18 South Perry Street, Pontiac, MI 48342
(248) 332-7884 or www.HauntedPontiac.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - BIG, BAD, & BIZARRE
This haunt scares many away the moment they see it!
But thousands of others pile in every year like clockwork, in a rite of passage of sorts for Detroit haunters.
The facade is unbelievable!
A giant creature thrashes about sky high, as fog seeps through any opening it can find in the formidable structure beckoning the brave...and of course, the foolish like you and me!
But before we tell you what we liked best about Erebus this year, we have an excellent opportunity to tell you exactly what a prime target-demographic youngster had to say about Erebus!
Here's how that happened:
So my friend Mary called...we haunted together long ago...and she told me her 17 year old son had just gone to Erebus. DING! "Hey, could I talk to him please?"
I grabbed a pen and paper...lucky me! Samples from my notes:
How did you hear about Erebus? "My friends were talking about it...everybody was stoked to go..."
What did you like best about Erebus? "Getting totally scared...the animals jump out and BITE you...the wall fell down and almost knocked us over...this really weird green thing we had to dig through..."
Clearly, this type of patron is the bread-and-butter of this haunt. The legend is already in place, they're just fulfilling their destiny!
That's exactly the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that got us into haunting ourselves, but nowadays we analyze things more. So let's shift gears now...
TV sets playing a newscast appear at various intervals leading to the haunt entrance so you can't miss them. They show an expose' report about a time machine experiment gone wrong in a building cleverly disguised as a haunted attraction in Pontiac. This sucks in the unsuspecting public, of which you are now a part!
The show starts with a mad scientist on a slightly raised U-shaped stage of sorts, with tons of fabulous old analog electronic equipment. There's lots of buttons to push, and dials to spin as he scurries from one end to the other telling a strange tale.
After decontamination and being scanned for contraband and such, the machine takes you in and the experiment becomes you.
Instead of animatronics, custom-made giant creatures attack with live actors controlling their movements. They can bite you, swat you, caress you, and so forth with the greatest of ease. Watch out! Oh wait, that won't do you any good...the monsters ALWAYS have the upper hand!
We loved the throwback to carnival days, with a unique mirrored maze featuring dancing red and green laser beams.
But our hands-down favorite here is the swamp scene, using a clever variation of the classic "Liquid Sky" effect which mixes fog and laser beams to give a¬ stunning 3D effect mid-air.
Instead of the fixed oval shape projection usually associated with Liquid Sky displays, they use a series of flat-beam green lasers that hit you just above waist level in a foggy room. Giant inflated black plastic bags on either side force you to dig through, as if making your way through a dense swamp!
This was the GUINESS WORLD RECORDS World's Largest Haunted House from 2005 through 2009, until some yahoo pulled his "one upmanship" move and extended his haunt out a few feet more.
But really, they only paid Erebus the ultimate compliment as imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. And he who laughs last, laughs best.
THE REALM OF DARKNESS
37 Turk Street, Pontiac, MI 48341
(248) 338-0029 or www.TheRealmOfDarkness.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND!
Wow! This haunt is a high tech fantasy land of horror and dark medieval themes. But the technology never overshadows the old feeling, and blending the two is an art form onto itself.
The actors are all perfectly "in character," with mannerisms and accents to match their roles.
The opening scene's actor recognized us, and ad-libbed some new lines on the spot! He speaks eloquently, and with perfect diction and gestures to highlight the story he tells you about the demons in his castle.
Later, a series of people in picture frames come to life to fabulous effect in various parts of the haunt.
The first is a mild mannered looking man who becomes anything but, with wide blue laser beams shooting out of his eyes as he warns you of impending doom! He has a voice and appearance that screams Hollywood Sci-Fi movie, but his message is more like a Fantasy Adventure movie like Lord of the Rings.
There's very little reliance on animatronics, with one highly dramatic exception that towers to just short of the roof!
Misdirection is an art form here, taking many shapes, sizes, and scents. You can't help but look where they want you to, and you're like the broad side of a barn...an easy target that's irresistible!
Our favorite misdirection gags lands you smack-dab in front of a FLYING ACTOR WHO SOARS OUT OF NOWHERE! You won't believe how they pulled this off, it is so hilarious!
Many of the props in this haunt are genuine antiques, so the ambience is through the roof! Some of our favorites are an old Victrola record player, the organ with 3 banks of keys, and the ancient piano near the tall winding staircase on your left.
It's a strange blend of high-tech brilliance amid a medieval feeling environment that we've never seen anywhere else.
Also at REALM is a really cool 3D attraction CARNEVIL 3D, with eye popping fluorescent paint displays. The special glasses you're given are polarized, and the effect is much better than the green and red glasses often used for 3D displays.
We really liked the theater room with the popcorn machine, which has been hot-rodded for a dramatic 3D effect.
The artwork is hilarious, a takeoff on cheesy carnival sideshow themes like a poster featuring the freakish LOBSTER BOY. This is kitsch at its best!
The actors are all in outfits optimized for 3D too, and our favorites were two that can't stop laughing as they stare at their index fingers. They hold them in the air, and you get that cool POP-OUT effect... LOVE IT!
HELP, MISTER WIZARD!
It's not all medieval though, and you'll find yourself exploring caves, a snake pit, an authentic smelling forest, and much more as your QUEST TO REACH THE WIZARD continues. Pay attention, so you can earn gems to give you a chance at MEETING THE WIZARD!
THE WIZARD sports an amazing silicone-based facial prosthetic of sorts that moves and flexes naturally, and a half-page picture of him appeared recently in the Detroit Free Press "PLAY" section cover article "TRICKS OF THE TERROR TRADE - THE MEN BEHIND THE MONSTERS SHARE SOME INSIDER SECRETS."
So did we make it to the wizard this time?
Nope, but that's OK. It gives us the perfect excuse to go again!
REALM OF HAUNTED MINDS
Huron Turkey Farm
18910 Merriman Road, Romulus, MI 48174 (corner of Sibley, entrance on Sibley)
(734) 753-9187 or www.myspace.com/huronturkeyfarm
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - DESTINY RIOT BREAKS OUT AT TURKEY FARM
Once upon a time, we were invited here before their very first year open to the public. As a new haunt, we couldn't wait to check them out and they didn't have very much yet, but they more than made up for it with creativity and clever designs.
The journey of a lifetime starts with a single step, and theirs has been a wonder to behold! Now they're ready for the big time as this haunt is on par with the big boys, and enthusiastic customers are their best advertising.
We actually ran into one! A young mom with her kids did a quick sweeping scan across the landscape here, and then said very matter-of-factly "I think this is a great place to bring families." We couldn't agree more!
The show starts with the beautiful parking lot area, with tons of vibrantly colored little lights and mass quantities of pumpkins.
The ticket/food building in front is a show in itself, with an amazing collection of haunted characters. Many of them are life size, and our favorite is Dracula on your left as you enter. His face and eyes are SO realistic; he truly looks like a real person looking you square in the eye. It's CREEPY FANTASTIC!
Behind the front building is a bridge, and transports you to an amazing miniature city. There's a train, a ghost ship, and much more. Best of all, you can actually get in/on all of the displays/buildings. At first glance they look too small, but soon enough people are inside, playing spontaneous games with each other and monsters passing by!
The new haunted house facade is awesome, and features an opening on the upper level in the middle where a weirdo sits in a strobe lit room gazing down on his victims-to-be.
Once inside, you're in for a big treat! The new opening is KILLER, with a bust of a man's head that suddenly comes to life! His eyes and mouth are very lifelike, and his voice is powerful and ominous.
The giant, trademark Frankenstein here is still in place in the first room. But he's asleep or perhaps in a self-induced coma.
This haunt seems to be a magnet for all the Frankenstein's within a large radius of Romulus, and he pops up everywhere in various forms!
REALM OF HAUNTED MINDS IS RIGHT ON TRACK TO BECOMING A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE INDUSTRY
ST. CHARLES VILLAGE OF THE LIVING DEAD
400 E. Water Street, St. Charles, MI 48655
(989) 928-8865 or www.stchauntedhouse.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - ZOMBIE EVOLUTION 101
Zombies first appeared in sleepy little St. Charles way back in 1985, and fate led us here finally in 2013 for our first, but not last time! You simply cannot exist for that long unless you have a KILLER SHOW, and VILLAGE OF THE LIVING DEAD has it covered in spades.
The show starts before you even get out of your car, with weirdos roaming about committing random acts of strangeness. A nice touch!
THE EYES HAVE IT
A cool haunt depends on many things, not the least of which is the quality of the actors. One thing that impressed us here is the varied use of DIRECT EYE CONTACT the actors used to tell their stories.
Eye contact can be a powerful tool in an actors' arsenal! We really liked the strange girl frozen in place in her casket, and the guy after the V-shaped passageway.
Excellent monster interaction, constantly changing sound and lighting, and we really liked the bizarre creature you'll see on the right embedded into the wall with dark, purple lighting.
Humorous headstones had us cracking up, with such clever quips as: "He tried to cross, a fast train appeared. Death didn't draft him, he volunteered."
Also features a black hole, and "The Last Ride" coffin experience.¬ ¬
With 20 years under their belt at the current location, this haunt must be doing something right!
ERWIN'S BARN OF HORRORS, CORN STALKERS MAZE & HAUNTED WAGON RIDE
61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon, MI 48178
(248) 437-0150, (888) 8-CIDER-7 or www.erwinorchards.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - LAUGH RIOT AT ERWIN'S TURNS TO TERROR
The best storytelling mixes up your emotions, like making you laugh and then fearful.
This haunt nails it!
Before the cart ride to the haunted barn even started, they had us HOWLING WITH LAUGHTER! A super tall weirdo suddenly appears with two heads that¬ sparkle with LED lights.
His antics and silly statements are amplified by his jester's hat and squeaky dog toy. It's so ridiculous you can't help but laugh 'yer butt off!
The haunted barn is expanded and revamped big time yet again this year.
After being plunged into total darkness, an ominous looking giant fluorescent wooden door opens by itself and the madness begins!
They even have their own TV newsroom, but watch out or you'll become part of the story!
No, not the Frank Zappa song. It's a new canine character this year that will pop out on your left, a ZOMBIE DOG! Great stuff.
Excellent monster interaction, great makeup throughout, and we really liked the actor who thinks he's Spiderman and the spinning laser display in a CAVE. We've never seen one done like this! If you go, make sure to look backwards when you reach the end of the cave for a whole new view of the dramatic "Liquid Sky" effect produced by lasers with a bit of fog.
The makeup artist here does a great job, and is in a bubble by herself because she has NEVER been to any other haunted attraction! There's nothing to be influenced by or to copy, and the end results shine big time!
Also shining here are the unique-to-here donuts, and of course the super fresh cider. We joked with the owner that it's got to be some of the cheapest and best advertising for them to give every haunter ONE glass of cider and ONE donut. They're totally addicting, and most people leave with their hands full of goodies!
Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the corn maze.
There's another story here, and thousands of area schoolchildren are the benefactors! Two separate displays designed for kids operate during the day only.
One is a spooky, yet friendly series of displays all done in ultra-vivid fluorescent paint brightly lit with multitudes of long blacklights.
The other is "Mr. Bee's 3D Adventure," and is not only very educational, but contains a powerful life-lesson parallel for the little ones who wonder in the story told here.
In a dazzling array of fluorescent paint displays, the story of bees and the parts they play in the ecosystem is told. The kids LOVE it!
The underlying message is at once subtle and powerful: If even each and every little bee has such a vital role in the overall scheme of our planet, then certainly each and every little human being plays a vital role too.
Way to go, Erwin's! Shake the souls of the older kids at night, and touch the hearts of the little ones during the day.
And of course they both enjoy cider and donuts that are totally to die for! The donuts have a unique proprietary blend of grains that will tickle your taste buds until they scream for more!
Once you try an Erwin's donut, it's too late.
The only way you could have prevented it is if you had not gladly gulped down the donut they give you after haunting, along with a glass of fabulously fresh cider. That yummy, body warming goodness can be addicting so watch out!
But hey, it's fall...this is the only time of the year we eat donuts...in fact...check this out...if you really want to go ALL OUT try this: Get the Erwin's donuts as usual, but also buy a big jar of APPLE BUTTER and DIP YOUR DONUTS in it. Oh yeah...
5010 Green Road, Stockbridge, MI 49285
(517) 937-4606 or www.scarenow.com
ZIOPTIS SEZ 2013 - FIREBALLS & LASERS 'A POPPIN!
This is a multi-attraction haunt, featuring a walk through haunt and a forest journey.
The walk through haunt is "The Freak's Show" and has a wild party vibe at times, with cool rock music that eventually gives way to spooky sounds as the feel of the scenes gets darker.
Strobes, blacklights, and mood lighting rapidly vary according to the scenes. 2 different laser lit rooms round out the lighting package, one with red and green laser beams and the other with just red beams.
The red beams only laser display was our favorite, and uses several sheer scrims that you must navigate through. The scrims give the laser patterns a repeating effect that's strikingly beautiful!
NOTE: When you go through any laser lit room, be sure to look backwards at the scene when you reach the end of the room. In most cases, you'll see a whole new dimension to the "Liquid Sky" effect where you can see the edges of the laser beams in fog. You can actually see the air currents moving, and it's fun to drag your fingers through them to see the disturbances.
The outdoor setup is different this year, and the journey through "Deadwood Forest" starts on foot instead of the cart ride. The corn is tall, and the path is wide so the footing is good.
You'll pass through a miniature city of sorts, but almost certainly get lost too at least once like we did!
We were talking to the haunt operator here after we went thru, and he mentioned that he also does heating and cooling work and that "If there's one thing I know how to do, it's MAKE FIRE."
And HOW! We won't go into detail, but we will give you one piece of insider info on this one: When you step onto the cart after the forest walk, choose to sit on the LEFT side as you're looking at it. You'll be positioned to best see our favorite of the fire scenes.
If you make it out, you can share some tall tales around the bonfire that's always going. After all the craziness, it's the perfect way to wind down!