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TOP AWARDS FOR 2012

MOST AMAZING HAUNT - THE HAUNT, GRAND RAPIDS

There's no quick synopsis we can give that will do The Haunt justice. One brief comment though: We're going out on a limb and predicting that The Haunt will be featured on nationwide TV soon!

SCARIEST HAUNT OF THE YEAR - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

This haunt had the most GOTCHA moments, but even better is some truly spooked-out stuff happening here that's not even part of the official show! This is the stuff legends are made of; and you can't make this stuff up.

Check this out: There are many genuine antiques, each with its own unique story. For example, one large storage chest was found to contain World War 1 letters from military personnel. Paranormal investigators were on hand, and got strange chills when the first letter was inspected prompting them to instruct the haunt operator NOT to mess with it! There's LOTS more too, check here: www.therealmofdarkness.com 

BEST AMAZING GAG - PANIC AT PINE STUMP HOLLOW, SAINT CLAIR

The best knock-your-socks-off gag this year! It's a surprise pit of terror, cleverly disguised as an ordinary looking tent in the last part of the forest walk. You walk up an incline, and may be expecting a black hole. Nope, the floor suddenly falls away revealing only a metal grating and the surprise attack totally takes you by surprise. WAY COOL!

BEST AMBIENCE - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

It's like walking into a time-travelling machine here, from the amazing costumes to the super authentic looking scenes. An unmistakable feeling of mysterious oldness quickly overcomes you...TRULY eerie.

BEST ANIMATRONICS - TERRORTOWN, TOLEDO, OHIO

They make their own animatronics here, and have the imagination of a mad scientist genius!

BEST ATTENTION TO DETAIL - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

Wow, where do we start?

How about the etiquette-perfect dinner place settings, the beveled-edge frames, the intricate designs on costumes, authentic speech patterns and period mannerisms of actors, or the hyper-realistic cave?

That only scratches the surface at this mega haunt, whose expertise can actually also be found at competing haunts. Huh? The operator of this haunt is such an expert, she is often a design consultant for other haunts! How's THAT for cooperation? A CLASS ACT. 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY - THE HAUNT, GRAND RAPIDS

There's a show within a show here, on a raised stage in the waiting area. At regular intervals, an original dance routine is performed that will knock your socks off! NOTHING like it anywhere else.

BEST COMEDY - SLAUGHTERHOUSE, FOWLERVILLE

The funniest haunt! You'll laugh 'yer butt off a whole bunch of times, in between all the spooky madness that perfectly offsets the silliness.

BEST CREEPY ACTOR - HOUSE OF FEAR, HAZEL PARK

For the bloody-faced nurse girl, with her fabulous mannerisms and vocalizations. Her imposing presence instantly takes total control of the room with her super intense creepiness!

BEST FAMILY FACILITY - BLAKE'S, ARMADA

This haunt delivers the goods big time, but is totally family-friendly in every possible way. The live animals delight the kids, and photo opportunities abound to revel in the joy later on!

BEST HAYRIDE - HAUNTED FARM OF TERROR, LENOX TWP.

Our hands-down favorite, with the perfect combination of crazy story lines and grandiose gags galore!

BEST LIGHTING - SLAUGHTERHOUSE, FOWLERVILLE

For the ultra-surreal last room. It's a brilliant original concept that zooms from retro to space-age in a flash!

Your attention is directed to a hanging light fixture with clear incandescent bulbs. Then the story line blasts off into a cosmic vibe, and the room suddenly transforms itself, exploding with hundreds of tiny green laser beams! A slight haze ensures the beams are bursting with 3D exquisiteness.

BEST MAGIC - SLAUGHTERHOUSE, FOWLERVILLE

Things don't just vanish here, they also appear out of thin air. And the guy whose just-removed head is carried thru the room is a total scream!

BEST MISDIRECTION - PHANTOM FOREST HAYRIDE, GROSSE ILE

The built-in cover of a dense forest is exploited to the max for devastatingly effective surprise attacks that totally took us by surprise many times!

BEST MOMENTO - THE DEVIL'S ASYLUM, PORT HURON

An encounter with a Krazy Klown exploding out of pitch blackness into a strobe light blast becomes an excellent photo opportunity for ALL visitors at this haunt, revealed at the exit.

A burst of photos has been recorded with the multiple strobe flashes, just as the surprise moment occurs with the clown. A quick review of the choices on a large screen is then seen, and for a modest charge a custom-framed picture is yours in about a minute! VERY COOL IDEA.

BEST RENOVATION / NEW STUFF - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

How do you re-invent a mega haunt of gigantic proportions?

You start almost immediately after the haunt season ends, creating new concepts to amaze the masses. Then you and your crew immerse yourselves in that new reality, and work your butts off!

How hard did they work? How about TWENTY-EIGHT new rooms? WOW.  And THAT is why this haunt enjoyed one of its best seasons in 2012, with word-of-mouth endorsements running rampant.

BEST SOUND - JACKSON'S UNDERGROUND, JACKSON

There's a seemingly endless supply of different sound systems here, starting the moment you arrive. Multiple speakers (and strobes) on different sides of the giant building set the mood quickly, but that pales in comparison to what awaits inside.

There are SO many separate high quality sound systems here, and yet the thick walls afford total isolation so each scene is in its own bubble. Even the deepest, thunderous body-shaking bass content dissolves into nothingness at the drop-of-a-hat! IMPRESSIVE.

BEST SOUNDTRACK - THE HAUNT, GRAND RAPIDS

The soundtrack inside The Haunt is excellent, with a wide variety of crazy music, sonic blasts and hyper-realistic outdoors environmental sounds.

But the "piece de resistance" is the dance routine music. It's an all-original instrumental blend of contemporary music styles including some cutting-edge techno grooves that had the whole audience instinctively bouncing with the beat! AWESOME.

PLEASE NOTE: The 2011 awards were from the haunts we actually visited in 2011. We did not make it to certain key haunts that have impressed us in past years including THE TERRORFIED FOREST & MANOR, EREBUS, and DARKSYDE ACRES.

TOP AWARDS FOR 2011

HAUNT OF THE YEAR -

THE HAUNT, GRAND RAPIDS

WOWSER!!

This haunt has become a legend in its own time. It seems the sky is the limit here; about 35,000 attended in just the FIRST YEAR! And it's been advertised largely by word-of-mouth which is hands down the most effective.

BEST ACTION PER ROOM -

GHOSTLY MANOR, SANDUSKY, OHIO

It all happens so fast, it's breathtaking! And not only that, but there's SO MUCH happening all at once or in rapid succession. Sensory overload has never been so delicious!

BEST AGGRESSIVE ENDING -

HAUNTED FUNERAL HOME, INKSTER

KILLER FINAL SEQUENCE!

BEST AMAZING GAG -

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN

The Vanishing Room is an experience and a half! You won't believe your eyes, but there's simply no denying what is in front of them. Re-writing the laws of physics to their own liking is a specialty at this haunt. Mix in some magic dust, and watch the masses scratch their heads wondering how what they just saw could possibly be!

BEST AMBIENCE -

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

The realism here will transport you to many lands and thrust you thru a time tunnel to the past! And lots of the genuine old feeling comes from the fact that many real antiques are on display.

And get this, many of them are not only real but also have documented paranormal activities associated with them. In other words, they're TRULY HAUNTED. WOW. Now that's a horse of a different color...a REAL haunted house.

Some of the props had to be removed for safety's sake, but most are still there. There's lots of real history involved, and one thing the owner was looking at was a trunk full of old letters from military personnel long ago. At first she wanted to go thru them, trying to learn more specifics.

But the paranormal investigators assisting here suddenly got a cold chill, and they said "NO! LEAVE THOSE LETTERS EXACTLY AS THEY ARE AND LOCK THE TRUNK." Needless to say, that's exactly what she did.

The spooky feel here is REAL. Where else can you find ambience like that? Case closed.

BEST ANIMATRONICS -

TERRORTOWN, TOLEDO, OHIO

This haunt had the most animatronics we saw this year. But that's not why they won. The animatronics here have a special flair and intensity you won't see anywhere else.

That's because they brainstorm and build their own! Some of them are gigantic, but others will come out of hiding right when you least expect it.

And the audio accompanying them is stunning, with excellent fidelity from a multitude of high quality sound systems. Loud 'n' proud, or sneaky and slithering...this haunt hits the animatronics nail-on-the-head each time, every time.

BEST ATTENTION TO DETAIL -

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

There's so many different kinds of scenes here, yet they all have one thing in common. Every nook and cranny is bursting with perfection, and runs the gamut from minimalist to museum-like intricacies!

Look close, or at least try to. There's just SO much to see here, if you blink even once you'll miss tons of it!

BEST BANG-FOR-THE-BUCK -

HOUSE OF FEAR, HAZEL PARK

Ok, it went up this year. A whole dollar. Still an amazing bargain at only $6 now, this volunteer haunt is back with a vengeance after a brief hiatus.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY -

THE HAUNT, GRAND RAPIDS

An awesome original dance routine earned this award for THE HAUNT. At regular intervals, a show in the waiting area is delivered with dynamic power and emotion that grabs the audience quickly.

Five female dancers emerge with dramatic elegance, one dressed in white and the others in black. It's striking! With everybody's attention clearly focused on the stage, they perform like seasoned pros.

There's some intense body language going on, so no words are needed. They dance and prance to an original instrumental soundtrack that seriously kicks! It's a high energy blend of modern techno grooves and haunted weirdness.

Part of the routine is a marionette act, performed convincingly without the strings you imagine are there. The synchronization between the controllers and puppets is flawless!

HOLLYWOOD SLICK, MICHIGAN MADE.

BEST COMEDY -

SLAUGHTERHOUSE, FOWLERVILLE

We couldn't stop cracking up here! The comedians are just as slick with impromptu lines as their basic patter.

BEST CREEPY ACTOR -

"SCARLET" at HAUNTED HOLLOWS, ARMADA

This actress crept up on us in the line while we weren't looking, and later stuck to us like glue until the last possible moment as we drove off. To make sure we wouldn't forget her, she left some deep red bloody handprints on the doors and windows!

But what caught us by surprise initially was that she did not walk to us. It was a wet, muddy night and she arrived in full mud bath mode...slithering up slowly along the icky ground.

Her dress is tattered, and looks like it was made by a three year old. It's obviously her only clothing, and she has never seen a shoe in her life. A more pathetic looking waif orphan girl you'll never see.

The bloody wounds are fresh, and her mutterings range from other-worldly to guttural animal grunts, hissing, etc. But she understands spoken language too, spouting witty quick come-backs to musings from patrons.

Remember the Marx Brothers? Harpo Marx was my favorite, and one of his gags was being able to pull almost anything out of his pockets. One time Groucho tells Harpo that you can't burn your candle at both ends. So Harpo immediately reaches in a pocket, and removes a candle that has two wicks and it burning at both ends!

Scarlet has lots of weird stuff at her disposal too, but she doesn't use a pocket to store it. She uses her mouth and all sorts of hideous looking substances are oozing out of it! It's totally disgusting, or so it appears anyway. One especially gross looking mass that she expelled is actually just wholesome cottage cheese, but combined with the mud and the overall bloody mess she is you'd never know it.

The powerhouse combination of strange vocalizations and Scarlet's hideous appearance/mannerisms made this an easy choice for BEST CREEPY ACTOR OF 2011!

BEST FACADE -

GHOSTLY MANOR, SANDUSKY, OHIO

The facade here is alive, and it has a mind of its own! It has its own sound and light system too. The lights flash with the music, like the "color organs" of bygone days. And the hideous resident creatures are on the prowl, and JUST at the right times too. This impressive facade is not just being watched, it's watching you too! Like no other at any haunt we've seen. 

BEST FAMILY FACILITY -

BLAKE'S, ARMADA

This one was easy. Let's say you had out-of-state guests with kids that could go to only one haunt during their visit. What would you tell them? It's a no-brainer, BLAKE'S.

BEST HAYRIDE -

HAUNTED FARM OF TERROR, LENOX TWP.

WOW! THIS is the one generating the big talk on the streets, and for good reason. The whole cart was shaking at times, and the grandiose gags are breathtaking. And if you're lucky enough to go when there's no wind, you'll see an astonishing moonflower-type effect in the Drive-In scene at the end.

BEST LIGHTING -

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

There's a wide range of scenes here, and the lighting in each of them invokes its intended feeling perfectly. But what clinched this award was the cave sequence, with its startling reality accentuated by real water "streams." 

BEST MAGIC -

SLAUGHTERHOUSE, FOWLERVILLE

Remember the Cheshire cat in Alice? The cat smiles, and the rest of it vanishes leaving just the silly grin. This haunt is wacky like that with its excellent illusions; one of our favorites was the guy whose head has popped off his body!

Also features instantly vanishing weirdos, and others that suddenly appear out of thin air! Best of its kind hands-down this year.

BEST MISDIRECTION -

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN

THIS is the one that actually delivered the big GOTCHA moments we crave so much! Misdirection is an art form here, refined to a level that will fool even the most seasoned haunt fan.

BEST PHYSICAL THRILL -

HAUNTED MONSTER TRUCK RIDES, LANSING

Even since the Hershey Haunted House in Dearborn closed, we've wondered who would be the next to feature a roller coaster at a haunt. And this year we found it...sorta.

It's not really a roller coaster, but it sure feels like it many times during your experience here! They've constructed a steep dirt hill that the driver navigates with speed and precision.

There's some amazing horsepower involved, and you can even feel the incredible potential kinetic energy that remains unused. You can just feel there's LOTS more there, but the driver never pushes it too far.

They do have monsters lurking to do their thing, but their impact is minimal as they look like insects from high-atop the sky high Monster Truck!

This is the same Moongoose Trucking you may have seen on TV or in Vegas, and they have lots of trophies and a world record under their belt. World class all the way, and now also a welcome new addition to the Michigan haunt scene.

BEST SOUND -

GHOSTLY MANOR, SANDUSKY, OHIO

There are probably a hundred sound systems or so at this behemoth! But the one that put this haunt over-the-top in this category was what we called the Confusion Room.

First your attention is drawn by an echoing whisper questioning whether or not you know where you're going. Then a multitude of wild sounds and other voices join in with conflicting advice, from every possible direction in the room! There's so many speakers in the room you won't believe it, but you won't see a single one of them.

BEST SOUNDTRACK -

DEMENTIA AT HAMPTON, ROCHESTER HILL

BEST TWISTED GAG -

HAUNTED HOLLOWS, ARMADA

For the butcher gag on the hayride. THIS is the one that made even the tough-guys go "NOOOOOO WAY!" And the girls? Squirming and staring in disbelief, every single one of them.

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TOP AWARDS FOR 2009:

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS AWARD

REALM OF HAUNTED MINDS

ROMULUS, MICHIGAN

For the slithering girl near the end. Totally unique combination of visual and aural spookiness. Her eyes will pierce your soul and her vocalizations will echo thru your mind.

OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER HAUNT

HAUNTED HALLOWS

WESTLAND, MICHIGAN

Combination mini-hayride and forest walk with fabulous ambience and execution. Rivals any pro haunt!

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS AWARD

HAUNTED FOUNTAINS,

CLARKSTON, MICHIGAN

For the Clown Girl, delightfully wacky and on-the-fly crazy concepts galore!

OUTSTANDING ACTOR AWARD

THE DEADLAND HAUNTED HOUSE, DAVISON, MICHIGAN

For the tour guide, awesome creativity and it seems he can talk anybody into doing anything! Can you said, "What WERE you thinking?!"

OUTSTANDING ACTOR AWARD

ST. LUCIFER'S HAUNTED ASYLUM, GRAND BLANC, MICHIGAN

For the host dude with his amazing vocal characterizations and flipped out concepts and delivery.

TOP AWARDS FOR 2007

BEST ACTORS - THE HAUNT, WALKER Serious attention to acting skills helped them win this award. They had many drama and improv classes, but what set them over the top was a small select group of actors specially trained for a certain strange gag that is highly effective!

BEST AMBIENCE (man made) - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  The new cave sequence cinched it for this haunt, although it probably would've won even without it!

BEST AMBIENCE (naturally occurring) - 2 way tie between SALEM'S HAUNTED BARN & HORSE DRAWN HAYRIDES in CAPAC and HAUNTED GHOST TOWN & HAYRIDE in BRIGHTON. Ambience was oozing off the charts at both these haunts! And the absence of engine noise at SALEM'S is something we've never experienced before at a hayride, awesome!

BEST ASSAULT ON THE SENSES - TERRORTOWN, MAUMEE OHIO  This haunt literally buries you alive, and that's  JUST THE START of the amazing assault on the senses this haunt delivered, including smell!

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK - HOUSE OF FEAR, HAZEL PARK  Hands down winner, only $5! Amazing creativity at this all volunteer effort.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY / DANCING - THE HAUNT, WALKER  A striking original dance routine earned this award. It's performed on a stage in the waiting area by 2 guys and 3 girls who emerge from a graveyard setting.

BEST DECOR / DETAIL - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  Is this a museum or a haunted attraction?!

There were so many excellent hayrides of different types in 2007 which made it impossible to name one as being the best, so we've categorized the awards instead.

BEST HAYRIDE (family oriented) - 5 way tie between BLAKE'S SPOOKY NIGHTTIME HAYRIDES AND 3-LEVEL HAUNTED BARN, ARMADA, HAUNTED HILL ACRES, BELLEVILLE, THE PUMPKIN FACTORY HAYRIDE, BELLEVILLE, SPOOKTACULAR HAUNTED HAYRIDES, BELLEVILLE and TERRORZONE, TAYLOR. All have great hayrides appropriate for the whole family.

BEST HAYRIDE (high intensity) HAUNTED FARM OF TERROR, LENOX TWP. Hands down winner, an absolute MUST SEE if you're not a wimp! Giant props and double sided gags, and multiple sound systems throughout fill the area with sonic madness deluxe.

BEST HAYRIDE (narration) - BLAKE'S SPOOKY NIGHTTIME HAYRIDES AND 3-LEVEL HAUNTED BARN, ARMADA A convincing delivery of a clever story earned this award.

BEST HAYRIDE (original gags) - BLOOD BATH & BEYOND, FOWLERVILLE  This haunt invents and engineers original gags like nobody else around! One of our favorites involves a ghoul who flies, and there's other superior aerial antics too.

BEST ILLUSIONS - SLAUGHTER HOUSE, FOWLERVILLE  When magicians get involved great things can happen!

BEST INTERACTION - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  You actually decide your fate based on the decisions you will make here.

BEST LIGHTING - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  Sometimes subtle, sometimes blazing, but always just right.

BEST MAGIC - THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN  A world class magic show earned this award. The creator of this haunt is a renowned magician who was once chosen to be a performer at a magician's conference in New York City. His routine is as slick as any you'll ever see. The standing room crowd was totally blown away!

BEST NEW FIND - THE HOMER MILL HAUNTED HOUSE, HOMER We missed their debut last year, this is an amazing young haunt! Worth the drive from Detroit for sure. There's a bar we wish we'd had time to hang out at too.

BEST ORIGINAL GAG - SLAUGHTER HOUSE, FOWLWERVILLE  The easy chair room earned this award. This amazing gag was conceived and engineered in house, whereas most haunts buy major gags from haunt suppliers. They worked hard to have it ready for opening night, and it worked perfectly. A stroke of creative genius!

BEST SOUND - 3 way tie between HOUSE OF FEAR, HAZEL PARK, THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC and THE SCREAM MACHINE, TAYLOR. HOUSE OF FEAR had great sound starting outside the building during the walk leading to the ticket booth. Inside the content was awesome, our big time favorite was the room with the old wooden radio playing some highly unusual old music. THE REALM OF DARKNESS continued its' tradition of great sound and articulation from the actors. THE SCREAM MACHINE had the best original soundtrack created by the band associated with this haunt GATHERING OF DARKNESS. In addition their sound system was top notch with awesome depth and quality. It takes lots of subwoofers and power amplifiers to pull this off, and their audio racks are stuffed with premium grade products by top companies like Crown.

BEST 3-D - 2 way tie between THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN  and THE SCREAM MACHINE, TAYLOR 

 

ZIOPTIS 2006 PEOPLES CHOICE HAUNT AWARDS

1ST PLACE, BEST HAUNT OF THE YEAR:

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

 

RUNNER-UP:

CASTLE OF THE DEAD, MT. CLEMENS

 

UNSUNG HERO AWARD:

TERRORFIED FOREST & MANOR, PINCKNEY

This year we decided to let the public pick their favorite haunt to be honored with the ZIOPTIS HAUNT OF THE YEAR AWARD. After all, this is a free public service so we think you should have a say in what goes on here too!

Here are some verbatim comments from votes received for THE REALM OF DARKNESS:

"My favorite haunt of 2006 was The Realm Of Darkness. This was a house with good effects and an awesome theme. The Choose Your Own Adventure twist was well executed and added to the enjoyment"

..."very realistic and scary as all hell!"...

"I recently went to the Realm of Darkness and this is my say in why it should be crowned the best haunted house again in Michigan. First of all I would like to say that most haunted houses are straight forward with no story line. The house should be one with a story and the participants should be the major role in the story. The Realm of Darkness had an amazing story line with the participants scrambling to find 3 tokens to defeat the evil wizard. You must partake in events to win tokens, all of them being lucky choices such as choosing a certain book, bone or goblet. Then you come up to a board of 8 buttons and depending on how many tokens you possess you get to press that many buttons. Picking the right ones gets you to the lair of the wizard. I unfortunately didn't pick the right buttons and as punishment was sent running away from a chainsaw wielding maniac! But I didn't care if I lost and didn't get double my money back which is a great way to lure more customers because I had the biggest scare of my entire life! Me and my friends loved it and I had never had so much fun and got scared at the same time. That is why my vote goes to downtown Pontiacs' Realm of Darkness"

"I LOVE the Realm of Darkness in Pontiac. The actors are extraordinary. It was more than just a walk through haunted house, it was an adventure. The Realm gets my vote as well as the other 6 that went with me. Their Most Devoted Fan, K.G." (Note: this entry awarded only one vote)

"Thought I'd put my vote in for the peoples choice awards. Although I've been to some fun, new haunts this season, I think Realm of Darkness still has my vote for #1. The overall experience is great. They have a theme that is followed through beginning to end; the actors are very good and the decor is outstanding. Thanks for the opportunity to vote for my favorite, looking forward to the results."

"hay guys I just wanted to let you know that the realm of darkness made me almost pee my pants dude. it was sweet. tell them great job."

"The Realm blew me away - it was phenomenal!"

"...just awesome, really scary..."

"I couldn't believe how realistic it is!"

"Once again, Nicky The P gives the nod to the Realm of Darkness..."

YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY WE GAVE AN AWARD TO A HAUNT WE DIDN'T EVEN GO TO IN 2006, WHICH IS THE "UNSUNG HERO AWARD."

This award is the result of only one persons entry, but check this out - he's a hard core haunt fan that WENT TO 18 HAUNTS in 2006! Most haunt fans are lucky to get to 10 per season we've found thru the years, so this guy is special. In talking with him (for almost an hour!) we got to understand what a true connoisseur he is. Here is his e-mailed vote:

"Overall, the best experience was The Terrorfied Forest and Manor. I expected the walk to be fun, but it just kept going and going. I couldn't believe how long it was and detail oriented the whole time. When you first drive up, it seems like maybe it wasn't worth the trip and it'll be quick because it's out in the middle of nowhere. But it ended up being my favorite of every place I went this year. I was impressed that they had so many outbuildings in the forest to go through and walk by. It really was an amazing haunt. The black holes were just as fantastic as you described. I loved the red lights taking you through the forest. I especially give credit to them for allowing you some time between scares to just walk at your own pace and 'come up' to the scare points as if you were out in the forest experiencing them yourself. In my opinion, that added to the effect. I also tip my hat for allowing two person groupings to go through and enjoy it themselves and not making people group up in packs to optimize the amount of people you can get through the haunt in a night. Every person deserves to be 'in front' while going through a haunt."

TOP AWARDS FOR 2005

The haunt winning the most categories is the OVERALL BEST HAUNT.

BEST ACTORS - THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN  Local college drama students are the perfect natural resource!

BEST AMBIENCE (man made) - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  The variety and quality of different feelings invoked exceeded all others in this category.

BEST AMBIENCE (naturally occuring) - NAUTICAL NIGHTMARE, RIVER ROUGE  It's on an old Bob-Lo Boat! Need we say more?!

BIGGEST - EREBUS, PONTIAC  Now certified as the World's Largest Walk Through Haunted House by the Guinness Book of World Records!

BEST DECOR / DETAIL - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  Is this a museum or a haunted attraction?!

BEST FAMILY ORIENTED - 3 way tie between HAUNTED HILL ACRES, BELLEVILLE, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD & HAYRIDE, BELLEVILLE and BLAKE'S SPOOKY NIGHTTIME HAYRIDES AND 3-LEVEL HAUNTED BARN, ARMADA  All have great hayrides and lots more appropriate for the whole family.

BEST FOREST WALK -  TERRORFIED FOREST AND MANOR,PINCKNEY  This forest has it all! Unbelievable variety of scenes thru a 1/2 mile journey.

BEST HAYRIDE - BLAKE'S NIGHTTIME SPOOKY HAYRIDES, ARMADA  Highly creative with superior narration from tour guide.

BEST ILLUSIONS - SLAUGHTER HOUSE, FOWLERVILLE  When magicians get involved great things can happen!

BEST INTENSE SCARE - EREBUS, PONTIAC  The biggest Tesla coil we've ever seen is here! And have you ever literally been buried alive?

BEST INTERACTION - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  You actually decide your fate based on the decisions you will make here.

BEST LIGHTING - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  Sometimes subtle, sometimes blazing, but always just right. Effective use of various strobelight flash rates, fog and hazer enhancements.

BEST MAKEUP - FORTRESS OF FEAR, WYANDOTTE  Masks can be cool, but nothing compares to really great makeup / gory features molded onto the faces!

BEST MODULAR SPACE USE - CASTLE OF THE DEAD, MOUNT CLEMENS  If all you saw was the entrance facade (one the best ever!) and then went all the way thru this LONG haunt, you'd have no idea you had just walked thru a long series of semi-tractor trailers! Incredible! (By the way, this is the former "HAUNTED GALLERY" which changed hands awhile ago.)

MOST ACTION PER ROOM - GHOSTLY MANOR, SANDUSKY, OHIO Hands down winner in this category! NOBODY ELSE had as many surprises happening all at once in room after room.

BEST NEW FIND - GHOSTLY MANOR, SANDUSKY, OHIO  We saw a brochure for this last year at THE HAUNTING in ADRIAN last year and were flabbergasted by what we found there! WE REALLY LIKE AND ADMIRE HAUNTS THAT PROMOTE EACH OTHER! We know that it's a competitive business with a lot on the line. But we have found that friendly competition raises the overall quality of the haunt scene and ends up benefitting everyone involved!

BEST SOUND - THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC  Each rooms sound perfectly reflected its' theme, as in many haunts. The deciding factor here was the ACTORS, all clearly audible with good enunciation and accents. The actors were never drowned out by excessive volume of sound systems, which we have seen many times at other haunts obscuring their story lines.

BEST SPOOKY FEEL - THE EXTREME SCREAM, TAYLOR  This one spooked us more than any other this year with its' subtle approach and superior soundtrack.

BEST 3-D - THE SCREAM MACHINE, TAYLOR  Just slip these glasses on and experience new dimensions of eye candy! Watch your step, the floor is floating!

OVERALL BEST HAUNT OF 2005:

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

2004 IN REVIEW

TOP AWARDS - 5 STARS:

BLAKE'S NIGHTTIME SPOOKY HAYRIDES & 3 LEVEL HAUNTED BARN, ARMADA (also features the BEST CARMEL/NUT APPLES ON THE PLANET!)

EREBUS, PONTIAC

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN

NIGHTCRAWLERS at CJ BARRYMORE'S, CLINTON TOWNSHIP

PSYCHO ASYLUM, MONROE

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

THE SCREAM MACHINE, TAYLOR

THE TERRORFIED FOREST & MANOR, PINCKNEY

4 3/4 STARS:

DEADLY INTENTIONS, WARREN

THE EXTREME SCREAM, TAYLOR

THE HAUNTED MORGUE, YPSILANTI

SLAUGHTER HOUSE & HAUNTED CORN MAZE, FOWLERVILLE

WICKED AT LASERS EDGE, CLINTON TOWNSHIP

2003 IN REVIEW

TOP AWARDS - 5 STARS

THE TERRORFIED FOREST, PINCKNEY

TERROR TOWN, MAUMEE OHIO

THE SCREAM MACHINE, TAYLOR

EREBUS, PONTIAC

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN

PSYCHO ASYLUM, MONROE

ľ stars:

GIYRA ISLAND OF TERROR, GROSSE ILE

2002 IN REVIEW

TOP AWARDS - 5 STARS:

THE HAUNT, WALKER, MICHIGAN

Several Detroit area haunt operators told us this is the coolest haunt in Michigan, and I must say we agree! The entrance facade is an EXACT REPLICA of a real haunted house in Grand Rapids that scared the show producer and his friends when they were kids. This is in a large warehouse - lots of chamo-netting gives a rustic feel. 3 large mausoleums in the indoor waiting area suddenly open up and 3 groups of dancers perform a clever dance routine with instrumental music. Tons of awesome gags and illusions and the biggest 3-D display by Stu Smith we've ever seen! 2001 was their first year - over 30,700 attended!! We can't wait to see what they do in 2003!

THE HAUNTED THEATRE HOUSE, DETROIT MICHIGAN

Bigger and better than 2001 (also 5 stars!), these performers have a special feel not duplicated by ANY other haunt we've seen! Astonishing ambiance in a big city setting. Superior sound and lighting throughout, and the monster interaction level is off the scale!! Incredible physical thrill factor WHILE MAINTAINING SAFETY - BRAVO! Fantastic dance routine performed to clever original music by dancers with fluorescent skeleton costumes in makeshift auditorium within building.

NOT OPEN IN 2003 DESPITE ORIGINAL PLANS TO OPEN ON OCTOBER 25 - THEY "WILL BE BACK IN 2004." WE SINCERELY HOPE SO THIS WAS A TRULY SPECIAL EFFORT!!!

NOT OPERATING A PUBLIC HAUNT IN 2005 or 2006.

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC, MICHIGAN

They started preparations for this on March 5th - AND IT SHOWS! Once again, amazing attention to detail. 3-D displays are gone - in their place are some REALLY WILD INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES. Choose wisely enough, and you may get to meet THE WIZARD, possibly even winning A THOUSAND BUCKS, supplied by a radio station for legal reasons.

By the way, any stories you may hear of haunted houses themselves giving out big cash prizes are JUST Urban Legends! They CAN NOT legally do it, that's why this house got a radio station to supply the prizes - PRETTY CLEVER I'D SAY!

Last year's review mentioned they had the most ornate decor we've seen since the legendary MAXWORLD in the 80's, and that is still true. These operators had never seen or even heard of MAXWORLD, and yet, amazingly enough, they have now taken on some of the cool interactive elements that defined them! SUPERIOR INTERACTION, GREAT LIGHTING, GREAT SOUND, AWESOME PRESENTATION... THE CLASSIEST SHOW IN TOWN WE'VE SEEN YET!!! COOL TV ADS TOO.

NAUTICAL NIGHTMARE, OHIO

It looks old. It feels old. It smells old. That's because IT IS OLD! If you remember going to Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park many moons ago, you undoubtedly remember the Bob-Lo boats. Well, this haunt has been constructed ON one of the original Bob-Lo boats, the Saint Claire! What a treat to be able to "ride" her again in such a unique fashion!

The crews quarters are preserved just as they were, but many other things have gone strangely awry - the dining room is full but there IS something distinctly odd about the patrons and the band that is playing too! Excellent interaction, lighting and sound, and we especially liked the floating 3-D illusion with the young girl that morphs into a krazy clown. You CAN NOT buy, rent or manufacture ambiance like this haunt is steeping in! TOO COOL!!!

3-WAY TIE FOR 2nd HIGHEST RATED EFFORTS AT 4 3/4 STARS:

BLAKE'S NIGHTTIME SPOOKY HAYRIDES & 3 LEVEL HAUNTED BARN, ARMADA, MICHIGAN

Another strong performance from a perennial favorite "in the field" - get it?

Excellent hayride narration (live, not recorded). We especially liked the high intensity car fire and the running semi-truck honking and flashing lights at you. Cute, friendly witches give you donuts and cider second to none!

Good tri-level barn with excellent black hole at end. BRING THE WHOLE FAMILY TO THIS ONE, AND BUY SOME VANILLA PEANUT-CRUNCH FUDGE (or 15 other flavors) AND NUT COVERED CARMEL APPLES FROM THEIR STORE AFTERWARDS - YUM!!!

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN, MICHIGAN

ANOTHER FANTASTIC SHOW FROM ONE OF THE LEADERS! Totally different themes this time - your first challenge is to discover which mannequin is real, then you are thrust into a WILD 3-D EXPERIENCE by famed 3-D designer Stu Smith. A brilliant cross between sci-fi and classic psychedelia! Local drama students "KICK IT UP A NOTCH" in the acting department - they've always been way above average! Completely different magic show while you wait in line this time featuring a victim from the audience, and we liked the helicopter crash. Good monster interaction and placement - good surprise factor.

PSYCHO ASYLUM, MONROE, MICHIGAN

From the fine folks who brought you many great performances long ago in Dundee, and then at the Creature Castle in Monroe comes ANOTHER GREAT SHOW FROM START TO FINISH! Fantastic WHIZ-BANG START PUMPS YOU UP BIG TIME FOR AN INTENSE JOURNEY!

Excellent, tight blind passageways, padded with thick piled carpet for ultimate finger comfort! We especially liked the compressed air blasts, the new Elevator Room and the guy on the sound system taunting you with custom patter. He must be just making it up as he goes along! And how DOES he do that with his voice?

CREEPIEST HAUNT OF THE YEAR 2002 AWARD:

ISLE OF TERROR, MONROE, MICHIGAN at Croakie's Party Island

Excellent 20-25 minute walk outdoors with a hay bale maze at the end. Big bonfire after exit and heated tent waiting area with DJ music. We especially liked the first thingy you must walk on, the people going crazy in the red camping tent off to your right and the tree that breaks and almost hits you! Excellent recorded sound effects and THE WILDEST, JAW-DROPPING STUNT WE'VE SEEN AT ANY HAUNTED HOUSE! We're not about to give it away just in case they come back, but unfortunately it looks like they are not open in 2003.

BEST AMBIANCE AWARD 2002 - NATURALLY OCCURING:

NAUTICAL NIGHTMARE, OHIO

BEST AMBIANCE AWARD 2002 - MAN MADE:

THE HAUNTED THEATRE HOUSE, DETROIT, MICHIGAN

2001 IN REVIEW

TOP AWARDS - 5 STARS:

The CREEPIEST HAUNT OF THE YEAR 2001 AWARD goes to TRUMBULLPLEX in Detroit!!! This was a one night only presentation that totally blew us away - positively the MOST INTENSE haunted house in 2001! They were SO into it...they WERE NOT acting! Or, maybe they were, when they measured you for a body bag at the start and give it to you to carry. Or maybe when they served a baby on a platter for dinner. Or maybe when they brewed bat stew on a gas stove and the guy in the kitchen gets bludgeoned with a metal pipe. That guy hanging from the ceiling by a meat hook is in A LOT OF PAIN! Should we help him out? Oh, wait...in this other room...what IS that hanging from the ceiling? No...NO WAY!!! Some say this building TRULY IS HAUNTED...it used to be a funeral home! We can only hope they do it again in 2002...we'll keep you posted.

NOT OPERATING IN 2002

THE OTHER 5 STAR HOUSES FOR 2001 ARE:

THE REALM OF DARKNESS, PONTIAC, MICHIGAN

The most ornate house yet - astonishing attention to detail. Imagine strolling thru the antebellum era, before the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution and then landing in a space-age 3-D fantasy deluxe! INCREDIBLE!!

THE HAUNTING, ADRIAN, MICHIGAN

ANOTHER FANTASTIC SHOW FROM ONE OF THE LEADERS! Totally different themes this time - your first challenge is to discover which mannequin is real, then you are thrust into a WILD 3-D EXPERIENCE by famed 3-D designer Stu Smith. A brilliant cross between sci-fi and classic psychedelia! Local drama students "KICK IT UP A NOTCH" in the acting department - they've always been way above average!

Completely different magic show while you wait in line this time featuring a victim from the audience, and we liked the helicopter crash. Good monster interaction and placement - good surprise factor.

THE HAUNTED THEATRE HOUSE, DETROIT, MICHIGAN

This was a first time effort not in the Fear Finder. It was a tad on the short side, but what they had was A-PLUS! Fantastic interaction and we especially liked the entrance design, the moving severed hand and the live mice! OPEN AGAIN IN 2002

3-WAY TIE FOR 2nd HIGHEST RATED EFFORTS AT 4 3/4 STARS:

PSYCHO ASYLUM, MONROE, MICHIGAN

We loved their "mind spinner" and innovative sound system usage. These guys caught our attention long ago in Dundee, and then again in 2000 with their CREATURE CASTLE. They are proving to be masters of the craft!

HAUNTFEST, CLARKSTON, MICHIGAN

This also earned our "OVERALL BEST VALUE" award. The pay-one-price policy allows unlimited carnival rides and trips thru 3 excellent haunted houses, one in 3-D. We especially liked the Thor dude who would follow you and the white faced girl. BIG FUN!

NIGHTCRAWLERS, CLINTON TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN

Primo sound system (love those pro sub-woofers!) and interaction. This was our first time here but certainly not our last! Some houses get "burned out" late in the season, but we understand this house dramatically IMPROVED in the final stretch of the 2001 season. This underscores a point we'd like to reiterate: performances CAN and DO vary from week to week, day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour! Because of this, ratings are intended as general guidelines only. Timing is often critical to a successful performance. Sometimes actors and even automated props miss their cues and it can make a world of difference!

HERE'S 2 OTHER EXCITING TIDBITS from 2001: We squeezed in 2 last minute visits to Hershey Haunted House in Dearborn and The Scream Machine in Taylor AND THEY WERE BOTH 5 STAR PERFORMANCES!!! In fact, an 11 year old girl who went with one of our friends LITERALLY PEED HER PANTS at The Scream Machine on Halloween night! Remember what we've said about the ratings being general guidelines because performances CAN and DO vary from day to day and even from hour to hour? This clearly demonstrates that fact, so if a house doesn't have a great rating they still should NOT be counted out!

OUR PURPOSE IS NOT TO PIT ONE HOUSE AGAINST ANOTHER! OUR GOAL IS TO PROMOTE THE HAUNTED HOUSE SCENE - AND MICHIGAN IS NUMBER ONE IN THE NATION FOR HAUNTED HOUSES! LET'S KEEP IT THAT WAY!!!

 

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