ZIOPTIS 2015 STATE-OF-THE-INDUSTRY ADDRESS
& SUPERNATURAL CERTIFIED SCARIEST HAUNT OF THE YEAR AWARD
The original purpose of the first haunted house was simply one thing - to scare people!
Scares can be man-made, and there are lots of incredible examples for sure.
But when those scares come unexpected from other sources like the spirit world...AHHH, now that's a whole other realm that gives goose bumps and shivers down the spine of anyone...even a top-level church pastor and a highly experienced paranormal author with PBS TV show credits!
Once again in 2015, the haunt industry bar has been set so high that awards would be useless and highly repetitive - KUDOS TO ALL HAUNT OPERATORS!!!
So this year, we have only one category for awards going to the original core of the haunt genre - SCARIEST! And the ultimate scares would be the REAL KIND we've alluded to, CERTIFIED SUPERNATURAL by independent sources not affiliated with haunts.
Zioptis 2015 Certified Supernatural Scariest Haunted House Award
We have a two-way tie between THE REALM OF DARKNESS in PONTIAC, MICHIGAN and THE HAUNTED PRISON EXPERIENCE in MANSFIELD, OHIO. (Also, honorable mention goes to ABANDONED HAUNTED HOUSE in MELVINDALE, MICHIGAN)
Too long for here, see full bone-chilling reports with their 2015 reviews in 2015_C for the REALM and 2015_B for the PRISON.
The haunt industry as a whole is strong, despite some major losses like TERRORTOWN in TOLEDO, OHIO as their operator went to work full-time with ROB ZOMBIE on his wildly popular haunts across the country - last year in CHICAGO.
Two new breakout haunts stormed the scene, with powerhouse performances from ROTTEN MANOR in HOLLY across the street from THE RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL and ABANDONED HAUNTED HOUSE in MELVINDALE.
The facade of ROTTEN MANOR is off-the-hook fabulous, and cost a small fortune and took a small army months to build. The facade design made us think of what THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS would see in their best possible dream! Also unique to this haunt is a giant series of wacky "hallways" made out of giant metal drainage pipes to incredible effect. This is unlike anything else we've seen! A NEW MAJOR PLAYER.
ABANDONED HAUNTED HOUSE is a welcome new addition to the DOWNRIVER AREA which had a major loss last year with the unexpected shuttering of THE SCREAM MACHINE in TAYLOR and PAPP PARK also being closed in 2015. PERFECT TIMING.
Last year's major breakout haunt was DARK LEGACY in WIXOM, coming on even stronger and longer this year with a new mind-twisting show that keeps crowds flocking to this new haunt oasis. And their photo opportunity is to die for fabulous, appearing much like a storefront display window for easy viewing from outside the building. And they've partnered with the pizza parlor in the same complex - have you ever met a haunter that doesn't love pizza?! SMART MOVES.
Industry leader THE HAUNT in GRAND RAPIDS continues to re-define the haunt genre itself with an addition that takes audience interaction to a whole new level. Patrons are challenged to solve a baffling mystery using their wits and smarts. This brings A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION TO HAUNTING that will probably be a giant hit with the gaming crowd we're thinking, as well as casual haunters ready for mind-bending challenges.
We finally re-visited NIGHT TERRORS AT WIARD'S in YPSILANTI, and it reminds us a lot of BLAKE'S in ARMADA in that it's a outdoor/indoor multi-attraction haunt with each part being absolutely top-notch.
Also in YPSILANTI, KRAZY HILDA'S TRAIL OF TERRORS wowed us with a new expanded show and some of best witches we can remember experiencing.
Down the road also on Ford Road in Westland, HUSH HAUNTED ATTRACTION had their last year at that location as they prepare to unleash a new giant when HUSH HAUNTED THRILL PARK opens in 2016! This will be a multi-attraction, with outdoor and indoor features and will be at a yet-to-be-disclosed location but still in Westland.
This is but one sign the industry is in good health, although surely more losses will also come. It's a constantly evolving industry, with the public increasingly expecting excellence in all phases of the haunt experience!
Another powerful sign of industry health we find at the CLIO MANOR HAUNTED HOUSE in FLINT, which is in their 2nd year for 2015. This dynamic young haunt has an amazing building with lots of room to grow, and is also fully equipped for paintball fun and target practice. Look for BIG THINGS in the future here!
Also in the FLINT AREA, THE CRYPT and ST. LUCIFER'S HAUNTED ASYLUM / 13 FEET BELOW continued their tradition of not only delivering top-notch haunt experiences, but also vigorously cross-promoting with other haunts. WIN-WIN!!
One young haunt that looks like a¬ seed taking root for big things to come is SCOTT'S HAUNTED CORN MAZE, HAYRIDE & ROOMS OF TERROR in OXFORD. They floored us with some key individual performances, and made amazing use of a smallish building resembling a double-wide trailer! SMALL BUT MIGHTY.
But from humble beginnings come great things, and that reminds us of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ROAD in WEBBERVILLE who lost their namesake when Wes Craven died this year. NIGHTMARE has a facade to die for in a woods setting with natural ambience off-the-hook to begin with. Their show always changes, but they have a dedicated core team of high-quality actors that always deliver unique experiences as varied as the yearly themes here.
THE BONE YARD in STOCKBRIDGE continued their unique brand of ASTONISHING TRAIL BLAZING...literally! One of the amazing propane blast scares also provided an amazing juxtaposition unlike anything we've ever seen before at any haunt. HOT STUFF! (see review in 2015_C)
Also off of I-96 are SLAUGHTERHOUSE in FOWLERVILLE and BESTMAZE in WILLIAMSTON, both delivering the goods big time but in different ways. SLAUGHTERHOUSE combines magic and comedy like nobody else, and BESTMAZE produces a new state-of-the-art highly artistic maze every year. They publish pictures of each year's maze, and we can only imagine how many people flying in airplanes have wondered at the site of BESTMAZE!
SHAWHAVEN FARMS is also nearby in MASON and has always thrilled us, but sadly we missed them in 2015.
We also missed another excellent haunt we feel is very important for several reasons at the MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY DRAMA DEPT. BUILDING¬ in EAST LANSING. UNDERWORLD was the show theme for 2015, and we're encouraged with future professional thespians wanting to do this as they get more experience under their belts and stretch their chops in a way unlike any other!
JACKSON'S UNDERWORLD in JACKSON made good on their promise of giant expansions for 2015. They opened up the top floor of this behemoth, and raised the aerial bridge you walk through that much higher. This is hands-down the MOST INCREDIBLE HEIGHT SENSATION GAG we've ever seen and experienced! Also, a brand new sub-attraction has been added with the very dark and very scary JACKSON'S UNDERGROUND making this truly A MEGA HAUNT LIKE NO OTHER!
We got back to the basics to great effect in MILLINGTON at BATE'S HAUNTED SAWMILL AND JC'S AXE HOUSE in an area also boasting amazing natural ambience, accented by strolling performers and authentic sawmill equipment designed for massive ripping power. The mere appearance of these mechanical monsters conjures ghastly images, made even more powerful because the beholder's brain automatically "fills-in-the-blanks" upon seeing them at a place where mayhem is to be expected!
Another first-time visit for us was the HAUNTED FOREST OF BAVARIA in FRANKENMUTH, which was added on to their ADVENTURE PARK which features THRILLING ZIP LINE FLIGHTS that have been getting rave reviews on Yelp and such. CROSSOVER MADNESS. (This same outfit offers another ADVENTURE PARK location in BLOOMFIELD HILLS too, much closer to DETROIT.)
Even as we experience some losses this year, we're also getting rumblings about a former major haunt in Michigan that could be re-opening in 2016. And there's some possible REALLY BIG NEWS about what's going to happen to the TOLEDO MARKET that we can't spill quite yet too...so stayed tuned!
MARCH 19, 2016 SATURDAY 9 PM - psssst!....IT'S BIG...REALLY BIG...DON'T TELL ANYONE! I'll be in major¬ trouble...
ZIOPTIS IS LAUCHING A SECRET PLAN even as we speak, the likes of which has never been seen in Detroit or anywhere onPlanet Earth.
Kindly stand by for further details as they become available.