostly fog as you travel slowly along the way. There are signs that point the way to your destination as well as instructions to tune your radio to 88.3 FM. We tuned in but there was nothing but dead air. It wasn’t too long before we arrived at the parking area that was well staffed with parking attendants leading you safely to your final parking place.

Next, we walk to a nearby queue line to wait for our free Hay Ride to the entrance. Now some would say that this is just a way to transport you from point A to B. Like a tram at an amusement park from the parking lot to the ticket booth. Well it is, however it’s still a hay ride in the dark and that alone can be creepy. Plus, you get to ride it again on the way back. Very fun! The Hay Ride is about a 5 minute ride to the front of the park. It takes a fun route all around the park past the Manor itself with even a few characters trying to scare you as you pass by. There are also flames that shoot up in the air from a tower high above that can be seen from all over the park. It welcomes you to the park just as you arrive.

Upon your arrival, you are then on your way to the ticket booths that are right up front. We didn’t have to wait very long and getting our tickets was a breeze. You then enter the festival area that has plenty to see and do. They had 3 roaming characters to entertain and take photos with. We saw several hearses parked in different areas around the park. The Ghostbusters Ecto-1 was pretty cool to see. There are 2 concession stands that feature grilled hamburgers, snacks and soft drinks. They were also selling T-shirts and souvenirs. There was a food truck on site featuring hot dogs and other goodies. There was a photo booth with a photographer to capture the Halloween spirit and there was a covered picnic area with port-o-potties nearby in case you have an out of body experience.

Our first attraction was the Dungeon of Doom. This haunt has a lengthy past dating back to the 1800’s that is built around a conspiracy involving the possibility of murder. At one time the building itself was part of a water well that was capped off due to toxins in the water believed to have been tainted by a local Doctor by the name of Kane Milton. The building later became a saloon but was closed and moved to a farm in Red Oak TX. It was later discovered that there were four different entities haunting this building that troubled those working on it and near it. This would later lead to the disuse of the building for 30 years until 1989, when it would be opened to the public as a haunted attraction. It got its name from people saying the original door looked like it belonged in a dungeon. Therefore, the name “Dungeon of Doom” was born. Till this day it is believed that Kane Milton still haunts the building.

Now this was the best haunt to start the night off with because it is a much smaller haunt and it only took us about 10 minutes to go through it. The actor leading us in was happy to shout to the house members that company has arrived and the house gladly replied “Fresh Meat”! This is what we consider a fun house haunt. It has a short inflatable tunnel, heavy vinyl curtains between rooms, hanging dead bodies to run through and a room like a vinyl maze that will keep you lost for a bit. These in your face actors did a good a job; however we felt the house could use a few more actors. There was an area where an actor was making sparks fly! This was a cool effect. We saw a creature coming out of the wall with bright eyes that we really weren’t sure what it was, but it was creepy. Again, the house was short and sweet and ended with a silly clown and a chainsaw attack. This was just the appetizer of this 4 course meal.

We then headed to the 13th Street Morgue. The back story of the haunt is an interesting one with many twists and turns. This was originally a large barn on a farm that had a history of tragedy. The death of 2 men in a fire, a man and his wife found dead with one poisoned and the other at the end of a rope. The barn would later be leased to a man named Jonathan Maybrick. He would renovate the barn into a funeral parlor and residence for him and his family. Moving his business to Red Oak TX, he also carried with it its name, 13th Street Morgue. One night, tragedy would strike again when a disgruntled man by the name of Raymond Reynolds would break into the morgue and strangle each family member one by one. The man was upset that Maybrick handled the funeral of the man who murdered his daughter in a bank robbery in the weeks prior. Afterwards, Reynolds shot himself in the chest. The morgue has never been purchased again and has had numerous encounters of ghosts. Paranormal investigators have deemed it the 2nd most haunted place in Texas.

When entering the 13th Street Morgue, it felt like you were transported back in time. This place was really creepy and the sets were amazing. There was an actor above us trying to grab us. The hallway we entered had lights turning on and off with 3 actors trying to grab us. There were hands reaching out from the walls both high and low. It was awesome! There are several rooms inside the morgue as well as an outside area. There was a Nursery that will surprise you when you least expect it, one of our favorites indeed. The Funeral scene will creep you out for sure. There was an evil looking priest who didn’t seem too pleased with us being there. Be careful paying your last respects here, you’ve been warned. There was a Christmas area with a character that was a cross between the Grinch and Buddy the Elf. He was creepy and funny at the same time. He has a talent for making sparks fly too. The actors were spot on tonight! Lots of energy and interaction. There was an actor that really got us good. Be on the lookout for a character that was hairy and dirty all over. His mask really made the character. He was in our face, following us and jumping on tables. Great Job! Another great scare was an actress who was levitating down a hallway right towards us. Great effect!

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves outside in a cemetery. There was a gravedigger that knew his shovel well. This guy knew his stuff. Very intimidating! There were ghostly characters roaming the cemetery and a scarecrow that can be a little deceiving. This area looked great and was a nice scare zone. We then were walking by a house where an actor insisted we stay and visit with him. This was a great interaction as he continued to pop out from a side window to the front door and the back door as well. His acting was spot on and it gave me the creeps. Back inside, we entered one of the final rooms that was dark and had a giant creature with Reindeer horns. He was slow but still intimidating. The best part of the exit was that it wasn’t a chainsaw. However there was some machinery involved that was a nice change. We were in this haunt for about 20 minutes. The actors tonight really brought their A-game and it was a great experience for us. The best haunt of the night! Great Job 13th Street Morgue!

Our next stop was The Shadow House. When you purchase a Combo ticket, you get to enjoy a bonus attraction. Using only 1 glow stick per group, you enter into a foggy pitch black inflatable house and try to find your way out. Along the way you will stumble upon some creepy clowns that know exactly when to startle you. You will also hear the eerie sounds of sniffing while you are roaming through the dark. This is just a small attraction, but ended up being our 2nd favorite of the night. Very fun!

Our last house of the night was the Reindeer Manor. In the 1920’s a plague hit the town killing the youth and the elderly. The sickness contaminated the water supply and food sources as well. Hunting was prohibited in fear of the diseased meat thus “Fear the Dear” became a well known phrase. There were so many deaths that the cemeteries could not keep up. Residing in the house now known as Reindeer Manor, the Sharp family seemed to be immune to the disease. Some even thought that they were intentionally doing something to the town’s people. One fall night, the Sharp family threw a party where the town’s people plotted their revenge and poisoned the liquor. With the cemeteries full, bodies were wrapped in burlap and stacked inside the manor. So, as you walk through the Manor, your screams may awaken and replay the events of that fateful night!

When we arrived, the queue line was not too long and our wait was not long at all. The queue line surrounds a creepy graveyard that keeps your attention while you wait your turn to enter the manor. The ticket taker at the front of the line explained the rules and informed us of the changes to the haunt no longer having skits and that it is now a walk through haunt. Not only do you go through the Manor itself, but you will also be walking down outside trails in the woods as well as other smaller houses outside. One of the special effects that we enjoyed was a grated walkway that vibrated and had electrical popping noises. We also enjoyed an actor controlled puppet inside the haunt that followed us around the room. There were some memorable characters that stood out to us. An unexpected chainsaw guy chased us when we were going the wrong way. One time we were looking back and a man in a blood covered white shirt was running toward us, making us ready to leave that area real quick! In the outside area there was an actor on stilts with a cool mask with a moveable mouth that insisted on sniffing us out. There was also an actor that wanted to feed us to his very hungry pet! The character that we enjoyed the most was a very persistent actor who insisted on taking our coats, hats and glasses. There was a building outside with hanging bodies and it was pitch black inside. We had actors sniffing at us and whispering in our ear. Very creepy! It took us about 30 minutes to get through Reindeer Manor. This year the Reindeer Manor was purchased by the same owner of 13th Street Morgue and Dungeon of Doom. He completely wanted to change things up and make it a new house, so he tore down all of the existing rooms and completely redesigned the manor. With this being his first year making this a walk through haunt, we hope he will continue to change and improve to make this haunt better each year. Although there were a few unfinished areas, we still had plenty of scares and startles. There were spots that were very short on actors and rooms and areas outside that were not complete or just filled with burlap bags, but with this being a work in progress, we still had a good time, and will be back!

                                                                                                -Texas Team D.G. and J.G.

UPDATE:

When Team Travel visited Reindeer Manor at the end of the season, many more updates had been made and several actors were added.  We love the changes to the Manor and look forward to seeing it grow.

 

Tickets:

All Shows Combo Pass $35.00 ($20.00 children 9 and under)

Pick 2 Shows                 $25.00 ($15.00 children 9 and under)

Pick 1 Show                 $15.00 ($10.00 children 9 and under)

FREE PARKING

Donate 2 canned goods on Friday Nights to receive $5.00 off Combo Pass

Donate 1 canned good on Saturday Nights to receive $3.00 off Combo Pass

Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket booth. Cash only at the ticket booth. ATM on site

 

www.reindeermanor.com

410 Houston School Rd.

Red Oak, TX 75154

 

Howl-O-Scream Sea World

  • Posted : November 11th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Friday October 17th, 2014

Every October, Sea World San Antonio transforms its mega aqua park into a vast Halloween attraction that fills the park with haunted attractions, shows and characters roaming throughout the park. Now I have been to several Halloween theme parks throughout the years and have really enjoyed them. So when I heard that Sea World was doing this I must admit I was skeptical at first. I knew they had an amazing theme park dedicated to the sea life but turning it into a scary haunted attraction seemed a bit silly at first until I did my homework. You see, Sea world Entertainment was once Busch Entertainment Corporation which also owned and operated the Busch Gardens theme parks in Florida and Virginia. The Busch Gardens in Florida competed with another Halloween themed attraction at Universal Studios called Halloween Horror Nights. In order to compete with this huge competitor they had to spare no expense and deliver a great Halloween experience. So in a way, Universal Studios was the inspiration that led to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens which brought this to Texas at Sea World San Antonio. Now that I had my history lesson it was time to take the test.

We started the day early and arrived at the park when it opened its doors at noon. We wanted to experience some of the Sea World attractions before it got dark and the scares came out. Sea World had many attractions and shows to occupy our time before the main event. We enjoyed a humorous Dolphin show called Azul. There was a Beluga Whale show as well that was very entertaining. They had 3 different themed Shamu Shows with the third being a Halloween themed show that we opted for later in the evening. We saw Sharks, Dolphins, Stingrays, Alligators, Belugas, Penguins, Parrots and a lot of fish. They had a Sesame Street show that featured a character that I truly loved, The Count! Waa Ahh Ahh! I also had a chance to ride my favorite roller coaster in the world, The STEEL EEL!

With the sun starting to set, the stage of the park is beginning to transform. The music changes, the fog comes out, the lighting begins to make the Halloween decorations throughout the park look spookier, the fog comes out, there are pumpkins everywhere in this park, the fog comes out, the trees are lit up with ghostly lighting, the fog comes out, The characters begin their walk through the park and did I mention that the fog comes out? Sea World has now become Howl-O-Scream!

Howl-O-Scream San Antonio has a scare zone throughout most of the park. They encourage that children 13 and under may not want to be in this area. Parental Discretion is advised. That made me happy hoping this was not going to turn into a kid friendly event. But the poster and theme said it all. It was a Demon with the word, “Cursed!” I was so ready for this!

Howl-O-Scream has 5 Haunted Mazes and 5 Terror-Tories. We started in the first area called Ports of Skull, a pirate themed Terror-Tory. There were many pirate themed scenes throughout the area with humorous pirates all around. The pirates would gather together and put on a show for the crowd. The next area was Demon Street; voodoo Zombie Terror-Tory that had roaming Zombies and cemeteries. This area hosted our first haunt of the night, Den of the Departed: Zombie Takeover.

Den of the Departed is a voodoo themed haunt that consisted of several scenes inside a large hut. Now this was actually a haunt I was excited about. The Zombie theme was the draw; however it sadly let me down. The zombies did nothing but stare at you and hardly made any noises. They rarely even tried to get you. There were no big scares here with just one startle from a female actor hiding under some boxes. The house had fog and loud voodoo chants throughout. There was a room with long green vines hanging down that I hadn’t seen before and there were some smells that let you know death was near. This was not a great haunt but it was nice appetizer for what lied ahead.

The next area was Side Show Row, the Clown Terror-Tory. There were many clowns and weird characters roaming and scaring all over. There was a lot more energy here than in the previous areas. There were tall characters with smaller characters on leashes. The clowns here were witty and insulting which was great! This area hosted the haunt, Sea Oddities Sideshow: Clowns in Control. This was a refreshing improvement from the previous haunt. So much energy here with laughing, pop out scares, practical jokes and incredible detail. There was a spinning tunnel that changes direction mid way through, a vinyl maze, a stuffed animal room where some come to life, a room full of clown toys, a room full of clowns and some are real but it’s very hard to tell. Great scares here. There was an inflatable tunnel that lit up inside and had a strobe light too. I haven’t seen that before. That was a nice change to something I was getting a little bored with. There was a room that had a vibrating floor, a room with popping lights like firecrackers and very cool display of giant jellyfish hanging above you. This was a great haunt full of clown actors that were spot on! If you have a fear of clowns you may want to pass this by. But I loved it! The next area was Vampire Point, a Terror-Tory dedicated to the current phase of Vampires we have seen over the years with the Eclipse saga. The area has roaming vampires and tall people that kind of remind me of Jack from Nightmare before Christmas. The main attraction here is the vampire themed bar, Blood Thirsty. Lots of dance music and photo ops here that give you a club feel when passing through.

Just pass the bridge when leaving Vampire Point, you will find the entrance to Frightmare Forest. This area is an outdoor haunt that walks you through various scenes. There were not many actors here but the few they had did a good job. The best scenes here were an area that had hundreds of lit pumpkins with creepy people warning you not to enter the barn, well it was the only way out so not much of a choice. When entering the barn you are then walking down a long hallway with lighting turning on and off with loud chainsaw noises on both sides. It was the final warning that led to an infamous chainsaw chase. The whole outdoor experience was a nice change and it was a lot of fun. We then headed towards another outdoor haunt called, Prey: Where the hunter becomes the hunted. Now this would end up being our favorite haunt of the night. This outdoor haunt sends you in small groups with one flashlight. You then walk through a wooded area that starts off with what appears to be a car crash with blood everywhere, distorted radio playing and nobody in sight. Until we come to a dead stop and see a masked killer on the trail ahead. I won’t give too much away but there are scenes here that make you go in circles and we even felt lost at times. The whole Blair witch thing starts to set in and we are getting some good scares here. It didn’t matter where you were in the group here. You got scared! Then we are left in the dark when the flash light died. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not but it worked! The actors here were crazy and in your face. Very intense scares and we left satisfied! This was a great haunt! Great scenes and great actors! It felt very real, great job! On to the next!

We ended this haunt crawl in the Psycho Path Terror-Tory. This area was a medical themed area with patients, doctors and nurses roaming all over. This was the backdrop to their main haunted attraction, ICU: Intensive Cursed Unit. Now this haunt was the theme of the entire event, Cursed! This haunt had the longest line of the night and it did take a while to get in. But once we were inside it was game on! This haunt takes you on a journey into the world of mental patients that is being experimented on. It does have some dark vibes here and this was probably the creepiest of the haunts. However, it did seem to be off for some reason. There were not a lot of scares here. A few startles and maybe one decent scare but this was more of a visual haunt that messes with the mind. One of the best scenes was a man in a straight jacket that was locked inside a large glass box. Very much like silence of the lambs here. You felt safe until he jumped and the whole box tilts as if it’s going to fall on you. There were many special effects here and some interesting scenes. It ended sooner than expected and didn’t really tell a story. I felt it should have ended with something bigger but overall it was a good haunt.

We ended the night with 2 shows, Shamu’s Rockin’ Creepshow and Jack is Back!

Both shows hosted by Howl-O-Scream main Icon Jack-O-Lantern. I’ve seen many Shamu shows but this one I enjoyed the most. There were a lot of special effects with lighting and water. This was aimed at just having fun, playing some cool music and watching Shamu do what he does best, entertains!

Jack is Back ended the night with great music, dancing, pyrotechnics and fireworks. Sea World did a great job in transforming this beloved family park into a scary top notch Halloween attraction! The bar was set at another park I love but Howl-O-Scream surpassed it. I would encourage everyone to visit Howl-O-Scream in San Antonio, TX. My new Halloween Tradition. – D.G.

 

Tickets:

$37.00 Online

$67.00 at the Gate

General Parking $17.00

Preferred Parking $20.00

http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-sanantonio/

13th Floor Haunted House San Antonio

  • Posted : November 11th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Thursday October 16, 2014

There are mysteries in the world that boggle the mind, legends that captivate our imaginations and superstitions that rob us of our sanity. The number 13 is what most people associate with bad luck or a curse. The number 13 has been turned into a mega movie franchise with the Friday the 13th saga. There are many movies and television programs that use the number 13 to make their product a bit spookier. Well, with Halloween being spooky as it is, why not incorporate it into a haunted attraction as well? There are a lot of haunts out there using the number 13, however the 13th Floor Haunted House in San Antonio, TX is not only using the number 13 but also incorporating an ongoing superstition that has been a staple for many years. There are buildings today that do not have a 13th floor. Why is that? Nobody really knows. However, this attraction has decided to open up a secret world you can only experience for a short time. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to travel to the 13th floor, then be prepared to be ground up and spit out as we enter into the dwellings of the dead!

Our journey begins when we decided to take an extended weekend down to San Antonio, TX. We were very excited that The 13th Floor was open on a Thursday night so that we could beat the very long weekend lines they are known for. We were able to park with ease as they had secured parking and lots of security. The exterior of the haunt was surrounded by food trucks and a souvenir stand. There was great lighting and signage everywhere that gave you that fuzzy feeling you were about to experience something special. We arrived at the ticket office and were escorted by the staff to our destination. This was a very professional experience. The staff was wearing their trademark shirts as if they were in uniform. It felt like we were checking in to a hotel! We were then led to the admission line. Upon arriving we are introduced to a giant dragon that intimidates us from entering. But in due time we take our chances and enter in. We had fast passes so there was no wait. We were then escorted to the front door and entered into this amazing place. Again, the staff here was top notch. Great attitudes and very professional!

As we entered, it was like an old house with candles lit everywhere. There were old pictures on the wall and creepy décor. We started up the stairway to the next floor to find an old hallway with more pictures and old flooring. This led to an area where a gentleman was waiting on us to take a ride down a slide! Yes, a dark and bending slide to the 13th Floor! Safety was the focus here as they would only allow 1 at a time and there was no rush. They provided some wax paper to sit on so your trip would be a little faster, although my trip seemed like forever going down a pitch black tunnel to who knows where. But it was awesome! There is a surprise at the end that I will not reveal but you will get a thrill for sure! You then begin to walk through chicken coops, and a stable. The sound effects and smells made it feel real.

There were a lot of special effects. There is a spinning tunnel that makes you feel like you are going into another dimension. Soon after, you are walking through an ancient graveyard with large stone formations that are everywhere high above. There is a hallway with a drop down scare from a blue wolf. There is a slanted room where we have to walk up, around and down a bar room. We entered a hotel that had a very energetic and scary bell hop. Once inside, we are directed to an elevator that has an operator that likes to bounce off the walls when we are in motion. This was a very cool effect. There was a hallway that the walls looked like they were going to literally fall down on top of you! One hallway that we walked down had a padded part that was punching at you, you had to try to squeeze through it, and it made it feel like you were going to be flattened! There was a swamp area that we had previously seen in a couple of other haunts using green lasers and low lying fog. The added feature at 13th Floor was a giant animatronic alligator! They also had one of the famous inflatable tunnels, and several air canons. I also enjoyed the waterfall that you had to walk around in one room; it was pretty and also refreshing. The smells in some of the rooms really added to the experience. We were grossed out by the smell of trash, dead bodies, poop and more! There were lots of animatronics, but one that really made us scream was a giant snake head! One of our favorite special effects was a 4D screen that projected a scene of someone slashing a man with a chainsaw. You could literally feel the blood squirt on you! Then you could see the blade of the chainsaw start cutting through the wall in front of you, and before you know it, he is after you!

There were a lot of great actors that we came across. In an asylum area, a patient touched an electrical panel, shocking her and causing sparks to fly. Another actor made sparks on a medal wall. There was a room with an organ that an actress who seemed to have lost her dolly came sliding across that floor at you. There was a bride begging for help, and a Dr. with a creepy clown like head. As you are walking down the hallway of the hotel, a member from housekeeping makes sure that you didn’t forget your key, need soap or forget your way. All in all, this was one of the best haunts we visited this season and we had a great time! The special effects here are amazing and unique. The actors did a great job with some really good scares too! This was a very memorable experience and we recommend you go and visit this haunt! Great Job!

-Texas Team D.G. and J.G

 

 

General Admission: $24.99

Fast Pass: $34.99

Immediate Access: $44.99

Secured Parking: $5.00

www.13thfloorsanantonio.com

1203 E. Commerce St.

San Antonio, TX 78205

 

House of Torment 2014

  • Posted : November 10th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

This is House of Torment’s 12th season of terror. They have 3 attractions this year: Blackthorn District Realms Collide, Cursed: The Coven and Slaughterhouse: The Feeding. Upon arriving you get a feel that this could be a long night. We arrived just after 7pm and the lines to both the ticket booths and attractions were already very long. At this sight, we opted for the fast passes to ease the painful wait. We had our tickets in hand and the fast pass line was moving pretty good. There were several queue line actors working the crowd and providing some fun photo opportunities. My one concern was with there being so many people here tonight, were we facing a long line inside the haunt too? It appeared to be that way. Unfortunately we found ourselves in a conga line through most of the haunt even at a standstill at times. It didn’t bother me too much considering it gave us a bit more time to view the awesome animatronics inside and great scenery. I just felt bad for the actors who were trying to scare you but could never really reset because of the crowd. In due time things picked up and we were on our way. The way that the haunts are set up are biggest to smallest, which is a shame because you end up starting with the main course and ending with the appetizer. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the best haunts out there. They are legendary. The first two haunts, Blackthorn District Realms Collide and Cursed: The Coven are at the level that HOT are known for. Unfortunately the last attraction, Slaughterhouse: The Feeding was not. There is no over the top special effects here. You are basically inside an old barn running through a maze full of chainsaw actors who want to eat you and they have a few bloody scenes to gross you out with. The Actors here are rude. They will make fun of you, call you names, blow in your face, touch you with their props and taunt you long after you leave. If stuff like this bothers you, then you may want to skip past this attraction and head straight for the gift shop when exiting the Cursed attraction. The gift shop here is pretty awesome! If you do decide to enter the Slaughterhouse, be prepared for a letdown. This is nothing like the first two attractions. But hey, 2 out of 3 aren’t bad. The sets in the first 2 attractions are mind-blowing and just amazing. One of our favorite scenes here was a subway car that has hanging bodies inside! The car really feels like you’re moving as it begins to tilt and throw you side to side while you are trying to walk through it. This was a great effect! You will encounter lots of gore, bloody bathtubs, smells that are not of this world. Plenty of fog and incredible sets! The actors here are Hollywood! This is some of the best costumes and makeup I’ve seen. There is a room that will make you feel like you are walking sideways and hallways with blinking lights and lots of blood! There was just so much happening here it was really hard to keep up. This was not a perfect night but we really enjoyed the experience. We recommend you check out House of Torment. –D.G.

 

 

General Admission $28.99

Fast Pass $38.99

Immediate Pass $48.99

www.thehouseoftorment.com

523 E. Highland Mall Blvd

Austin, TX 78752

Screams 2014

  • Posted : November 10th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

With the final weekend before Halloween upon us, we decided to visit one of the largest Halloween theme parks in the world, SCREAMS!Screams has 5 attractions this year. There’s the Hotel of Horror, Castle of Darkness, 3D Pirates of Peril Point, Ghoulish Graveyard and the All New CarnEvil Clown Maze.

Before we get to the attractions, I must first make a huge recommendation. Buy the fast pass! Your patience and feet will thank you later. TRUST ME! This place gets pretty swamped by season’s end so the extra 15 bucks is money well spent. I learned the hard way, however lesson learned. Now where were we?

Screams has a lot to see and do. There are several shops and eateries to visit. Games, henna tattoos, fortune tellers and a live DJ! There is a karaoke bar and 2 other taverns on site as well. Lots of food options here and free samples from the kettle corn wagon. This place fills up fast and stays busy. There are plenty of police and security on site to control the madness. Just walking through this place is a thrill all its own. But let’s get to the attractions.

The first attraction we visited was the All New CarnEvil Clown Maze. Now the last time we visited Screams, this was already a clown maze. Not sure what the “All New” represents, but I guess it’s similar to the all new Tide washing detergent, if you get what I mean. This was just a big mess. They were just letting people into a maze with very little crowd control. There was a line to get out half way through the maze. I was tempted to go through a fire exit at one time but I wanted to say I made it through. There were actors in the haunt being pushed by the mob and the actors had no chance at all to scare. The maze walls change throughout from painted clown colors to chain link fence to black walls with a short hallway of some animatronics near the end. I remember this being one of my favorite attractions a few years ago. It had wider hallways and a secret passage to the exit. It was hard to find but so much more fun than what it is today. This was not a good start but we moved on.

Next was the 3D Pirates of Peril Point. This was a nice improvement. With 3D glasses on we would experience a Pirate themed attraction with crazy colors and artwork on the walls, floor and ceiling. This was a fun house with amped up 3D effects. There was interaction here with moving floors and walls. There was a crazy fast spinning vortex tunnel, a room full of faces that would pop out of the walls and confuse you on what was real or not and fun pirate music playing throughout this haunt with crazy pirate actors popping out to scare. A great scene here was a tilting room that made you feel you were on a moving ship as a pirate skeleton was manning the helm. It was pure awesome! We really liked this attraction. It was fun! Our next stop was the Hotel of Horror!

The Hotel of Horror exterior gives you that Bates motel kind of feeling. Nowhere near Psycho, but it has some interesting elements here that can be contributed to the insane. There is nonstop interaction here. Actors are everywhere and there are a lot of animatronics too. This was a step in the right direction. The scenes here are creepy and a little gory too. There hallways that have several doors to imply that you are in a hotel. The hallways and pretty much the entire haunt have annoying lights the turn on and off. This will disorientate you for sure. There were several drop down panels here with actors and animatronics as well. My only gripe here is that a few years ago this was a haunted mental institution themed attraction. So the feel here hadn’t changed in my opinion. There were several times it felt like I was walking through a medical facility instead of a hotel. However, it did have a shower scene that had an animatronics popping out barely for the kill. I almost missed it. I think a live actor in this area would have been more effective. We saw haunted hot tubs and luggage too to complete the haunt. The exit had 2 chainsaw actors ready to chase after you.

Next was the big one, The Castle of Darkness! This was my favorite of the night. This was a giant castle with flames burning in the night air that illuminated the crowd as they wait their turn to enter. I cannot stress enough, buy the fast pass! Inside the castle are areas that are dedicated to the Monsters of Hollywood. We saw Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and more. There are twists and turns along the way that at times feels like you are climbing through caverns. Noises, smells and fog that keep you on edge till you meet one of the biggest animatronics I’ve seen. It was a giant skeleton ready for battle! It was loud and very intimidating. I loved it! Soon, we were outside of the castle roaming a short maze towards the exit with a few actors along the way. No big scares here but there were some awesome sets and effects!

We ended the night walking through the Ghoulish Graveyard which consisted of live actors and animatronics. There were several scenes with coffins and hearses. Fog was everywhere with very cool lighting. There were tombstones that had digital imaging making it look like ghosts were looking at you. Very cool! This was a nice stroll through and the only attraction with no wait.

I have always enjoyed visiting Screams, one of my favorites. It was not a perfect night and there was a lot of work to be done on the clown maze. Overall, we still had a good time and it was a very fun night. I hope to see some improvements the next time I visit and when I do I will definitely be purchasing the fast pass!

We recommend Screams! –D.G.

 

Tickets:

$27.00 per person (children under 6 is FREE)

Fast Pass $42.00

Free Parking

www.screamspark.com

2511 FM 66

Waxahachie, TX 75167

Ripley’s Nightmare at the Wax Museum

  • Posted : November 10th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

If you are looking for a haunted attraction that is a little tamer yet still has a few startles to get your blood pumping. Then you may want to check out Ripley’s Nightmare at the Museum. On select Friday and Saturday nights in October, The Palace of wax transforms into Nightmare at the Museum from 7:30 to Midnight. We arrived about 45 minutes before opening. We went inside to get our tickets and looked around the gift shop, then took some pictures of some of the weird displays in the Odditorium. Shortly after 7:00 the line to tickets was forming and we decided to go ahead and go on back to the queue line located outside behind the museum. We were the first ones in line, but the line started forming quickly.

They had a cart with fiber optic souvenirs and glow swords. They have a nice archway façade and fog that you enter through as you enter the Museum. As you first walk in, the floor is covered in bouncy balls. As you make your way through the balls, you encounter some clowns, some young, and some old. You then go through a brightly colored vinyl maze with a couple of more clowns hiding in the dark. We got to go through an inflatable tunnel, which is always a fun addition to the haunt experience.

We came to a hallway with a girl standing at the end in front of a television of static. As we approach her, she then starts skipping through an area with rocks and boulders, and we notice all of her creepy little dolls sitting around. There was another hallway that had skeletons on the walls and bones hanging from the ceiling. We went through another hallway that had bloody body bags hanging from the ceiling. We came across a really big werewolf and an alien that were both very detailed. We came to an area that had 3 doors with a window at the top of them. One of the doors had a scary pig head that kept appearing through the window. We went through one room that had an old car that you have to pass by. As you pass it, the headlights begin to flash on and off and the horn starts honking. Before you have the chance to exit the room, the horn starts blaring pretty loudly.

We had a few startles along our way. There were a lot of actors jumping out at you, or screaming really loudly. We went through a western area that had potential, but did not have any actors.

Our favorite part was at the end where we were walking through different scenes of horror movies. We got to see very realistic wax figures of Frankenstein, Freddy Krueger, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera and Leatherface. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the last room, and an actor with a chainsaw chases you out of the exit. The fear exhibit is on display year round and it is one of my favorites, especially during Halloween. It took us about 10-15 minutes to get through this attraction.

We had fun, it wasn’t scary at all, but we would recommend you bringing your family to the Nightmare at the Museum. We did not go through the mirror maze tonight, but it is also a kid friendly attraction with clowns. –J.G.

 

Tickets:

Haunted Wax Museum: $18.99 Children $8.99

Haunted Wax Museum + Haunted Mirror Maze: $20.99 Children $12.99

www.ripleys.com/grandprairie

601 East Palace Pkwy

Grand Prairie, TX 75050