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Shallow Grave

We had heard so much about Winter Haven’s Shallow Grave that even though they were not open; we made the drive down from Orlando for a lights on walk through. We were so impressed that we will be making a trip back during the regular season to see the show in operation.  Shallow Grave  is only in its second season but you would not know looking at it.  The attraction is full of trinkets and animatronics’ that would make even a season haunter green with envy.  After walking through the attraction we sat down with owner Joe Phillips to discuss Their first season and what is in store for this season.

Haunted Attraction Review: Last year was your first year, how was your attendance and what are your expectations for this season?

Joe Phillips:  I was excepting around 3500, the rest of the crew was thinking 10,000.  We had around 7500 people visit the haunt.  We have been told for a first year that is pretty good. This year we are hoping to double in attendance.  Word of mouth and social media really has taken off.  We have close to 6000 likes on our Facebook page but we will have to see.  Likes don’t always equal to attendance.

HAR:  How did you get started in the business?

JP: I started doing Halloween parties and elaborate displays outside my house but it looked cheesy. Then I started to find better and better props from companies like Distortions and Polson props.  I then started building a  700 square foot haunt with one actor, me, because I couldn’t find anyone interested in it. Then I moved on to 1200 square feet then just under 2000 and was able to raise some money for the troops until the county shut us down. We took the next year off while debating what to do then came the Shallow Grave.

HAR: How has the story or theme changed from last year

JP: We are building a brand. I want to be sure that everyone recognizes our main character Thaddeus Van Buren. His wife committed  suicide because she could not take his madness anymore. Thaddeus kills to feed himself and his three daughters. He has a blood thirst that cannot be quenched. So much so that he keeps pet zombies. This year we added ADHD which allows us to explore a variety of themes but they are all the nightmares of people tormented by Thaddeus.

HAR: What are  you hoping Shallow Grave does for haunts in central Florida?

JP: I was trying to offer a haunt for people to visit that was different from the big theme parks.  When I started home haunting for 3 years I did not know about other haunts. Then I discovered  home haunters and other haunt fans in the area that shared my passion. After Shallow Grave opened they started coming out of the wood work.   I knew animatronics were good but they would not work alone.  It needs the actor to add to it.  I love haunting and the hooks got set deep.  We have invested a lot of time into this project and want to continue to grow the brand continuing new things.

HAR: What do you look for in a haunt?

Startle scares are good but I want to give people the heebie jeebies.  The type of scare that you can’t shake.

 

Boneyard Haunted House

  • Posted : September 29th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Boneyard Haunted House

Arlington, TX

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Our next stop on the Texas Tour leads us to a place that we have anticipated for a long time. Texas Legendary Boneyard Haunted House is located inside of an old Sears building right outside of the Six Flags mall in Arlington, TX. Where once was a place for shopping; has now become a place for sheer horror! There have been numerous accounts of paranormal activity at this haunt. Both Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigators say that there is actual ghost activity in this building! So we decided to go take a look for ourselves.

We arrived around 9:00 PM, and the parking lot had quite a few cars. The outside is dark and creepy. They had a skylight flashing on top of the roof as well as flashing blue and red emergency lights. This already was starting to look like a good night. They had not one, but two eye-catching Boneyard pickup trucks by the front doors.

As we entered through the doors, we were a little lost as to where to go, it was a little confusing. It was pretty dark in there and our eyes had not yet adjusted. We then located the Ticket sign and followed the hallway to the ticket booth. I would suggest putting more lighting in the entrance to help patrons find their way a little easier.

We purchased our tickets, and then went down another dark hallway that led us to their festival area that consisted of a psychic palm reader, a DJ and a stage. There was no entertainment on stage when we were there. There was a concession stand for refreshments, Beer and t-shirts. A group was going inside and we were next in line. They were letting in groups of 2-4 people at a time.

The first part of the haunt was long dark hallways with a few twists and turns. Be careful when touching the walls to feel your way around, it might be a little SHOCKING! Although the dark hallways serve their purpose, it was just too dark for me and it went on way too long. But, there was a light at the end of the dark tunnel that led to a hallway of doors that begin to shake as you passed them, making you wonder if someone was going to pop out of one of them. You then go through a variety of rooms including a nursery, a kitchen, and a Dr.’s office. There is also a vinyl maze, a pipe maze and a sheet maze. Our favorite was the chain link fence maze. The lights are timed just right, flashing on and off to where you can see where you are going for just a few split seconds! This was really fun. Take it slow, there are some dead ends and it is easy to get disoriented here, but we love that. There were a couple of actors in this area. They are on the other side of the fence from you, but as you turn the corner, they are right there in your face! This area is pretty big, and we really enjoyed it, but it would have been more effective with more actors.

There was a green low-lying fog/laser swamp type area that we had seen in a previous haunt. The part we liked about this area at Boneyard is that there were several actors in there and they were very persistent on leading you to the wrong way out and not letting you go. They did a great job! They also had the famous air bag tunnel that you squeeze through that we have seen in many haunts, but it is always fun.

We heard music from Friday the 13th at one point, but never saw Jason. We heard the famous line from Chucky, “You wanna play?”, but no Chucky. We did however see Freddy Krueger, Leatherface and Jigsaw. We liked the Texas Chainsaw massacre area with the hanging pig heads and body parts. There was an area that made it feel like you were outside, alone with a zombie! This was another area that was cheated with not enough actors. It was like we were walking through the Night of the Living Dead but with only one zombie.

Boneyard got several screams and startles from me tonight from the shocking walls, the animatronics electrical chair, air horns, a VERY loud train horn, chainsaws, and some of the actors as well. A very creepy part was at the end, walking through some dark hallways that were very quiet. You couldn’t hear anything, not even music. Just silence. Then, as you are walking, every once in a while you hear whispering, or giggling. Very creepy!

It took us about 40 minutes to get through the entire 1 level haunt. Other than there being a few too many dark hallways and too few actors in some areas, overall, this was a good haunt. Even though we didn’t have any personal experiences with ghosts are paranormal activity while we were here, I can see why there would be some ghostly encounters here. The place is just plain creepy and the scares are for real! We would recommend that you check out The Boneyard!     –J.G. and D.G.

Tickets: $28.00

Fast Pass $38.00

CASH ONLY at the door

Kiosk Credit Card window – $1.75 fee

Free Parking

www.theboneyard.org

2921 E Division St.

Arlington, TX 76011

 

Milton’s Roadside Manor

  • Posted : September 28th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Milton’s Roadside Manor

Aledo, TX

Friday, September 26, 2014

When traveling down IH 30 just 10 minutes west of Fort Worth in Aledo TX, it can get pretty dark out here after sundown. But just up ahead you will see an old abandoned gas station with its eerie clowns painted on the front. This is not a gas station anymore. This is Milton’s Roadside Manor!  The Milton family has taken over the building and turned it into a haunted circus type atmosphere.  As you pull up you can still see the old gas pumps and a fenced off junk yard. They used the existing billboard above the gas pumps to advertise the manor. At the entrance is a slide prop with a clown and ABC blocks. There is graffiti across the front of the building that makes it look really cool. On top of the building is a swinging skeleton carousel with flashing lights. This was a pretty cool effect that set the circus/carnival/freak show atmosphere.

We arrived around 10:00pm and there was no one in line. We purchased our ticket, picked up our 3D glasses, and went straight inside. The first area was painted in bright neon colors and black lit, giving a Fun House feel to it. There was a small vortex tunnel and a vinyl maze in this area. There was also a point where you come upon two doors and a sign that reads “Choose your destination”. We decided to split up and each took a different path. We ended up meeting back up in the same place after 2 short hallways, but it was a neat effect that fit well with the theme. The other half of the haunt was set up with just random rooms.

Milton’s seemed to be very short on actors that night The 3D part of the haunt was mainly run by one young teenage girl who was running the entire area, with a couple of other pop out clowns. The other half of the haunt was run by two VERY young children who seemed to be about 5 and 8 years old! They would pop out of the dark at you, then run to the next room and pop out again. This went on for about 4-5 rooms. There was also a chainsaw guy that came out a couple of times in the second half. A hallway that was full of nothing but holes with curtains over them could have been really cool if the actors were there to actually be able to make it work properly. However, there were no actors at all in this area. There was a character with a Mohawk that stood out to us. We were looking in a bloody refrigerator at a corpse skeleton, and when we turned, there he was out of nowhere staring at us. This was his big opportunity for a big scare that was to never be. It took us about 15 minutes to get through the haunt, and it seemed to be run by less than 10 actors.

When we pulled up, all of the actors were sitting in the parking lot talking, and then ran inside when they saw us. Then when we came out the exit, they were all out there again talking to each other and asking us how we liked it. This definitely took away from the experience. This haunt has a lot of potential. The environment and sets were there, but the actors were not. This was their first official opening night; they had a soft opening the weekend before. Hopefully they will get more actors as the season goes on.    -J.G

Tickets: $20.00 (They are currently holding a $10.00 special)

Kids 7 and under FREE

Free Parking

http://www.miltonsmanor.com

2301 Camp Bowie W Blvd

Aledo, TX 76008

Dark Hour

  • Posted : September 27th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

The haunt season is upon us again and we are itching to get out and get our scare on! While counting down the days to the first major weekend of the haunt season it was a sure delight to hear that Dark Hour in Plano, Texas was having a special Sneak Peek on a Wednesday night! Tickets for this special night were half price for full scares! We arrived just before opening and there was a line waiting to get in. There was a witch and Ringmaster in the parking lot entertaining the line tonight. They were doing a great job entertaining us with spot on humor! As soon as you enter the building, you are “wowed” with animatronics, props and an amazingly tall bat! Dark Hour is set inside a 47,000 square ft air conditioned building. With the Texas weather keeping things toasty outside, the cool air inside was nice and appreciated. The line to purchase tickets was long but the process was smooth and quick. We had our tickets in no time. We then proceeded to the queue line where the “Exterminator” sprays for bugs! Be careful, he may mistake you for a bug! As you wait to get inside the haunt, there is a stage that will feature entertainment to help the wait not seem so long. There was no show this time but it was sneak peek after all.

The wait time was not bad at all. We were in pretty quick. When we entered the haunt, an actress set the scene by telling the story of what we were about to witness. It has 3 distinct areas inside the haunt: Voodoo Vengeance, Coven Manor and Dominion of the Dead.

All of the actors tonight were spot on! There weren’t any areas that was lacking in actors at all. They were very energetic, their timing was right and they knew exactly when to startle and scare you. The art of distraction was on point. They all worked together and played their parts very well. These top-notch actors seemed to be professional actors! There was a variety of characters including witches, voodoo priests, Gorillas and a variety of other monsters and beasts.

The lighting was perfect. It was just dim enough for the actors to be able to scare, but light enough to be able to appreciate the eye-catching details throughout the haunt. We caught ourselves stopping just to look around at the sets that seemed to be right out of a movie!

Although the entire haunt is indoors, the details and special effects of the sets would make it feel like you were outdoors at times. Sometimes it even felt like you were walking around in the dirt and grass and could feel the breeze coming from the trees.

Some of the memorable sets were the graveyard, the library, the piano room, a room with a giant clock, and the Voodoo area. There was also a vortex tunnel, a mirror maze and a sewer area that made it feel like you were literally wading in a green swamp!

They used a balance of actors and animatronics throughout the haunt. Some of the animatronics and stilt actors were so big that they were very intimidating! (In a good way) Our favorite animatronics was a GIANT tree at the very end! The only disappointing point of the night was when it was over. When we walked out the exit, we literally wanted to get back in line and do it all over again! It took us about 30 minutes to walk through.

They also have a second attraction that was not open for Sneak Peek Night “Terra del Monstrum” which is a Monster Museum. As you exit, there is a concession stand and a souvenir stand with t-shirts, hats and magnets. There are clean, indoor restrooms right before the queue line as well as at the exit.

This indeed was a great a visit with zero disappointments. This visit did not feel like a sneak peek at all. The energy in this place was like no other. It was a great experience with great scares and amazing effects. Sensory overload at its finest! We definitely recommend you to take a trip to Plano, Texas and visit Dark Hour Haunted House! GOOD JOB Dark Hour!

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

 

 

Dark Hour is open Select Nights beginning September 26, 2014.

Dark Hour is also open one weekend every month throughout the year. The theme changes every month!

General Admission $26.00

Combo Ticket w/ 2 Attractions $32.00

Fast Pass $45.00

VIP $65.00

Season Pass $150.00

Back Stage Tour $35.00 *Select Dates Only

FREE Secured Parking!

www.darkhourhauntedhouse.com

701 Taylor Dr.

Plano, TX 75074

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

  • Posted : September 25th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

We mainly came to Orlando to check out Universal Studios and visit friends. As members of the Disney Vacation Club we love to visit D World in the fall to partake in the joys of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. We debated over whether or not to take the time to visit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween since it’s not our normal fare. However, several friends that attended advised that everyone should go at least once.  We also had another one of our reviewers visit the party two weeks before us so we start with her take on it then we will add our opinion.

Amanda Reevenge

Orlando Florida: Disney’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 was a ghoulish delight. It’s a special ticketed event that runs on select nights September through October. Some events include trick or treating, the “Hallowishes” fireworks, “Celebrate The Magic”, “Villains Mix and Mingle”,  “Villains Dance Party”, and the “Boo To You Parade”, all come with your ticket! For an extra fee (99 dollars,) Villains’ Sinister Soiree: A Wicked Takeover of Cinderella Castle, is basically an ice cream party with some villains. There is also themed food around the park! I had the pumpkin waffle and it was amazing. The best part about this Halloween party, adults can wear costumes into the Magic Kingdom! I loved some of the meet and greets, and how short the wait in line for rides was! I also LOVE that the Haunted Mansion gets a make-over where the maids and butlers get all ghostly and spooky! Although it was raining when we went, there is usually an actress taunting guests outside. We saw her, but she was rather tame. The characters in the parade are highly interactive too. Snow White saw my hipster Snow White costume, pointed and went OOOH, during her routine! Also the dance party was highly entertaining. Watching Cruella Deville throw down was funny.

Although I loved the party, here is some of the MAJOR flaws I found. Everything is based in the same area so that area is always PACKED full of people. If you have never been to the Magic Kingdom before, it gets confusing to find things, even with a map. On the map they do NOT tell you what character is where, and you have to guess who the characters are. The Jack and Sally line is way too long, and Sally isn’t that great. I waited an HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES at the end of the night and Sally was talking weird and they weren’t really interacting with me. I even showed them my giant Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo, and nothing. Not even a “WHATS THIS!” The dance party doesn’t have a sign out where it is, but its right inside the Diamond Horseshoe. I wish they had a sign pointing to it, because otherwise its hard to know what’s going in there. The shows haven’t been updated, except for a few minor things, in a while so before you go DO NOT WATCH VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE.

Overall, I had a pretty good experience. Next time I’ll try not to get lost and maybe wear more of a costume. If you like Halloween, and you like Disney, go check it out at least once in your life. Happy Haunting!

AR

Our Thoughts

The fun with “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” starts before you even arrive at the parks. I enjoyed just waiting for passengers to board the bus to see their costumes. Disney sets some basic rules, available online, but the range of costumes was unbelievable. Some had Disney licensed store-bought costumes but others got really creative. One family made up their own take on the seven dwarfs and we also spotted some old school “Mickey Mouse Club” costumes. People watching was half the fun.

It also rained when we went but cleared up in time for the parade and fire works. Due to the weather the “Headless Horseman” could not lead the parade. Other than that, the parade was fun. It featured the Haunted Mansion and pirates as well as you’re favorite characters in their Halloween costumes. Donald spotted my horns and waved. Frontierland is a great viewing spot because everyone rushes toward the castle. We were able to hop on and off most rides. The dance parties were a good way to see your favorite characters. We also had the pumpkin spice waffle ice cream sandwich from Sleepy Hollow and it was amazing. The fireworks show was one of the best nighttime spectacular we have seen at Disney, even better than New Years Eve.

There were just a few negatives. If there are weather issues cast members may not know if events our cancelled or running late. It was hard to find some things even if you knew the park. I thought that there would be more Villans in the parade since they were the theme of the fireworks. The stores ran out of most of the limited edition merchandise including magic band covers and pin sets. We did not spend time at the trick or treat stations and the character lines were really long. All in all, we had a blast at the event and will definitely return.

 

Cutting Edge 2014

When the Texas Team was deciding on which Haunted Attraction to visit first on our 2014 Halloween Season, we wanted it to be big! So why not begin with a haunted attraction that’s big! Cutting Edge currently holds the Guinness Book World Record for having the world’s largest walk through haunted house. It is located in a 100-year-old abandoned meat packing plant located in a section of Fort Worth historically dubbed as “Hell’s Half Acre”.

Entering the queue line, there were no queue line actors that night. We got there early and the line was not too long. There was an animatronic gargoyle squirting water at patrons in the line. The rules were posted with some special effect blood splattering on the glass and screaming sound effects. Once you get to the front of the line, you have to check your purse (including wristlets and small over the shoulder purses) and other loose objects with security, they will give you a ticket to pick them back up after you exit the haunt. As you enter the haunt, you walk through a giant skeleton’s skull mouth that has lots of mist coming down all around you.

Be ready to walk down SEVERAL long, dark and winding hallways! There are a few sets that stood out to us including a closet of rows of clothes that you walk through, a very cold morgue, a cemetery, a hanging body’s room and a snake’s room. This haunt is very dark and foggy, therefore we feel like we could not appreciate the quality of the sets and props as well as we could if it were lit up in certain areas a little more.

The actors seemed to be new, young actors that might also be struggling with the lighting issues due to the fact that we were hit and ran into several times throughout the entire haunt. We were disappointed to not be able to see their makeup/masks or costumes due to the darkness and fog. Cutting Edge actors do not use their voice at all to talk, moan, groan, scream, etc. They feel that it humanizes them. There were some clowns that were using bicycle type horns for sound effects, and a couple of actors that blow in your face. There were two actors that I have to give props to for giving me a startle to which I screamed. They were located right past a car horn prop. I was looking at some head busts and when I turned, one of them was right in my face! I have to say good job to him as well as an actor right after him that was lying on a table that came out at the right time. It seemed as though they might have been short on actors tonight. There were times that we were walking for a while without seeing any actors at all.

There were times that we were running into props and half walls that hit our shins due to not being able to see where we were going. We had to reach out and follow the walls with our hands throughout most of the haunt. There were some tripping hazards along the way, so take it slow.

Special effects included Giant animatronics dinosaurs, dragon, an alligator, a giant spitting statue, strobes, lots of fog (sometimes too much), lasers, roach projected screens/windows, air cannons, a chainsaw etc. The smells change throughout the haunt as well, giving you a true effect of all senses. The haunt can be very humid inside for mid September but there are some refreshing zones near the end. Cutting edge doesn’t really tell a story inside. It’s full of random scenes and props that make for a great funhouse. There is nothing really too scary here unless you are afraid of the dark or bubbles. If the lights were just a little brighter then we could really see some exciting scenes and details. There were 3, small vortex tunnels, which are always fun. There was a hallway that had several doorway/archways that you walk through that had lights that flashed from the front to the back of the hallway which was really fun to walk through. The floors moved in one of the areas rocking back and forth as you walked through it. A special effect that you should look for if you go the Cutting Edge is an actress looking in the mirror at herself.

There is a point in the haunt where you wait to enter a timed maze called “The Pit”. They show a video on the screens of scenes in the haunt that looked amazing! But in real life you’ll need a flash light. A jigsaw type character on the screen then tells you the rules. Groups enter through 1 of 6 doors with glow sticks in hand trying to find the exit marked “I want to live”. We never found it.

As you get to the end of the haunt, you go through a large room of cool mist. It is very dark in there, but the mist was very cool and refreshing. It gave you a rainforest type atmosphere. Stay close to the wall and you will find your way out. You then enter the famous Bubble Tunnel to exit. The bubbles (more like soap suds) will be over your head and very thick. There is a bypass door if you choose not to enter the bubble tunnel. It took us right at an hour to get through the entire haunt. By the time that we exited the queue line was packed, so we suggest you get there early. Be prepared to get wet!

Your exit will clean out all those dirty words you sputtered out of your mouth throughout the haunt and there you can get a free picture taken of your moment of survival. So in the end, if you are looking for a night full of very dark to pitch black hallways with dim scenery with a few actors and scares, by all means buy a ticket. Our expectations were big on night 1 in Texas but we left a little disappointed.     -Texas Team DG and JG

*Cutting Edge is also open for a special Valentine’s Day Show as well as every Friday the 13th throughout the year.

Ticket pricing: $29.95 (children under 10 $24.95)

Speed Pass: $49.95 (children under 10 $44.95)

Parking: $10.00

Cash only at the door. Credit Cards accepted online. ($2.75 service fee added when purchasing tickets online)

You can also purchase Combo Tickets for Cutting Edge and Thrillvania located in Terrill Texas:

Adult Combo $49.95 ($34.95 children under 10)

Adult Speed Pass Combo $69.95 ($64.95 children under 10)

You can join their text club and they will send you coupons and special reminders.

 

Location and contact info:

Intersection of I-30 and I-35

1701 E. Lancaster Ave.

Halloween Horror Nights 24

  • Posted : September 22nd, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

After months of debating and trying to decide where and when all our stops would fit in,we decided to go to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights on opening night.  While the houses and some scare zones were top notch on the design level, most of the acting and the over all direction that Universal is heading left us disappointed and wishing we would not have went.

Haunted Houses

This year Universal presented eight house ranging from the uber popular “AMC’s The Walking Dead” to “Halloween”.  The first house we went through was “Dracula Untold”.  While its sets and costumes were breath taking and it had a couple of good startles, the overall theme was confusing.  It is based on the yet to be released movie of the same name. I simply did not get this house and was a little board with it.  The next house we visited was “AVP: Alien vs. Predator”.  This house gets my vote for best overall house.  From the sets to the startles, this one was my favorite.  Several times I had jumped from the realistic looking aliens.  “Halloween” was our next stop.  It had a lot of props from the original movie and a couple really creepy rooms.  I also enjoyed the “Halloween 3″ tribute and yes that damn “Silver Shamrock” song was stuck in my head for most of the night.  “Roanoke: Cannibal Colony” was the most disappointing of all the haunts.  Once again, the theme was confusing and the scares and set designs were uninspiring.  It felt that they slapped this one together in a hurry.  It was here where we noticed the actors “lip-syncing” to audio loops.  What a disappointment Universal.  “Dollhouse of the Dead” was another surprise. It too had some good startles and one of the most disturbing rooms I have ever seen.  Beware of the nursery.  “Giggles and Gore Inc.”, a clown themed factory, had a few good startles. but once again the acting lacked making it a dud. “Dusk till Dawn” had very strong opening and closing rooms but the rest was disappointing with actors  missing ques.  “The Walking Dead” was a surprise. We  went HHN the first year that they featured a “Walking Dead” house  and were disappointed.  This one was good with some very cool details.  It was set up like season four: you start in the prison and you end in Terminus.  The “Big Spot” section had an awesome surprise.  It also offers a spoiler for next season that I had only heard rumors but now know they are true.  Can you say…..nope not giving it away.

Scare Zones

This year HHN had four scare zones.  The “Purge: Anarchy”, “Face Off: In the Flesh”, “Bayou of Blood” and “MASKerade”.  It had rained most of the night and so much the scarezones had nothing but props for a good part of the evening.  We did get to see a couple of the original “Faceoff” creations  which were featured on lighted platforms but fans be advised that they do rotate characters throughout the night so you may want to visit more than once. I did not like that actors working around the featured make-ups often scared you away before you could take photos. “The Purge” was slightly entertaining  and they did a nice opening “skit” for the event but for the most part was again disappointed.

Our final thoughts

First of all I will cut Universal some slack with the scare zones.  They can not control the weather and that night it had rained a lot so I do appreciate them looking out for the safety of the actors and having those area closed somewhat.  Now for the rest….I was extremely disappointed with the event. I disliked its lack of quality acting and the way they promoted the alcohol in the event.  I realize that this is what the people want but I consider haunting an art form and a craft and not another reason to get drunk on a Friday night and act like fools.  Shame on you Universal Studios for turning something I love into the event that you presented.  I can guarantee that I won’t be returning anytime soon.

Midnight Syndicate

  • Posted : September 19th, 2014
  • Posted in Misc

One of the highlights of our first weekend was not a haunt but a live show, one we had waited almost six months for. “Midnight Syndicate Live – Legacy of Shadows” debuted this September at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio for the park’s Halloweekends event. Ed Douglas and Gavin Goszka formed Midnight syndicate in 1997 and have been the soundtrack to our nightmares ever since.   Last weekend we got an opportunity to sit down with the guys after their first few performances.

Haunted Attraction Review : How did Midnight Syndicate get started?

Midnight Syndicate: We started in 1996. We both love instrumental music, the paranormal, and horror so this was a logical progression. The goals has always been to create soundtracks to imaginary films. Albums that blend movie score music and sound effects with strong production values designed to transport listeners to worlds or movies of their own creation.   Our goal was also to create something that would set a genuinely creepy atmosphere for serious horror fans and haunted houses as well stand on it’s own for fans of gothic and dark instrumental music. We hit our niche. At the time, there was nothing quite like us out there.  Back then especially, when people thought of Halloween music there was the “Monster Mash,” vintage sound effect story discs, the “Halloween” soundtrack, and that was about it. We think we had a hand in changing that. As we began to have success more artists started trying their hand at it. Now the community has really grown. As for us, we’ve been releasing studio albums every year or so in addition to scoring several actual horror films and producing the film, “The Dead Matter.”

HAR:Is there a reason why you have not performed live until now?

MS: The biggest reason was our production schedule.  We never had a long enough break in between albums and projects to design a show that we really wanted to do. A lot of factors have to come together at just the right time to make this show at Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends happened. We couldn’t be happier about that.

HAR: How did the Cedar Point Show come to be?

MS: We knew we wanted to start doing a live show so we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds. Midway through the campaign Cedar Point contacted us about a potential partnership. Cedar Point was one of the first theme parks to use our music when we started out and we’ve been working with Cedar Faire parks ever since so teaming up with them made complete sense. Plus, as Clevelanders, it’s our hometown park.   We grew up here so to able to perform in Cedar Point is just a thrill. They hooked us up with an incredible cast, crew, and theatre. We both agree that the execution of the show has met or exceeded our expectations.

HAR: Your production team included Robert Kurtzman and from SyFy’s “Face Off”, David “House” Greathouse and Beki Ingram. How did they get involved?

MS: Well we’ve been working together for a long time, starting with Bob’s movie “The Rage.” We’ve known House for even longer than that. So they were all a key part of this project from the very beginning.   A while back, House conceptualized and directed our first official music video, “Dark Legacy.” In the video you see the two of us playing up on stage. That was the first time we had ever done that. Filming that video, that moment, was just one of the catalysts that set this live show in motion.   Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps, Beki, House, and Gary Jones handled all of our makeup FX and designed our keyboard rigs.   House also directed one of the music videos you see in the show.

HAR: Did you work along with the design team to come up with the concepts for the show?

MS: The basic show concept actually came from the first Midnight Syndicate multimedia concerts Ed produced back in 1997. After the basic script was completed and approved, the key phase of us getting together just like we do for an album and hammering out the details of the show began. There were a lot of creative contributions from both of us, resulting in a show we’re very pleased with.   The set was designed by Jason Blaszczak and Screamline Studios.   Jason has been working with us for over fourteen years now so we always seem to be on the same page creatively. This time was no different and the set came together beautifully.   Jason was also was assisted brilliantly by artists Chris Virgilio and Mike Hach.   We also teamed up with the forces at 529 Films, a local film production company that produced the music video for our song, “Lost.”   They did incredible work with all of the video segments as you’ll see when you watch the show.

HAR: What haunt were the opening scenes shot at or where the actors from?

MS: For this show, it was a combination of the Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory and Bloodview Haunted Houses.  We have a long and great history with the Bloodview. We even shot footage for our first multimedia production there back in ’97. The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse is also one of our favorite haunts.   We even hired one of their artists, Bill Morrison, to design our first haunted attraction registry poster.   One of the things we love in haunted houses is detailing.   Akron has always excelled at that. Giving you the total picture right down to dust and spider webs.

HAR: We have some questions from the fans. Andy Maxwell wants to know if there are any plans to tour?

MS: Yes.   It is absolutely our intention to perform live in other areas around the country and the world.

HAR: Another follower, Jonathon Flores wants to know if you have ever creeped yourself out while creating your music?

MS: Well, we don’t really scare ourselves because the music is a part of us. However, I did have an “unnerving moment” while working on “The 13th Hour.”  On that album, there is a track called “Last Breaths.” I had a good set of headphones on and was listening for pops, during a final once over. I was kind of zoning out when one of the ghostly sounds caught me off guard making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  At least then we knew we had done our jobs and accomplished the feeling we were going for.

HAR: We have described your music, and some of our readers have as well, by comparing what Trans Siberian Orchestra is for modern Christmas music, Midnight Syndicate is for Halloween music. How would you describe your music to someone not familiar with you?

MS: We’ve been getting that comparison more and more over the years and it’s such a great compliment. We are the soundtrack to your imagination. Our music is designed to lay out a blueprint for a world or a setting that the listener can then take and run with.   The possibilities are endless.

HAR: We did notice some people with smaller children getting up and walking out.

MS: We do have the sign out front that says “may not be suitable for younger children” and they’re going to be adding a second one this weekend.   This show is definitely intense at times.   It’s also completely different from any of the other shows in the park (or in many amusement parks we’re told).   It’s not light-hearted or necessarily for younger audiences. Our goal was to create a genuinely creepy experience. If you like to get scared then this is the show for you. There are fans that come to the Halloween events that want something a little more intense so we feel like we are satisfying that crowd with this show just like the haunts here do.   The response to this show this first weekend has been overwhelming.   A lot of people are really enjoying it and a lot of people are coming back two, three, or more times to see it again.   That’s great especially since many of those audience members are new to Midnight Syndicate.

Thank you Ed and Gavin for taking the time for the interview. Thank you Bryan Edwards for arranging the interview. And thank you to Shawn Marie Stitak for the awesome pictures.

 

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Halloweekends 2014

  • Posted : September 19th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

What do you get when you combine creepy haunted houses and scarezones with some of the scariest thrill rides in the world?  You get Halloweekends at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  Halloweekends has grown since its introduction in 1997.  Then the event was open just three weekends with only two haunted attractions available.  This year it offers twelve attraction for eight weekends that started last weekend on September 12.  We had the opportunity to walk through all twelve including the kid’s friendly House on Boo Hill.

Family friendly fun
Beside the night time chills, Cedar Point offers day time family fun with Howl-O-Palooza which includes trick or treating, corn stock and hay bale maze and a foam pit.  While we did not participate, we did walk around to see what they had to offer.  We were both impressed with the trinkets and candy that they were giving out.  Besides Howl-O-Palozza, Cedar Point. offers a haunted house for the pint sized frighteners, House on Boo Hill.  While the attraction did not have any “screamsters”, it did have some nice special effects and good detailed rooms to give the kids 12 and under a chance to walk through a haunted attraction without getting scared.  Parents that we talked to seemed pleased with the variety of activities available for their children.

The more chilling Halloween activities include haunts, scare zones and a variety of shows  which run from 6 pm to midnight. These activities are included in park admission, however we highly suggest getting a Fright Lane Pass. For an additional $60, Fright Lane pass holders not only receive front of line admission to the haunted houses but they are presented with skeleton keys. The light up skull lanyards get you access to bonus rooms in each haunt. Our group found the skeleton key rooms very entertaining. Some of the rooms contained challenges and others just required that you find the “key” to make your way out of the room. These rooms just add another level to the Halloween fun. The bonus rooms also featured some of the best actors in the park. Also be advised that Halloweekends can get extremely crowded so the Fright Pass may be the only way to make it to more than two or three of the haunts.

Haunted Houses
The newest haunt was Hexed, a witch themed house in the Gatekeeper area of the park. The first room is breathtaking with a very detailed gothic style parlor. The acting in this house was good also and the witches knew how and when to surprise the patrons.   Zombie High School, located in the front of the park was long and offered a few startles but was the weakest in appearance.  The bonus room had you eating and drinking strange concoctions including bugs which made it very interesting.  Eternity Infirmary was the most disappointing.  Both the acting and the bonus room was not the best of the evening. However, we did enjoyed G. A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate.  This house was well detailed and had some good startles.  Its bonus room was the most fun.  The strongest haunt of the evening was the wax museum Eden Musee.  The acting both in the haunt and the bonus room was outstanding.  The bonus room actor was so good that it was hard to tell if he was acting or not.

Scare Zones
The newest  scare zone was Tombstone Terror-tory, a western themed area with zombie cowboys and skeleton horses. One of the most visually striking areas was the steampunk themed Menacal Mechanical Screamworks which had some really beautiful props and costumes but not the best places for startles. Patrons walked through a voodoo swamp in Blood on the Bayou.   Our favorite of the scare zones was Cut Throat Cove. The pirates got some good startles among the vast collection of props that includes remenants of the old pirate ride. The biggest negative here was too much fog. This scare zone had the strongest actors when it seemed that generally the better “screamsters” were inside the houses. The biggest disappointment in the scare zones was CarnEvil. The circus theme should have lent itself to some good scares because who is not creeped out by a clown. Members of our group enjoyed the carnival barkers. There were a few interesting “freak show” characters and cool circus posters but the actors were weak and lacked energy. I’m not sure if this was because we walked through at the end of the night, but it was the first weekend.  CornStalkers, a corn maze, had some great hidden startles.

Midnight Syndicate LIVE! Legacy of Shadows
The only show we saw was Legacy of Shadows.  It is a multi media assault combining live music, actors, and video.  Midnight Syndicate really out did them self with this 20 min show which included singer, Emily Viancourt, a Cedar Point performer.  Her haunting vocals combined with Ed Douglas and Gavin Goszak melodic instrumentals brought to life the music that myself and countless other fans have been yearning for all these years.  This show is a must see and one of the highlights of Halloweekends.  We highly recommend seeing it however, we do warn that it may be too intense for younger audiences.  It is worth the wait.

Our final thoughts

The last time we visited Halloweekend was in 2004 and I can say that we were impressed with the vast improvement Cedar Fair has done with this event.  While the acting was par, several of actors did stand out with their performances.  The sets, both in the haunts and outside in the scare zones were outstanding.  The shows offered a variety of entertainment.  We were pleased that they offered options for younger children. This combined with the parks world class coasters gives a full day of fun for the whole family.  All things considered we enjoyed the event and look forward to visiting again.

 

Bloodview Haunted House

  • Posted : September 13th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

There are haunts that entertain and haunts that scare.  Bloodview Haunted House in Broadview Heights, Ohio did both in such a cleaver way you will feel unnerved long after you leave the attraction.  Bloodview and their world-famous acting troop, the Legion of Terror have wowed crowds for over 29 years and this year is no different.  The overall theme of the house stays the same but each weekend the characters, costumes and make up change giving patrons a unique experience each night they visit.

We expect that most haunts will be a little rough around the edges on the first night of the season. There was no need to worry because the entertainment and the screams starts from the moment you drive on to the grounds. Actors bombard the queue line to the ticket booth and can often be found in the parking lots.

This is not a haunt to come to if you are looking for pretty stylized sets or expensive animatronics (I did not see any here at all).  This is the place to visit to be surrounded by unique creatures who will creep you out.  Because we have attended so many haunts, it is sometimes easy to spot the new actors.  But not here at Bloodview, they are used in such a way, like the crowded asylum, that it is hard to tell. The veterans on the other hand, were dialed to 11 and often took free rein in terrorizing their audience. They definitely invaded personal space and some came up with truly individual and creative characters. They are pros at gauging the patrons and knew who, when and how to approach a victim. I heard lines that made even me, a veteran haunter,  stop for a minute and feel a little unsettled.  They are hands downs the best collective group of actors I have seen so far.

Aside from being great actors, I must take a moment to recognize Legion of Terror members for being admirable haunters. Whether an actor or make-up artist, each member respected their craft as an art form. I’m sure they have the normal drama that every haunt has but it did not show. They not only reached out to visiting haunters but they train and look after each other also. Everyone we spoke to was very passionate about haunting and what Bloodview has done for the community over the years. The cast and crew are all volunteers and all the proceeds go to local charities but that never effected the quality of the performance.

Thank you once again to Bloodview and Legion of Terror for giving us a haunt experience we will not soon forget. You have started our season off strong. JB/KB