Category: 2012

2012, Attractions, General, Guest Post, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks, UK

Guest Post: Islington, London: ScareCon 2013

Guest post by RollerColster. All photos are copyright of Stephen Candy Photography.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here on Onezumiverse, and haunted attractions here in the UK are going from strength to strength year on year with more popping up in every possible corner of the country. There’s still some way to go to catch you guys up in the States but there are some very exciting things happening this year with some of the larger scale attractions and quite a few innovative smaller attractions that I hope you’ll enjoy reading about over the coming weeks.

One of the biggest events of the year (apart from Halloween itself) is ScareCON – We attended back in June but I felt it was such an important part of the build up to Halloween that I just had to write a piece about it. Here you’ll find the absolute cream of the crop of attractions run over here in the UK as well as a quite a few familiar faces from across Europe and worldwide. The majority of the attendees are from the industry but the event is a must do for anyone who has a keen interest in the running of any of the attractions and also offers a few hints as to what’s new for the coming year.

We arrive bright an early to a bustling venue – The Islington Metalworks in London. In previous years the event has moved around but the location this year really added to the charm of the event. Rather than feeling like a big corporate event, the quirky atmosphere of a building steeped in so much history really brought something new this year.

We arrived just as Kernow Scare Attractions – one of the UK’s leading production companies began their talk. A small company that has grown from pretty much nothing in a small space of time. They are producing some impressive frights and are well known on the UK music festival circuit. They talked about producing haunts on a budget and all the pitfalls in setting up a brand new haunt – fascinating stuff!

Next up Katie Hastings talked about what its like to actually work as a scare actor inside the mazes. Katie is one of the most established scare actresses in the UK and is well respected throughout the country. Her current role is show captain for The Sanctuary at Alton Towers – one of the UK’s newest and most impressive mazes. Her show reel reads like an A-Z of the business. Her talk is engaging and honest, rather than glossing over everything, she tells us the real story of the scare maze, the exhaustion, the illness and not to mention how to cope with abusive guests.

Andrew Porter is at the forefront of maze design, having cut his teeth with some of major players in the US, he has brought his knowledge and experience over to UK soils. His talk is all about breaking boundaries of what can be done on a budget and the importance of attention to detail. It’s an enlightening talk and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Over in one of the workshop rooms, I took part in a prosthetics workshop conducted by Silicone Kitchen, it’s quite a large group but there’s lots of help and good advice given. My piece actually ended up looking pretty damned awesome with a little help from the experts but I’m left thinking that my clumsy fingers really aren’t cut out for the SFX make-up business!

Back in the Seminar hall, Lee Fields of Zed Events talks about one of the most exciting attractions we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing to date – Zombie Manor House (and also Zombie Mall), armed with an air-soft gun you’re given limited ammo and taught the basics of SWAT training, it’s one of the most immersive activities we’ve tried (its literally as close to real life Resident Evil as it gets) and a talk which we were desperate to catch. Lee focused on the health and safety aspects of creating such an experience and also about finding the right location, not only was the talk insightful but it also fueled our hunger to get back to the manor house for some more zombie killing action!

Over the past couple of years, there seems to have been a surge of city wide chase games where players pay to take part in an interactive story which has them running around a whole city chased by zombies or monsters. Scott Jenkins from More Is More (one of the companies at the helm of these kind of games) talks of the issues they faced when populating a city full of monsters. He also focused on the importance of creating something unique and innovative in order to get people talking.

Next up, Sean Boon, Hampshire magician gives a workshop on the essentials of social media and the importance in getting it right. Despite having used social media for years it was a great refresher course and although aimed at new users there was still loads of bad habits we had maybe fallen into over the years!

Pete Cliff creator of The Sanctuary at Alton Towers Scarefest talked about how they created such an immersive attraction. Its very clear how much passion and focus Pete has and how it all transferred into the maze. It’s arguably the biggest success story of 2012 for UK haunts.

Andrew Walker from Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights event took to the stage next and mainly gave an overview of the event talking about how they’ve created some of the most unique attractions and how some have worked and talked openly of why others didn’t. He hinted at big things to come for 2013, a big revamp of the event was in order and a teaser image left everyone in the room talking for the rest of the day.

Tom Swift creator of Hop Farm Freak Week talked about how he’s created one of the most successful events in recent years. Again offering innovative attractions he talked about the operational aspects of running a large scale haunt but dropped the bombshell that Freak Week wouldn’t be returning for 2013 and that he was going to focus on bringing one maze into the public eye – Pitch Black – arguably one of the event’s strongest and scariest mazes – we’re really looking forward to this one in 2013!

Of course, we couldn’t get around it all, in fact our biggest criticism of the event in 2013 was that there was just so much to see and so many people to speak to. Over in the trade show, the experts showed off their products including surprise guest Bobbie Weiner – legendary makeup artist with credits such as The Walking Dead and Titanic to her belt to name just a few. We felt like we could’ve talked to her for hours. A familiar face to the event, it was a pleasure to speak to Paul Davies of Tollbooth Music – one of our favourite speakers of ScareCON 2012. Another favourite at the trade show were the guys at Haunted Lantern – a clever product which we hope to be seeing more of. To mention everyone would take forever but with such a friendly atmosphere it’s easy to get lost amongst the stalls!

We took a short break ready to get ready for the evening, the Scareball is one of the highlights of the event, with the day drawing to a close the emphasis is on party with a capital P! Everyone makes an effort to get dressed in some unique and inventive costumes. The night is kicked off by an impressive demo from the Haunted Lantern crew, before the weird and wonderful “Gorelesue” show is brought to life on stage in front of our very eyes. A mixture of magic, comedy and dance plays out and is a fantastic way to end the day. The party continued with everyone dancing into the early hours.

But it didn’t end there for us! Whilst most of the guests heading back to their comfortable, cosy hotels we had signed up to take part in The Vigil – the newest part of the event. In previous years ScareCON has hosted ‘Scarerooms’ but this year took the rulebook and ripped it to shreds. With one massive building to explore, we were sent off in groups to contact the spirits that lay dormant in the shadows of the Ironworks. Throughout the night, bar staff had been briefed on stories from the building’s past which all helped to make for a completely convincing experience and even though I was in on one of the secrets of the evening, I felt terrified from start to finish. So many thing happened and to shorten it all into a paragraph really doesn’t do the experience justice but with the release of ‘Scare Room 5’ – you can see the whole thing here:

Please be aware due to the nature of the video it contains strong language.

ScareCON continues to grow from strength to strength and we can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

2012, Pennsylvania, Theme Parks

4 reasons why Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania was the worst theme park experience I have ever had in my life

I get a lot of emails and messages from readers asking me to check out Hershey Park in Hershey, PA. I also get a lot of people asking me what I feel about Hershey Park. I actually have, but I hadn’t posted about it because I was frankly too angry last Summer to do so.

I had gone to Hershey Park once in 1992 and had a pretty good time. I returned in about 2004 and had a less good time. I remember really long lines and the food poisoning that I got from their pizza stand on that trip. The most recent (and last time ever) I went to Hershey Park was August 2012. Last Summer.

There is a point in which you have such a terrible time at a park that you just can’t post anything at that time – so I didn’t. I like to be fair when I post things like this. Now that it is about a year later I have calmed down. I’ve thought it through enough that I am confident about posting this. I believe the park management needs to hear this and hopefully make some changes. We feel that Hershey Park is without a doubt the worst park experience we have had in recent years.

Hershey Park is the only theme park I have ever been to in which the experience was so terrible that we ended up leaving after only 3 hours and feeling like we wasted our entire day and our money.

We were so frustrated that we should have probably asked for a refund but we just were done after what we had gone through.

I’ll explain.

The drive to get to Hershey Park is 2.5 hours for us one way so it was a rollicking fun day of 5 hours in a car and 3 hours of utter frustration and hell inside the park.

1. Confusing layout with no signs: Hershey Park is not a large park and the pathways are a little confusing. This is not a problem. Many parks that we go to deal with confusing layouts by posting lots of signs, giving the guests good maps, and perhaps even an app to navigate with. Hershey gets it all wrong. The signs were the most confusing I have ever seen in a theme park. The maps were just as bad. The iPhone app we had was absolutely useless to the point where my mild-mannered husband almost threw his phone on the floor in a rage. To be fair almost every theme park app is terrible, but when the signs and print map has already failed you it’s a bit crazy.

The day we went it was almost 100 degrees outside. We were confused and lost for the entire time we were there.

2. Their Fast Track system is appallingly bad: They have a “Fast Track” system that is much like Disney’s Fastpass if Disney’s Fastpass were handled by someone stuck in the 70s with no concept of how to handle their own park’s capacity and no idea what every other theme park is doing today. These things are basically little paper punch card tickets that you buy for the ridiculous price of $50. For that cost you would think that it would be like almost every other theme park where you can choose which rides you want to ride, right?


Your ticket has a list of 9 coasters and specific times that you have to arrive at the queue in order to get on the ride. You can only ride each ride once. The understanding I have is that if you miss your appointment time you are screwed. You can see a photo of the tickets and get more info here.

Let me make myself clear here – I’m the person who does not care that much about paying for things like this. I believe in paying for quality. Almost every theme park I go to I am the person who buys the option that lets me ride quicker.

In addition to this I review theme parks for my blog. While this is fun it can also be grueling to go to so many every season. The ability to buy up really helps me get my work done faster. In addition to this my husband can’t ride coasters so it’s far more worth it for us to buy up so that I can get on and off of the rides fast so he isn’t baking in the sun.

I’m fine with paying $50 – but Hershey is way out of line with their price point for this option. Your $50 gets you far less than what most other parks would sell you for that price. For example, at Cedar Point $50 gets you the ability to bypass the line on 20 rides as much as you want. At Hershey it gets you only 1 ride on 9 rides but only during your appointment time. Yes, Cedar Point has more rides. I am not fixated on the number of rides – the point is that a large percentage of Cedar Point is available to you when you buy up there and only a small percentage of the rides at Hershey are available to you for the same/similar price.

We decided to buy the Fast Track for me even though it was expensive because we didn’t care. It was almost 100 degrees out and there is almost no tree cover in Hershey Park. Because of point #1, we were lost and confused for about 10 minutes upon entering the park. This was enough time for all of the Fast Tracks to sell out so we couldn’t even buy one. They must not actually have that many Fast Tracks available per day. We encountered a very poorly-managed line and some park employees who seemed downright confused. They told us to keep checking back throughout the day as they might get some more in.

What? It’s like they just deployed this system sloppily without doing any studies on the park’s capacity and are just making it up as they go! I have never ever seen a theme park not know how many of these things they have per day. What the heck, guys. What the heck…

The bottom line is that if you plan to have a relaxing day in Hershey Park with a Fast Track you’ll need to pretend it’s the 70s and camp out for one like a Van Halen concert or something. They do not appear to keep many in stock and the way they are managing this system appears to be questionable, overpriced, and variant from every other theme park in America. It’s like Hershey Park is the crazy kid in the corner eating paste. When even *Six Flags* can put out a better system there is something wrong.

3. Very little shade in ride queues and a callous attitude about it: We were here on a nearly 100 degree day and it was made that much worse by there being absolutely no tree or roof cover in the ride queue we were in. (NOTE: We only got on 1 ride the ENTIRE TIME WE WERE THERE, so I can’t comment about the others.) What does the park do, though? They send vendors pushing and shoving through the lines (adding to guest discomfort) selling cold drinks at a mark up. I felt like I was in the joke theme park that they make fun of in The Simpsons ride at Universal Studios. This was the reality. I could almost hear Apu’s speech about the tiny but expensive shot glass-sized slushie that once you drink it it becomes a second drink from the leftover ice.

4. Hershey Park employees have no idea how to load rides and they can’t deal with single riders: This was the number 1 thing that infuriated us and ultimately led us to leave in a rage. There are no single rider lines (of course). While this sucks, it’s not something that woudl lead to an umtimate negative from me. What did was how they handled the lines in general. We waited for over 2 hours in the line for Fahrenheit. The line was long, but it was not that long. What would happen is that each time there were an uneven number or a single rider, they would not fill the car with another single rider – they would just send the car through with empty seats.

They do not do this:

They run empty cars because they don’t care:

Imagine this – you are standing in direct sunlight. It’s 100 degrees. The line is over 2 hours long while cold drink vendors push through the line. The entire 2 hours you are watching half-full cars launch because the employees can’t even bother to fully load the car. When you, a single rider gets to the front of the line they also have you ride next to an empty seat while hundreds of people in the line look like they are about to fall over from heat stroke. They might as well have had a giant Hershey Kiss giving the finger to the park guests from the loading platform.

After I finally rode Farenheit we were starving because by then it was noon. Even though we arrived at opening, we ended up only getting on 1 ride by lunchtime and felt miserable for it. We went to a rotunda-type area and tried to find a place to eat but the map and the iPhone app failed to give us the information we needed.

This is when we lost it. Those of you know that Harknell is the most quiet and patient person ever. He almost threw his phone on the ground in a rage because we were both so miserable, the lines weren’t being managed well, and we couldn’t even figure out where to eat because the map and signs were a big pile of fail.

We then left the park gladly and departed for New Jersey never to set foot in Hershey Park again.

We will never get that day that we wasted back.

Have you gone after August 2012? Did they make any changes? Let me know in the comments.

2012, Attractions, Florida, General, Haunted Attractions, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Reviews, Theme Parks

OniHaunts 2012 Haunted Attraction Awards

We’ve reviewed a lot of haunted houses last season. There’s small group of haunts that went above and beyond everyone else. This is our first year honoring the best of the best.

How We Judge This Thing:

Since every Haunted Attraction differs it’s kind of silly to compare all of them against each other. It would not be fair to compare Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights to a small farm haunt. We rated the haunts based on how good they were in relation to their scale.

Not every haunt that we loved got an award. Why? Winning one of these is not easy. A haunt has to truly blow us away above and beyond to get one. They have to be a haunt that not only can we recommend to anyone looking for the absolute BEST haunt experience – they have to also do something different and or better than everyone else in their class.

We figured out why these haunts were the best of the best and tailored the award to them so that the awards are also informative for both attraction owners and haunt fans.

It goes without saying that every haunt that got an award is worth your time.

The most difficult award to get from us is The Brutality Award. This award is only given to 1 haunt each year. To get it they have to basically nearly reduce both Harknell and I to tears. Considering that we go through hundreds of these and have seen it all this is not an easy task to accomplish.

Best Theme Park Halloween Festival:
Busch Gardens Howl O Scream: Tampa, Florida

The combination of passionate scare actors, team spirit, innovation, great set construction and scares puts Tampa, Florida’s Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream above all of the rest.

Innovation Award:
Third Rail Projects: Then She Fell (Formerly The Steampunk Haunted House): New York City

Not exactly a haunted attraction but we feel that discerning haunt fans will love this. We also feel that haunts could learn a thing or 2 about narrative from the Third Rail Projects folks. Then She Fell, creepy interactive theatre from New York City easily takes the Innovation Award.

Best Farm Haunt & Best Scare Actors:
Corner of Chaos: East Windsor, NJ

East Windsor’s Corner of Chaos stole both the Best Farm Haunt (largely thanks to their phenomenal Barbaric Barnyward walk through attraction) AND Best Scare Actors award. It was obvious they spent a lot of time training their actors in improv and scare tactics.

Best Atmosphere:
Nightmare on Gravity Hill: Jackson, NJ

Jackson, New Jersey’s Nightmare on Gravity Hill is a relatively new haunt but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. Beautiful set pieces beyond anything we have ever seen grace this large farm haunted attraction.

National Treasure Award:
The Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab: Akron, OH

The Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab in Akron, Ohio wasn’t just worth the 9 hour drive for us- it was probably worth the last 30 years I have lived on this earth to get to the point where I could experience it. There is no other haunted house like this. You’ll find a mixture of classic haunted house techniques married with the unwavering passion of the family who has been doing this since the mid-70s. We believe they should be National Treasure.

Best Indie Haunt:
Easton Haunts: Allentown, PA

Probably the most underrated haunt we went to. More people should be talking about this haunt because it is a total Must See. Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Easton Haunts is a handcrafted haunt with professional execution that blew us away. You will find things inside this haunt that you will see no where else because they probably invented it themselves.

Best Haunt Complex:
Hundred Acre Manor: Pittsburgh, PA

Hundred Acre Manor in Pittsburgh, PA had amazing set pieces that you might expect to see in Orlando. The haunt was top quality, very long, and well worth anyone’s time.

Best Theme Execution:
The Scarehouse: Pittsburgh, PA

The Scarehouse in Pittsburgh, PA managed to take themes that many other haunts have used to bore us out of the realm of the cliche and turn it into something new. The professionally handcrafted and surprisingly wonderful and engaging visual and auditory vistas in this haunt were better than the rest. (If you call being scared out of your wits “wonderful”. We do.)

The Brutality Award:
Hotel of Horror / Altered Nightmares: Saylorsburg, PA

Finally we have the Award to end all Awards. There is no higher honor than The Brutality Award. To win this you have to reduce both Harknell and myself to probably tears, which almost never happens. You have to brutalize us.

Congratulations to Hotel of Horror / Altered Nightmares in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. We love you, you sick and twisted f—s!

Honorable Mention:

The following haunts have our wholehearted stamp of approval.

Maryland – Rockville: Hallowinc Urban Haunted House
New York City: Nightmare: Killers
Pennsylvania – Lehighton: The Haunting at the Waldorf
Pennsylvania – Sinking Spring: Shocktoberfest
New Jersey – Passaic: Night-Mares/Brighton Asylum
New Jersey – Mullica Hill: Night of Terror
Pennsylvania – Philadelphia: Fright Factory
Pennsylvania – Philadelphia: Eastern State Penitentiary Terror Behind the Walls
Pennsylvania – Philadelphia: Eastern State Penitentiary Terror Behind the Walls: REMIX (Special Event)
Pennsylvania – Glen Mills: Bates Motel
Pennsylvania – Plymouth Meeting: Lulu’s House of Horrors
Pennsylvania – Lancaster: Field of Screams

2012, Oni's Life

My husband is used to this

I doubt that Harknell is ever bored. I learned early on that he lives up to being a Taurus. You can’t really get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. He’s a bull. However I am an Aries. That means I’m basically a bull with different testes. Or something. Somehow we manage to circumvent each other’s stupid tendencies to be dumb.

I don’t know the MATHS behind it, but it generally results in the two of us laughing like idiots.

2012, Film and TV

Film Review: Sinister: Startle scares, but not much more than that

To put it simply: Sinister was a slow-moving film that recycled bits from The Ring plus every horror film involving a family with children.

Let’s talk about this film in terms of my Horror Film Cliche List because this film basically kicked most of them in he nuts and served them up on a platter:

1. Asshole hubris-consumed Dad in a crappy marriage forcing his family to move to a new house? Check!

This scenario is a bit hard to swallow as the most common criticism is “Why don’t they just LEAVE THE DAMN HOUSE!” The reason why is because if they did we’d have no film or (In the case of “Sinister”) a much shorter film.

2. Zero communication between husband and wife? Check!

Cliche #2 has to exist to support cliche #1. I particularly hate it because it most often portrays the wife as a hand-wringing or angry nothing with all bark and no bite. The wife in this film may as well not exist. I can’t even remember her name. Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and the cast did a great job portraying these characters, but the cliched element of the entire set up just left me flat.

3. Creepy kid that acts weird which telegraphs the ending a mile away? Check!

Oh wow. A creepy, monotone little girl is his daughter. I’m not even going to tell you the ending, but you can probably figure out what it is within the first 5 minutes of the film.

4. Startle scares with no substance boogity boogity? Check!

There was hardly any character development for anyone (including Sinister pagan clown man whatever he is) except for Ellison. This made it hard to care and hard to stay interested in the film. If I ever have insomnia, the first 2/3rds of this film would be a great cure. I saw one reviewer compare this to the first SAW film. I disagree. In SAW, you were drawn in trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. There were very few pieces of any puzzle in “Sinister”. It was just Ellison downing whiskey and fumbling with some old film. It was the same level as watching someone be confused while walking through a haunted house. It was not badly executed. They did an excellent job setting the creepy tone of the story, but much like a good-looking person with the brain the size of a pea it was just boring.

When I review haunted houses, I believe they should have a decent narrative to be truly amazing. I feel the same way about my films.

I had to break this film up into 3 showings because it just plain didn’t hold my attention. The film was indeed excellently shot and the soundtrack was second to none. The reason I was able to turn it of and on again was because the plot seemed obvious from the beginning of the film and no surprises were to be had.

Sinister himself (or whatever his pagan name was – I’m not even going to look that up because I could care less about him) amounted to little more than startle scares. The parting shot where he jumps in your face before the credits made me jump of course, but it wasn’t because I was afraid of Sinister guy man thing whatever – it’s because it got really loud and a dude was in my face. If you are in the mood for a simple startle scare film you’ll enjoy this, but I was glad when it was finally over.