Category: 2011

2011, Haunted Attractions, New York, Reviews

Haunt Review: Madame Tussauds After Dark!

Wax museums have a long history in horror and the macabre. If fact, one could say the whole point of a wax museum is to stimulate the weird notion of the “living dead” by seeing non-living representations of famous or infamous people, but in a fashion that makes them seem “alive”. As such, a wax museum has huge potential for a haunt. Madame Tussauds, the New York City outpost of the world spanning Madame Tussaud wax museum company, in fact turned into a limited duration haunt in October 2011. Oni and I visited it during this time and the following review reflects our thoughts on this visit.

To start I have to say we have never been inside the museum to see it during it’s regular hours. This added to our anticipation, and our fears, since we had absolutely no idea of the layout or the types of exhibits that were in place. The notion of seeing dimly lit realistic people already has a creepy vibe–but knowing that this would make the haunt actors even harder to detect made this haunt seem even more scary than a regular one. Even the best haunts don’t usually have the funding to have exceptionally realistic fake bodies or displays, so this place started off in a position of high possibilities.

It was relatively easy to get in and get our tickets. While the line control wasn’t the best, it wasn’t terrible either, just a bit messy when it came down to who was expected to approach the check out from the multiple lines. Once we purchased our tickets we walked upstairs and awaited for an elevator to bring us to the beginning of the walkthrough. We ended up waiting about 20 minutes, with a small group of people ahead of us being let in first. This was a positive though, since they weren’t doing a conga line approach to things. Each group was discretely taken into to the entrance floor and given quite a bit of time to walk through the haunt. I have to admit the anticipation helped put me on edge–We’ve been to a huge number of haunts, but the atmosphere was definitely doing it’s job (much like Eastern State Penitentiary).

It then was our time to enter. We were in a small group, with a few excitable young women, and we ascended in the elevator. We entered the haunt in a wide spacious room with stairs leading down–what would normally be the reverse of a regular haunt that squeezes you down into a tight space. Immediately the dim lighting and figures made us really get ready for some major scares. The idea that the space was so open actually was really effective–who knows where someone could come running out, or a half-seen figure make odd unexpected movements. The payoff was pretty immediate with a man running out waving around a sword and running up onto some of the furniture. His assault occurred so rapidly and with such force that the group of young excitable women seemed to practically fall into a swoon of fear. Oni and and I continued onward at a slow pace, now on guard. (as an aside: We’re not actually sure what happened with that group of women. After this initial room we actually never saw them again! They never caught up to us–and we were actually moving pretty slowly–and we were at the exit for awhile discussing the haunt–and they never exited during the time we were there! They may very well have dumped out of the haunt immediately based on this first experience!)

The ominous sounds being played within the event only made it more creepy as we walked through more rooms and displays. Having never been inside during the day we weren’t sure if any of the settings were special for this night, or were a part of their regular displays. All I know was it was damn effective. Oni and I have a deep knowledge of the psychology of haunts–how things are set up for scares to misdirect your attention, and this place through things off the regular script. Almost everything in every room was a potential place for a scare, and it made for ongoing tension–which is excellent for a haunt.

The concept of the haunt set up was a walkthrough and descent through the facility. The only other thing that would lead me to having this same feeling of eeriness would be a tour through a darkened series of stores in a mall, a warehouse. Areas that normally would have workers only added to the tension. You just never really knew when a scare would happen. And when they did, it was always a major shock.

The only let down for the event was the ending. The haunt itself did not really have a direct narrative–it was so creepy it didn’t need one!–but it is always good to have some kind of strong finish for a haunt to have a lasting impact. In this case we were set up for something by hearing the wailing and insane babbling of a woman in the distance. When we reached her she was acting in the typical manner of a baby carriage wielding pyscho. the whole “my baby is gone” scenario. We expected some kind of payoff for this, other than the unsettling encounter with the actress. Unfortunately this did not occur. After her we were at the exit and out of the haunt. No “run out” scare, no final monstrous image to leave us panting or afraid on the way out. Sadly it was quite a bit weak in that regard.

Regardless though, the experience of the haunt itself throughout was exceptionally good, and was one of the more unique haunts we’ve been to. It was limited to only 8 nights in 2011, so it was a rare and great treat in the middle of New York City. If they continue it in 2012 it’s a definite on our list to revisit, and a recommended haunt to seek out.

2011, Attractions, Haunted Attractions, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Haunted House: Fright Factory Review 2011

Harknell, Onezumi, Amber, and Isaiah

We visited Fright Factory in 2011 with our friends Amber and Isaiah.

Fright Factory is a haunted attraction in Philadelphia that had 4 attractions for 2011: iChem Industries, Philadelphia Haunted Asylum Tours, Undercroft Cemetary, and Amygdala.

We had gone to FF before and had some issues with it. Since then, they have redone the place. Undercroft Cemetery and Amygdala are new. iChem and Philadelphia Haunted Asylum Tours all have noticeable upgrades. Philadelphia Haunted Asylum had a new pre show that I felt worked very well.

Undercroft Cemetary and Amygdala were the strong attractions of the night. Undercroft was a great winding cemetery trail full of scare actors. There was one particular scare actor in there that WOULD NOT GIVE UP OMG. It was awesome. :D I think he followed us through like 4 rooms.

Amygdala was our favorite. This attraction was full of creepy little girls. I believe the idea was that a murdered child was getting revenge on those who wronged her. Each room had different things happening with shadow projections and audio. I’d like to see small timing adjustments in this one to make it more obvious that these things were happening because I missed it at first (could have just been me being at the end of the line).

Scare actors were plentiful, the staff was pleasant and inviting, and we enjoyed ourselves a lot. I recommend this one to you!

2011, Oni's Life, Recipe

Feuerzangenbowle recipe, New Year’s Eve Party, and holy crap my table is on fire

So, I had the most brilliant idea ever. I decided to make Feuerzangenbowle (“foy-er-zangen-bow-leh” or Fire Tongs Punch. Or Fire Punch. Whatever you wan to call it. :) ) for New Year’s Eve. Feuerzangenbowle is a traditional German mulled wine that involved spices, juice, sugar, and FIRE. I thought, “Hey, I’m half German. I like fire. This is a great idea!”


How to Make Feuerzangenbowle without German ingredients:

Since Feuerzangenbowle supplies aren’t readily available here in New Jersey and all of the German stores were sold out of them, we had to make do with what I called a “Feuerzangenhoopty”. A lot of times fresh spices and fruit are used, but we substituted ground and juice.

– Crock Pot
– Metal Strainer

– 1 bottle Bacardi 151 Rum
– 2 bottles of dry, red wine

– 250g (half a box) sugarcubes
– 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
– Half teaspoon Ginger
– Pinch of Cloves
– 3-4 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
– 1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice

– A fire extinguisher
– A long kitchen lighter
– A long metal ladle

1. Turn Crock Pot on medium. Pour red wine into the pot. Pour the juice and spice in there, too. Leave it heat up until its really warm.

2. Put the sugar cubes into a shallow dish. Cover with Bacardi. Let it absorb for about 15 minutes.

3. Put Bacardi sugar cubes into the metal strainer. Place the strainer on top of the crock pot, and light it with a long lighter.

4. When the sugar starts to turn brown/black, add more Bacardi or just let it burn out and dump it into the pot, mix and serve in mugs.


Step 3 is where things went downhill for us. XD

At first things went well:

Water and Onezumi Mugs set up with glow cubes:

Cupcakes and fancy table candle:

Setting up the table with all of the nice food we bought:

It was all going fine until right after this photo was taken:

Harknell was surprised that the ladle of Bacardi 151 that was to be ladled onto the sugar cubes became flaming. Ideally what you do in this case is to hold the ladle out and the alcohol will burn out on it’s own. It’s normal.

We kind of didn’t realize this, so he went to put it down. Unfortunately he accidentally put it down into the plastic Tupperware that was holding the rest of the Bacardi 151. This lit up.

So hmm. HEY GAIZ. Our table is now on fire.

In retrospect, we could have probably covered the fire with something and put it out, but there were so many people in the room that we became confused as to where to get something to do that with. Eventually, we just took the nuclear option and used the nearby fire extinguisher…on the entire table of food. My friend happened to be recording video during this time. Errr:

This video my friend took is circulating around facebook.

@_@;

Result? Food covered in chemicals and this:

So at about 8PM all of our party food was gone. We went out for burgers. Gloria, who does Guest Relations for Intervention happened to be a bartender. She arrived later, brought more wine and we did it right.

Soaking the sugar cubes in the Bacardi 151:

Fire! In the pot, NOT on the table:

Success:

I win for most memorable NYE party! The only way I can top this one is to incorporate leprechauns and explosives at the next one.

And BTW, the wine was delicious. If you make it, just take care not to do what we did. D:

2011, Attractions, Florida, General, Haunted Attractions, Oni's Life, Theme Parks

Behind the Scenes at Busch Gardens Howl O Scream 2011

If you’d like to read my review of Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl O Scream 2011, click here.

As usual, Harknell and I had a blast. We have been traveling all the way from New Jersey for this for 3 years now. It would have been 4 years if I hadn’t been the idiot who thought BGT was too far away from Orlando in 2008. I mistakenly thought that Tampa was where Miami is located. Miami is 3.5 hours away, Tampa is only 1.

:/ FAIL.

Since 2009, BGT HoS was the highlight of our haunt tour each year. There is just something about BGT’s HoS that resonated with me. Until this year, I couldn’t figure out what it was.

They usually have a meet up for internetz types during the opening week of the haunt. The problem with this for out of towners is that the haunts are only running on Friday and Saturday during the first week of operation. We usually go the second week because the haunts are running normally (from Thursday through Sunday). For us to go down early enough to attend the meet up it would involve a net loss of nights for us to see the haunts. I love BGT HoS so much that I really considered it, but common sense dictated that we go later when we can have more time with the attractions.

You can imagine how excited we were when we were contacted by Busch Gardens Tampa’s Media Relations department and invited to see the event this year with them during mid October.

Look, I’m from Jersey. I’m not used to people being nice to me. My jaw is still on the floor. Thank you so much Media Relations Manager Jill Revelle and Director of Creative Services Scott Swenson for taking the time out of your busy schedules to spend time with us.

(NOTE: Sorry about the blurriness on some of the shots. Since this trip I went out and bought a flash attachment to prevent any further camera shenanigans. Next year’s haunt photos should be a lot better. :D)

First we met up with Jill and went to Fright Feast together. I have NO IDEA why, but I was pretty nervous. For more pix of the event and the Fright Feast, click over to my review.

We each got Front Line Fear passes and a swag bag:

Harknell got this cool T Shirt:

Lots of notebooks and pens and HoS gum:

After Fright Feast, we unexpectedly got to meet the park president and the VP of Finance. That was surreal and awesome. They seemed like really nice guys. Then Jill, Harknell, and I went through some of the houses together. The coolest part was that she would tell me things about the houses before, after, and during when we were going through them. There are things in the houses that your average person might miss, but we saw it all! :D

Later in the night, Jill had a surprise for me. I had spoken with HoS Creative Director Scott Swenson before, but we had never met in person. We were led into a secret room and got to talk with Scott for about 20 minutes, attend the following presentation, and then talk some more! Honestly? I missed out on riding some rides because we stayed so long, but we didn’t care! I do love rides, but I’m downright fascinated by the creative process of haunted attractions and theme parks. I am a Project Manager now for digital media projects, but my dream job would be to work on something in the theme park or haunted attraction industry. Hanging out with Jill and Scott was the better deal by far. Scott is just as nice as he seems in person.

Scott showed us his Sylvie doll (Sylvie was last year’s icon.) that was given to him last year:

Also:

We also got to see some plans for the houses, but I can’t show you those. Just take my word for it – they were cool!

After all of this it was about 11:30 PM, and we had to go to our reservation for the Alone House. (I talk about this in my full review of BGT HoS.)

I’ll just cut to the chase. I think the reason why BGT HoS always resonated with me was because these guys put on their event with the same enthusiasm Harknell and I have for our event. I can really tell when people take pride in their work and I think others can, too. It was cool to see Jill and Scott talk about their work. It was almost like looking at a mirror image of the bizarro Florida Oni and Harknell. The presentation wasn’t just an “oh wow cool” type of thing to us. We really were engaging with what they were saying. We just started our own event in 2010, so a lot of the logistical and planning challenges that any event faces are things we think about every day. We are kind of weird in that we enjoy what we are doing, so talking about planning the construction of something is actually fun to us.

There are 2 days in my life that I can point to as the best day of my life. The first one is when I was 28 and finally able to afford to go to Orlando after a lifetime of working for it. The second is this day at BGT HoS.

The best part about all of this is that this wasn’t some attempt to convince me to like their event more than I already did. You can do a search on my blog to read my reviews of their stuff before anyone ever contacted me and longtime readers know that subtlety is not my strong suit. I was urged many times over the course of the night to tell them if things were not working right so that they can fix them. They kept telling me to blog even the negative things, too.

Sorry, guys, I’m a total jerkbag and even I can’t think of anything negative to say about HoS this year aside from the fact that you guys RAN OUT OF HOODIES so I couldn’t buy one! :D I will definitely be back next year!

2011, Haunted Attractions, Pennsylvania

Shocktoberfest in Sinking Spring, PA

Shocktoberfest in Sinking Spring, PA was one of the best haunts we have ever been to.

The haunt consists of:

– Prison of the Dead
– Biohazard Hayride
– The Unknown (New for 2011)

They also have Club Shock: Ghouls Gone Wild – a dance club in the tent that covers the queue for the Hayride. The Monster Midway is an area with games, refreshments, and some scare actors. You could say this is actually 5 attractions. I say it’s 3, with 2 cool areas. (I classify an attraction as something you wait in line for and go through.)

Let’s break it down:

Prison of the Dead:

Prison of the Dead was INSANE. This is the first house I have been through in awhile where I was LEGITIMATELY AFRAID. You approach the haunt via a school bus that was painted to be a prison bus and leave via the same bus. These guys scared me more than Eastern State Penitentiary because they just got weird with it. They seemed to have designed the entire complex to just screw with your head. The actors can touch you and grab you. At one point someone grabbed me and prevented me from getting through the maze to where Harknell was, which freaked me the heck out.

The scariest part was the end where you had to bend down and run through the sewers while people on bungee cords jumped at you and could grab you and pull you down. Afterward you exit into a really creepy yard that was downright frightening. This attraction is the best attraction in Shocktoberfest. I recommend you do this one last.

Biohazard Hayride:

Biohazard Hayride is hands down the best Hayride I have ever been on in my life. It made Bates Motel look like Chuck E. Cheese. The cart takes you through dark tunnels that close on either side. You get to watch a full scene play out. Actors will come over to you grab you, touch you, and activate high quality animatronics that really work. This is not a case of pre fab animtronics that are just there for the heck of it. These props WORK. At one point we almost got eaten by GIANT WORM POD THINGS OMG.

The Unknown:

The Unknown is their newest and unfortunately the weakest attraction. The attraction’s concept and construction were great – the idea was that a steampunk professor and assistant were subjecting you to tests. The only reason that this attraction was tough to enjoy was the 3D glasses they used for it. The 3D glasses were so bad it was like being forced to go blindfolded through a great attraction. They used the crappy 1980s 3D with the red and blue lenses and not the modern 3D with 2 clear lenses that all the other attractions and movies are using. The result was that YOU COULD NOT SEE ANYTHING through most of the attraction.

This wasn’t a case where you couldn’t see things that they didn’t want you to see – we legitimately could not see things that we were supposed to see. We ended up just taking the glasses off after we got through some of it. The 3D was such a huge fail. It really prevented us from enjoying this one. I hope that they redo the 3D. This is easily a groundbreaking attraction – if only we could just see what is happening inside it!

Club Shock: Ghouls Gone Wild and The Monster Midway:

The club was well done. I liked that it was additive to the Hayride’s queue, which is the longest queue. Clubs like these in haunted attractions are never destinations in themselves. The best usage of them are as queue distractions. I feel that they did this well.

The Monster Midway had a large selection of food, homemade cookies, hot drinks, and game. The scare actors were fun, too. Again, not a destination, but a great addition to a complex of strong attractions.

Conclusion:

I wholeheartedly recommend Shocktoberfest to you. I’m angry at myself that I didn’t try these guys out sooner, because they may very well be the best attraction in the Northeast. The only problem we had was with the implementation of the 3D inside The Unknown. I hope that they fix that for 2012.

Most of the cool stuff was actually on the attractions, which I didn’t have authorization to photograph. Here is what I could get for you: