Category Archives: Haunts

Buffalo Haunts 2014: House of Horrors / Haunted Catacombs

House of Horrors and Haunted Catacombs used to be two separate haunted houses. They joined together to bring people an enhanced scare experience, and in many ways, that’s worked hoh and hcgreat for them. This is another house that Steve and I try and visit every year. Sometimes the houses change, and some are the same title and theme from year to year, but with noticeable differences.

One of my favorite things about HoH and HC is the interior decoration, before you even get to the haunted houses. They have an animatronic torso that is suspended from the ceiling by two chains that it holds. It whips its head back and forth and see-saws with the chains. In the low colorful light it almost looks real. This year, a guard post was added with zombies and human dummies, which was a nod to their two Walking Dead themed haunted houses. On a big screen commericals for old horror and sci-fi movies play. If you’re not careful, one of the myriad fiends in costume will sneak up on you, or you can take a picture with them for free. There is also a concession stand for candy, popcorn, and soda.

leatherfaceSteve and I started with Killer Theater, which was a favorite from last year. The premise is pretty basic – you go from movie set to movie set. You encounter Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface. Last year included Pinhead, complete with his spinning pillar of body parts. This year, thankfully, Leatherface was without his chainsaw. Say what you will about me – I’m fearless until the chainsaws come out! Killer Theater certainly didn’t disappoint this year either!

We went through Zombie Apocalypse Paintball, which was like walking through a Resident Evil set. At two different points, we were instructed to walk up to a window where we could shoot zombies wandering back and forth. Pretty fun – not exactly what I expected. When another visitor accidentally shot me in the back with the paintball, I understood why there were designated shooting spaces! It sucked being shot without armor! Overall, it was a very interesting house.

Dragged into the Grave was extremely disappointing. The facade was a tomb, complete with a leering gargoyle larger than a grown man. It was very realistic and intimidating. And it led to – nothing. Absolutely nothing. The entire house was a dark maze. It didn’t even have any actors. Fumbling in the dark quickly became tiresome, and when it was over I was pissed.

The Walking Dead: Prison Break and The Walking Dead: Escape From Woodbury were both pretty cool. They closely mirrored the television series. Prison Break featured a walk through the prison where the characters made their home in the TV series, complete with Rick and Carl statues. Escape from Woodbury had Michonne, Rick, Carl, and even the Governor, with his aquariums full of heads. It wasn’t so much scary as it was really cool to walk through what felt like scenes from the movies.

HellHouse was, by far, the best. And it always is! It’s not analogous to the Richard Matheson masterpiece, unless you go by the fact that both are haunted houses. The facade is the most highly decorated, and looks like an old Victorian house. The inside is also the most well-furnished. There was an animatronic demon-head goat-monster that reached out to bite you on your way out. There are was even a child’s room filled with creepy dolls galore, and the kitchen. Oh man the kitchen! That’s where my nightmare man with the chainsaw was waiting.

The First Haunt of the Year…

Nine years ago, I met one of my closest friends, Steve, through the Astronomy Club at my college. He was an alumnus, and I was a current student. While on a camping trip, we discovered our mutual love for all things horror: movies, music, and most of all – haunts. We decided to start going haunting every October – during which we would visit every haunted attraction in our area. (That may seem like nothing much, but here in Western New York, there’s a large variety of things to do and see during Fall!) This came to the relief of our other friend, also named Steve, who was pretty much done with haunting. As our tradition is nearing it’s 10th year, we decided to start spicing things up by adding an out of town haunt per season. You see, we are in a great location in New York state, since we have attractions like the Haunted Horseman Hayride in the Hudson Valley, and we’re extremely close to both Pennsylvania and Canada.

Steve has been talking about Pittsburgh Scarehouse for the last few years. This year, we decided to go, since we’d be closer to Pennsylvania for our bi-scarehouseannual Astronomy Camp weekend. We left camp Sunday night, and within three hours were sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh waiting for our arrival time. The Scarehouse organizers came up with a really great way to field their traffic without jamming the narrow street in front of the Scarehouse, and jamming the neighboring streets. Visitors can only arrive via school bus shuttle, which leaves from the Pittsburgh zoo parking lot. When you buy tickets, they come in time slots, starting at 7:00, and going every half hour. The staff  is very efficient at getting people lined up, loaded, and off to the attraction. The bus ride takes less than 10 minutes, but when we arrived, we were thankful that we didn’t have to drive. It would have been awful! The Scarehouse is tucked away on the outskirts of a residential area, and the streets are narrow. The jam would have been colossal!

After leaving the shuttle, visitors walk around the building to a back entrance. While they wait in line, they are entertained by a man dressed as a woman, a man in a straightjacket, and a man in a bunny suit. Don’t start laughing yet. Bunny-man carries an axe, straight-jacket man pops up when you least expect it, and the last guy, well, he just taunts the crowd and draws your attention away so the others can get to you easier. The front of the building looks like something out of a Vincent Price film, which adds effortlessly to the atmosphere. You just know you’re in for it when you enter the building!

I elected not to purchase the speed pass when I purchased the tickets, because I was against the $34.99 price tag. If I’m spending that amount, I want more than a chance to be a line-skipper. In any event, we paid the standard $19.99, waited in line for a half an hour, and then were led in. (The line inside the building is a little claustrophobic, but at least there’s a barker for entertainment and some interesting displays). Visitors were led into the Scarehouse in groups of four, though the groups quickly caught up with one another. Within a few moments of entering, the groups had become a conga-line of terrified lambs. One house bleeds into another, and all you can hear are sound effects and people screaming and shrieking.

THE SCAREHOUSE BUNNYScarehouse definitely lived up to the hype! Visitors went from house to interconnected house, encountering all sorts of nasty costumes and props. This year’s haunts were Creepo’s Christmas in 3-D, Pittsburgh Zombies, and The Foresaken. All were phenomenal! Below are brief descriptions of each house, as well as the lobby, but not in the order in which the visitor encounters them. Not afraid of Mister Bunny (pictured at left)? Meet him in person. It’s terrifying!

  • The Lobby: While visitors wait to enter the house, they are treated to an old-school stage show, with a creepy barker. He handed Steve a nail to verify that it was real, and Steve did. Then, the barker stuck it into his nose through a hole that I can only assume was a pre-existing piercing. I thought Steve was going to throw up, knowing he’d touched the nail. In retrospect, we were one of the first groups, so chances are it was relatively clean. There were also all sorts of creepy showcases with old props. The whole atmosphere was Art Deco – think “Great Gatsby in Hell”. Very cool!
  • Creeop’s Christmas in 3-D: The only clown-house that I’ve ever enjoyed in a haunt. Most of the time, clown houses feel like a rubble pile covered in black light reactive paint, and built haphazardly. This house didn’t have many actors, but that was alright, since there was enough detail to make it interesting. The painted scenes on the walls predominately featured gingerbread men in a variety of terrifying situations. Gingerbread as victims and murderers, and even a horde of them being consumed by crazed Christmas trees. It also contained the usual tunnel, which I almost fell out of at the end. Good ole’ Creepo Claus himself is pictured below, for all of your clown-filled nightmares.
  • The Foresaken: This house was a dollhouse from hell! I don’t like dolls, I don’t like people dressed as dolls, and I really really don’t like dark places with dolls! In short, this house was terrifying. Dolls were dismembered, watching my every move, and apparently peeling themselves off the walls and talking to me. Thank goodness the guys behind me in the conga-line had a sense of humor – that house was creepy!
  • Pittsburgh Zombies: To be fair, there were a bunch of stationary zombies, hanging out of windows, scrunched into corners, and  generally waiting around for people. However, these were some of the best zombie performers I’ve ever seen. In most haunted attractions, the zombies stumble around like over-sugared children playing with a pinata. These zoms, however, were of the Danny Boyle type. You could almost feel them retching up the contagion as their bodies jerked spasmodically. As a friend of mine would say, “Gold”.
  • The Basement: The last house is below the other three, but you have to pay another $19.99 fee for access, and sign a waiver. The actors are allowedcreepo to push you and restrain you, which is not something I’m up for. Those who know me in real life know that I’m not too good on my feet, so I didn’t like the idea of being pushed off-balance. After we left the Scarehouse, we ran into people we had met in line that went to The Basement. Steve was a little disappointed that we didn’t go, but we both agreed that with not knowing total time, or the lines, we would have been hard-pressed to make it back on time. As it was, we arrived back home around 12:30 am.

At the end of the haunt, visitors can either purchase merchandise, line up for The Basement, or take a shuttle back to the parking lot. We opted for the parking lot. Pittsburgh Scarehouse was a great attraction, but I recommend that any potential visitors spend $19.99 on the ticket, arrive early, and make sure they’re at the parking lot about an hour before their time slot. The attraction is great, but it’s better if you can get in, get scared, and get out like Steve and I.

Have you ever been to The Scarehouse? What did you think? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Shambling Up The Ranks…

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Go “like” their page! (http://www.facebook.com/DistrictoftheDead)

It’s the time of year again!  Time to bundle up, grab a hot apple cider, and hit the road to your favorite haunted attraction.  Every year I’m thankful to be living near Buffalo, New York, where there are plenty of haunted houses to visit.  Last year, District of the Dead opened its doors for the inaugural year.  It was a small house, run partly for profit and partly for charity.  I was excited to see what the new year would bring for them, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

District of the Dead made many smart changes for the 2012 season.  First – they moved to a better location.  They are now at the corner of Sheridan Drive and Eggert Road, near Yings Wings Things & Bar.  This new location is prime – they are at a busy corner and surrounded by well-established businesses.  The second smart change they made was their overall expansion.  There are now two haunted houses:  District of the Dead, and Lake Effect.  While both houses are smaller than most in the area, they are jam-packed with scares!  The actors and actresses are literally laying for you in wait around almost every corner.  The team also used clever distractions and props to divert unsuspecting eyes away from their attackers.

Where District of the Dead really shines is in the pure zest of their workers.  Every blood dripped, drooling, gargling zombie on the property seems genuinely thrilled to be there.  I’ve been to enough haunted houses – trust me, when the cast and crew aren’t into the house, it shows.  Don’t be surprised if you’re eating next door at the local Mighty Taco and a freak in bandages and bloody drool comes bursting through the door – they’re just doing their job.  Scaring you senseless and inserting themselves into your nightmares.

I highly suggest you visit the District of the Dead this year.  The admission is reasonable ($13), the cause is worthy (they support local charities including The Food Bank of WNY), and the scares are plentiful.  Did I mention they also had chainsaws???  I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

Buffalo Haunt’s Inaugural Year

This photo was taken from the facebook page of District of the Dead.

This past Friday, my friend Steve and I checked out a new haunt in Buffalo, NY.  It’s called “District of the Dead”, and it currently resides in the old Don Pablo’s building on Elmwood Avenue, by the Regal Cinema.  You can check them out on the web here.  Now, when I review haunts, I take a few factors into account.  It’s not fair to judge all haunts by the same standard.  It’s important to consider:  How much did the ticket cost?  How many years has the haunt been in business?  What’s the purpose of the haunt?  Who works there?  When I was in college, I used to run the Haunted Hallway with Steve and the other members of the Astronomy Club.  I know how hard it is to plan a haunt, purchase all the props, and convince people to come to the haunt.  There’s a ton of work behind every haunt that people don’t always consider.

The haunt itself was interesting.  It had the obligatory chainsaw – always welcome, as well as the claustrophobia section that is common in haunted houses.  I thought that the haunt was pretty good.  I went through it and screamed my guts out.  I went back in again, and screamed just as much as I did the first time.  The actors seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, which is a big draw for me.  If the actors and actresses aren’t enjoying themselves, why should I?  The set design wasn’t very extensive, and there were no animatronic props – but remember, it’s their first year.  They still have time to build a larger and more extensive haunt in the coming years.  (Personal note:  I prefer live people to animatronics any day!  The stupid whirrr noise they make is very fake.  I don’t like being able to predict what’s going to happen next.)

The Old Don Pablo’s building made a pretty good first-haunt space.  It’s a small-ish building which added to the atmosphere.  Also, being small, the props and actors/actresses weren’t stretched too thin.  They were able to mix live action with props and scenery.

My only worry is the location.  Elmwood is a busy street, but it isn’t situated in a place where it can be easily seen all day long.  Competitor haunted houses in the area are on busier streets, and are more likely to be visited by a spontaneous crowd.  Next year they should opt for a more prominent place.  On a good note, they advertised on Groupon.com, and have a Facebook page.  The souvenir cups were a great idea – it will keep their haunt in the forefront of people’s minds.  It’s also something that sets them apart from the other attractions in the area.  They don’t have a concession stand as of yet, but I believe that will be something they will incorporate later.

After going through the haunt, Steve and I spent some time chatting with one of the minds behind the haunt.  Already, they are thinking ahead to how to change their haunt and improve it.  As it is, the haunt runs about 15 minutes, and will set you back $11.00.  If you show your ticket at the bar after the haunt, you get a free soda and a souvenir black light reactive cup that celebrates the haunt.  What’s more intriguing than an $11.00 haunt?  An $11.00 haunt that donates 10% of it’s profits for the opening year to Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo of course!  The haunt is staffed by volunteers who also do their own makeup, and a company was on site taking pictures of people at a strategic point in the haunt, and you can buy them after you get out.  The makeup the volunteers did will give most attractions in Buffalo a run for their money.  Some of them even had prosthetic wounds and other gory details like slashed and believably bloody clothing.

District of the Dead is certainly a haunt to watch!  I’m excited to see what they come up with in the coming years of their operation, and I will most certainly add them to my list of yearly haunts.  It will be fun to watch them grow from a small operation to a larger one.  If you’re in the area, I suggest you stop by.  In the meantime, bounce on over to Facebook.com where you can find their page, or just take this quick link.  You’ll be in the loop about tickets, pricing, and hours.  You’ll also be able to take a peek at the haunt in their picture section, and get updates on additional District of the Dead goings-on.

Just so y’all know I’m not dead (yet)…

Haunted House
Image by Metal Chris via Flickr

Sorry for the hiatus!  My sociolinguistics class is going to kill me.  I’ve been walking around like a zombie.  Mrgh.

In any event – I wanted to review a haunt that I went to last weekend.  My friend Steve and I have a tradition that we’ve kept up for the last five or more years.  We both love Halloween and we both love going to haunted houses.  Every year, we go camping with the Astronomy Club (we’re in the alumni chapter at the college we both went to) in the fall and in the summer.  Well, this fall we happened to be at camp during Columbus Day Weekend – which just happened to be the biggest weekend at Nightmare Hayrides.  Neither of us had ever been to this particular haunt before, but that made even more exciting.

Nightmare Hayrides boasts a haunted hayride, haunted barn and a corn maze.  When we got there, it was packed!  If you buy your ticket by 9:30 pm, they will continue to run the attractions until everyone who paid has gone through.

After buying tickets, we went through a haunted barn, and arrived at the hay ride.  After the ride, we had to go through another maze/haunted barn before we were done.  The set-up was pretty good.  It meant that there wasn’t much waiting and down-time, which seems to plague most haunted attractions we’ve attended.  There was always something to do and see.  The first half of the barn had the spinning tunnel with colored lights that you go through on a metal bridge.  As usual, I got gleefully disoriented and sort of fell out of the other side.  In the haunted barn sections (which turned out to be a barn that was sectioned into two parts), people in masks followed you, or jumped out at you.  In that way it was pretty standard.

The hayride left something to be desired.  I found out that weekend that I prefer not to be touched by the actors at haunted attractions.  They didn’t do anything wrong – but I think that the idea of almost being grabbed by a ghoul is scarier.  There were a few stops along the hayride path, where we watched a vignette, or someone jumped on the hayride and “attacked” us.  My favorite part was the tractor.  This huge tractor came after the hayride and tried to ram us on both sides.  For an added touch, there was a body attached to the front of the tractor.  Sheer awesomeness!

Overall, for $15.00 it was a great time.  It was a clear and cool night, and the apple cider afterward was the perfect ending.  It’s worth going through, and it took longer than most haunted houses, which Steve and I have noted only take about 20 minutes to complete.

If you’ve been to Nightmare Hayrides – let me know what you think!