21855 32 Mile, Armada, MI 48005
(586) 651-1957 or www.haunted-hollows.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - BLAZING MONSTER PARTY ON STEROIDS
Fair warning: The monsters are in charge here. Free will is only an illusion.
The show starts the instant you arrive, although it may take a few minutes to realize it! The invisible actor is at it again, and is one of the cleverest antics we've seen at any haunt. You'll see...or rather you won't see...HILARIOUS!
On the other hand, there's something else that will dazzle your eyes here that cannot be ignored. It's a mini stage featuring a girl doing a wild fire dance with blazing hula hoops! The primal energy is off-the-hook, and you can just imagine her ducking off into the forest later to her honey who blurts out, "Me Tarzan, you Jane!"
A standout fave from last year is back, the very strange but wonderful Scarlett. She's prone to subtle entrances, but after that all bets are off!
The DARKNESS MAZE is cleverly designed to allow just the slightest amount of light in. That prevents you from banging yourself up, but does not protect you from hiding monsters who track your every move!
Occasionally, a single blip of light comes from LED flashlights the monsters wield to guide you...or misdirect you. Do not believe any monster who tells you they don't lie, except when they're telling the truth!
The CRIES AT MIDNIGHT CAGERIDE is similar to a hayride, with comfortable wooden benches facing inwards. There's no hay, and the carts are enclosed by a metal cage strong enough to support several monsters.
One of them is suffering from delusions of grandeur and thinks he is Spiderman. Most of the cart did not notice him at first, perched motionless on the top of the cage. Soon enough, he could not be ignored!
A susceptible young girl next to us made the mistake of admitting she is afraid of clowns, and then made it worse by freely telling her name when asked! With a wide array of Krazy Klowns at their disposal, you can imagine the high intensity results. We have never seen a more freaked out girl at any haunt!
Having trained employees that can push the haunter's fear quotient right to the limit gives that big JOLT & WOW FACTOR that is the bread and butter of the haunting genre/experience.
PETRIFIED TO PARTYING IN A FLASH
A well designed haunt changes the feel as you progress, and this one does just that as it jumps on a current bandwagon that features a silly dance you positively have heard of or seen on YouTube where it has OVER 531 MILLION VIEWS as of this writing! Their embellishment using a stuffed snake had the entire cart laughing our butts off!
Whenever possible, we conduct out own exit polls at haunts. We don't ask how they liked it; we ask what did you think? If they give a positive response, then we'll tell them who we are and thank them for their time.
We asked about 30 haunters here what they thought, and we got 100% positive comments. Word-on-the-street blows away any amount of advertising money can buy, so this haunt gets by without giant splashy ads. GO!
BLAKE'S BIG APPLE w/ 4 ATTRACTIONS
71485 North Avenue, Armada, MI 48005
(586) 784-9710 or www.hauntedblakes.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - BIG FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY & CUSTOMER SERVICE SUPREME!
We already knew Blake's is a great haunt, with 2012 marking just short of a quarter century of service at 23 years!
But never mind the haunting factor for a moment. Let's talk about something that is sadly becoming all too rare in ANY sector of the business world, running the gamut from fast food to high-priced lawyers. It used to be common place, but just check your next public transaction and you'll see what I mean.
Recently at a local Starless Coffee Bucks: "May I help you?" "A large hazelnut with 2 creams please." "Ok, that's a vanilla with 2 Spenda's...what size would you like?"
CUSTOMER SERVICE is quickly becoming an endangered species, but is alive and well at Blake's! The friendly employees are easily spotted, and always go the extra mile in whatever way the moment requires. We saw one example after another, including several times with us. You can just tell when someone is really happy to be doing what they're doing, and it's downright infectious!
This year features the new ZOMBIE PAINTBALL SAFARI, where you can take out your frustrations and OPEN FIRE ON LIVE ZOMBIES! From the comfort of Blake's wagons with foot support railings, you fire your own weapons of Zombie Destruction with reckless abandon!
The famous Nightime Spooky Hayride remains the flagship attraction here, but the 3-Story Haunted Barn also delivers the goods with fabulous props/scenes and actors.
The hayride delivers spectacular thrills and chills, with lots of really big moments!
The half-time stop has a new theme featuring a chase involving a bicycle built-for-two driven by two animals that should NOT be driving ANY vehicle. It's hilarious!
You still get the trademark ultra fresh donuts and cider, and you're sent along your way for lots more thrills...and a happy tummy!
STILL A CLASSIC...HAVE A BLAST AT BLAKES!
TERROR ON 27
8691 South Bagley, Ashley, MI
(989) 838-2562 or www.terroron27.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - THE HIGHWAY TO HELL NEVER TASTED SO GOOD!
Yes, you take a highway to get here and yes there's a play on the rowdy anthem "Highway To Hell" by those bad boy rockers-with-an-attitude AC/DC.
But this particular Highway To Hell is sweet, and will leave you satisfied every which way you can hope for!
As soon as you arrive, you hear loud spooky music from a high-quality sound system. That's a very good sign!
2 walk thru buildings and an outdoor maze form the basis for the haunt.
The first walk thru is aptly called INSANITY, jump-started with a tricked-out black hole. It runs counter clockwise, and much slower than most. This gives an even deeper artificial sense of motion, and can be even further enhanced by looking down over the edge of the railings.
Your brain processes the visual data, and convinces your body you're spinning into Never Never Land! If you close your eyes the motion sensation instantly ceases, confirming the clever brain manipulation of those clever haunt operators!
The mirrors on both ends add the infinity illusion, and we really liked the red glowing tiger eyes added for effect.
Soon we found a magical garden, where things come to life including some giant ominous looking Venus Flytraps.
Cool monsters/creatures, good interaction and surprises, and we totally loved the Doll Room and the laboratory experiment gone wrong that is actually consumed by the supposed scientist. He must be conducting clandestine experiments after Midnight without permission!
The exit of INSANITY leads to the entrance of ENTANGLEMENT where you'll see a crystal ball on a table waiting to predict your fate.
A strong animal theme runs rampant, starting with a doghouse Snoopy wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole! The dog is....well, she's kinda...can a dog actually do this stuff?!
Lots of people have skinned bears in their house, don't they? In Alaska anyway, right? Well, they have one here too...but look carefully. In a strange juxtaposition, nestled in with the bear is a tiny puppy!
Great "old" feeling, accentuated with lots of strategically placed chamo-netting.
YOU CAN'T RAIN ON THEIR PARADE
During our visit here, it rained. Part of ENTANGLEMENT took you outside the building, but no matter. They had plastic tarps overhead throughout those sections, and the rain sounded horribly frustrated by its inability to rain on their parade.
Due to rain and time constraints, we skipped the ANIMOSITY maze here. Also, the KILL ZONE and SKULL CRUSHER looked cool but we had to move on.
Before you leave, be sure to check out the fabulous food table. 90% of the stuff is only a buck, and the portions are huge. We especially loved the PUMPKIN ROLL UPS and the brownies. YUMMMM!
NIGHTMARE ON HARRIS STREET
48651 Harris Street, Belleville, MI 48111
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - THE GREAT PUMPKIN RISES AGAIN, BEWARE...
How cool...THE PUMPKIN FACTORY once again has a walk-thru haunt that rocks!
Funny angles and great makeup kick off the start, and spirited live sound effects from enthusiastic monsters deliver that crazy madhouse feeling.
Your sense of direction won't do you any good here...you're bound to get lost at least once! Never mind how many times we got lost...
Due to rain, the hayride was not running when we arrived. But we remember lots of good things about it, especially the completely non-generic props which were made exclusively for The Pumpkin Factory.
There was an alien from outer space scene that was the show stealer, and we recall excellent monster interaction throughout.
The main building here is a must-see, inside and out. And the moment you walk in you will be warmly greeted with fabulously yummy aromas of freshly made Pumpkin Goodies, and other treats made by a top-notch chef.
We tried the pumpkin cupcakes, and they were super-tasty flavor bombs that made our taste buds explode with Delicious Happiness!
More and more, we're seeing World Class gourmet food and drink right at the haunts.
But The Pumpkin Factory has been dishing out tasty vittles for ages now it seems. And they were featured in a nationwide magazine article about gourmet pumpkin pies several years ago!
But please...don't go here for the pumpkin pie...go for a cool haunt experience! That's the main thing here for sure.
And then...if you survive...go ahead and treat your taste buds to the BEST PUMPKIN PIE ON PLANET EARTH!
Also on the grounds is a really cool small house you can walk up to, with big windows to spy on the poker game going on inside. You can even see what cards the "player" with the reading glasses has as he gets ready to bet the moon! Clever, humorous setup.
HAUNTED HILL ACRES
Abraham Farm, 23740 Carleton West Road
(734) 753-5523 or (734) 652-7601
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - INDIAN CURSE REVEALED IN MOVIE YOU STAR IN!
Ever want to be in the movies? Even better, a movie about a haunted house on ancient Indian burial grounds?
A feature length movie is being made right here! And you'll be privy to an exclusive 26 minute preview of it, in a special showing only for haunters. It is WAY COOL!
This is the first year back for Haunted Hill Acres after a hiatus to get the movie going strong and proud. And they should be proud of this creation. It's sort of a quirky haunted pulp fiction that's wowing the audiences!
The Castle Courtyard hosts the ticket building with its cool decorations, a special mini-staging area, and tasty concessions. The bean soup was excellent, and loaded with meaty goodness and lots of vegetables...yum!
The Pyramid Maze is deceiving in its smallish appearance, with lots of weirdos hiding and tagging along uninvited!
The Hall Of Monsters is a tribute to famous horror movies and various evil creatures of ill-repute. Our favorite is still the final room, with all its glorious analog electronic equipment complete with magic dials, secret buttons, and meters galore!
A FAMILY FAVORITE IS BACK - HOORAY!!!
at CHEMCO, 4247 South Dort Highway, Burton, MI
(810) 742-2260 or www.TheCryptHauntedHouse.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - THE CRYPT, A KEEPER!
Ever heard someone talk about a friend as being a "keeper" Well, that's how we feel about this long-running favorite of the Flint area. And we're not alone! Our on-site exit poll verbatim response was "AWESOME!"
"SAY HI! TO JOE, HE'S MY FRIEND"
It goes even deeper. We were at St. Lucifer's before coming to The Crypt, and had this exchange with the operator at St. Lucifer's: "Thanks, we've got to get going now." "Oh, you goin' to The Crypt?" "Uh...yeah we are actually." "Cool, say Hi! to Joe there, he's my friend."
FABULOUS! That's music to our ears, and exactly what we wish we heard more often...sigh.
This is a great haunt, but you can also get your own Halloween costume here! They have a separate store on premise, chock full of seasonal goodies.
Cool spooky music sets the mood the moment you arrive, thanks to strategically placed speakers outside the haunt.
Once inside, you'll soon fall victim to total visual sensory deprivation with excellent black passageways. The tops are completely sealed to ensure total darkness.
In most haunts, you can just look up in dark passageways to see the outline of the path you need to take. But not here! The wall surfaces are cleverly padded with a stringy feeling surface, so there's no danger of wood splinters.
That's attention to detail, and the kind of thing that keeps everyone coming back here year after year!
SAINT LUCIFER'S HAUNTED ASYLUM
5290 South Dort Highway, Flint, MI 48507 (at Playland)
(810) 694-4710 or www.michiganhauntedhouse.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - PATIENTS WITH NO PATIENCE CRANK THE CRAZINESS AT ST. LUCIFER'S!
Remember Nurse Ratchett in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"? Well, this haunt has a nurse too and you'll meet her before you're admitted to this loony bin bursting with insanity. She seems harmless enough, and she names all kinds of reasons various people should not enter.
Ignoring the warnings as usual, we ventured into the unknown.
A wild Hellevator led us to lobotomy obsessed weirdos, ready and willing to perform "special surgery" on hapless victims.
In case you don't know, a lobotomy is the surgical severance of nerve fibers connecting the frontal lobes to the thalamus. It turns a human being into a vegetable instantly!
And in the movie "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," Jack Nicholson goes from being a raving lunatic to a mindless baby after he involuntarily receives a lobotomy on-the-house. Is that the kind of surgery you want?! I don't think they'll even charge you for their services here, and you know they're willing!
Excellent variety of sounds/music throughout, an excellent black hole (vortex) with a see-thru walking surface, and we really liked the girl that went WAY overboard with the collagen for her lips!
Also features a hilarious Catholic School sequence, complete with a nun that sports lots of thick, black body hair! You're scolded for being late to class at St. Lucifer's School Of Hard Knocks," but she seems to have tampered with the clock so you can't win for losing!
This nun "Sister Mary Clarence, heavy on the Clarence" has a serious attitude problem that is on display for all to see in a wall sign that says "Nuns Rule, Kids Drool." Watch yourself here!
St. Lucifer's also features two unique lighting effects we absolutely loved! The first is a green laser moonflower liquid sky room that actually GOT us...you'll see. Later a door emits a powerful beam of flashing light thru a door handle hole left empty, as if beckoning you to get some new embarrassing psychological stains that won't go away! As usual, they are not responsible...it's your fault for coming to such a crazy place.
SLAUGHTER HOUSE & BLOODY BATH & BEYOND HAYRIDE
5781 West Grand River, Fowlerville, MI 48836
(517) 223-9140 or www.slaughterhouseadventure.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - THE HALLOWEEN PARTY THAT BUSTED ITS BRITCHES AND FLEW TO THE MOON!
This haunt has a humble history, from which lofty goals sprang to life one after another. The original goal 10 years ago was simply to entertain the neighborhood kids with a Halloween barn party. They poured their heart and soul into it, and it became a much anticipated annual event.
The original barn was soon outgrown, and the only logical choice was to go public and let everyone join in the fun. And BIG FUN is what SLAUGHTER HOUSE is all about! Thrills and chills still abound, but the forte of this haunt is the unique blend of magic and comedy that brings the masses here every year.
FLYING SKY HIGH WITH HAUNTED AMERICAN PRIDE
At SLAUGHTER HOUSE the sky's the limit these days. And to prove the point, they've raised an American flag 140 feet up on the end of a support extending from a grain tower! A bright spotlight makes it shine proudly, and reminds us of our awesome country and that freedom isn't free.
But that's just an embellishment, the coolest thing this year is the new final room of the walk thru barn haunt. It's a stellar juxtaposition between old and new lighting sources, and a brilliant concept executed perfectly. In the wink of an eye, you make a transition from retro to rocket ship that will dazzle you with exquisite eye candy goodness!
The BLOOD BATH & BEYOND HAYRIDE enjoys much thicker corn stalk rows than last year, and full advantage is taken of the extra camouflage opportunities. A gravity defying horse and several high flying gags wowed the crowd on the cart we rode on, as we delighted in the reaction of people next to us that had not been here before.
The big barn that houses the walk-thru haunt is a multi-purpose facility, sporting a full size basketball court upstairs and a giant slide for big fun when the haunt isn't open. This is a family run facility, and it shows in many ways...and not just at Halloween.
A side attraction caught our attention big time: A human gyroscope of sorts. The human is positioned inside this circular structure, and whichever they move causes wild spinning/gyrating motions. It can get going at ridiculously fast speeds, depending on the strength and guts of the human!
ANOTHER SURE WINNER FROM THE WACKY, FRIENDLY FARMERS AT SLAUGHTER HOUSE!
2070 Waldorf Northwest, Grand Rapids, MI
1 mile south of I-96 at exit 28 Walker Avenue
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS
Where do you from up? THE HAUNT is like Mount Everest...most never making it to the peak...and you never get there by comparing yourself to anybody.
THE HAUNT continues to define the genre yet again, leading the way to new dimensions of haunting.
The fabulous waiting area remains with its raised mausoleum stage, but the dance routine and music are brand new again. This time out all the dancers are female, and the symmetry is perfect.
The lighting varies widely from color washes to stop-action high intensity strobe lights, and is in perfect synchronization with the original soundtrack.
So the crowd gets stunned and wowed before they even get in the haunt!
The entrance to the haunt is styled to look like a residential house, and the windows are open with wind blowing thru the drapes. Nice opening touch.
A used coffin salesman runs his mouth off, and sends you on your way to much mayhem and mischief.
Convoluted confusion reigns in a meat market and a barber shop with personnel eager to perform a dental root canal! You're promised the "longest second of your life," but few stick around long enough to let them fulfill their demented dream!
Your journey is as varied as it is unpredictable, ranging from thick forestry to an old abandoned manufacturing plant constructed in 1917!
The "Albrecht Manufacturing" plant is an EPA Disaster Zone and a half! Electrical code violations run rampant, with many opportunities for calamity...or so it seems.
Electric panels and junction boxes have been left open, with lots of exposed bare wires beckoning you to touch them. It's so realistic, that once a real life city electrical inspector guy was aghast at what he saw until he was informed it's only part of the show!
One of our favorite gags here involves a giant analog machine that looks like it was made back in the 40's or 50's. It sports 2 giant tubes as if arms on the sides, reminiscent of the silly robot on the retro TV show "Lost In Space." We were so taken with the awesome appearance of this bewildering behemoth that we were totally taken off guard when the gag launched.
Great variety of sound effects and music for various scenes, and in the last forest sequence we absolutely loved the strange plant noises and the authentic smells.
At the exit of the main walk-thru you find 2 more mini-haunt attractions: AFTER MIDNIGHT and TERRORTOWN. (Not affiliated with TERRORTOWN in OHIO)
At first glance it looks like they just threw some extra stuff together in the back hallway to look bigger, badder and better. But actually, a great deal of thought and consideration went into what is presented there and more importantly why.
A girl with an immaculate uniform and spiffy bow-tie welcomes you to a visual feast that's short and sweet, but invites slow savoring. Op-art check board patterns adorn the walls, and deliver an unmistakable strange sideways motion sensation.
Also, there are strobe light rooms and a sweet green laser liquid sky room that stop people in their tracks. And we just loved the sad clown portraits that are so bad they are good!
A giant op-art ball greets you as you step up to an excellent black hole. It's got the slow counter-clockwise rotation with cool polka dot stripes, but the best part is the metal grating walking surface. That means you can see the giant spinning cylinder below as well, and it does make a difference!
So basically, they've put the rooms that typically cause backups in crowd flow in these mini-haunts. They inherently have smaller lines because when people exit the main haunt, they're so wound up they often grab a drink or souvenir first. Smart.
The DARK MAZE REBORN and MONSTER PAINTBALL are the outdoor adventures this year.
The maze is actually a series of mysterious paths with lots of confusion, and we really loved the surprise visual-blast ending. Big fun!
We saw license plates from all over here. We're going to go out on a limb here and make a bold prediction: THE HAUNT will be featured soon in a nationwide TV special produced by THE TRAVEL CHANNEL.
There. Writing a thought down gives substance to it. And whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. That kind of thinking comes naturally to the people here, and is the reason this haunt enjoys attendance numbers most other haunts can only dream of.
NIGHTS OF FEAR
3460 Plainfield Avenue NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(616) 914-6000 or www.nightsoffear.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - DEMOCRACY IN ACTION / YOUR VOTE COUNTS!
This haunt has three separate attractions in one giant warehouse, and a clever friendly competition among them that we think is great! The public is invited to vote for their favorite of the three, and it's rewarded with an encore performance for only one more year. There are other prizes and of course bragging rights too...what fun!
From left to right the attractions are: CARNIVAL OF SOULS, CASTLE GREYSKULL, and BRAINFIELD SANITARIUM - THE LOST WING.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS, the longest of the three, is a romp thru a circus of insanity, starting with a goofy clown who recites a rhyming invitation to mayhem as he declares that "Every clown has his own soul to find..."
Hanging fabric sheets form improvised walls, and afford easy hiding for the actors for good surprises.
Clowns and crazy circus music prevail, and really liked the lion cage with lots of bones left over from breakfast. The call goes out that "The lion is loose," and a new direction comes into focus real fast. Weird candles light the way, and there's a cool checkerboard pattern room with slow strobes and a half gorilla/half human head creature in the ending sequence.
CASTLE GREYSKULL begins with a tale going back 2000 years, and somehow they even make it smell that old! Cool. Assorted weirdos await, again with the hanging fabric walls that provide easy hiding.
BRAINFIELD SANITARIUM - THE LOST WING begins with a gruff-talking union foreman who spins a tall tale about being hired to construct a wall and all the stuff that went horribly wrong. But of course it's not his fault, and it probably takes at least three foremen to change a light bulb we're guessing!
Usually, the review would end here. But the operators were cool enough to show us all the behind-the-scenes stuff, like the actors lounge area with snacks, lots of comfy couches, air hockey, foosball, and a pool table.
The trophy for the haunt with the most votes is hilarious, and we got to peek in the amazing makeup room too.
Next year will bring BIG changes for this haunt! But we don't give away exact details without being told to. So for now, let's just say that they're going to get back to their roots with a new location in a new city!
PHANTOM FOREST HAYRIDES
21803 West River Road, Grosse Ile, MI 48138
(734) 676-2444 or www.westcroftgardens.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2012 - ONCE UPON A HUNGRY CLOWN - WHAT I LEARNED FROM MOONLIGHT
This haunt is brimming with history because it's located at the OLDEST FARM IN MICHIGAN. But it's their future we're focused on, and it's looking so bright they gotta wear shades!
The farm itself and the entrance is decorated to the hilt, but the woodsy feel still permeates the entire complex.
Rows of lighted pumpkins on both sides look inviting enough, but soon enough the monsters give themselves invitations into your life that you can't refuse!
We loved the large handmade pumpkin cutouts, and the church scene will knock your socks off!
Fabulous misdirection at every possible moment, tons of retro-styled pumpkins with incandescent lights, and we really liked the two weird dog/werewolf/human creatures.
Also features the best hanging bat-creatures of various sizes we've ever seen, a cool ICP-like krazy klown, and a fabulous leaping attack you won't be able to miss!
There appears to be an electrical barrier that 7 monsters are stuck behind, and all seems well until the hayride tractor "stalls." You can guess the rest easily enough!
CALL OF THE SECRET PIRATE
The final sequence features a dynamite multiple pirate ship scene with sails flying wildly in the wind, and had the little girls next to us so excited they immediately asked their parents, "Can we go again...right now?"
Never mind what we say about this place, that word-of-mouth endorsement says it all in a nutshell.
The facility is also setup for group gatherings of all sorts, and has been used by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, private parties, birthday parties, etc. They get the haunt experience, and a bonfire stocked with wood to share stories at while enjoying delicious hot cider, hot chocolate, donuts, etc.
The bonfire/snack experience is also included for all haunt fans. No one need go hungry here!