October 22, 2010
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For the past two Halloween Countdowns, I’ve always had at least one haunted attraction review. Sadly, it’s looking more and more like that won’t be the case this year. Ironically, my busy schedule for the countdown leaves me with zero free time to check out any of the few haunted attractions that are within reasonable driving distance. As for my usual method of reviewing a haunt I’ve been to in years past, my well (of four) attractions that haven’t definitely ceased operation seems to have dried up.
One attraction is definitely still open, but their web site is lacking in certain information I require and I have been unable to contact them. Similarly, there’s another haunted house that I’m not sure is still in operation, and I’m never able to reach a person whenever I try calling the company that runs it. I was able to contact one last week, but they were still undecided as to whether or not they would be doing it again this year! Finally, the last haunt on my list has been replaced with a differently themed haunt run by the same organization that ran the original (and is set up at the same location), but is allegedly so different (and so awful) that reviewing the one I went to would be pointless. What’s a guy to do?
Well, besides hope that Strange Jason gets to go to the haunted trail that invited him to attend, I live vicariously through videos of haunted attractions. Along with Living Dead Live!, the following video from the official CBS Youtube channel was enough to make me feel better about the whole matter:
If the haunted attraction review sites I have linked to in the past aren’t enough of a consolation for you, check out:
Is It October Yet?
Haunted House Chicago
Alternately, you can look at these classic articles about various haunted attractions:
Harvest of Horrors
The “Ultimate Haunt”
Witch Dungeon Museum
Barrett’s Haunted Mansion
October 4, 2010
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For the last two years that I’ve do this, I always think I’ve found the most dangerous and foolhardy Halloween how-to and will never find anything that will top it…only to then find something that does so. This year was no exception.
When I first read the “Mechanical Halloween Pranks” article from an October 1918 issue of Popular Science, I thought I wouldn’t have a good “Vintage Halloween Insanity” this year. The homemade lanterns were only somewhat unsafe, although use of a flashlight, LED or glowstick would make modern usage of the plans safe, while the window posters were fine. But just when I thought I had mined vintage Halloween stuff for all it was worth, then came the instructions for a witch’s cauldron scene. Although wisely telling the reader to only use real fire (and flame powder that produces colored bursts of light) outdoors, the “safe” indoor alternative of a light bulb covered by wads of tissue paper is anything but.
However, the star of this entry did not appear until I chanced upon an article called “A Halloween Chamber of Horrors” from the November 1916 issue of Popular Science. Not only is it worthy of note due to its dangerous ideas, but it’s also the earliest example of a haunted attraction that I know of, homemade or otherwise! The fact that such things existed in the early 1900’s must be a huge shock to home haunters and Halloween enthusiasts. Amazingly, this haunt was not simply a “blindfold someone and have them touch bowls full of icky-feeling items”-type deal. No, this was an honest-to-goodness walk-through attraction with several electrical effects!
The first page of the article details what one would see and experience if they had been at the haunt. Numerous “moderately severe shock[s]” are administered to visitors, with visible electrical sparks that even the writer noted would be dangerous to touch appearing at one point. Oh, and did I mention that visitors also have to kiss a baby’s skull? Don’t worry, it’s just a small fake. They weren’t THAT crazy back then. Still, I’m impressed that they came up with something that sick. Speaking of “sick,” I wonder how many diseases were contracted due to all those people kissing the same skull in the exact same spot?
The next page is filled with behind-the-scenes secrets, such as how patrons were hit in the face with raw meat and football bladders! The final page reveals more secrets, such as the use of a Crookes’ Tube (which give off cancer causing x-rays) for lighting and the use of live snakes. Said snakes (and bare skin) were covered in homemade glow-in-the-dark paint made from crushed match heads! Do I even have to explain why that’s a terrible, terrible idea? If the previous installments are any indication of the future, then I’m going to find one hell of an unsafe tutorial for the 2011 countdown…