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02
Sep

haunted-attraction-review-keansburg-nj-haunted-house-hollowgraves-haunted-manor
 Haunted Attraction Review: Keansburg, NJ Haunted House: Hollowgraves Haunted Manor

New Jersey hasn’t been a hotbed of haunted attractions since Hurricane Sandy hit us a few years back. The Hollowgraves Haunted Manor used to be located at Seaside Heights, which was devastated by the storm. After being rescued and crane lifted out of there, it found a new home at Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, New Jersey. Funny enough, it’s currently located directly across from where my beloved vintage 1920s era Pretzel Spook House once was (and is hopefully being restored for next season).

This is Hollowgraves Haunted Manor after being rescued from Seaside Heights:

I wasn’t expecting miracles given all that has happened to this house. I was very surprised that not only was there no evidence of the past hurricane trauma – the craftsmanship on Hollowgraves Haunted Manor is top notch. They exceeded every expectation that I had about this house.

It costs 7 tickets to get in. A ticket is 75 cents each. Note that they do not take the wristbands, so if you buy a wristband from the park you will still need to get tickets for this attraction.

Full disclosure: They knew we were coming (photo by John Watt):

The house looks and feels old and scary in the right way. I am very tired of the modern trend of rainbow coloring everything. These guys did it right and kept a good level of texture and contrast within each scene. They even had a pre-show.

Seriously, guys? A haunted attraction in a beach side amusement park has a pre-show. In 2014. Do you realize how that almost never happens? That happens here.

I understand that depending on the night that you go there may be different numbers of actors inside. I recommend picking a Friday / Saturday / Sunday which is probably their peak volume days to check it out. The attraction itself is designed so well that it can really function optimally with any number of actors in there. This is not a simple haunted attraction where you go through and one guy screams at you in each scene – they actually created lavish scenes in each room such that you can be led through by the actor and then you get to watch certain things happen before they chase you. It really is an ingenious way to take a beach side haunt up a notch. There is no theme exactly, but there is a story in each room that works harmoniously with the actors who are there.

If I were planning this one out I’d joke while working on it that I was building in an insurance policy. Each room has something that is worth your time no matter what the physical actors are doing. Almost every other haunt in this class relies on people just screaming in your face for no reason. This is a breakthrough because it deviates from that formula and creates a landscape that you just do not expect to encounter in an attraction with this small of a footprint. When you are inside the place feels big. The pathway inside is optimized so taht you are moving through a longer path than you might expect from the outside. I’d say it takes about 15 minutes.

The actors themselves were very good. They understood how to lead you and to give you time to take in what you were seeing.

I can’t recommend Hollowgraves Haunted Manor enough. Summer season haunts tend to be minimal because of the variability of the clientele volume. These guys figured out a way to take that financial climate and optimize it so it feels like a premium experience in the off season. That’s something I never would have expected. Seriously, they did something here in this class of haunted attraction that I have NEVER SEEN BEFORE.

Summer season is over for now. They are currently open from Fridays starting at 6PM and weekends starting at noon. Check their Facebook page out for more details.


02
Sep

haunted-attraction-review-virginia-beach-haunted-house-nightmare-mansion
 Haunted Attraction Review: Virginia Beach Haunted House: Nightmare Mansion

Well guys – I have emerged on the other end of running Intervention: The Premier Showcase of Online Creativity so expect more frequent posts now. Also since it’s one of the things that makes life worth it for me: HAUNTED HOUSES.

Harknell and I had the opportunity to check out Nightmare Mansion in Virginia Beach, VA this Summer. This haunted attraction is not on the boardwalk itself, but just a block away in an area where a lot of the main traffic flows through. (2008 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451)

Here are some more shots of the outside:

This haunted attraction reminded us a little bit of the (now defunct) Grimm House in Kissimmee, Florida insofar as it had one actor in the house following you through. This is not a bad thing – many haunted attractions that are open outside of the Halloween season are structured like this. The houses are generally built with a walkway in the back of the house so that one actor can appear throughout in a seamless way. This can work better than you might think.

We had fun in here because we love messing off inside haunts – but you should not expect this to be a full scale haunt. If you expect a full scale haunt you will be disappointed. We expected a seaside haunt and then when it met that expectation we were OK with it. I believe we were in there for about 15 minutes. I am a big advocate of people knowing that there are different types of haunted attractions. I think that it does no one any good to expect the same type of thing in every haunted house. There are theatrical haunts, extreme haunts, high scare haunts, classic haunts, and more.

This one is definitely a seaside-style haunt that is optimized for this type of operation. In English what I mean is that it’s made to operate with a lower overhead so that it can stay open for the entire summer. If you like haunted attractions like we do and are in the area this is a variant on the concept that you should maybe check out – especially since there is a Pirate Dark Ride a few blocks away that I will review later. I would not recommend that you should travel 7 hours to see this like we did.

Unless there are big changes I couldn’t justify driving back all of that way to see this again. The attraction itself seemed to need some maintenance and the actor inside was just trash talking throughout. There was no real skill involved with the scares. Ideally I would like to see the interior restored a little bit so that even though it’s just one actor in there there might be more things to see inside to make it memorable.

That said, there was one thing that I really didn’t particularly care for. It’s just $8 per person to go through. But after you go through the actor inside made me aware at the end of the attraction that he works just for tips.

The reason that I did not like this are twofold – and it’s not about the cost. I have money and would gladly pay whatever.

First, I was unsure if he was being serious or not. After being messed with for 10-15 minutes it really breaks the flow of the attraction to have serious words come out of the same actor’s mouth. It’s tough to know if it’s a part of the show and another joke or not. We were confused at first.

Secondly, I did not like that this was not posted or articulated to us before we went in. I rarely carry cash on me anymore. I would have felt like a colossal jerk if I had gone through and not been able to tip anything. This really puts the customer in an awkward position. You want the customers to leave laughing and talking about the attraction, not confused and down a few more dollars than they were planning to spend. Advance notice would also probably get the actor better tips. This is the only haunted attraction I have ever been through that had tips at the end so it was totally unexpected and honestly – it left us feeling surprised / weird.

That said, just know that they ask for tips at the end and you won’t be confused like we were.

I am not sure what their Fall hours are. Their Facebook page does note that they have Fall hours but does not indicate them. Your best bet is to give them a call to make sure they are open before venturing out @ (757) 428-3327.

I definitely feel that you should support off-season haunts like these even though this one did not blow me away. The verdict is that I want to love this one but it needs some TLC and seems to be on autopilot. I have such conflicted emotions about this one. We had fun because we didn’t expect a lot.


31
Aug

is-it-haunted-attraction-time-yet-also-i-have-no-idea-how-not-to-work
 Is it haunted attraction time yet? Also: I have no idea how not to work :(

Haunt season is soon where I get to travel over 4000 miles to find the best haunted attractions! So if you own a haunted attraction that I can get to please email me via the contact tab on the top bar so that I can get you in the schedule before it fills up.

So anyway…

The problem that happens when you work harder than you should for an extended period of time is that you tend to confuse yourself when you stop. This holiday weekend is the first weekend in a long time that I have not had multiple things to do and a tough schedule to get through. I worked 140 hours in just 7 days.

I guess I am supposed to be relaxing now, but it’s not easy to turn it off. Work ethic is like dieting – once you make it a habit it becomes the default mode of operation.

My apartment is made for work. I have a TV but I don’t get TV service and I don’t have a DVD player. I don’t have any place to really hang out at except for in front of my computer. So I am sitting here trying to chill out watching Gossip Girl reruns on Netflix and catching up on some of my artwork. I was supposed to be traveling this weekend but I had made myself a little sick, I’m glad that I am almost feeling better. Thank you to everyone who gave me such nice presents at Intervention last weekend. It really cheered me up! I’ve been drinking the tea that SaggyZ and Co gave me and that’s been a big help with my irritated throat. (Sorry, I don’t know if you are OK with me posting your real names.)

I’ll make a blog post soon about the awesome success that Intervention: The Premier Showcase of Online Creativity was last weekend. If you missed it I feel sad for you! Here is one image from it taken by Confident Gamers and altered by Steven Archer of Ego Likeness:


31
Aug

oklahoma-haunted-attractions-haunted-house-oklahoma-three-rivers-guard-dogs
 Oklahoma Haunted Attractions: Haunted House Oklahoma Three Rivers Guard Dogs

I was contacted by the Oklahoma National Guard (Active and retired) Motorcycle Club. They have a haunted house this year for the third year in a row. They charge $5.00 per person and 70% of the proceeds goes to the Oklahoma National Guard Scholarship foundation and the Local Disabled American Veterans.

They are getting their flyer together for this year but this is the one from last year:

Get up to date information about this event here on their facebook page.


30
Aug

sweetest-sin-boutique-in-red-bank-new-jersey-cares-about-getting-your-money-not-your-patronage
 Sweetest Sin Boutique in Red Bank, New Jersey cares about getting your money, not your patronage

Guys, I’ve been having a very long few months and just finished up working 140 hours in 7 days. Now I got ripped off by a New Jersey local *bra shop* of all places. This might explain to you why I do a lot of my shopping out of state.

It’s the little things that make life so amazing.

Last April I decided it would be a good idea to buy some bras at Sweetest Sin Boutique in Red Bank, New Jersey. I hadn’t replaced my bras in years. It was bad. But I am generally in a different city every weekend so I just don’t have the time to shop recently. It was way overdue. The sales associate definitely seemed to want to upsell me. I only wanted very simple and versatile bras that would fit under most types of clothing with no fuss. They still brought out all kinds of bras.

I get it. This isn’t a problem. Every store does this. The problem was that the sales person stopped just short of hard selling me on special ordering a 4th bra. I had just gotten paid so I figured “Why not?”

Mistake.

That bra was unavailable in the color I wanted so they had to order it for me. It ended up being on back order for something like 4 weeks. I actually had to phone to make sure they hadn’t forgotten about me. It finally came in and then I was out traveling on business for 2 weeks. I didn’t end up getting this bra until later.

I wore it once once I received it – the pain was incredible. Within a couple of hours I had red bruises where the underwire was digging into my flesh. It was a bad scene. I went to Sweetest Sin’s website and it says “All sales final”. I thought at that point that I was an idiot for shopping locally at a shop that doesn’t stand by it’s service. I trusted them to fit me properly. They fit me incorrectly but all sales are final. I posted on their Facebook page about my disappointment on that policy since their sales person was the one urging me to buy this particular bra. They replied that I should come in and let them exchange it.

I immediately felt like I had overreacted. OK cool.

They have limited hours and are located about an hour away from where I live and 2 hours from my office so my attempt to get there before crunch time for InterventionCon failed. I got there after they were closed. Then I lost 2 weeks preparing and running my event. I finally got there today.

When the owner tells you to come in and exchange an item you assume that’s what’s going to happen. Instead I was put on trial.

You might be able to tell that I generally am pretty happy go lucky. Except if I encounter bad attitudes and people wasting my time.

Brace yourself because we have both here.

It was obvious from the start that the name of this game was to find loopholes in what I was saying so that they didn’t have to help me. I actually almost cut the conversation short because I don’t have time to engage in petty stuff like this. But still – I wanted to give them a chance before I blew up. I waited through everything they had to say to me.

First they looked my name up. I could detect an immediate look of disdain. They mentioned to me that I hadn’t purchased many bras from them in the past. I have to assume that there is a magical number of bras that you have to purchase before they treat you with respect. I am only a globally-recognized business owner with over 6000 unique readers per day that travels all the time. I must be significantly less cool than someone who has time to do all of their shopping in the same state that they live in.

Then they asked me what the problem was. I explained politely that I had been fitted here for this bra but the underwire caused bruises when I wore it once. I explained that I had posted on their facebook page and the owner had told me to come in to exchange it. They immediately accused me of wearing this bra since April. As I detailed above, you’ll see that I didn’t even have this bra in my possession until later than that.

But then again – I’m on trial here.

I didn’t come into this store to be on trial. I came back because I was instructed by the owner to come back and exchange this.

Every step of the way is was stuff like this. Next she phoned the owner and compared the bra to another one of the same type and tells me that the owner says that they would only do an exchange if the bra was defective. I explain that the bra is fine, the size they fit me in was wrong.

Then she looks up the other bras of different brands that I bought which worked well. I am then told that since this is the same size as those bras it should fit.

It’s bra fitting 101 that each brand of bra does not adhere to the same sizing scale. It’s just like any other article of clothing. It varies by brand. I was so clear at this point that they were just trying to push me off. They explained to me that they wouldn’t take it back. I let them know something like this:

“It’s not personal, but I will never be coming back here. I was told to come here for an exchange and this completely wasted my time.”

And yet still they were trying to somehow convince me to come back later? NO! Why on earth would I do that? After working 140 hours in 7 days this is how my only free day is spent? Being on trial in a bra shop? Are you kidding me?

I learned a valuable lesson – and that valuable lesson is to always shop at Nordstrom. Nordstrom has gotten the sizing wrong in the past but every time has fixed it for me with no problem. It is in no way acceptable to be bruised and hurt by a +- $70 bra. It is also in no way acceptable to be put on trial by a sales associate.

The reason that I post this is because while I can afford to buy another nice bra somewhere else – not everyone can. I am aware that a lot of my readers like to shop where I do. It would hurt me a lot if some of you went here and got burned. I’m unliking the page in Facebook so that none of you will think that I am endorsing it. I in no way would ever endorse a business who treats people like this.

Shop at Nordstrom. Sweetest Sin in Red Bank, NJ is fine if they never fit you incorrectly. If they do make a mistake they will live up to the unfortunate NJ stereotype of doing a slapdash job and being jerky about it. Since I’d like to be able to take some pride in where I live – perhaps this is what upset me the most.

As I left the person told me that if I wanted I could come back on Tuesday and talk with the owner. Yeah, like I have the time to drive an hour + back here for a 3rd time and talk with someone about a stupid bra. Maybe next Judge Judy can come out and they’ll get some theme music in BRA COURT. But I won’t be there. I have actual things to accomplish in my life and a very nice donation of a new high-end bra to Goodwill to complete.

And that completes the +- $70 ad that they get from me for free for powerfully wasting my time and treating me like trash on my only day off.

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