Six Flags Great America Fright Fest
I love Six Flags Fright Fest in my home park of Magic Mountain, so I figured I’d attend Fright Fest at Great America while visiting the Chicago-land area. I was sorely disappointed. It’s nearly impossible not to try and compare the two parks, but they are so drastically different that they can’t really be compared. I came to Great America with the expectation of seeing professional haunted attractions like their sister park and what I found were teenagers running around in plywood mazes decorated with cheap props and hardly any set pieces. The Hell Fest maze was one of the best overall, it had a few visually impressive scenes. All of the mazed lacked scares. The actors didn’t seem to grasp the concept of setups for scares. The cast also seemed to lack motivation to remain actively in character. Almost all of the characters seemed to specifically avoid my camera while trying to catch them in action in the scare zones for social media and my youtube channel. The one stand-out exception is the Ring Master. The Ring Master seemed like a very well trained, talented performer among a cast that overall appeared like they didn’t even want to be there. I also noticed one female chainsaw actor that was working very hard in a scare zone while everyone else trudged along looking like overworked lumberjacks. I honestly can’t remember most of the mazes now as I write this only a few days later because they were that forgettable. I do remember the price tag…$50 for front of the line fright fest pass on top of park admission. I have an annual pass that allows me access to the park, but even so this event isn’t worth the general line cost of $35 unless you are a local that plans to attend multiple nights and just wants something to do in the evenings that’s Halloween related for the month of October. I made it through all of the mazes, but didn’t have the opportunity to see any of the shows. It does appear that there are some fun live performances on the schedule. Thank you to the Ring Master that turned around my night right at the end as I was leaving.
I also want to take a moment to point out that the guests at this Six Flags theme park seemed much less respectful than all other Six Flags parks I’ve visited. I saw kids in the mazes playing on a set piece, kicking walls, grabbing props and all around being jerks whether they were in groups with friends or with their parents. I imagine being part of the cast at this park can be especially difficult at times.
Overall I can’t really recommend Great America Fright Fest 2018, but want to reiterate that every Six Flags Fright Fest is unique so this doesn’t reflect my opinion of Fright Fests across the country.
Colombia City Haunted Jail
I can’t say enough good things about The Haunted Jail!!! This experience is definitely one of my highlights of the 2018 haunt season. I drove about 2 hours from my parents’ house in Indiana to attend The Haunted Jail on a Thursday night in September. It wasn’t a particularly busy evening and I was able to go through the attraction alone. I purchased the upgrade so that I could experience the VIP section on the third level of the haunt.
First I want to point out the venue…it’s an ACTUAL haunted jail. The jail was decommissioned several years ago and has become a permanent home to the haunted attraction, but contains cells from it’s time as a jail as well as possibly some of the souls that were kept here. It’s naturally creepy without the props and actors. However the props and actors add a level of scare factor that would be impressive in any venue. I was given special permission to film inside the haunt as I walked through (which I will post on my YouTube Channel) and normally when I am filming I’m pretty difficult to scare. I was shocked at how many times the hardworking actors “got” me. I screamed more walking through the Colombia City Haunted Jail than I did the entire night at Universal Studios HHN. Kudos to the incredible cast! I’m impressed. I love the dedication to their characters. You can tell they are well trained. The art throughout the attraction is beautifully done. The props are professionally made with a level of detail that I found impressive. I love the creativity throughout. The Haunted Jail is a wonderful stand alone haunted attraction and worth the trip even if you aren’t located in Colombia City.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with the owner and I love the way they support and work with the youth of the community. Not just what you see as the general public, like the Boy Scouts selling popcorn out front, but also from within the ranks of the cast. It’s not your standard haunt. It’s something special. I highly recommend The Haunted Jail. Be sure to buy the upgrade to VIP and do their coffin ride experience too.
*Note: There are a lot of stairs in this attraction.
Undead Acres is known for their zombie paintball ride with several scenes and many zombies to shoot. They also have a walk thru haunt, paintball shooting gallery, food stand, photo ops, bonfire and GOATS! Yep, goats…you can feed ‘em.
Undead Acres was the third attraction I attended on the last Sunday of September 2018, so when I arrived at nearly closing time it wasn’t nearly as busy as I expect it will be later in the season. I was able to look around, but had no real wait to get on the haunted trail. A guide summoned me to follow. I walked alone behind the cloaked figure through several scenes. They didn’t tell an overall story as a whole, but individually they were recognizable as the staple haunt scenes including clowns, butchers, monsters and even a young person in a yellow raincoat spouting, “You’ll float too.”
The actors made very challenging physical choices for their characters from rapid crawling, falling and more. Their physical strength, flexibility and dedication impressed me. The overall creepiness of the location being outdoors in the open along a trail was effective. I like the use of the guide.
Overall, it is a haunted trail with a lot of heart. I did not participate in the paintball experience. If you are in the area, definitely stop by Undead Acres and shoot some zombies. Be sure to say hi to Lily the goat for me.
I had the honor this year to be part of the expert panel for USAToday’s 10Best where I nominated escape rooms & haunted attractions for their annual list.
Be sure to support your favorites by voting at the links below
VOTE ESCAPE ROOMS
VOTE HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS
FACTORY OF TERROR
Factory of Terror is a good standard haunted attraction. It makes a lot of top haunt lists, but I wouldn’t say it’s really worth a special trip. It’s got some great visual moments and really elaborate puppets, set and tech at points and then there are large sections lacking creativity.
I did enjoy the mirror maze and some of the moving floor and wall effects. I felt the use of vertigo tunnels and airbags was excessive and ineffective. There were A LOT of very loud sounds throughout that eventually became less of a jump scare and more of a headache.
Factory of Terror claims to be one of the longest haunted houses so we expected much more, but it was simply multiple small haunts. One of the most frustrating things about the event was the theming inside each walkthrough. It was very difficult to figure out what was going on because they were divided up as if to have distinct themes but once inside each maze seemed to change within itself as if they didn’t really know what story they were telling. Stronger theming within each maze could help the actors make stronger character choices.
There were a handful of very talented actors, but overall most had no idea what they were doing. It really felt that they lacked proper training. One entire walkthrough was basically growling. The maze with the large gargoyles in front had some of the best actors and one incredibly unprofessional actor (the first scare when you walk in) was literally playing on her cell phone and looked up annoyed when we stared at her waiting for her to do something and then waved at us as if to say, “move along, stop bothering me.”
Overall Factory Of Terror seemed to be run by nice people that have a passion for haunting, but need some tweaking and the actors need training. If you’re in the area definitely check it out, but I wouldn’t drive far out of your way to see it.
LEWISBURG HAUNTED CAVE
Imagine walking along a bridge over water inside a cave in darkness and feeling something grab your ankle. I don’t have to imagine it, it happened tonight at Lewisburg Haunted Cave. That was the beginning of a very exciting adventure through this one of a kind, truly scary haunted attraction in Lewisburg Ohio.
I have experienced many amazing haunts around the nation from Hollywood style makeup and sets to immersive storytelling to extreme individual experiences, but it’s rare I am actually scared in a haunted attraction. Lewisburg Haunted Cave is genuinely scary and thrilling in a way I’ve rarely experienced. It’s a perfect balance of “fun fear” meets “real fear”. There were moments I legitimately screamed. The unusual underground setting with it’s uneven wet ground, bridges and, claustrophobic nature play a big role. The unexpected moments with perfectly placed pyrotechnics are stunning. The full sized vehicles were impressive. I think the standout scene with Satan giving you actual choices is one of the very special ways this haunted attraction shines above the rest. I mean how unnerving is it to know you have to choose correctly or you could get lost wandering around inside for who knows how long? Honestly though the truck was the moment that made me hit the ground with tears in my eyes. I don’t want to spoil the moment here, but if you’ve been there, then you know the moment I’m talking about. It was such a well done scare that it took a moment for my reality to catch back up to me and remind me that it was a haunted house and I was safe. (They got me good.)
This was about an hour experience because we didn’t get lost. It can take longer. It is dark and the ground is uneven. Please wear sturdy shoes that you won’t care about getting dirty. I wouldn’t recommend this for young children or anyone with health issues that could be aggravated by stress.
It is an impressive combination of genuinely creepy atmosphere, effective actors, awe inspiring animatronics, top notch sound and lighting design, physical and mental stimulation that attacks all of your senses and even pyrotechnics inside one of the most unique venues I’ve encountered. Basically what I’m saying is…it’s amazing!!! Don’t be mislead by the inexpensive ticket price, it’s worth much more for this experience. *They also have a historical tour type hayride that is more family friendly as well as entertinament and concessions. I highly recommend Lewisburg Haunted Cave.
*Due to time constraints we were unable to ride through the family friendly attraction.
INTO THE BLACK
Have you ever wondered how you would react if you were the character walking through the spooky house alone in a horror flick? Now you have the chance feel what that is like. Into the Black at the Los Angeles Fairgrounds in Pomona California is a new Halloween event for 2017. It is a three part adventure in that there is a short movie, VR experience and walk through haunted house that all work together to tell the story. You can watch the movie on YouTube before attending the event. The VR experience is a fun short adventure into the past to meet the characters of the home and find out a little more of the history of the house and it’s former residents. The haunted house is an individual experience inside the house which we have now gotten quite familiar with. Overall, it’s a creative, fun and unique event.
The haunted house is beautifully designed and truly feels like it’s own character. One of my favorite things about the design is the use of space. I enjoyed the large room scenes in combination with the claustrophobic hallways. I also love that there are choices to make within the path. The make-up is amazing, of course. Afterall, Larry Bones (Boneyard Effects) is an incredible make-up creator. The hardworking actors are perfectly placed to build tension and then pounce. The sound design is also wonderfully done. I loved the moment when I was following the sound, but could barely see anything. Everything works together so well to create a fresh style of psychologically thrilling experience.
You can more of my thoughts in the YouTube video below along with my husband and short interview with Larry Bones.