HAUNT – Hysteria at Connors Farm – Massachusetts 

Hysteria at Connors Farm

3 stars out of 5

I had high expectations for Hysteria after hearing so much about this event from locals and reading so many great things about it online (including Bloody Disgusting and Hauntworld Magazine) so I was especially disappointed by my experience. To be fair I was only able to experience the actual haunt, although I know they also have a non-spooky cornmaze and zombie paintball.

When we purchased our tickets we were told it would be an hour wait for VIP and closer to two for general admission, but it ended up only taking 20 minutes to get into the haunt as VIP. We were placed in a group of about six people to walk through, however within a few minutes we were backed up into the worst “conga line” I’ve ever experienced. At least at a haunt like Universal Halloween Horror Nights when you get stuck standing in the haunt it is visually stimulating and the actors have been trained on how to continue to do their jobs as effectively as possible also it’s not that long, but here we spent the majority of the next 20 minutes or more standing completely stopped looking at nothing but corn with a handful of actors doing their best but not really sure what to do. There were a couple of stand out actors that shined even as we stood around waiting to move forward such as the monster with the especially long arms and the spider victim, but for the most part I felt bad for the monsters. The set and props were fine for a home haunt. The different scenes didn’t seem to connect and none really stand out in my memory.

HAUNT – Scream Zone – California 

Scream Zone 

3 Stars (of 5)

Walking through this Halloween carnival made me feel a teenager in a 1980’s slasher film. Scream Zone doesn’t appear to have updated their carnival style in the past few decades.

The haunted hayride was a bit sad, lacking strong sets or theming and most notibly actors. There were about three actors per scene that worked their tails off running from the front to the back to the front of the wagon repeatedly screaming, grunting, banging the sides with props such as hockey sticks. There were two attempts  at a large effects during the ride, but both fell flat mostly due to timing. The disappointment of this attraction was compounded by the long hour plus wait times to ride.

KarnEvil was much better than the hayride. It’s a walk through carnival themed haunted house. Clowns laughed and scared as our group wandered through a maze within the haunt for several minutes lost and ending up back where we started repeatedly. After getting through that section of the haunt it was quick and the “final scare” was nonexistent. My husband and I actually walked back in the maze because we thought we’d accidentally exited through an emergency exit. Overall though the attraction was fun and one large clown made it very memorable.

House of Horror was brilliant. We had a blast. I loved the maze within the walkthrough and the effective use of darkness at times. The decor was a strong attempt, certainly no Universal Studios, but it got the job done. It had a rather cliche ending, but it was so much fun and the actors were so dedicated that we didn’t mind.

Zombie Bootcamp sounded like a lot of fun if I was wearing tennis shoes and 10 years younger. I didn’t feel like running from zombies after a long day, so we didn’t do Zombie Bootcamp.

Escape the Monkey cage was a fun experience we came across on our way out of Sceam Zone. It was a 6 minute live mini escape room for a $3 up charge. My husband and I waited about 30 minutes in line to play. The first three groups didn’t escape. The couple in front of us escaped just in the nick of time. We blew through in 2 minutes, but we really enjoyed it! We’d already played three full length escape rooms earlier in the day before the haunt so it was a fun way to end the night.

There is free parking and you can walk around the grounds at no cost. Each attraction has its own ticket or you can do a combo. There were a couple of food trucks and drinks available. It did get a bit chilly, so I recommend bringing a sweatshirt or you can buy one there.

ESCAPE ROOMS – Prison of the Dead Escape – Pennsylvania

PRISON OF THE DEAD ESCAPE 

Have you ever had one of those moments where you thought maybe “this is just a nightmare and I’ll wake up soon”? Well my experience at Prison of the Dead Escape was one of those moments and I mean that in the worst way possible.

This experience was easily one of the bottom 5 escape room experiences I’ve had out of the over 200 escape rooms I’ve played. The fact that it’s inside the haunted house is cool, but that’s the only compliment I can come up with for this catastrophe. What was so wrong with it? The hint system aka actor in the room, puzzles and lack thereof, confusing story, broken effects, linear game with a large mixed group of players and all around  unprofessionalism.

The puzzles were ridiculously easy to the point I wouldn’t even consider most of them puzzles. Then we weren’t even able to “solve” most of them ourselves because the guard (actor in the room named Natalia) kept telling us what to do next before we were even done telling the whole group what we found. There was another random guy that came in halfway to hang out with her which was really unprofessional but at least he kept her distracted a bit so we had a second to solve one puzzle without her unwanted help. I made a couple of comments about it to her during the game, but she didn’t take a hint…she just liked giving them a lot. There were way too many people stuffed into the game and not much for us to do since it’s primarily linear. A major component in the room didn’t work properly and she immediately explained that the mechanism want lit properly and instead of guiding us gently to discover it ourselves simply told me to put the code in the lock where I was standing. Come on…seriously…she couldn’t even let us figure out where to put it ourselves!?!?! Also if you know something is broken, fix it. It almost felt like she wanted to rush us through so she could go home early. And we did get out with 25 minutes left. Apparently the earlier group got out faster than us. Generally if groups are consistantly beating an escape room in roughly half the time allotted, then changes need to be made. It is NOT satisfying when you aren’t challenged at all. I promise we didn’t beat the room because of my or my husband’s experience because there was so little to do in this linear game that the group of 6 young people we were grouped with dominated and we pretty much sat back and watched waiting to wake up for the most part. (They were very nice kids.)  Lastly the story didn’t make any sense at all. We were a group of prisoners trying to escape, but a guard keeps helping us the entire time?

I would not recommend this escape game to anyone. However, the haunt by the same name at the same location during Halloween season is quite good.

HAUNT – The Tension Experience ASCENSION – CA – 2016

THE TENSION EXPERIENCE ASCENSION

5 Stars (of 5)

Do you seek Enlightenment? The OOA Institute can help.

For the past seven months I have been part of a fascinating alternate reality game through The Tension Experience. It’s the wonderfully unique creation of Darren Lynn Bousman and Clint Sears. A community formed on the forums at the website. As the story unfolded participants chose sides between the OOA Institute and those against the OOA sided with the BOS. I have remained loyal to the OOA even though others have called it a cult.

You can read more about my early experiences with the OOA HERE as well as the event that wrapped up the first chapter of The Tension Experience called Indoctrination HERE.

As Indoctrination ended, it made way for the beginning of Ascension.

Ascension is a beautifully done event that can’t really be compared to anything else in Los Angeles. It’s a unique blend of interactive haunt, theatre, escape room, and more. It is a stand alone event so you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the story. You will be immersed the the story whether or not you know anything at all about it going into the event.

However, if you have the time I recommend checking out the forums on The Tension Experience website. It is one of the warmest most welcoming online communities I’ve encountered. I’ve made real life friends through the forum. Actually the entire group with whom I attended Ascension were friends I’ve made on the forum.

This is a good point at which to mention I have never done an extreme haunt. To be honest I was a bit worried about Ascension because it seemed like all of my friends from The Tension Experience community loved extreme haunts and I had never done Alone or Blackout or anything like that. Well I’m pleased to say I didn’t call the safe word (I did think about it once).

Don’t get me wrong, it IS INTENSE. However it is not the type of extreme haunt where you just get beaten and humiliated, so if you watched The Blackout Experiment documentary know that this is different. The Tension Experience is so much more. It’s more psychological and less physical than I expected. It’s much more about creating an individual experience for each participant through storytelling that leaves an impression.

A little advice for your adventure into Ascension:

  • Do your best to attend with an open mind and be ready to be present in the moment.
  • Do not wear your favorite outfit or shoes as they may get dirty.
  • Leave your cell phone, jewelry, valuables at home or in the car. Believe me it felt weird not wearing my wedding ring, but I was so glad I left it at home for the event.
  • Do not be late. You will have a specific arrival time. Think of this as a performance more than a haunt. Give yourself ample time for traffic and finding the parking lot.
  • Use the bathroom before arriving and don’t drink a bunch of liquids. It is at least 2 hours without bathroom breaks.

Glory be!

HAUNT – 6 Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest – CA – 2016

SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN FRIGHT FEST 2016

3 Stars (of 5)

Over the past several years I’ve been a huge supporter of Fright Fest even encouraging people to attend over Knott’s Scary Farm & Universal Halloween Horror Nights. Last year I was disappointed in the lack of creativity and not changing the mazes, but this year I was so excited to come and experience everything again with the small changes that were made.

However, if every night this year is like opening night then I would just say to skip it.

The lines were poorly managed: We purchased the express pass and still waited 30 minutes in most maze lines while the general line appeared to move almost as quickly as express at times. I watched employees send people in 1:1 ratio on the 2 lines but express was similar in length at times.
The mazes have been changed, but not for the better: Toyz doesn’t have the impressive scenes that it used to. They also didn’t even offer glasses for the first half of the evening, so the first time we waited 25 minutes in the express line and it was just a blacklight maze without the 3D option. (We did return at the end of the night and were given glasses which changed the entire experience.) The Willoughby’s maze cut the awesome opening with the butler. The Garden maze was more of a dark sauna than a maze. I was mostly scared of passing out from the heat in it than the actors.
And what about Scare zones? Where were they? DC was just basically Suicide Squad photo ops. There were a handful of scare actors walking around attempting scares near maze entrances but no real scare zones except the zombie scare zone which I walked through several times and not one zombie even attempted to scare me and Terrortory Twisted. Also there was no hypnotist show. Apparently there was a Christian Revival or something happening in the theatre that night instead.

Overall I was very disappointed in the event. I had really high hopes for Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest and really looked forward to going only to be let down and reminded of the not-so-good old days of Fright Fest. I hope they step it up again next year so they can be back in the same league as Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, but unfortunately this year they are not.

2016 Los Angeles area Halloween haunts & events list

Below is a list of Halloween events and haunts in the Los Angeles and surrounding areas in no particular order with links to their sites.

HAUNTS

The Tension Experience  *** <My Review>

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights (HHN)

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest ***<My Review>

Knott’s Scary Farm

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor

Sinister Pointe

Motel 6 Feet Under 

Creep Los Angeles

Delusion (initial run sold out)

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

Beware The Dark Realm

Reign of Terror (ROT)

Screenshot Productions The Rope

Zombie Joe’s Underground Urban Death

Unbound Productions Wicked Lit

Coffin Creek

Talladega Frights

Haunt at Heritage Hill

Field of Screams

The Fleshyard

17th Door

Scream Kingdom

Castle Dark

Scandia

Fear Station

All Saints Lunatic Asylum

Way of the Shadow Haunted House (2016 dates: 29, 30, 31)

RC Haunt

CookHaunt (New Location: Anaheim at the Pumpkin patch – catty corner from Cinema City)

Dead Zone 805

Hyde Street Haunt

HOME HAUNTS

Rotten Apple 

Boot Hill

The House on Haunted Hill

The Backwoods Maze

The Klownhouse

The Haunt at Daisy Avenue

Opechee Haunt

Van Oaks Cemeterey

The Haunt with No Name

Gothic Hills Cemetery

Spooky Hallows

 

FAMILY EVENTS (not scary)

Boney Island (magical yard display)

Mickey’s Halloween Party

Boo at the Zoo

Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch

Rise of the Jack o lanterns 

Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch

Pa’s Pumpkin Patch

Cal Poly Pumpkin Festival Pomona

Pumpkin Liner

Sleepover at the Natural History Museum

Happy Harbor Halloween

Scarium of the Pacific

Knott’s Spooky Farm

Kidspace Children’s Museum Pumpkin Festival

Halloween Spooktacular City of Pico Rivera

Slightly Spooky Stories at Descanso Gardens

 

EVENTS

Heritage Square

Shriekfest

Blackthorne Screamfest

Drunken Devil Witches Ball

Hollywood Monster Night

West Hollywood Carnaval

Long Beach Zombie Fest

Crown City Theatre Company Nosferatu (theatre)

Maverick Theatre Night of the Living Dead (theatre)
OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES

Legend of Sleepy Hollow 

High Desert Haunted House

Scream Zone *** <my review>

The Tension Experience – Indoctrination 

The Tension Experience


Above: Hooded participants listen to Addison. Taken from Periscope 

It is with mixed feelings that I write this. Indoctrination has come to a close in order for Ascension to begin this weekend. 

How can I feel so sad and excited about something simultaneously? Well that’s Tension. The Tension Experience is masterful at flooding it’s participants with emotion and tension.

The Tension Experience in an incredibly interactive ARG created by Darren Lynn Bousman and Clint Sears that began early this year.  Over the past several months it has not only told a story, but created a strong community of participants. The participants communicate online and in real life at events organized by The Tension Experience as well as participant run meet ups. We have been encouraged to choose sides between the OOA (a group that believes in Anoch and ascending) and BOS (OOA detractors). 

The story is quite complex but I will do my best to summarize it and explain how the live event on September 7th wrapped up Indoctrination. 

A young actress named Addison came to Los Angeles and got drawn into the OOA which has been called a cult by some. Her family came looking for her and showed up at a previous event. She stayed in the OOA and even took a position called Gatekeeper. Recently she started referring to herself by her name again instead of her title and seemed to want out of the OOA. The BOS have been trying to save her throughout the journey. They met a member called Sentinal prior to the last event. 

On Tuesday many of the participants that have been active in the community (myself included) were invited by Addison to a “meeting” in downtown Los Angeles. We arrived, signed in and had a hood placed over our heads to be lead into another room and stood in a circle listening to Addison speak. Several participants were recognized for their contributions to the community. All were thanked and then the big reveal…The One. We’d all been anxiously awaiting the reveal of The One for some time. The One is…all of us, the community. 

Above: I was able to meet Addison and shake her hand. Taken from Periscope

Then it was party time! Three servers came out carrying trays of finger foods and the music played. Addison walked around shaking hands with participants with a smile on her face and a sadness in her eyes.


Above: Russell giving Addison the stuffed cat. Taken from Periscope 

After a few minutes Russell (a participant) approached her and returned her stuffed cat that he had been carrying with him since an earlier event. This caused Addison to have a dramatic breakdown. She began screaming,”This isn’t real!” The servers dropped their trays, threw Addison over one of their shoulders and ran out. Then we were told to leave. 


Above: Parricipants leave after Addison is carried away. Servers made a mess dropping trays to grab her.

If you’d like to see videos of the September 7th event you can watch them at The Tension Experience’s Periscope.

Photo credit: Susie Juntarakawe

Many of the participants, including myself, went out afterward to socialize and discuss Tension. It was a sad time and felt like the end of something wonderful, but also exciting as Ascension begins.

So what is Ascension? 

To be honest I’m not 100% sure yet. It is a live event that will be some combination of ARG, Haunt, Escape Room, Interactive theatre and Choose your own adventure maze. They have been clear that you do not have to have any prior knowledge of the Indoctrination story to enjoy Ascension. Honestly I’m not sure what to expect because I’ve avoided reading press about it for fear of spoilers. I do know that I attend tomorrow and I had better use the bathroom before I get there because it’s a long experience. 

Hopefully I survive and will post about it soon.

You can get your tickets at The Tension Experience website to join in the excitement.