Memories of Haunted
Here are some recollections of visits to
haunted houses and my thoughts about them (as well as a brief thematic
taxonomy). By the "haunted house," I'm referring to theme
attractions, not current or former residences allegedly occupied by
ghosts. The first entries are things I wrote up specifically for
this page, but all entries from 2013 on are from my journals.
Types of Haunted Houses
In general, haunted houses can fall into one of three categories.
These aren't terribly rigid; they're more of a continuum, but you have
a general sense which an attraction belongs in once you've been through
Atmospheric - These haunted houses
like everything in soft focus. They don't try to be very specific
but instead work with vague, broad brushstrokes. The killer isn't
based on any particular movie character; he's just a guy with a
knife. There aren't monsters, just blood. The lights aren't
there to direct your attention; they are their own effect. It's a
very generalized approach that can be very effective if done right, but
it leaves a lot to the imagination.
parks - The idea is that the entire attraction is built around a
single theme. Everything feeds into reinforcing that: the props,
the actors, their costumes, the sets, sound effects, etc. The
approach requires a lot of specifics, but sometimes it's too derivative
of the sources of its inspiration, and that can kill the suspension of
disbelief. However, its biggest enemy is monotony. One-note
haunted houses leave you bored with repetition by the time you're all
the way through.
- A little bit of everything, even if it doesn't all fit
together neatly. It's like all of Halloween is crammed together,
and each room of the haunted house delivers around one sub-genre.
This is my favorite approach by far, but I've only run across one
haunted house that did it extensively. Although the lack of a
cohesive theme can detract from the overall impressions of the
attraction, the sheer variety can be over-whelming enough that you
remember so much that you want to go back through for a second look.
of haunted houses I've been to
(Louisiana; early '80s)
and probably only haunted houses I went to in my childhood were those
put on by the Boy Scouts in my neighborhood. I was never a
member, although one of my friends was, and his dad was a scout master
(or troop leader or whatever it's called?) and loved building things in
his garage woodshop. It made perfect sense he would be involved
in something like this.
They usually set up the attraction in a
park on the edge of our subdivision, just a bunch of black plastic
walls for the most part, but they managed to have a lasting effect on
me. I think they were on the school property near the back of the
subdivision another time. They usually had a little graveyard set
up at the edge to keep you entertained as you were waiting in
line. All the gravestones had comical sayings painted on them,
which were obviously influenced by the gravestones outside of
Disney's Haunted Mansion. I carried that through to this day
with things like "Here lies Fred; he still isn't dead" which was taken
directly from one I remember as a kid.
To this day my assessment of haunted
houses is largely based on the quantity of Halloween clichés
included within more even than the quality of presentation. The
Boy Scouts put on a generic haunted house, but they were all about
variety. Every room was some cliché: Frankenstein's lab or
a murder scene or whatever. Spaghetti used for blood and guts,
that sort of thing. There was an electric chair in one room made
out of the front (or maybe it was the back) of a VW Bug. The
orange and red lights flashed, and someone was strapped in it feigning
being electrocuted. All sorts of craziness like that.
Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts have staked
out a position today as an overtly Christian organization with
homophobic policies. Sure, that flew during the Reagan
administration, but it's the 21 century, and they're even rejecting
kids with atheist leanings (i.e., brought up by atheist parents).
As a result, I'm not going to support any endeavor of theirs for the
time being, even if it is related to Halloween.
the first haunted house Dani and I went through together, and it
remains my all-time favorite. It was set up in an abandoned
Walmart, so there was an enormous amount of room to work with.
More important was what they did with the space: Everything.
Rather than so many of these one-note haunted houses you've probably
been to as well, this one attempted to cover every possible genre of
Each section had a room dedicated to each
theme. For example, there was an alien room with blinking lights,
kids dressed up as "grey" aliens in silver jumpsuits, etc.
Another room was designed to represent an Egyptian mummy's tomb with
hieroglyphics on faux sandstone bricks, mummies coming out of
sarcophagi, and so on. Then there were other areas with the
obvious horror scenes out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre with redneck
slashers chasing guests around. There was a little of everything
on display. You didn't get bored with it because you never knew
what was going to come next.
The most effective thing about the place
for Dani was the creepy kids. Rather than the screaming,
banging-on-the-walls zombies you see at every other haunted house, this
place had swarms of tweens and teens all gothed up. They were
wearing dark clothes and scary make-up. Basic minimalist
Halloween attire, but they would sneak up to you and quietly stand
there until you noticed them. It was very, very effective.
The fact that they were much shorter than average meant that they
evaded your line of sight for the most part (I'm not especially tall,
and it worked on me). Dani described them as scurrying little
cockroaches. Even years after the fact, this remains the most
salient feature of the haunted house for her.
Another thing I liked about the place was that it had wide-open
spaces. Places like Zombie Manor (below) did the same old thing
as so many others and just turned everything into a series of
corridors. Rooms were narrow, then halls. The props were
nice, but the layout was repetitive. This house had large rooms,
so you could be swarmed by the aforementioned zombies or aliens or
whatever. It was much more effective than the tired and annoy
tactic of a lone character jumping out from behind something or (worse)
banging on a wall as you pass.
(Fort Worth; 2007)
been in one that was built with this degree of minimalism. The
idea was to achieve pure atmosphere without relying on a lot of set
decoration or costumes. It was very effective, but I was left
with the feeling that, frankly, they didn't put a lot of effort into
it. There were virtually no props or decorations throughout,
merely things like plates of sheet metal and chains. This is a
well-established haunted house set in a permanent location, so this was
the norm, believe it or not.
My biggest gripe with the entire
experience was the inordinately steep price of admission (plus still
more for parking). Given the paucity of material goods on
display, I wondered where was my money going? It wasn't for
props, personnel, or decorations. The parking situation felt a
bit like extortion. The haunted house is located in a notoriously
bad part of town, arguably the worst in the entire city. It is
next to several homeless shelters, and the entire area is rife with
vagrants at all hours of the day, including under nearby overpasses and
such. As a result, you feel there's little choice but to pay for
supervised parking. But $10 to park for perhaps an hour or so to
get through the entire attraction? That's bullshit.
Although the haunted house itself was too
sparsely decorated for my tastes, there were a couple additional
components to the attraction that were noteworthy. For one, there
was a maze in the basement of the building. That was interesting,
although there wasn't anything especially Halloween-ish about it.
I would have added costumed killers so that the maze has some sense of
urgency, something to make it more than just a puzzle.
The other feature that stands out is the
finale. This is a SPOILER, btw, so skip it if you ever plan to go
through. Granted, it reads a lot less impressive than it actually
is in person because, frankly, bubbles don't sound scary. As you
exit the building, you have to pass through a mass of soap bubbles that
is literally several yards thick. It's hard to say just how deep
it is since you're engulfed in bubbles, so there's no frame of
reference if you aren't counting your footsteps. It's genuinely
and surprisingly claustrophobia-inducing.
remember what this one was called anymore. A handful of friends
(i.e., Katie, Kristin, maybe others?) went to this one with us.
It was set up in part of an older mall, believe it or not. It was
generally effective even though it leaned more toward the atmospheric
side than most other haunted houses I've been to.
The stand-out memory for me was one area
where a room was filled with hundreds of flexible plastic drainage
pipes hanging from the ceiling. Guests had to force their way
through this sea of vertical tendrils, which was a very novel effect
that I've never seen/experienced before or again since.
Scaregrounds (Dallas; 2008)
find much especially interesting about this place other than the
chromodepth section, which I'll get to in a minute. Most else
seemed really straightforward and ordinary about it. Nothing
terrible, just nothing terribly interesting. My only real
complaint was that it seemed particular short-lived. We waited in
line longer than it took to go through it, which wasn't especially long.
The stand-out feature for me was the
chromodepth effects. They required 3D glasses, of course.
This was simply a bunch of two-dimensional wall paintings, but it was
effective and made me wonder how the technique worked. I
immediately sought out information about it for future use. I've
tinkered with it a bit, but it's a bit involved to have everyone at a
party put on 3D glasses, so maybe it's not in the cards. However,
there are great applications of the effect. See below.
House of Horror (Fort Worth; 2008)
of Hangman's. We showed
up on a "lights-out night," meaning that they literally turned out
almost all the lights. Guests were given small flashlight with
which to navigate the attraction, but it wasn't much use. As a
result, I honestly couldn't tell you anything about the decor (assuming
there was some). I really felt like it was a waste of time and
money. I would like to re-visit the place at a later date for
some of the other attractions (which I'll get to in a minute),
More interesting than the blacked-out
haunted house were the side attractions. There were four of
these. One was a house populated by zombies who would jump out
and scare you. But by far the best of these was the chromodepth
house. It should have been boring. There were no actors, no
animatronics, no blinking lights. It was simply a house filled
with objects covered with fluorescent paint. Blacklights made the
fluorescents jump out, then the chromodepth glasses on top of that made
them jump even more. That much had been done before with the
chromodepth pictures at the Scaregrounds. What made it work even
better was that the effects were on three-dimensional objects.
You can imagine seeing 2D things in 3D. Now imagine taking 3D
props and adding an extra dimension on top of that. You can't,
and that's what's awesome.
Mansion (Waxahachie; 2009)
a a traditional house at all but rather a private residence custom
built to the exact specifications of the original Munster house from
the show. You can read more about it on various places around the
web, but it was built by the couple (The McKies) who live there largely
by gauging the dimensions from watching the tv series, then lovingly
populated with replicas of the props and decor of the original series.
In addition to the main attraction of the
house itself, there's a slew of other things going on all throughout
the expansive yard surrounding the place. For one thing, the
McKies also get decked out as Herman and Lilly Munster. They have
a fairly convincing-looking Grandpa Munster on the grounds as
well. Then there are the indispensable replicas of the famous
Munster Coach and the customized coffin known as Dragula.
Since so many visitors arrive in costume
(especially the kids), there is a costume contest hosted by the DJ who
is keeping the music going. And there's a trivia contest about
the original tv show. And carnival-style games. And even
former cast members from the show. In the early years of these
open-house nights (which are usually only for a weekend or two around
Halloween), Al Lewis (Grandpa) made an appearance, as did Butch Patrick
who played young Eddie Munster. The most regular cast member to
turn up has been Pat Priest who was Marilyn in the majority of the
show's episodes and who has been at most events at the Munster
Mansion. She signs autographs and poses for pictures with
guests. She and the McKies are very personable and love visiting
with the guests.
The only downsides are that the house is
relatively far-removed from the metroplex, as Waxahachie is almost an
hour's drive for most of us. However, the trip is made worth it
by just how much there is to do during the event. Unfortunately,
pictures aren't allowed inside the house, which is odd considering you
can see essentially the same thing in syndication. There are
pictures of the place on the web already regardless.
The price of admission was more than
reasonable, and the proceeds all go to a different charity each year.
We got in
here for free since we were working for a Halloween store at the time,
so it wasn't a big loss if the place was lame. It wasn't, but it
wasn't very good either. I get a bit bored with haunted houses
that stick too rigidly to one theme. Zombies are cool, sure, but
not to the exclusion of every other monster.
This was one of those one-note attractions
built entirely around the idea of zombies (duh; re: the name!).
There wasn't a central narrative that was communicated by the
exhibition itself, so it seemed pointless even though there was a lot
of craft in what they put on display. There were great rooms like
the child's nursery and such that worked really well. But the
show grew repetitive before very long. There was also a lot of
the over-used attempts to scare guests by banging loudly on walls,
frying pans, etc., and that's a trick that would have worn out its
welcome quickly if it was ever welcome to begin with.
Believe It Or Not/Wax Museum (Grand Prairie; 2011)
this one at Leiann's recommendation. She had been to it years
earlier and had lasting impressions of it. By day this is an
attraction (or rather two under one roof) that is open
year-round. However, around Halloween the lights are lowered at
night in the wax museum half of the complex, and the obligatory
teens-dressed-as-ghouls creep up behind you as you wind your way
through the displays. Thematically, many of the exhibits in the
museum are already geared to a Halloween-hungry audience. There
are sections dedicated to movie monsters and infamous slashers.
Some sections were blocked off for the Halloween tour, notably all the
biblical exhibits, which is ironic considering how Jesus is the
original zombie story.
Sadly, the part that Leiann remembered
most fondly wasn't part of the show this time around, a Black and White
section in which everything (ghouls included) were painted in grayscale
to make you believe you are seeing a black and white movie come to
life. I have seen this done elsewhere, but I had really hoped to
see it presented here, especially in the context of old movie
characters and such where it would have fit best of all.
Another portion of the attraction,
something like a smaller third component of the complex, is the Mirror
Maze. Again, this is always present, irrespective of Halloween,
but it blends in nicely with the Halloween theme, like something out of
an early Hitchcock film. We didn't do it on this return trip for
the haunted house, but it was enjoyable the first time through.
Hangman's House of
(Fort Worth; 2013)
This was a
mid-season thing. Stan and I went on our own. I didn't text
anyone until around 7pm, so it was short notice, but everyone was
already in the middle of something, sick/tired, or just scared of
haunted houses, which is ironic because Stan couldn't wait to go, and
he is only 3 and 3/4. Stella had only just been born not quite a
month ago, so Dani stayed home with her.
It wasn't very crowded at all, which was a
little surprising since this was the last night they were open (of the
two weekends). I would have thought that might have brought on a
small surge in attendance, but I wasn't there other nights to compare,
just around Halloween. This was nice because there was no line to
wait in, and there were so few people that we were able to take it at
our own pace. If anyone came up, I just let them pass us.
And since we were on our own, we didn't feel like we had to keep up
The only other time we did Hangman's was
around the time Stan was born, but I had the worst luck and ended up
there on "flashlight night." The concept sounds like fun, but
it's kind of a rip-off from my perspective. I mainly go to
haunted houses to see how they decorated it, but on "flashlight night"
they literally turn off every light and give you only a little
flashlight. When we went, we were each given a small penlight
with a single LED bulb. About half of these didn't even work
properly, so it was just a group of us stumbling around not seeing
anything at all. From what I read on the site, they now give just
one flashlight to the group, so maybe it's a bigger flashlight and you
can actually see some of the decorations, but I don't care enough to
try that when I could go on any other night and not worry about what
Since I was able to see the decorations
this time around, I can actually describe a lot of them. For
example, the room at the entrance was set up like a haunted movie
theater. The workers were dressed like theater employees (albeit
made up all ghastly). There was a cloth screen hanging over the
entrance with projected silhouettes of murder scenes, a hanging, etc.
like there was a horror movie playing. Along the wall was a
concession stand with eyeballs in the popcorn machine/cartons, and the
glass candy case was filled with skeleton hands, etc.
As soon as you went in they had the
"vortex tunnel," which is just a long walkway through a rotating
brightly-colored tube that completely disorients you even though you
know exactly what's happening. Here's a video of one of similar
although Hangman's version was just a lot of bright colors rather than
ghosts. Stan was immediately disoriented by it and didn't want to
go any further at all, but we pressed ahead.
There was a motion-activated dinosaur head
that roared and lunged (well, slowly) when you passed it. Stan
didn't think much of that. He was more concerned about people
coming up and talking to him. Not scaring him; he just didn't
want them to talk to him. He was pretty much silent the whole
way. The funniest thing was that at one point he was starting to
get scared because a couple people were coming toward, and I said,
"They're zombies, like on 'The Walking Dead," then he was fine with
everything. He knows "Walking Dead" is all fake and the zombies
rarely ever even catch anyone, so no big deal. Follow that logic
for a second: He was reassured when I told him they weren't people,
they were zombies. I have a weird kid.
Not too long after we got inside, an older
lady who worked there doubled as a guide and got us through maze-like
sections. There were a couple of these: one with canvas/tarp-like
strips hanging from the ceiling, and another with plastic tubing (like
perforated corrugated French drain pipe), so that helped speed our way
to more interesting sections where Stan could look at fun decorations.
For example, there was a room with a
"crashed" airplane as though from a polar expedition that went
awry. There were bodies frozen in ice along one wall.
Another room had Frankenstein in it, a mannequin that was sitting in a
big chair with lots of science equipment around him. As few times
Stan would tell me "I want to get out," but as soon as we were in a
room full of things to look at and there were no costumed workers
around, he would immediately become talkative and would start exploring.
On the way out, you go through another
"vortex tunnel" (same design and appearance as the entrance), so I let
him walk it on his own rather than carrying him. I even went way
ahead of him so that he had to walk by himself, which was
hilarious. He was holding onto the railing railing and walking at
a 45 degree angle as though he was about to tip over.
Several teenagers passing through at
various points said he was the coolest kid ever to go through the
attraction, and I think he took that to heart, though he wouldn't
actually acknowledge them. People kept trying to get a high-five
out of him, but he wouldn't have any of it.
In addition to the main haunted house,
there were two other attractions. The first of these we went
through was "McDagenvile," a redneck village along the lines of
something out of the "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" with rustic country
stores and Americana. People were dressed up like
hillbillies. I think it was previously a zombie attraction, so I
told Stan that's what they were supposed to be, which seemed to fit
since they had torn clothing and dirty faces. One of the
"zombies" gave Stan a piece of candy. Stan reluctantly took it,
wouldn't say "thanks," then immediately handed it to me. Typical.
The other attraction was the "3-D
Wonderland" which this year was designed around an "Alice in
Wonderland" theme. The entire experience is build out of the use
of chromodepth glasses with fluorescent paint and blacklights to
maximize the effect. Chromodepth works best with solid colors
where there are sharp edges (i.e., no blending), and the blacklights
make the fluorescent paints really pop out. The chromodepth
glasses produce a 3-D effect, but you get a mind-blowing effect when
you apply 3-D effects to an already 3-dimensional environment (as
opposed to just on 2-D walls or paintings).
The first room you pass through represents
the fall down the rabbit hole. It had simulated rock walls with
various objects embedded in them, all painted fluorescent colors.
You went down a ramp the whole length of the room (like you're
"falling") toward a small white door painted on the bottom of the big
door at the end of the "tunnel." Next you're passing by the
caterpillar's toadstool, which looked really cool because the fabric
was done like a Jackson Pollock with splatters of the paint all over it
so that it looked like the surface was swimming. Maybe there was
supposed to be someone dressed as the caterpillar, but only his hooka
was there, also painted up in several colors so that it looked like it
separated into different pieces.
Eventually you meet Alice (a poorly-cast
teenager or maybe early 20s who was chubby and brunette) along with the
Mad Hatter, who introduce you to the tea party where a table is set
with books and cups and saucers all painted bright colors. Poor
Alice kept apologizing for being "unprofessional" because she was
laughing too hard to remain in character. Stan was just so stoic
and wanting nothing to do with anyone that it threw her into the
giggles. We moved on to the next room where the walls were
adorned with various clocks all done in different colors so that they
appeared to be floating (note that the walls generally appeared
blue-ish purple due to the blacklights, so most colored objects jumped
out from the background). Additionally, there was a light effect
I had never seen before, a device that had a few small colored LEDs
that projected through a rotating semi-transparent piece of
plastic. The result were these smeared, nebulae-like "ghosts"
moving across the floor and over the walls. Since they were red
and green (probably blue as well, but that color got lost in the
blacklight), they popped out at 3-D as well among the clocks.
This added a new effect since most else were static props, but here we
had dramatic motion so that the lights appeared to hover above the
Next was the hat room with many
multi-colored hats and other accessories all over the walls.
Finally you get to a chess room where there's one of the Queen's card
men against one wall, surrounded by baskets of blue heads ("Off with
their heads!") and shelves with even more heads. The most
striking effect was the checkerboard floor of alternating red and blue
"tiles." The blue of course sunk "into" the floor alongside the
red, and Stan stated that "The floor looks like water."
Even though he acted at times like he
wanted to get out of it, on the way home he was constantly telling me
about things he saw. I was quizzing him and seeing how much he
remembered. I struggled to recall a lot of it even immediately
afterward because there's just so much to take in, let alone for an
almost-4 year-old. The kicker? In the car he asked me, "Can
I have that candy the zombie gave me earlier?"
Even though it's a pretty long
drive for us, we got in free! A
lady in the parking lot gave us two free complimentary tickets that she
got when she bought hers. It was just Dani and I with Stan
(Jessica babysat Stella), so the whole thing was a free ride, other
There were five haunted houses on the
grounds that year, plus smaller
booths and gift shops. I had hoped for more and stanger things,
but is was on a much smaller scale than when the same site and
facilites are set up for Scarborough Fair in the spring/early
summer. Here's a description of the haunted houses with the
quoted portion coming from the website summary of each:
- "Do you
have courage? Are you brave? We dare you to test yourself. You haven't
lived 'til you've been scared to death." This was just a long
walk through a series of (mostly) animatronics and static scenes.
However, there's a novelty in having that much real estate.
Usually haunted houses are a tight little maze, but this was a long
walk in the open air. Nothing terribly scary, but it was perfect
of Darkness - "Visit a
new dimension in terror, for fear dwells in the depths of unknown
darkness - what is it that will make you scream? Literally, scream?
Find out in the Castle of Darkness." This was set in the castle
attraction on the grounds and was probably the most elaborate
attraction because of the scale and decor.
of Horror - "Try to
escape the narrow hallways, hidden passageways and possessed guests of
the all new Hotel of Horror and experience the unknown terrors around
every corner." I really enjoyed the fact that this was a largely
original theme (at least to me). While hotels (think Psycho) and
rustic Midwestern locales (like Texas Chain Saw Massacre) are common in
movies, you just don't see haunted attractions set up to combine them
in this way, and by creating an unfamilar setting, it is unsettling in
that there are no expectations to prepare you and dull the surprises.
Koy's Klown Maze - "A
little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants. Whats to
be afraid of? All you have to do is find your way out while being
menaced by clowns. That's It." This attraction was a huge maze
that was filled with clowns and other circus types, including at least
one guy wielding a chain saw. There wasn't really anything in the
maze itself (it was just alternations of plywood and chain link), but
the scale alone was impressive. I think it took us more than 30
minutes of running around inside it before we found our way out only
with a "hint" from a worker inside. Stan high-fived the clowns
and such in this attraction and the next.
Pirates of Peril Point -
"When you enter the floating island of Peril Point, you will experience
your own vision of terror in larger than life 3-D." This
attraction took advantage of chromadepth 3D effects coupled with
blacklighting on fluorescent paint. The theme was a pirate ship,
so there were fluorescent strands of seaweed all over the "planks" of
the ship. Other areas had sea monsters pop out of the walls,
etc. It wasn't especially scary in the execution, but I always
enjoy seeing someone do new things with the chromodepth approach.
For example, one little thing I thought was neat was paintings of
spirals that ran through the spectrum of colors. With the
chromodepth 3D glasses, the spirals appeared to be coming out at you.
We stayed around four hours altogether,
although much of that was just
waiting in line, of course. As I gloseed over above, there was
much more on the grounds like eateries, gift shops, face-painting, and
even Scareoke (i.e., karaoke). We might have spent longer had it
not been chilly and our little one was getting worn out. Just the
same, we had a great time. I know Screams has had a tough time
attracting and earning the respect of hardcore haunted house
afficianados, but the flip side of that is how perfectly appropriate
for younger kids. I mean, Stan loves anything with monsters, so
he's not your average kid, but he was only four when we took him to it
(and Hangman's), and he absolutely loved it.
of Horrors (Fort Worth; 2014)
Took Stan to Hangman's House
of Horrors in the new location (first year in the old FCC
complex). He had a lot of fun. We did the two smaller
attractions first. First was the 3-D Wonderland, which was
essentially the same as before (which we did 1.5 years ago, shortly
after Stella was born): A 3-D/chromadepth take on "Alice In
Wonderland." Next was a zombie haunted house that was lifted
right out of "Walking Dead," including them playing a heavy metal
version of the theme music (which at one point some months ago Stan
stated was his favorite "song").
After both of those we went into the big
attraction, which took up a huge chunk of the building.
A lot of the features of the building
were incorporated into the place this time. For example,
bathrooms were retained as such, albeit with the toilets busted up
and/or mannequins placed on them. In other areas, metal pipes,
gauges, walls (including some nice rusty metal ones), etc. were
retained. However, some walls had to be broken through (e.g., the
bathrooms) in order to allow traffic to flow rather than resulting in
cul de sacs.
Some other sights I recall:
*Maze made out of curtains (walls were
solid, but the space was broken up by curtains).
*Funeral scene (complete with coffin,
pews, and a couple mourners).
*Two vertigo tunnels, one of which is
supposedly the longest one in existence.
*Slanting walls/floors (Stan was very
upset by this for some reason).
On the way home I quizzed him about what
we saw, and he asked me why the crazy girl was crazy (i.e., an actor in
a sort-of insane asylum setting; she had a vaguely Harley Quinn style
about her). I told him she had a chemical imbalance. He
kept saying she had chemicals in her brain, which I'm sure will get
repeated tomorrow and confuse everyone.
At the end of everything, there were
three guys with chainsaws waiting. I don't think Stan paid all
that much attention to them since the saws weren't running, but they
asked me if it was okay to scare him. I said yes, and asked which
way was the exit, so I could tell him to run in that direction.
He didn't like the noise, but honestly, he wasn't especially scared; I
think he just wanted to get away from the racket from the saws more
There wasn't a lot else happening on the
property other than a few concession stands and a few wandering
characters such as a hangman, scary clown, and grave digger. They
had a stage set up, but we were there on a Thursday, so there were no
bands playing the way they have on weekends.
Regardless, we did it on a Thursday on
purpose. As on previous excursions, the lack of crowds made it
possible to approach the attractions at a leisurely pace. Stan
was very pokey going through most of them, more out of trepedation this
time around than blithely admiring the scenery like when he was
three-going-on-four. He'd take little tiny steps like his laces
were tied together. However, I put him in the lead and made him
walk independently (i.e., not holding my hand or anything).
My main criticism of the place this time
is the lack of variety or references. While there was variety
from one room to the next, there really wasn't a lot that didn't fall
under the heading of either "crazy people" or "zombies." For
example, there were crazy children, crazy doctor/nurses, crazy killers,
crazy clown, etc. There was no specificity to anything such as a
mad scientist making a monster (let alone a Frankenstein). In
fact, there were no monsters per se: no werewolves, mummies, etc.
On a similar note, there were no sci-fi references: robots, aliens,
etc. It wasn't exactly one-note, but it was all in the same key,
other than the Wonderland section.
of Horrors (Fort Worth; 2015)
Went for "Scardy Cat Night"
which is half-price but with the lights on. Also, it's 5pm-7pm,
so it was during daylight. We bought Stella this time, so it was
the whole family (Dani included), instead of just us guys like on
previous trips to Hangman's. We took lots of pictures since the
guide who read the rules before letting us through said it was
I thought Stella would be somewhat timid about things, but she just
plowed right ahead. I purposely put her in the lead, and she did
fine, probably bolstered by Stan's confidence, and definitely driven on
the hunt for candy (The actors all had treat buckets with candy for the
kids). It was mostly lit up, but there were plenty darkened areas
Because it was "Scardy Cat Night," the actors weren't allowed to scare
anyone, and in fact there were a lot fewer actors than there usually
were, which was a little disappointing for Stan who was used to much
greater intensity. At one point he kept anticipating people
jumping out, but no one ever did. Every corner he'd go around for
a while, he'd say, "They're going to try to scare us!" The fact
that no one did probably heightened the fear for him, so it was okay.
I've got a video of it, but Stella went through the vertigo tunnel and,
at the end, yelped, "I did it!" which was hilarious because even at age
5 (i.e., last year) this was the thing Stan was most scared of.
He did fine this time though.
Probably the scarriest section was a series of metal grates that
carried you up to the now-open 2nd story of the place.
Unfortunately, the 2nd floor was only sparsely decorated as yet.
The scale of the place is impressive, so I'm looking forward to them
developing it fully in years to come.
One of the funniest things was that an actor playing a crazy girl had a
bunch of plastic roaches she described as her pets. She offered
one to Stella to pet, and Stella took it and put it in her treat
bag! She definitely didn't inherit Dani's fear of roaches!
We did the "Wonderland" section after the main attraction. There
weren't any actors in it, unfortunately, but that was fine. I
took loads of pictures since no one was around (and they said it was
okay in the main building anyway), so I can look back through them for
The most surprising thing was that Stella fearlessly walked right up to
zombies in the last section, a post-apocalyptic zombie area they called
"Outbreak!" (They did essentially the same thing last year; it's
a "Walking Dead" knock-off). A very effective zombie character
(long beard, scary contact lenses, etc.) showed up and followed us
around. Stan ran away from him, then back, just so he could run
away again. When we left, Stella waved and said, "Bye, Zombie!"
We hadn't originally planned to take Stella. Dani was going to
stay home and work on the costume(s), but Stan pressed us to bring
her. (I thought it would be free for her, but they charged for
her anyway.) He took plenty credit for suggesting including her
when we got home since she was so entertaining.
haunted house (Grand Prairie; 2015)
Dani found a Groupon for $11
each instead of $18, which was probably about all it was worth.
It felt a bit smaller than when we did it a few years ago with Leiann
and her kids. It was also badly planned since we were pushed
around to the back of the place (even though we got tickets at the
front), so we had to go all the way around the outside of the building
in the rain (There is hurricane weather at the moment due to
currently-Category 5 Hurricane Patricia!). Stan was cranky when
we got there, having slept in the car on the way (worn out from going
right from school to playing with Vi). It took him a bit to warm
up to being at a haunted house. He wasn't terribly turned-on by
it, but I was impressed at how he challenged the "monsters." He'd
scream back at them or stick his tongue out. However, it really
wasn't much more than the regular wax museum with some actors in
various scary costumes. One of the only rooms that stands out as
something different was a collection of baby dolls suspended from the
ceiling by strings so that there was a constellation of them to
navigate through. That was early on, but then everything beyond
that was pretty straight-forward, unfortunately.
Edge (Fort Worth; 2016)
I finally took Stan with
me. He sees the place pretty often since 1) They have a monster
on the roof during Halloween season, and you can see it from the
interstate, especially at night and 2) The entrance is a giant skull,
and we pass that regularly on our way to one of my favorite guitar
shops. Needless to say, Stan was pretty excited that he was
finally "old enough" to go to this one. Somehow this was where
the bar was set for him.
There was almost no one there on this
night which happened to be the first night they were open for the
Halloween season (Sept 19th). I was fine with that, plus it was a
bit cheaper for that reason as well (i.e., all of September was more
like $20 instead of the usual $30). Also, I had Dani drop us off
rather than paying for parking which would have been an additional $10
(We live less than two miles away). We had to wait in line for
about 30 minutes before we got in, but it wasn't too bad since there
was some limited entertainment out there. They were showing
videos of horror bands projected on the wall. There was also an
animatronic gargoyle (apparently remote controlled) that would
occasionally open his mouth and spit at people in line.
There were a lot more decorations than
last time we did it several years ago. It was still largely
atmospheric, but there were props and set pieces to create scenes
rather than simply relying on keeping everything dark with sparse,
spooky lighting and excessive sound effects. It's still much
darker in most places than what it should be. For example,
there's a section with dinosaurs, but you can hardly make out that
they're there, even when one comes roaring out of nowhere at you.
Stan screamed several times
throughout. The biggest time was near the end when we were
cornered by a couple guys with chainsaws. The ghouls throughout
showed no mercy, which was great. At several points (especially
in the beginning) he would scream, "I hate this place!" He acted
like he couldn't wait to get out, but afterward I think he was full of
pride that he made it all the way through. There were several
stopping points along the way (e.g., before the maze) where folks who
worked there checked with him to make sure he was doing okay and
complimented him for pushing through it.
Some other features I noted:
-Vertigo tunnels - there were three of
these, 2 at the start, and another later on. They weren't as
impressive in length or in design as the ones at Hangman's,
however. Just glowing stars.
-Moving walls - This was a good
effect. The walls seemed to fall toward you in one section,
although they stopped just a foot into their movement. It was
large enough to scare though because there was no way to know wether
they were going to stop before they landed on you.
-There were long racks of clothes in one
room, and the "monsters" could shake those to create the effect that
you couldn't see where the walls were from all the movement.
-We did the maze in the middle of the
place, but we didn't make it out before time ran out. Apparently
few ever do. I heard one of the workers said that only a couple
people had so far that night.
-There were other settings as
well. Some I recall: Cemetary, jungle with dinosaurs, Aztec (They
did a really good job of airbrushing stone walls to make them look like
ruins and metal railings to look like bamboo), nursery, etc.
Unfortunately, most areas didn't have much of a theme; there were
simply dark areas with something implied so, for example, there might
be dead bodies and/or barrels of radioactive waste. It didn't
always go together.
-There was a neat section where dead
bodies were being moved as though on meathooks by conveyor. It
was large enough to seem real.
-SPOILER: The one thing that really had
Stan worried was the bubbles at the end. They result in a
claustrophobic effect where you're literally suffocating in them.
I had Stan digging through the bubbles, but even then he couldn't
create enough of a pocket. I had to get ahead of him and walk
backwards so that it created a tunnel where he could breathe. He
came out absolutely covered in suds and looked like he had been through
hell. I have a video on my phone of me interviewing him after the
Incidentally, before we went in the
place, I was talking to one of the guys who worked there and I asked
him if the bubbles were there. He said when they first did the
bubbles, they did a survey afterward, and the majority of folks said
they didn't want the bubbles again. So the next year they didn't
have the bubbles, and people were complaining, some even demanding
their money back because there were no bubbles. Apparently it was
It took Stan a little while to recover,
but we had time. I called Mom to pick us up, so he I talked about
the haunted house. He seemed absolutely exhausted by the
experience, but the more he talked about it, the prouder he grew with
himself. He realized he had survived it, and that no one else his
age could have managed it, so that was something indeed!
Dani and I took the kids
out. It was mostly the same as last time we were there three
years ago, but we hadn't been in a while, and this was the first time
for Stella. The attractions were almost all exactly the
same. Here they are in the order in which we did them:
Zombie Wasteland (replaced
Ghoulish Graveyard, which I think was in a different location) - Just a
straightforward zombie haunted house. The more interesting thing
was that they had a few sections where they used lights to throw you
off, like having a fog-filled area with a stage light at the opposite
end that threw moving beams of light through it. That made it so
it wasn't clear how far ahead the wall might be or even if you were
heading in the right direction. Stella started waving at zombies,
and that set the tone for the night because absolutely nothing scared
her. Even Stan jumped a few times over the course of the trip,
but Stella was unphased.
Carnevil Clown Maze (previously
Unkel Koy's Klown Maze) - Not really all that scary, but like I said
before, it was at least impressive in scale. They did a good with
the design so that it was frustratingly hard to get out of.
Admittedly, I let Stan and/or Stella lead us for much of the time, only
correcting them occasionally when it was clear we were just circling
back to the area we had come from. In the end I took over and led
us to a new section based on the (thankfully, correct) assumption that
the exit was going to be toward a back corner. My sense of
direction (and having the moon in view overhead) helped get us out of
the small area the kids had us circling for a long time. We never
ran across the guy with the chainsaw, although I think we heard
him. (As a matter of fact, we never ran across anyone with
chainsaws! I was curious how Stella would have handled
that.) The maze was supposed to be carnival-themed, but they
really didn't play up the clown angle as much as they did before.
The staff just seemed to be generic monsters, mostly.
Afterward Stella remembered that she had
brought candy to give to the clowns, only we had forgotten it in the
car. (I didn't know about this until she mentioned it. Dani
had packed something for her while I was getting Stan ready.)
Update: The next day Stella was again bringing up the candy that she
had forgotten for the clowns.
The Castle of the Doomed
(previously "Castle of Darkness") - I was kind of underwhelmed by this,
probably because we had just gone through it at Scarborough six month
earlier, so it was relatively fresh in my mind. As a set, the
castle itself is inflexible, so it doesn't allow the place to reinvent
it from year to year. Also, it was a little all over the
place. For example, the first thing we saw when we entered was a
neat grey alien in a glass tank with scientific equipment. But in
a castle? I thought maybe they were going for a sci-fi theme, but
instead it was just a random item mixed in among all sorts of other
scenes. There was a sort of a Frankenstein lab, but then most of
the rest of the castle were generic dead bodies/skeletons.
Hotel of Horror - This remains
probably the most artistically successful attraction of the
bunch. It managed to come up with a fresh aesthetic and sticks to
it all the way through. All of it worked together, unlike the mix
of aliens and medieval elements in the castle. Also they had a
good mix of scares or at least things to see along the way such as a
falling chandelier that dropped every minute or so (i.e., enough time
between drops to surprise some of the next group to pass
through). I liked nearly everything I saw along the way and
wasn't disappointed by much of it, whereas usually I'm constantly
thinking of ways I'd like to improve on it.
3D Pirates of Peril Point - This
gets the silver medal from me. It's really good, but it's just
too repetitive. The description from our previous trip covers
some of what there is to see. However, the theme never develops
beyond being a pirate ship and zombie pirates. There are
occasional sea creatures, but the place relies almost entirely on the
chromadepth effect rather than developing things over the course of the
journey through it. For example, while we might see an octopus,
it's just lying there. No animatronic tentacles. No new sea
monsters. Where's Cthulhu? Instead we get crabs on the
wall. Sure, the crabs looked great in 3D, and, granted, there are
some animatronics, but they almost entirely featured mannequins dressed
as zombie pirates. A lot of these are thrust out of the walls at
you, and that's pretty effective, but it happens several times.
My favorite was a zombie pirate mannequin that was launched on a pole
that extended several feet out into the room, which was very
impressive. I liked it, but it was yet another zombie
pirate! I went into some detail about the chromadepth effects
previously, but those are definitely worth seeing, even if they don't
scare so much as just elicit ooos and ahs. Sadly, Stella wouldn't
wear the 3D glasses, so she missed out on most of the effect.
Dani was carrying her since this was toward the end of the night,
otherwise I might have been able to get her to appreciate things more.
As for other attractions on the grounds,
there were a handful of extra things like a head toss and a pretend
electric chair, but the only extra thing we did was let Stan do the
tomato toss where you throw parts of tomatos at a guy whose head is
sticking out of a hole. Dani got a bag of popcorn and, later, a
couple drinks, but we didn't get anything to eat while we were
there. We probably could have gone back through a haunted house
or two, but the kids were clearly exhausted, and even I was having
problems with my back toward the end of the night. I was tired,
but mainly it was the bad spot on my back flaring up again.
Stella high-fived or waved at all the
monsters. Stan was more reserved this time around,
unfortunately. I had hoped he'd be more outgoing. However,
he did seem to enjoy himself. Dani and I talked with another
couple in the line for Hotel of Horror, and we compared notes on
haunted houses around the metroplex. They had done quite a few,
so I'm thinking that Stan and I (and maybe Dani and Stella) might
extend outward more next year rather than return to the same handful
we've rotated through in the neighborhood lately.