Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day/Dead Presidents Weekend Haunts 2015

February 9th, 2015

The Fun and Terror Continues….

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There’s no better combination for “off season haunt” than a long Dead President’s weekend with both a Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day. The S&M fun of 50 Shades of Gray is no match to the heart pumping you’ll feel from getting stalked by spooks, frightened by freaks, and chased by chainsaws on Valentine’s Night.

For 2015 many haunts across the country are planning to make the most of the holiday weekend as there’s a nice and long list of Bloody Valentine’s offerings, It’s a known fact that being scared is physiologically arousing and as we always say, love will never do without haunts.

 

Alabama

Warehouse 31 – Birmingham

Arx Mortis – Killen

Arizona

The 13th Floor – Phoenix

California

Talladega Frights-My Bloody Valentine – Bakersfield

Zombie Joe’s Ghosts of the Underground – North Hollywood

Fear Overload Scream Park – San Leandro

Reign of Terror – Thousand Oaks

Colorado

The 13th Floor’s Valentine X – Denver

Connecticut

Scream Acres’s Zombie Prom & Bloody Valentine’s – Covington

Florida

Legends Dark Amusements-A Haunting in Old Town – Kissimmee

The Shadow Grave: A Night to Dismember – Winter Heaven

Illinois

Basement of the Dead - Aurora

13th Floor Haunted House – Chicago

Factory of Love (Teddy Bear Killer) – Moline

Nightmare on Fairgrounds Road: Broken Hearts – Princeton

 

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Kansas

The Asylum Haunted House: My Bloody Valentine – Chetopa

Michigan

Exit 13 Haunted House -Mount Morris

50 Shades of Phun – Westland

New Jersey

Brighton Asylum-Dark Valentine’s – Passaic

New York

Blood Manor – NYC – Scare Zone has visited Blood Manor on Valentine’s Day and had a bloody good time. Read our review here.

Times Scare – NYC

Nyctophobia Haunted House – Eastport

North Carolina

Deceased Farm: My Deceased Valentine – Lexington

Oklahoma

 Guthrie Haunts: My Vexed Valentine – Guthrie

The Sanctuary’s Tunnel of Love – Oklahoma City

Pennsylvania

Castle Blood’s Love & Death – Monessen

Valentine’s Ghost Tour – Philadelphia

Halloween Park – Strinestown

Tennessee

Ripley’s Haunted Adventure: My Bloody Valentine – Gatlinburg

Slaughter House Bloody Valentine – Hermitage

Frightmare Manor – Morrison

Haunted Hell – Nashville

Texas

House of Torment – Austin

Moxley Manor-Valentine’s Day Massacre – Bedford

House of Horrors’s Tortured Love -Clyde

50 Shades of Fear at Hangman’s House of Horrors -Fort Worth

Cutting Edge-Twisted Love – Fort Worth SZ Review

Tayman Graveyard-Valentine Massacre – Midlothian

Dark Hour Haunted House – Plano

The 13th Floor - San Antonio

Utah

Castle of Chaos – Taylorsville

Virginia

Night Watch Haunt’s Dark Hearts – Hellsville

Shocktober’s My Bloody Valentine – Leesburg

St. Albans Sanatorium’s Fatal Attraction - Radford

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We hope you have a horrifyingly Valentine’s NIGHT! We look forward to hearing all about it… if you survive. 

Brighton Asylum’s “Dark Valentine” haunted house this Valentine’s weekend!

February 9th, 2015

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Looking to get felt up this Valentine’s weekend? Combining the two popular haunt trends of extreme and Valentine’s day haunts, Brighton Asylum want’s you to “be their’s” at the “Dark Valentine” full contact haunted attraction open this Valentine’s weekend!

Only those who accept a glow necklace at the ticket booth will be participants in this more intense haunted attraction experience. If at any time you want the contact to stop, just discard the necklace. Those who wish to attend the event without contact simply enter without glow necklace.

Note: you MUST be 18 years or older to enter this attraction, and willing to sign our waiver. You will be screened by security. I.D. is checked. Those under the age of 18 years CAN participate if accompanied by a parent. We are not responsible for minor’s who attempt to enter with an adult guardian other than their parent.

NEW: TIMED TICKETING! Now you can purchase a timed ticketing slot and greatly reduce your wait time!

At Brighton Asylum’s “Contact” verion of “Dark Valentine”, you may be subjected, but not limited, to the following: forced separation from your group or path, simulated abduction, physical contact, contact with water, profanity, etc. Not recommended for pregnant women, people with heart conditions, respiratory problems, back and neck problems, balance problems, anxiety conditions, claustrophobia conditions, and other medical conditions that could be made worse by these situations.

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Feb 13th/14th, 8:30pm-10:30pm
Brighton Asylum – 2 Brighton Ave, Passaic NJ 07055

SPECIAL SAVINGS!
$5.00 Savings
Use Promo Code DARK

Buy Your Tickets Here

About Brighton Asylum: 

Brighton Asylum Legend
Brighton’s industrial complex, a series of old and decrepit warehouses, was used for housing mentally unstable and psychologically damaged individuals back in the mid 1940’s. After years of extremely harsh living conditions, grotesque medical experiments, staff disappearances, and screams spilling into the residential areas during the night, the state permanently closed the facility in 1952 pending a full investigation. No such results of an investigation can be found to date. The series of unthinkable events that took place between the mid 1940’s and 1952, are still waiting to be discovered. Several of the head doctors and psychiatrists involved, allegedly, found a way to tap into the minds of their patients in an effort to experience first hand exactly what was in the deepest, darkest, recesses of their minds. They thought this would provide them with a better understanding of their patients and ultimately lead to better treatments. Ultimately, rumor has it, it drove them to the brink of insanity themselves. There are reports of doctor’s, psychiatrists, nurses, and even guards, clawing their own skin off, pulling their teeth out, cutting their eyelids off, and performing surgeries on themselves and each other, just to name a few of the many grotesqueries that were rumored to have happened as a result of this unprecedented technique.

All was quiet for 59 years while Brighton Asylum sat unexposed, decaying and cut off from any and all outside influence. All the while, Brighton Asylum sat unexposed, decaying and cut off from any and all outside influence. Then, as if to be suddenly given a new lease on life, Brighton Asylum re-opened in 2011 as a haunted attraction. Its creaky doors open to the public once again, and ever since, thousands of people have been exploring its hallways and rooms where hundreds of patients lost their minds. Some say that when you enter one of the patient rooms, you actually enter the mind of that patient, encompassing everything that patient was and everything that drove that patient to the brink of insanity. Is your mind strong enough to endure it? Or will you suffer the same fate that so many have rumored to have suffered before you, and become yet another victim of the infamous and harrowing Brighton Asylum?

Reign of Terror: Friday the 13th Event!

January 21st, 2015

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Great news for Southern California haunt fans! Reign of Terror, in Thousand Oaks, will be opening its doors for a special event on Friday, February 13, 2015. The haunt will be in full production mode, so it’s a great chance to experience one of California’s best haunted houses during the off season. We don’t get a lot of off-season haunts in California, so you really don’t want to miss this opportunity.

All proceeds from the night will be donated to Reign of Terror associate Tom Hood, who is currently battling cancer.

Tickets are a real bargain at only $10 (a VIP option is available). We expect the line to be much shorter than it usually is during haunt season, so not only is this a fabulous value, but it’s also a way to avoid the long waits that happen during Halloween. Plus, your money will be going to a great cause. In addition, the Sunset Terrace restaurant in the Janss Mall will also donate a portion of their sales to the cause, so come hungry and thirsty and stop by the restaurant before/after.

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House of Torment presents “Valentine X”

January 12th, 2015

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Texas has, by far, the most haunts open on Valentine’s Day, and that trend seems to be continuing in 2015, as Austin’s House of Torment injects some terror into the sappy holiday by presenting “Valentine X“!

Ten years have passed since the last documented appearance of the Bear Butcher. His murderous actions caused a spree of copycats performing their own acts of violence on Valentine’s Day.

House of Torment Haunted House presents: Valentine X, a thrilling experience this Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day. Come face to face with the Bear Butcher and his chainsaw in candlelit horror, as he unites his copycats in a murderous act of purity to those with adulterous sins. This February, Bear Butcher’s message is deadlier than ever before.

Valentine X will be open for two nights only: February 13 and 14, 2015, from 7:30 to 10:30 pm. Tickets are $24.99 for general admission and $34.99 for a Fast Pass. This is a small price to pay for a nice evening out with a loved one. Scare Zone also recommends a valentine’s day haunt as a great idea for a first date! (muwahahah)

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Scare Zone’s XMAS Movie Slay

December 22nd, 2014

During this time of year, we get together with family to celebrate the season. And what brings families together more than a heart-warming Christmas movie? Well, when you you get sick of all the heart-warming tripe, check out one of the movies on our list below as we’ve loaded up your Xmas stalking, um stocking… with a nice collection of Holiday Horrors just for you.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Years after witnessing his parents perish at the hands of a burglar disguised as Santa Claus, Billy Chapman dons a Kris Kringle suit of his own and goes on a terrible holiday killing spree, finally returning to the abusive orphanage that raised him. ‘Tis the season for yuletide mayhem! Charles E. Sellier Jr. directs this horror cult favorite, co-starring Robert Brian Wilson and Lilyan Chauvin.

 

This movie spawned four sequels, all of which were more ridiculous than the first. The first one seemed to take itself somewhat seriously, but as you can see from this much beloved “garbage day” clip from the second movie, things went really downhill in the sequels:

Gremlins (1984)

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When a man brings home an adorable creature from Chinatown as a Christmas present for his son Billy, the shopkeeper’s sage advice — no midnight snacks, no water, mood lighting only — goes unheeded. As a result, devilish green creatures with a million vices take over the small town on Christmas Eve. This 1980s hit was written by Chris Columbus and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and is not recommended for your littlest monsters. This is perhaps the best-known and probably best-quality movie on this list, and it’s a true classic from the 1980s.

Black Christmas (1974)

Terror reigns inside a sorority house a few days before Christmas break as a series of menacing phone calls — and the discovery of a dead girl’s body — transform yuletide cheer into fear. Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Andrea Martin (“SCTV”) co-star as just a few of the petrified sisters at the mercy of an unseen stalker in this 1970s horror gem from director Robert Clark, who told a much happier holiday tale with his 1983 classic, A Christmas Story. This movie was filled with a lot of just…weirdness.

And of course, they remade this movie in  2006.

The Shining (1980)

While this isn’t directly a Christmas movie the winter setting creates a sense of holiday of terror unlike any other movie. This is also high on our “wish list” for a haunted attraction, well suited for Universal. The Shining is a 1980 psychological horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd. The film is based on the novel of the same name, by Stephen King, about a writer with a wife and young son who accepts the job of off-season caretaker at an isolated hotel. The son, who possesses psychic abilities, is able to see things in the future or past, such as the ghosts in the hotel. Soon after moving in, and after a paralyzing winter storm that leaves the family snowbound, the father becomes influenced by the supernatural presence in the haunted hotel; he descends into madness and attempts to kill his wife and son.

Jack Frost (1996)

When his prison transport collides with a truck full of “genetic material,” condemned serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is inexplicably transformed into a terrifying, murderous snowman. With a red plaid scarf, a carrot nose and a heart made out of coal, the icy madman sets his sights on a small rural town and goes on an old-fashioned killing spree. Shannon Elizabeth co-stars in this chilling horror flick directed by Michael Cooney. The description of this movie made us wonder what exactly they mean by “genetic material”? (Kids, don’t eat the slimy snow.) This movie is so beyond ridiculous that it’s really a comedy rather than horror. It’s best watched after consuming a pitcher of spiked eggnog.

Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)

Defense attorney, Jennifer Garrick, acquires a Pinocchio puppet from a condemned serial killer. Her pre-teen daughter, Zoe, mistakes the puppet as a birthday present and grows really attached to her new doll friend. Suddenly, accidents begin to happen to those who cross Zoe. Zoe claims it’s her Pinocchio doll. Zoe’s therapist thinks otherwise. Soon Pinocchio and Zoe are conversing about his bad behavior. Pinocchio promises he’ll behave if Zoe will cut his strings. Zoe complies, and the mysterious murders begin…

Christmas Evil (1980)

The winter weather isn’t the only thing that’s frightful about this unconventional holiday offering about a toy maker whose obsession with Christmas spirals dangerously out of control. After enduring a traumatic childhood in which he learned there was no such thing as Santa Claus, Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart) takes it upon himself to judge the “naughty” and the “nice.” But instead of spreading cheer, he opts for fear. Here’s a great bunch of clips from the movie:

Don’t Open ‘Till Christmas (1984)

A murderer is running loose through the streets of London, hunting down men dressed as Santa and killing them all in different, extremely violent, and quite colorful fashions. Inspector Harris has decided to take on the seemingly impossible task of tracking down the psychopath, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him. Only the suspicious reporter, Giles, seems to offer the Inspector any promising leads.

You can watch the entire movie on YouTube.

Santa Claws (1996)

Under normal conditions, a man in a jolly red suit can be delightful. But when the outfit belongs to a demented psycho (Grant Kramer) who’s convinced he’s Santa Claus, it’s absolutely frightful. Raven Quinn (Debbie Rochon), a sexy B-movie scream queen whose marriage is crumbling, is already dreading the Christmas season. When her creepy next-door neighbor starts dishing out his own brand of holiday cheer, things only go south from there. The scariest thing about this movie is the naughty job everyone does at acting but it could make for a strong final contender on America’s Funniest Home Videos (if we were still living in 1996).

Santa’s Slay (2005)

Jolly old Saint Nick (Bill Goldberg [yes, the wrestler]) isn’t making a gift list this year — he’s making a hit list, checking it twice and unleashing his inner demon for an unforgettably terrifying Christmas. A bet that Santa lost to an angel 1,000 years ago has expired, and now he’s hell-bent on spreading some holiday fear. As the big day approaches, only young Nicholas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) and his grandfather (Robert Culp) can stop him.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

The Martians are irked that their children spend so much time watching TV shows from Earth that sing the praises of Santa Claus, so they decide to make a trek to the planet to capture Mr. Claus. During their mission, they also abduct two children who lead the aliens to the North Pole and Santa. The Martians take all three earthlings back to Mars, where, with the help of a native, they manage to spread Christmas cheer throughout the red planet. A serious B-movie classic; so great, it was featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

If you’re so inclined, you can actually watch the entire movie on YouTube.

Frozen (2010)

The Disney version of Frozen has become it’s own terror for parents and anyone in the proximity of little girls under age 13 who can’t “let it go”. However, the terror of this survival themed horror movie comes from the suspense of being on a ski lift in middle of a winter storm with unknown terrors (spoiler - a pack of wolves) waiting below. In Frozen, three skiers stranded on a chairlift are forced to make life-or-death choices which prove more perilous than staying put and freezing to death. The movie does provide some wonderfully gruesome scenes and high tension moments if you’re able to “suspend” your disbelief that the scenario they’re in could actually happen in the first place.

Here’s a chilling scene from Frozen…

Haunt Review – NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK

October 26th, 2014

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Last year, we took our first trip to New York’s NIGHTMARE and experienced Killers 2. We found it be a fun and scary trip through a state-of-the art haunted attraction showcasing some of the most notorious real-life killers in American history. NIGHTMARE also topped our 2013 rankings as ‘Most Unique Haunt Experience’ and “Best Scare-Actors/Monsters” earning our top rating of 5 skulls.

IMG_0556This year marks the the 11th season of New York’s NIGHTMARE haunted house and they’ve brought   to life the urban legends and horror stories of NYC’s history with NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK. While there’s not a cohesive storyline, the journey through the haunted house takes ‘victims’ through a horrific timeline spanning from the time when the island was called Manahatta to Cropsey, Gargoyles, alligators in the subways and to new legends of the super rats created by Hurricane Sandy. NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK sets out to remind us that some of the greatest nightmares are in our own backyard.

While their effort continuous to be ambitious we found this year’s NIGHTMARE not to be nearly as frightening as last year’s. There’s a few reasons why we think this is case. First, just like the fast pace of living in New York city, they’re running the groups through the maze rather quickly. This prevented many of the scenes from having the build up and suspense that made Killers so unnerving. The scare-actors also weren’t as convincing with some over performing and others playing it too nonchalant. There also was a section where you get kidnapped by some thugs and have hood placed over your head. They then tell you to grab rope and blindly follow it down a path. The unfortunate thing is after repeatedly bumping into the person in front of you a couple of times you get to the end of the rope and they take the hood off; no scare or surprises just a 1 min walk with a hood on your head. We were most scared of how many people have had the hoods on their head before us (ebola!). It felt as if NIGHTMARE was just a light version of the extreme haunts such as Blackout.

There are a few cool scenes that provided a few good scares and laughs from our group. One being the subway where we encounter a psycho wielding a gun. Another scene we’re in a dark apartment and as the lights flash on and off different ghosts and maniacs would appear with us in the room. The giant alligator lurking in the sewer also gave us all good surprise.

At $30+, the price point for NIGHTMARE is pretty high given that it’s really just one maze providing a 12 minute experience. There are some deals online and for students which we highly suggest you take advantage of to get the most value out of your experience.

We still like NIGHTMARE and will give it a chance in another year but unfortunately this year’s theme just didn’t live up to the experience we had last year. Hopefully, they’ll find some more imaginative things to scare us with in the coming year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls
  • Fright Value: 1.5 skulls

Overall Rating for NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK: 2.5 skulls

 

About Our Rating System
Scare Zone rates attractions using a scale of 1 to 5 skulls:

5 skulls is exceptional/intense scares
4 skulls is exciting/numerous scares
3 skulls is interesting/a few decent scares
2 skulls is fair/minimal scares
1 skull is weak/no scares

Haunt Review: Knott’s Scary Farm 2014

October 25th, 2014

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In our 22 years of going to Knott”s Scary Farm we have never seen as many highly crafted mazes as we did this year. The quality of the theming and the technical design of all the mazes finally (re)solidifies Knott’s as a player in the modern world of theme park haunts. Knott’s team of scare designers, Brooke Walters and Daniel Miller, have sliced up some wickedly interesting and unsettling themes this year as the new additions of Voodoo and The Tooth Fairy feature some of the best thematic environments and storytelling in Scary Farm’s 42 year history.

On the flip side, the quality of the performances of the monsters inside the mazes still doesn’t match the quality of the construction. Yes, there were a few mazes that had some great talent who delivered some big scares and performed cohesively with the environments such as The Tooth Fairy, Pinocchio and Trick-Or-Treat. Disappointingly, in some of the other mazes, we encountered lackadaisical ghouls with bad timing or the mazes were  simply understaffed. It’s likely that the scares are hit or miss depending on when one goes into a maze but now that they have the design process locked in it’s time for them to invest in the talent to keep the scares more consistent. This has been a criticism we’ve shared in recent years.

IMG_0264Another element of disappointment is the conservative nature of the current park management who has decided it’s best to hide the haunt as much as possible, which has resulted in some very sparsely decorated scare zones and a diminished feeling of Halloween around the park. Hiding haunt is like Elvira hiding her boobs – people want to see them! Even Disneyland seems to have more spooky decor. If anything they should recognize that after 42 years the general public expects the park to go all out with haunt decorating and those who may be too sensitive during their daytime visits should just be advised not to visit during these months and wait for “Merry Farm”. We know that this “sensitive” population is very insignificant in size especially in comparison to the crowds and revenues brought in by the Haunt goers. Nonetheless, Ghost Town still dominates as one of the hands down best scare zones anywhere with it’s foggy coated streets, skeletons, and other halloween props.

Okay, enough of our pontificating. Here’s what you really want to read, our maze ratings. This year we decided it’s best save some money so we didn’t buy the Skeleton Key room option and skipped Trapped (we hear it improved after last year’s disastrous presentation).

We do our best not to spoil the mazes for those who’ve yet to experience them, so we won’t provide scare-by-scare reviews, but we will share highlights and our overall opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

 

NEW MAZES

Voodoo

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This year Knott’s said it was doing something new but the Voodoo theme isn’t new or unique, in fact Knott’s had the voodoo themed Blood Bayou maze running for many years in the not so distant past. A few of the other local haunts also have had their own voodoo mazes. However, what makes Knott’s Voodoo stand out is the level of detail they’ve put into the design of this maze. This is a maze that even the folks at Universal could be envious of. The awe begins with the outside facade that replicates a mansion from New Orleans’ French Quarter. The craftsmanship placed into building this set piece is impressive as it looks like they transplanted one of the buildings over from New Orleans Square in Disneyland.

Once, you step into the ‘side alley’ you are then faced with another new element of choosing a path. We were disappointed that we couldn’t pick our way as the maze blackouts were insistent on directing people, which took away from the fun. The path we did take lead us through some interesting and spooky scenes starting inside a voodoo shop, then leading out to some cabins on the edge of the bayou, before ending deep inside the swamp. These environments were accented with music that transitioned from jazzy to banjo music as we went deeper into the swamp. Everything in here looked great from the lighting to the prop pieces but the for some reason the scares were sparse, which is something we felt about most of the mazes. They did employ one of Universal’s favorite scare tactics of using stunning sounds and lights to accent some of the scares but that wasn’t enough to sustain our auras of foreboding. Given how great this maze looked we hope that they can improve the level of fright imposed by the possessed voodoo priestess and swamp zombies.

*Video from ThemeParkHD – YouTube
Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

The Tooth Fairy

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This maze was imaginative, unique, grotesque, and scary. This was the first dental themed maze we’ve seen and it reminded us a little bit of the movie Darkness Falls (but scarier). The Tooth Fairy takes over the former residence of Delirium with the beginning of the maze borrowing a lot of scenes and props from the former. The story begins with scenes of children loosing their teeth and once the Tooth Fairy arrives to collect their denture gems, we end up following it deep down inside the nightmarish abyss of a dental torture chamber. The journey to the tooth fairy’s lair is accomplished with an unnerving walk through a dark passageway lined with furry walls.

With some similarity to cannibal and chainsaw mazes; the Tooth Fairy’s lair depicts scenes of depraved root canals, blood soaked coins, monstrous dental apparatus, and deranged nurses. Sounds of drills unnervingly play throughout the maze accompanied by the non-stop screams of patients. What we liked most was how the maze felt as if it was taking us farther and farther away from safety with no chances of getting back. The talent here was aggressive with good timing popping out of some unexpected places. It’s also easy to get distracted by the interesting scenes allowing the the Tooth Fairy and its minions plenty of opportunities to catch you by surprise. This is a maze we can’t wait to experience again. The only downside is that you have to go through Dominion of the Dammed first as these two mazes are connect to each other… talk about dead weight.

*Video from ThemeParkHD – YouTube

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 Skulls

Special Ops: Infected

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Knott’s joins the trend of zombie hunting experiences with Special Ops. This attraction covers the Camp Snoopy section of the park making it rather expansive but we’re just not certain if it’s a good use of space. We applaud their effort to create new and innovative experiences but the overall execution falls short of being anything exceptional and it was actually somewhat corny. The group experience also prevented it from having many scares. The story is simple as we’re recruits of a special military troop who are armed with (laser tag) guns and have to navigate to safety through a zombie infested area. There’s some fun effects and scenes but not a lot of opportunity for everyone to fully engage, especially if you get stuck in the back of the group. In addition, there aren’t enough zombies for people to shoot. After all the hassle there’ also no kind of prize or reward at the end making it very anti-climatic. This maze requires an appointment and it’s best to get your time pass as soon as you arrive in order to get a time you desire. There’s a standby line but we’re not sure how that process is. We think that Special Ops was a nice try but the space can be better used as a scare zone and a couple of mazes.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 Skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

RETURNING MAZES

Black Magic

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Last year we were amazed by the detailed themeing and settings they created around this story. Using magic as backdrop for a maze provides for continuous surprises throughout as there’s more than rabbits popping out of hats inside of here. Unlike last year, sadly this year’s talent was not very magical nor scary as it seemed that most of them had disappeared when we went through. There were a few scary magician’s assistants, victims of tricks gone bad, and an actual magician who did a quick card or handkerchief trick as you passed by. Design wise, this maze had some very interesting set ups such as the water chamber and burning stage (which was sans the flying Houdini when we went through). They also have fantastic lighting effects inside of this maze that create the perfect transitions from light and dark scenes allowing for some good opportuntites for scares (if they were there) as your eyes adjusted. The digital projection on outside of the maze definitely took the facade to the next level  and was entertaining to watch as we waited to go inside. If we had time, we would of gone through this maze twice to make sure we were able to capture back some of Black Magic inside of this maze, but no such luck this year. With such a beautiful maze we hope that next year they increase the scares to match.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4.5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

Forevermore

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Knott’s Edgar Allen Poe maze diverts from strictly recreating eerie scenes of Poe’s stories and creates the story line of a serial killers on a murder spree utilizing murder tactics from Poe’s fables akin to The Following. What we liked about it were some of the clever modernization of Poe’s stories into death scenes. The Pit and the Pendulum scene is still incredible. This is probably the most improved maze as they tightened up the story some and it was more clear as to what was going on. The monsters in this maze were also more menacing as they perfected their timing and were quick in resetting and double scaring victims. We found ourselves getting attacked and scared frequently throughout this maze. Still not the best of what Knott’s has to offer but Forevermore did exceed our expectations this year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

The Gunslinger’s Grave

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In Gunslinger’s we’re taken through the haunted labyrinths of mine shafts, corrals, and salons. The layout of this maze is mostly outdoors with trails winding in and out of the Ghost Town buildings accented by frenetic guitar music making it really feel as if we are out in the old wild west. It was obvious that the “residents” of this town are less than happy to see us and it wasn’t fully clear but we assume we’re looking for refuge from alive or dead outlaws and towns folks. This maze had a few good startle scares thanks mainly to some of the animatronic set pieces. This was the first maze we went through and it seemed that the talent wasn’t fully in place yet. The ghost town residents were convincing in their roles fully costumed in western attire but for scares they just did a lot of yelling “get outta here” and kept cattle prodding us through the scenes. This was one of our favorites from last year but this year it seems like it’s already headed out to pasture. Since this maze is the epitome of Knott’s legacy we hope they get back in the saddle for next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 3 Skulls

Dominion of the Damned

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Dominion is a visually interesting showcase the different reiterations of vampires from the Nosferatu to the Anne Rice versions but it was hard to track the story line, in this maze, which seems like a tour of The Natural Museum of Vampire History. This is another maze with a rather cool soundtrack and superb set design. We have to give credit as the talent was slightly more energetic than year’s past. While we’re still not overly impressed with the overall theme we have to admit that this year we received a few more good scares than expected. Nonetheless, we still hope that they’ll finally take out he garlic and open the curtains to let the sunlight in to vaporize these vampires for good.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

 

Pinocchio Unstrung

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We credit this maze for setting the bar for all preceding mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. While it’s the same as year’s past, this maze is still one of our favorites. The entire setting feels like walking through a bloody, after hours, version of Disneyland’s Pinocchio ride. Pinocchio successfully twists the popular children’s story in a way that makes its feel as if we were trapped inside a dark storybook nightmare. What’s unsettling about the maze is how the once innocent characters are now placed into scenes of distress, gore, and horror. It’s rather tragic to see Gepetto, Stromboli, and the Blue Fairy meet their fates at the hands of a torturous wooden puppet who instead of becoming a real boy now wants to be a real killer. The monsters in this maze weren’t was high energy as we’ve seen before but they still delivered some surprising scares . This maze is a haunt classic and while they may not string up Pinocchio anytime soon we hope they’ll soon start to think of other fairy tales they can twist and ruin for our childhoods.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

Trick-or-Treat

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This maze recreates a night of Trick O Treating gone bad. Once we enter the front door of the Green Witch’s house the journey cascades through a haunted mansion packed with sinister Halloween decorations and ghostly effects. The infamous Tricksters are also back creating mayhem in the various rooms along the way. This maze is shorter than the others, but it’s also has some of the strongest atmospheric environments and an interestingly theatrical finale. This was the last maze of the night but the scares were amped up with the Tricksters behaving worse than ever before and we mean that in a good way. Trick or Treat isn’t overly terrifying but this maze truly reflects the spirit of the season with more emphasis on the fun of Halloween versus the scares.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4 Skulls

 

Witch’s Keep

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This is a spooky prop layover on the Calico Mine Train. This used to be a very scary attraction but ever since they haven’t been allowed to have live actors inside it’s become a place where you just sit there and see spooky stuff. There are just a couple of interesting animatronic and visual effects but unfortunately there’s nothing much to see here compared to the regular ride. It really is just as they say, a haunt experience. It’s also good place to sit and rest your legs for 10 minutes but not worth a waiting in a long line for especially if you’re looking for a good scare.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 0 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls

SHOWS

Elvira’s Big Top

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This show is two big pumpkins of fun. Of course everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm is still Elvira. Her big top keeps the crowd alive with musical numbers, tongue in cleavge jokes, and some high level Vegas quality stage production. This time around the Mistress of the Dark brings out some real freakiness with sword swallowing and body contorting which disappointingly isn’t done by Elvira herself… on stage. Elvira does rap and remix some Iggy Azalea songs and frolics on stage with the very talented Academy of Villains dance troop. This is as good as it gets for Halloween shows and seeing Elvira at Knott’s like having the real Santa at your Christmas party with just a little more ho ho ho.

Overall Rating: 5 ‘DD

Knott’s Scary Farm Overall Fright Value: 5 Skulls

Overall Rating of Knott’s Scary Farm 2013: 4 Skulls

Check our ratings guide for further details

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2014

October 24th, 2014

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Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor returns for another Halloween season, featuring three all-new mazes, plus the new “Encounters” experience that claims to be a more intense, hands-on experience than your typical maze. The monster midway is back with rides, food, and a hookah lounge. This year, you can also rent a private cabana to have your own little Halloween party among the craziness.

But we know our haunt stalkers care mostly about the mazes, so let’s get to our reviews!

We do our best not to spoil the mazes for those who’ve yet to experience them, so we won’t provide scare-by-scare reviews, but we will share highlights and our overall opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

MAZES

Soul Mate (New for 2014)

Graceful Gale gets her own maze this year in “Soul Mate,” which replaces “Containment,” located on the rear of the ship. The maze tells the story of Gale’s gruesome search for the perfect dance partner, which seems to involve severing the various body parts of different men to create one perfect mate. The narrow corridors of the maze have been covered with fabrics in an attempt to make them feel more lush and also to cover up all the metal siding that runs throughout this area of the ship, but many of the scenes feel too sparse and lacking in detail. One exception is Gale’s dressing room, which reveals a creepy Gale gazing at herself in the mirror. There’s also a very impressive ballroom scene, where Gale’s men surround the entire perimeter of room…but which man will step forward for the dance?

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

B340 (New for 2014)

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This maze replaces “Hellfire” at the front of the ship, and features the story of Samuel the Savage, who was “locked away in room B340 after a violent outburst,” where he was later found torn apart. The maze takes you into the mind of Samuel, where we visit scenes from his past, involving nuns, and also scenes from his insanity, featuring a lot of clocks set to 3:40. They’ve thought a lot about creating a back story here, and it’s interesting and relatively easy to follow. However, we didn’t get a lot of scares in here.


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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls

Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

Voodoo Village (New for 2014)

“Voodoo Village” takes over a previous favorite, Village of the Damned, on the grounds near the midway. Gypsies and Voodoo practitioners come out from the shadows to assault guests as they wind through this very long maze. There’s even a Mardi Gras scene with a gross-out actor who almost vomited on us. The Voodoo theme is a smart use of already existing sets here–interior scenes are easily transformed into voodoo sacrifice altars, and outdoor areas that were already swamp/forest-like settings in previous years now fit the story better. But because this is a long maze and probably hard to decorate, some scenes and corridors lacked scenic detail, but this is something Queen Mary could easily improve on in the following years. The actors here had great timing and got us a good a few times, and many inhibited their roles completely.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Encounters (New for 2014)

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Encounters is Queen Mary’s first up-charge “experience,” following in the footsteps of Trapped at Knott’s Scary
Farm, which requires a separate entry fee and timed ticket. Small groups are led through this maze, where  the story is that you’re on a regular old ghost hunt in the depths of the Queen Mary ship…until something goes horribly wrong. Guests are put through a few sticky situations outside the normal maze experience. We don’t want to spoil the surprises in here, but the waiver you’re forced to sign beforehand will give you a hint that you’ll be put into claustrophobic conditions, you will have to crawl, and a bag may or may not be put over your head. Unfortunately, “Encounters” fell completely flat to us. We didn’t find it scary at all, and the setup was hokey and predictable. And it’s certainly not worth the extra $15 it costs to experience this. Although it’s a good idea in theory, the execution just wasn’t there. Perhaps it’s because we attended on opening night–but based on our experience, we’d suggest skipping this.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 skulls
  • Theming: 1.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 skull

Overall Rating: 1.5 skulls

Circus

This maze is located inside the dome and was Scare Zone’s favorite at Queen Mary last year. We’re happy to say this maze remains on top as our favorite. Small improvements this year have made the maze even more interesting and scary. There are no clowns with chainsaws in here or 3D glasses to wear. “Circus” is Dark Harbor’s take on an old-fashioned, early 20th century circus, which makes it feel right at home in the overall theme of the event. There’s an aged feel to the sets, and the lighting casts an eerie, dirty glow over everything. The entrance is through a clown’s mouth, and from there you encounter typical but twisted circus scenes, such as an actual mirror maze you can get lost in, a spinning wheel of daggers, and a creepy marionette show. The scares were pretty good in here, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls

Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls

Deadrise

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Located in the middle of the Dark Harbor grounds, “Deadrise” is a maze that takes you through an old, rotting ship that appears to be sinking right into the ground. The maze winds through the barracks and bowels of the ship, encountering half-dead sailors who loudly bang on metal barrels with pipes. This maze hasn’t changed much since last year, but the actors are enthusiastic and the loud noises of the pipes and barrels is pretty startling. It’s still an excellent maze, with many dark corners for the actors to hide in. It remains a solid maze and fits the Dark Harbor theme perfectly.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 4 skulls 

Submerged

This maze returns for another year, but a slight twist: it’s backwards! The maze path has been switched around, so the pool room with Scary Mary is now near the beginning rather than serving as the finale. We’re not sure if this was done for logistical or novel reasons, but overall, it doesn’t serve to change the maze much. Scareactors were a bit sparse in this maze overall, and so the scares weren’t abundant. We also prefer the pool room ending, since it’s such an impressive scene to serve as a finale. Submerged is one maze we expect to sink into the sea next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 skulls
  • Theming: 2.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 2 skulls

Freak Show

This is another attraction that’s an extra charge ($5). This made sense last year (it’s debut year), as each “freak” was located in their own shipping container (some freaks have a maze of containers), and each experience was different. That setup required small groups and didn’t work with the typical line of a regular maze. However,  for 2014, “Freak Show” has been converted into a more traditional maze format, and all freaks are contained in one continuous experience. Line control is still important, though, because the freaks require you to get a close-up and personal view of their individual shows. We found it to be a bit better last year, with some actual scares. It’s still an interesting concept, and we do recommend checking it out.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 skulls

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

SUMMARY

“Circus” remained as our favorite maze this year, with small improvements that kept it fresh and scary. The addition of three new mazes is also impressive, and each was a solid experience. We hope Dark Harbor can flesh out a few of the empty corridors and scenes next year, as these new mazes mature. “Encounters” was a big disappointment, although we appreciate the concept and effort made to create something new and different. We will definitely try it again next year, if it returns. Overall, the scares weren’t as plentiful as 2013, but Dark Harbor is still a solid choice if you’re looking for a haunt.

Lines get long as the night goes on, so we suggest going on an off-peak night or arriving early. There is also the option of a “Fast Fright” pass that will get you to the front of the line. With general admission tickets starting at just $20, it’s a good overall value, and you can count on seeing some great mazes and getting scared.

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Overall Fright Value: 4.5 Skulls

Overall Rating of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2013: 4 Skulls

Halloween Haunts in the Mile High City

October 19th, 2014

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Stephen King was inspired here. It was a lonely stay at the Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park, Colorado that gave him the idea for the classic ghost story, The Shining. King had driven up from Denver, intending to drive across Trail Ridge Road, but the highway was closed by an early snow storm. He took refuge in the Stanley and checked into Room 217. He was the hotel’s only guest. It was in room 217 that many years earlier, a maid had gone to light the gas only to discover it was already turned on. The ensuing explosion blew her through the floor and down into the ballroom below, a place she still reportedly haunts. King recalled, “we found ourselves the only guests in the place – with all those long, empty corridors. By the time I went to bed that night, I had the whole book in my mind.”

Since then, many guests at the Stanley have reported strange housekeeping incidents in Room 217, as if a maid had come in and lined up their shoes, or someone had unpacked their bags. Room 217 is just one of seven rooms in the Stanley that are today noted for their paranormal activities. And, it’s just one of many hotels in the area that host both the living, and the departed.

The Mile High City is home to many other tales of ghosts – and Halloween events for all ages. The residents of Denver love any excuse to dress up, drink craft beer and party – and All’s Hallow Eve celebrations afford them many opportunities. From one of the world’s largest zombie crawls to a haunted Field of Screams… from a haunted tour of ghostly cemeteries to a horror film festival, here are some ways to get your “spook on” in Denver.

Ghoulishly Fun Halloween Events and Activities

Elitch Gardens Fright Fest

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WHEN: Friday nights, Saturdays & Sundays | October 3 – November 2
WHERE: Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, 2000 Elitch Cir.
Once the sun goes down, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is transformed from a theme park to a scream park as haunted houses come alive and ghost, ghouls and zombies take over. Free with regular admission, this popular event is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit!

Haunted Field of Screams
WHEN: September 26 – November 1
WHERE: 10270 Riverdale Road, Thornton
Covering more than 35 acres, the Haunted Field of Screams is Denver’s largest haunted attraction. The frightening cornfield is located just 15 minutes from downtown Denver and provides the most unique and bone-­chilling experience in the area. Take your scare to the max and check out all three haunts: Haunted Field of Screams, Dead Man’s Night Maze and Zombie Paintball Massacre.

Victorian Horrors XXI
WHEN: October 17-18 & 24-25
WHERE: Molly Brown House Museum, 1340 Pennsylvania St.
Costumed actors bring to life tales of terror from such masters as Edgar Allan Poe, HG Wells and Mary Shelley, all in the Victorian splendor of the Molly Brown House mansion. Come for the first time, or come again for a fresh set of terrifying tales!

ColoWeen 2014
WHEN: October 31
WHERE: City Hall Events Venue, 1144 Broadway
Get ready for the most anticipated Halloween costume party in Denver! City Hall Events will host ColoWeen 2014, featuring four separate rooms including the amazing City Hall Amphitheater. Grab your favorite Halloween costume and check out the Denver Halloween Party Experience featuring massive Halloween Decorations, Sexy Halloween Costumes and Colorado’s best DJs playing Top 40, Electronic, Reggae and more. VIP bottle service packages are available.

Capitol Hill Horror Stories with Tom “Dr. Colorado” Noel
WHEN: October 22
WHERE: Grant Humphreys Mansion, 777 Pennsylvania St.
Pay your respects to some of Colorado’s liveliest deceased characters and dine with the disinterred while hearing their terrifying tales at the Grant Humphreys Mansion. Storytellers include Dr. Colorado (Tom Noel), storytellers Edger Allen Poe (Dennis Gallagher), Mary Elitch (Debra Faulkner), Molly Brown (Charla Stilling), Mattie Silks (Patti Lundt), Mrs. Adolph Coors II (Kim Field), Mrs. Uerttea Croke (Amy Zimmer), Helen Bonfils (Susan Liehe), and other exhumed eccentrics. Libations and light delights are included.

Ghosties and Goodies Tea
WHEN: October 25
WHERE: Molly Brown House Museum, 1340 Pennsylvania St.
Who haunts the halls of Margaret Brown’s home? What spirits roam historic Capitol Hill? Explore the macabre mysteries of the Molly Brown House with a diabolical Docents and gobble gruesome goodies served by monstrous maids. Museum Tour included. Suitable for ages 12 and up.

A Halloween BOO-lesque Show!
WHEN: October 30 – 31
WHERE: Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe St.
Join the adorable Clocktower Clockettes at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret as they pay a spooky burlesque tribute to all the thrills and chills of America’s spookiest holiday! You’ll see zombies, vampires, witches, black cats and even The Blob… scenes so frightening they’ll scare The Clockettes right out of their shirts! Aerial feats, jugglers, magicians, comedy and camp by your favorite “naughty” host, Lannie’s very own, Naughty Pierre. Old fashioned fun with interactive comedy and costume contest prizes.

Ghosts in the Gardens
WHEN: October 17-18 & 24-25
WHERE: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St.
Denver Botanic Gardens dares you to join them after dark! At the annual Ghosts in the Gardens Tours, guides will lead you through one of three separate ghost tours of your choosing. Each tour guide will tell haunting stories of the Gardens’ one hundred years of history and illustrate points of interest inside and outside what used to be called “The Boneyard”.

Dine in a Mortuary at Linger
WHERE: 2030 W. 30th Ave.
Located in the hip LoHi neighborhood, the acclaimed restaurant Linger is housed in a somewhat spooky building – a former mortuary! Don’t worry, the more gruesome aspects have been fully removed. In their place is a fun, retro-cool atmosphere – and delicious street fare from around the globe. The owners have displayed just the right amount of black humor in the decor. Check out the happy hour menus printed on oversized morgue toe tags, or the apothecary jars used to serve water.

Stanley Hotel

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WHERE: 333 E. Wonderview Ave., Estes Park
See why the Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park inspired Stephen King to write The Shining! King stayed at this historic hotel in the mid-70s, and ended up writing one of the great horror masterpieces of all time. On the Stanley’s Ghost & History Tour, experience it for yourself. See room #217, where the creation of The Shining began, hear stories of ghost sightings in the hotel’s most haunted rooms, and take a tour through the underground tunnel!

For the ultimate guide to haunted Halloween events in Denver, go to visitdenver.com.

About VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau
Celebrating 105 years of promoting The Mile High City, VISIT DENVER is a nonprofit trade association that contracts with the City of Denver to market Denver as a convention and leisure destination, increasing economic development in the city, creating jobs and generating taxes. A record 14 million visitors stayed overnight in Denver in 2013, generating $4 billion in spending, while supporting nearly 50,000 jobs, making Tourism the second largest industry in Denver. Learn more about Denver on the VISITDENVER website and at TOURISMPAYSDENVER or by phone at 800 2 Denver. Follow Denver’s social media channels for up-to-the-minute updates at: Facebook.com/visitdenver; Twitter.com/iknowdenver; Instagram.com/visitdenver; and YouTube.com/visitdenver.

SOURCE VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau

FRIGHTWORLD, America’s Screampark Celebrates 13 Years of Fear

October 19th, 2014

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What began as a local backyard activity created by EERIE PRODUCTIONS is now recognized as a premier haunted attraction; in fact, FRIGHTWORLD has been:

brandon_1280_1024Voted as 2013 Haunted Attraction of the year by frighttour.com
Ranked as one of the best haunts in the country(and it’s right here in Western New York)
Voted one of America’s Best Haunted Attraction’s by “Haunt World Magazine”
Mentioned as “A Must See” haunt, and voted #11 in the Country by “Haunted Magazine”
Voted one of America’s top 13 Haunted Houses by hauntedhouserating.com
Voted one of the top 10 Haunted Houses in America by hauntedamericatours.com
Featured on Travel Channels “America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions” episode

For the past 13 years, EERIE PRODUCTIONS has been dedicated to providing high quality Halloween entertainment to all guests of FRIGHTWORLD, a commitment achieved through months of preparation, designing, building, and detailing each house which takes an enormous amount of time and expertise; an expertise EERIE PRODUTIONS is proud to have. This dedication to detail is why former “FRIGHTWORLD” haunted houses and effects have been shipped and built in several countries worldwide including China, Hong Kong, England, Thailand, Taiwan, and Canada.

Visitors of FRIGHTWORLD come from local communities and our nearby friends in Toronto, Erie, PA, and Rochester along with guests from as far as Taiwan and the United Kingdom. The 13th season of this locally owned haunted attraction returns with five devastatingly unique haunted attractions for one low price:

Get petrified in “Condemned”
Save your sanity for “Eerie State Asylum”
Become terrorized in the “Grindhouse”
Face your fears in “Phobiaz”
Get delirious in “Insanity”

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FRIGHTWORLD opens at 6:30PM on various nights in October, through Nov 1st for scares, screams, thrills, and chills. If you dare to experience FRIGHTWORLD during the 2014 Haunt season, general admission is $25 or get through faster with a $33 VIP Frightpass. Three dollar off coupons are available at participating NOCO Express, Wendy’s, Party City, Regal Cinemas, Dunkin Donuts, Coca-Cola, and Oogie Games. Get your advance discount ticket from NOCO Express to avoid ticket sale lines at the FRIGHTWORLD box office or purchase your discount ticket online at www.frightworld.com.

Come celebrate 13 years of FEAR with us. ONLY $13 on October 13th.

Here’s a sneak peek of a walkthrough through Frightworld…

FRIGHTWORLD, AMERICA’S SCREAMPARK is located at 1460 French Rd. Depew, NY 14043. For more detailed information, visit www.frightworld.com or call 716-881-FEAR.