Monday, September 28, 2015

Haunt 2015 #1 - Great America's Haunt

Haunt #1: Great America’s Haunt

  Alright Haunt fans, if you are reading this then you must be interested in reading my crazy thoughts on these great events in late September and October.  While I hope to catch a couple more this year, I doubt I’ll be able to see as many as last year, time and money are disappearing quickly.   But I can’t complain, got two more planned, and hoping to go catch the USS Hornet too.  But we’ll see.


  I wanted to take Anne to her first theme park haunt last weekend and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was the original plan.  But when I saw Great America’s Haunt was just an additional 10 dollars more ($29.99 when you buy 2 for Friday and Sunday nights through the 16th) I couldn’t resist.  We didn’t do the Skeleton Key or the Fright Lane…and I’m glad I didn’t.  You’ll see why.


  We arrived to the event to see the pumpkins and the fire launch returning from last year.  Our plan was to hit Gold Striker first, so we stood next to the rope stop and waited…and waited…and waited.  Surprisingly, the crowds didn’t really materialize during that 45 minute wait.

  At about 6:55, the witch (possibly from Wizard of Oz) and some monkey followers took to the top floor of the carousel.  We could clearly hear the whoops from the monkeys, but what the witch was saying…I have no clue.  I think she was giving some descriptions of the mazes, but I’m not really sure, but I did see her mouth moving.  Weird that there weren’t any speakers closer to the rope stop.  This was definitely disappointing compared to the zombie run that happened last year.  The witch stopped talking, then the rope drop, then the running.


  Before I get into the haunts and the scare zones, let me tell you most of the adult rides were open for the party.  But the cool thing for this first Sunday of the haunt, there was no lines.  In 5 hours, we did the following: went on Gold Striker 4 times, Flight Deck 3 times, Grizzly 2 times, Drop Zone 2 times, Psycho Mouse, Vortex, and Psycho Mouse.  For Gold Striker and Flight Deck, we didn’t even get back in line, just saw an empty seat and went again.  The price of admission was redeemed by rides alone.  Now I know the coming weeks aren’t going to be like this, but Sunday night, it was awesome.


  The thing about Great America Haunt is the kids, and there are a lot of them.  Even though it is not recommended for kids under 13 and “whoosies”, there seems to be a lot of families at this event.  This year, they were selling pumpkin necklaces for $3 that lit up and kept the monsters away…at least I think that was the goal.  In my opinion, I think it was a beacon for the monsters to attack.  The necklaces were not allowed to be turned on in the mazes, which makes me wonder how the monsters were able to see them.  Out on the main walk ways, we saw monsters (especially the witch) walking after children with the necklaces on.  Very strange, and quite humorous for us watching.  Wonder how many kids didn’t sleep that night?


  While the sun was still going down, we went into Roadkill – Road House.  In all honesty, I didn’t see a damn thing in this haunt.  We got so lost that we kept being told to go the other way by the exit keepers, and some of the scareactors had to show us away.  It was so dark that the whole maze was a waste.  I have no idea what I was looking at, it was terrible.  Last year, it was bad, this year…wasn’t worth my time.


  Massacre Manor was a fun maze and really well themed.  The maze is a walk through of a house.  You go through rooms (dining room, bedrooms, living rooms, hallways with pictures, etc).  In the bedroom, I asked the lady if I could take a nap, and she actually said it was okay.  Then she led me to a chair and had me sit down.  She got angry at Anne when she kicked a skull out of the sacred circle.  The lady flipped over cards and then gave me one….It was death and she ran a finger over her neck.  We left that room and went through some gardening areas only to find ourselves with a lady and a body.  She asked us which one of us would be losing their soul first, and Anne so kindly pointed to me.  She waved a light over me and then gave my soul to Madame Marie’s…I asked for it back…guess it’s Madame Marie’s now.  So not cool. 


  So they took the opening from last year and made it into a scare zone.  The RV they used is up front with cars behind it.  If you’ve been to Great America, there’s this cave of ivy on the way to Drop Zone, they filled the cave with smoke, cars and zombies.  The atmosphere of the zone was awesome, but the area needed more people…which was a common issue with this haunt.


  Not a fan of this maze, last year or this year.  They did try to make it more of a corn maze this year by having multiple pathways, they just didn’t have enough people to man the maze.  There were some good scares, just too many open areas with nobody in them.  The outhouses from last year were replaced by these really weird boxes.  Anne thought we were supposed to look in them, and I still wonder if we were supposed to.  Very strange, smelly maze.

QUICK THOUGHT: At the point, Anne wasn’t impressed.  She said once you go through one, you’ve been through them all.  Luckily the best ones were still to come.


  I think of all the mazes, we had the most fun in this one.  The music is so freaking catchy and we found ourselves dancing our way through the maze.  Not sure what the monsters thought of these two crazy people dancing, but we didn’t care.  I have to say the Angry Angry Hippo was pretty cool.  And there was a doll room that a lady did a really good voice and kind of freaked me out.  Then there was the Shark Man who looked like a big doll.  Great haunt, only one we did twice…sadly, we didn’t get to vote for it to be the best, but it was a close third.


  This maze is pretty cool.  My problem with this one: not enough people working it.  They should have zombies walking around everywhere.  I love how each “room” is a classroom and is really decorated well.  The walk ways are walled off by stacked desks or something else you would see in a school.  There’s the chemistry room, locker room, prom, library, etc.  In one room, a guy jumps down on bungees, I turned to Anne and said watch this, she was impressed.  We waited the longest for this haunt, maybe 10 minutes, so it’s very popular.

  On a sidenote, they tried to do the “picture” thing in the queue, but the picture booths were away from the actual line so the workers were begging the people to come over and take their picture.  Very strange.  Could have been fixed with some roped walkways that led you straight into the picture booths and then continued to the line, instead of off the beaten path…”hey little boy, want to get your picture taken?”


  My favorite haunt of last year, I was excited to show Anne this one.  Unfortunately, the maze was knocked down a couple of steps.  First, the wax creatures were much smaller than the humans, so the humans were easy to see.  Plus their skin gave them away.  Another way to tell is when the wax creatures were missing from their post.  Where’s Swamp Thing?  Oh, why is here standing over there?  Really weird and disappointing.  Got to see Jack the Ripper, that was cool.  And the mannequins in the back rooms weren’t moving at all.  Sad to see this one pushed aside, it was really awesome last year.


  This one is easy to miss.  You have to walk off the beaten path to see this zone, it’s a loop around the Snoopy kid zone, but there’s nothing back there to do, just walk through the clown infested area.  But it’s definitely worth it.  Tons of clowns doing creepy things.  There was one clown just standing off the path staring at you as he slowly sharpens his knife.  Another one had a huge hammer and would chase you.  One had bubbles and when you said anything he would make this loud noise that would scare the crap out of you.  I even watched a couple of the clowns chase the security people, which was awesome.  That shows you how slow it was, the scareactors were scaring the security staff!!! 

  There was also a sideshow stage with a fire dancer.  We watched for a little bit, then moved on.


  While Lockdown wasn’t scary or creepy, I thought it was placed nicely right outside the Insanitarium maze.  Why don’t they do this more?  Have scare zones themed to the mazes so it’s one big environment?  The scare zones had lots of huge boxes, fog, and mental patients running around.  One patient even recognized my Shining shirt, which was pretty cool.


  Anne voted this one the most frightening, and I would have to agree with her.  You enter the Insanitarium by the way of the doctor’s office.  Then you walk through a very clean Mental Hospital with patients walking around looking crazy.  Some had needles, others just stared at you.  About half way through, the hospital changes and you start seeing blood and destruction.  You go through the same exact rooms that you went through the first time, but everything is destroyed.  And the mental patients are ready to kill.  It was a haunt with a story, and I thought that was pretty cool.  Anne and I got freaked out when a loud noise was played a guy jumped out, well played.  I think the final scene should have been the hospital burned down with smoke and dead bodies.  That would have been complete…but the Scare Zone outside wouldn’t have made since.


  YOU HAVE TO BUY THE $1 3D GLASSES, it’s a must.  If you don’t it’s just another maze with people scaring you.  With those glasses, you are transported to a world of beauty and life.  If there was ever an artistic maze, this would be it.  When I first experienced one of these mazes, I was stopped in my tracks, Anne did just that.  The maze is so beautiful you really just look at the environment and ignore the actors, unless they enhance the maze, which some did.  I’ll never forget watching Anne try to kick these flowers on the ground because they looked like they were above the ground.   We turned one corner and there was tons of flowers on the wall and I heard “oh wow.”  At the very end, she went up to the worker to tell him great job, and one of those bungee guys jumped down and said thanks, lol.  We would have done it again, but it hurts the head when there’s so much to look at.


  I think Great America’s Haunt is one of the best in Northern California.  It’s a great way to see the park at night, some great haunts, and it’s easy to see the rides they have.  I think the park is in transition, and I’m not sure it’s worth a full day.  But for the haunt party…check it out.  As you get closer to Halloween, the Fright Pass will be needed.  For last weekend, it wasn’t.  This weekend…you might start thinking about it.  I’ll be interested to hear what the skeleton key rooms are this year, so if you read this, please let me know.  Or listen to the Season Pass, I’m sure Doug will have some information.  Until next time…

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 2014 - The Making of a War

The Making of a War
Most of these write up’s I do for you, the occasional reader.  This time, I’m writing it for myself to remember in the years to come.  As a father, I’m proud of what happened during the week of December 14th – 21st, not because of my efforts, but the Christmas Spirit and the imagination that erupted from my boys during those days.  

So you’ve seen the pictures, now here’s the rest of the story…


So why did I do it?  Why would I cover my bathroom in the dead Mickey bodies?  The week after Thanksgiving, Red, our Christmas Elf, came out to spread Christmas cheer, which my youngest son, Brodie, was beside himself in anticipation of the chaos that would ensue.

Most of the pictures posted on Facebook, Instagram, etc I had already done.  Red pooped on a toothbrush, Red fished in the toilet, Red tp’d the house, etc.  So this year, I came up with my best some new ideas, and the boys weren’t impressed.  As quickly as it started, the excitement was gone.  On the way to their mom’s that Sunday, I asked the boys what their favorite moment with Red was?  After some time, they finally said it was when Red was in the candy drawer and they couldn’t find him until late that night. 

So for me, this was disappointing.  I wanted the boys to be telling me immediately what excited them, what they wanted more...and they had to think about it.  Failure in my book.  The following week, their mom did some cool stuff with books, which got Brodie excited for reading and some other fun stuff, but again, the boys were losing their interest in their little Elf friend.  So I needed to make a change, and frankly, the internet lead me to nothing new, just the same old potty jokes that Red is known for.


Day 1, I was at a loss.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I was a little nervous that the magic of Red was lost, and we were doomed.  Finally, I came up with a quick idea in which I tied Red up and put 12 Vinylmation figurines around him.  As if he was captured.  Now what exactly is a Vinlymation Figurine?  It's a collection the boys and I started together and became very addicting.  With the same Mickey mold, artists would paint each Mickey to represent something else.  The ones we collected all had a Disney theme, but some of our Urban series are very non-Disney.  I think I have over 125 of the figures, and they all are stuck in a box because I don't have room to display them.  We bought most of them at Disney Theme Parks.

I wasn't impressed with the scene, but it was the best I could come up with.  The scene was set in the boys room, and I went to bed without a second thought.  Unfortunately, no picture from that initial scene that would start a week of chaos.


I woke up to a couple of very angry boys.  You see, the rules of The Elf on the Shelf is that you can't touch the elf at all, or clean up after him.  So when the boys saw that their beloved elf had been captured, they were not happy.  No, they were TICKED OFF.

Through the day at school, it fermented inside of them, this rage that their elf had been captured and there was nothing they could do about it.  How dare the Vinyls capture their elf and stick it right in their faces.

So without further discussion, the boys went home, went straight to their room and freed their elf.  I think they might have pushed a couple over too, and then carried their friend to the front of the house, far away from the evil vinyls. 

This act of heroism made them overly happy and kind of full of energy.  So it was very festive that night...strange what a little scene would cause.


After the excitement of Day 1, what would top it?  Normally I would do something different, just to keep it interesting.  But why not keep the story going, right?  So I moved Red over to my game chair, a throne like chair for Mr. Red to sit in. 

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Red in the chair, or the note that he created, but it said something like this: Conner and Brodie, Thank you for saving me.  I have captured the 12 evil vinyls and wrapped them up and hid them in the apt.  If you want to find them, I could care less they are getting coal in their stockings this year, there are 6 for each of you to find.  But like I said, I don't care if you find them, let them rot, Red.

After Red's scene was done, I wrapped the 12 vinyls up in Toilet Paper and hid them all over the apt.  Some harder than others, because I knew Conner would leave the easy ones for Brodie and look for the really hard ones.  They were hidden in the kitchen, the hallway, both bathrooms and the front room.


I awoke to a quiet morning.  Got ready, told the boys to get up, and they went on the search for Red.  They found him on his throne and Conner read the letter that Red had wrote.  Then the search was on, all giggles and laughter as they found the captured Vinyl's wrapped in Toilet Paper. 

That morning, they found 8 of the vinyls.  They piled the bodies like dead victims on the counter, and no, they did not release them.  And there was never any thought of releasing them, it was just a game of hide and seek, or geocaching for Vinyls.

After school and some shopping, the boys went straight in the apt and went on the hunt, recovering the final four.  Once again happy...but what was I supposed to do next?

I'm not really sure when the thought came to me, but I decided to put both boys in the bath at the same time, something I haven't done in awhile.  I put Brodie in the bath, then quickly sent Conner to the shower.  With both of them busy, I took two containers into their rooms and filled them with vinyls from the box, as many as I could find.  Then I replaced the sleeping bag back on top of the box, so it looked like nothing was changed.  I hid the two containers in the closet and in my bedroom, right as Conner was coming out of the I just had to wait.


This was going to be a big job, so I made sure the boys were asleep before I started working, so it was like 10:30 before the battle grounds were laid.

First, I put Red in a sock, then tied him up and hung him from the shower of the boys bathroom.

Then I unwrapped the captured vinyls and threw the toilet paper in certain locations.  I also wrote a note from the Vinyls, with misspellings and all

[Picture of DAY3-THE NOTE]

Laying down all the vinyls took the most time.  I decided to make it look like stormtroopers in small groups, but I think they kind of look like Nazi's by the time I was done.

After I was done I was in my room getting ready when I saw some Halloween decorations that I didn't use.  Hmm...what the heck, I blocked the door with Do Not Enter banners.


This morning was pretty funny waking up to.  The boys were lined up outside the door to the bathroom, unsure of if they should go in thanks to the banners.  I joined them at the door, looked at the banners, looked at the boys, looked at the banners, looked at the boys.  They seriously were not going to go past those banners. 

"What now?" I ask.

Boys shrugged their shoulders.

"Well, this is my house, and I'm not going to take this," and with one flat hand, I broke the barrier and the two boys went cautiously in.

Now the pictures really don't show you how freaking crazy the battle scene actually was, but I know it was crazy enough to totally mess the boys up bad.  Here's Red, dangling from a rope, with Vinyls all over the place, and a note demanding to see the fat man.  I left that scene, and went to get ready.  Ten minutes later, the boys hadn't moved.  Not sure if they were in shock, or they were just trying to process everything that was going on.

While I was making their lunches, I saw Brodie bolt from the bathroom to his room, and then seconds later come to me with two vinyls.

"Dad, I think these guys are on Red's team!" says Brodie.

"Why's that?"

"They were the only ones left in the box, they must have stayed behind because they didn't believe in what they were doing," my youngest says, with a face mixed in shock and happiness.

"I guess that makes them loyalists bud, got to be loyalists."

"Yeah, loyalists."  And Brodie, very gently, carried the Loyalists to some other vinyl toys that were on my counter...and that's how the Loyalists were created.

I'm guessing the boys were thinking about that scene all day, because when I picked them up they told me they were cutting Red down.  And they did just that.  Walked into the bathroom, untied Red, and gave him love for his injuries.  Then he was placed, gently, next to the Loyalists.


Thanks to Brodie's great idea of the Loyalists, I had my next idea already to go.  Again, it wasn't til 10:30 before I started work.  But this time, it took some hard work on my part.  I had to sneak into the boys room and remove all the Pokémon dolls the boys had, which they were curled up with.  At one point, Conner woke up and asked me if it was time to wake up.  That was stressful.  Then there was the fact that they now knew the bathroom was the place of the battle, but the bathroom has a fan that automatically comes on when you turn the light on, and the damn thing is loud!! 

Plus, I wanted to build a jail so I took a shoe box, cut out slits and then wrote jail.  A perfect place to throw some evil vinyls right?

After I had all the pieces together, creating the scene was the tricky part.  I closed the bathroom door, turned the light, and the annoying fan on, and got to work.  First I put our hero on a dragon...because that's cool.  And had him eat, step on, kill a couple of vinyls.

Then I took the rope that Red was tied up with, aka my belt, lasso'd some vinyls and put Stark, one of the Loyalists, on top with the snake on top of the vinyls...A side note about the snake, I'm not really sure which side he is on.  I think he keeps a snake.

Another favorite scene is one of the Pokémon with a gun on top of his head.  I then made some of the vinyls lay down like a cannonball and flown through, leaving one of the balls at the end of the decimation.  I thought that was cool.

One of the hardest scenes I put together, because I wasn't sure if it was appropriate, was the Firefly Scene.  The guy from Firefly, not sure his name, was in front of a line of vinyls.  The vinyls were down, as if shot, leaving two vinyls left.  It was a pretty dark scene, a firing squad, but the boys weren't bothered by it.  Not sure that's a good sign.

To counter balance the dark scene, I put a scene together of a pokemon and two vinyls playing a card game of War.  I thought that was pretty cool, unfortunately, the boys didn't get it.

That set up took a lot longer than I thought, about an hour, 90 minutes by the time I went to bed.  But it was pretty awesome, something I was proud of.

On a sidenote, Brodie and Conner both wrote Red a letter saying we are on your side, good luck and we are with you.  They also left a chocolate bar for Red, who ate a piece and then went to rage war.  I can't seem to find Brodies note (which asked Santa for Max the Tow Truck, which he sadly did not receive for Christmas), but I do have Conner's and Red's reply:


Day 5 started with the boys just staring at the battle scene, taking in everything that was happening, and very excited that the Pokémon had come to help the Loyalists.  I got up, got ready, got dressed, made their lunches, and then told them they should get ready.  I honestly wished I had a microphone in the bathroom to play for you the conversations that were going on in that bathroom.  I missed all of it, trying to get the day started, but there was non stop talk going in on what was going on, the Loyalists campaign, this being like a chess game, first the vinyls, then Red, then the vinyls, and now Red again.  What would the vinyls do that night?  How bad is it going to get?  Will they ever get to use their bathroom again?

The conversation continued on the drive to school, on the phone call after school, on the way home from school, and through the night.  Was it over?  Or was it going to get a lot worse?


This setup included all the vinyls that were still standing.  Amazingly, during the battle sequences, not a single vinyl came back to life.  When they were down, they were down.  A little hidden nugget of information.

So the storyline, which was lost on the boys unfortunately, was that the two Vinyl Loyalists were spies.  They helped take down the dragon with the help of the snake.  The snake bit a wing, and the spies stabbed the dragon. I getting too dark?

The vinyl's recapture Red and look to be on their way to hanging Red up again.  While at the jail, there's a jail break and all the vinyls are escaping...which if you saw the Jail the night before, one of the bars was already broken and one was trying to sneak out!!

The Pokémon pig lost the game of War, and the vinyls attacked

The vinyls were able to take the gun down, and the Pokémon with it.

Firefly was captured with a Vinyl on his head, and Stark was surrounded by smiling Vinyls.

In all honesty, I knew at this point what the final scene would be.  But I still had one night left...what could be done?  It was making me nervous, I had no clue.


Shock, pure and undeniable shock.  The morning before was filled with conversation, the morning of the 17th, dead silence.  When I saw the boys, their shoulders were down, and their mouths were slightly opened.  I tried at one point to say that there were traders amongst the Loyalists, but they weren't listening.  Their friends were captured, everything had taken a turn for the worst...nothing was to be said.

The drive to school was in silence.  I worked on spelling with Brodie for one last time, and the letters came out quietly.  The boys were defeated, now what?

When I went to pick the boys up, things had changed.  They didn't tell me what they had planned, but things were on the up and up.  Brodie had Basketball practice and laughter rejoined our little family. 

When we got home, the boys disappeared.  I let them be, figuring they were just screwing around, but they were doing quite the opposite.  They were planning a comeback for the Loyalists.  From what I can tell after the fact, the boys went in and got all the Loyalists that they could find.  They bandaged them, gave them love, and then armored the hell out of them.  When I finally came upon them, the bathroom door was closed so the vinyl's couldn't see what was going on, and the Loyalists were lined up outside the door, with guns and ammo, they were ready to fight...and thanks to them, that night was planned out.


When I opened the door to the bathroom, Conner had done a little more than just taken the Loyalists out, he filled the jail with Vinyl victims.  The jail was packed.

So first, I figured a peace sign would be best.  I was a little worried that the boys wouldn't know what a peace sign was, but I took the chance.  So I formed a huge one with the vinyls, laying some down to represent the symbol:

Then I added all the Loyalists that helped out.  Thanks to the boys, the Autobots from Rescue Bots joined the Loyalists to finally take down the Vinyls.

With the jail, I stood it up and added little white flags to show the surrender, then added the deck of cards, shuffled and ready to be put away.  The war was over, the Loyalists had won.

In order for the boys to fully understand what was going on, and to give the whole battle some kind of story, I told the boys about how the Vinyls were sick of staying in the box all year long without being played with and not getting any presents from Santa. 


Conner saw the Peace Sign right off the bat and understood the white flags, so that was pretty cool.  Brodie was happy to see the Autobots, but there was one Vinyl that seemed to have escaped the clutches, and it was one that I missed.  I could have restarted the story with this one Vinyl, but Christmas was coming, and it was time for the story to come to a close. 

On a side note, the boys did tell me that we needed to play with the vinyls, but playing the villain of this story, I told them no, they would be going back into the box.  Brodie actually looked kind of sad and asked if they could take some of the vinyls to mom's house the next week. 


The ending to the story was simple, Red would bring two presents for the Vinyls and all would rejoice and be friends.  Got to wonder if this is how stories are written: The ending first, then the journey last. 

First I stood the laying down Vinyls, then added some of the others that were scattered around.  Then I put Red in the middle with the presents.  No words needed, I think the conclusion was simple enough.  Also released the vinyls from jail.


The boys woke up and saw the gifts and were pretty excited by the final stage.  They both opened up a new vinyl to add to our ever growing collection: Han Solo and the creepy girl from Finding Nemo. 

That night Brodie cleaned up the bathroom all by himself.  I think he just wanted time alone with all the characters from the war over the week, instead of just cleaning up.  But he did an amazing job.  The finale was a bit uneventful compared to prior nights, but all in all, it was a success.


Like any book, the journey was much more awesome than the conclusion.  I was completely shocked by the imagination my boys put into the events, and I'm not a 100% sure if they knew how much of their imagination created each evenings battle.  It was truly awesome to see the boys just standing in one place for 10 - 20 minutes, creating their own storyline to what they saw, and then telling each other their thoughts.  While I used some words to explain some things, the true magic came from what came out of their minds due to what they saw.  It was an absolutely awesome experience, and hopefully I'll be able to come up with some kind of storyline next year that will keep them coming back for more...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Haunt Season 2014 - Event #11 – Callson Manor

DISCLAIMER – I’m spoiled.  I think that’s the basic fact as we come to the ending of the 2014 Halloween Season.  I started October on an extremely high note and it was followed with some surprises, but never reached that high note Knotts placed.  Knotts had long mazes, well themed mazes, and you got to go through them as many times as you want.  Everything else…well, it’s good, but I just keep comparing things to Knotts and that’s not fair.

Haunt Season 2014 - Event #11 – Callson Manor
  Callson Manor was one of my favorites in my Sacramento haunt history.  I would say at the top of my list would be Gyro’s, and I don’t think anything here in Sac has really gotten to that level of creativeness and scares that Gyro’s brought me back in the 90’s.

  First, finding the place is a bit tricky.  It’s in the Placer County Fairgrounds, and while I had been there just a couple of years ago, they have moved the entrance and it’s kind of confusing to get there.  You have to enter the gates, then drive to the back side of the fairgrounds to park and enter the event.  We passed it the first time, as others did, so beware and make sure you have it on your phone so you have at least a general idea where you are going.

  The event itself is fantastic.  I think if they put a carnival out front like Heartstoppers, maybe an old western carnival, that would be amazing.  Ticket prices are pretty good, I think we got in for 13 bucks each.  The event is all on dirt, so I think when it starts raining on Friday, this might turn into a mud pit.  So be warned.  But the dirt adds to the environment, which is an old western town with wagons, buildings, stores, and a couple of vendors.

  We were told to hang out in the main area until a cannon would go off which signaled the opening of the event.  I of course was picturing either a real cannon, or one of those fire launchers that has been popping up around California.  Right before the cannon blast, the scareactors came out for the clown maze and the psycho maze.  I didn’t care for this, I don’t want to know what, or who I will be seeing in the maze.  But what was cool was the four or five scareactors that waited for us past the rope.  If I had a good camera, it would have been an amazing picture.  As for that cannon blast, more like an air cannon, and I think if you were in front of the group, you were blasted.


  With the rope dropping, you went through a main street of sorts with old western buildings on each side.  The scareactors used more noise to scare, which I didn’t care for.  Don’t mind screaming or jumping out at you, but using electronics with loud noise is a bit annoying.  One guy slid on his knees on a wooden platform which was pretty cool.  All the scareactors were well dressed and their makeup was freaking awesome.

  For me, they just needed to add fog.  If they did, it would be like a miniature version of Knott’s Ghost town and I WOULD LOVE IT!!  But with no fog, it’s still a pretty cool place to check out.  And the scareactors were fun.  Saw one guy jump out at a girl who threw herself to the ground with her friend falling to the ground laughing her ass off.  That’s what haunt is all about my friends.


  The signature haunt.  First, I might get some of these haunts a bit mixed up.  We hit them back to back with no lines, so some scenes might have been in other mazes but in my memory makes sense that they would be in the maze I’m discussing.

  Callson Manor is a creepy walk through of a house that is filled with doors opening by themselves, creepy spectors, and like most of the other mazes, bloody individuals. 

  I believe the gunshot victim was in this maze.  It was probably a good effect but I missed it and only came upon a female that was bent over a shotgun with blood on the walls.  There were a couple of times during these mazes that I had to stop and wait to see what the effect was, because I missed it by seconds.

  Sadly, I don’t really remember much of this maze.  I remember leaving for a second then going back in.  Other than that…hmm


  Panic was freaking crazy.  First, you were introduced by a German dominatrix who was kind of hot.  You got your card stamped then you entered her waiting room which had monitors of the maze you could watch.  The first room was a guy banging on barrels.  Loud, annoying, but nothing like what the rest of the maze was like.

  For me, it was like walking into a Saw movie with each person being tortured in some way.  It was bloody as hell, but pretty cool.  And unfortunately pretty short.  There was some kind of disco back theme, like Panic at the Disco, but I didn’t really get that.


  Another one of those café’s that cook up human meat…and apparently road kill too.  The maze was filled with awful smells.  The first room was one of the clearest memories I have there.  The lady said that she got excrement from the toilet and painted the walls with it.  “That’s how I keep the flies off the food, they stay on the walls!!”  Gross, but very creative.  Around the corner, there’s the toilet and it’s disgusting.

  We heard the sound of what could be a contraption, so we hung back to see if the toilet was going to do anything.  But it turned out to be the pipes on the other side which blew hair at you.  Besides bad smells, dead animal carcasses on the floor, and characters that seemed to be from the backwoods in some southern state, was a pretty gross, and unfortunately another short maze.  But it had some cool effects, some gross theming, and I enjoyed it.  Guess I’m a sicko.


  There’s a really cool demon animatronic in the queue line.  Tried getting a picture of it but it didn’t come out as cool as the figure.  It’s a simple figure with few movements, but it’s still awesome to see.  I think it was there the last time I was here, but can’t remember the haunt that it hovered over.

  Darkness is what the name says it is, it’s dark.  Sometimes you had to feel your way around, other times you were in a darkly lit area.  It’s well done with some cool actors.  I prefer the quiet creepy scareactors that filled this maze compared to the screaming loud ones of others.  There were a couple of really cool caves that you got to walk through that I thought was pretty cool.  A scantily clad female said welcome to the meal, and a predator looking guy came out to “eat us.”  Then we walked through a tomb like cavern and we were out.  Not too scary, but it was entertaining.


  The Tavern reminded me of the bar scene in Gunslinger’s Grave and the opening room in An American Werewolf in London.  The guy asked what happened to my hair and heckled me for a little bit.  Guess I had a stupid shit eating grin on my face.  The lady on the piano played the keys with her toes.  That was pretty cool.

  In the brothel room, the lady on the bed beckoned me closer.  I thought my friend Tiffany was watching at the doorway, so I stayed a little longer than I probably should have, only to realize that it wasn’t Tiffany, but another actor watching from the doorway, with another actor in the shadows.  It was a pretty cool scene, and hey, I love those old western brothel rooms so why not stay a little longer, right.  Alright, alright, I’m moving on, jeez.

  There was a small maze area of fences with a boy that followed us.  He was kind of creepy, but didn’t do anything but stare at us.  There was a jail in the final rooms and some other things that have left my mind then we were out.  I’m sorry, a hot lady on a bed beckoning me, it kind of takes over the memory. 


  I don’t like sideshow crap.  I think it’s gross.  It doesn’t scare me, but I don’t need to see mermaid skeletons, Siamese twins, someone who was born with an extra toe, or leg, or 15 extra legs.  I just don’t, it’s not fun for me.  So I kind of walked through this area quickly, wasn’t my cup of tea.  I’ll wait for you in the brothel room, I think she’s still beckoning me.


  “Please no food, or drink allowed in the Asylum, some of our patients are doing without and this would screw up their treatments.”

  Asylum’s opening scene was kind of like TRAPPED at Knotts which was kind of cool.  We entered as a group of 6 and led into a room with 6 chairs.  We all were told to sit down and that some electricity would electrify the chairs.  Then the lights went out and the chairs started vibrating while the animatronic in front of us got fried.  Then a scareactor came from the right side and harassed anybody who screamed or looked scared.  A cool first room.

  The following rooms were filled with patrons of the Asylum in white jackets.  There was a sheet room that reminded me of the sheet maze at the Psycho Circus in Cemetarium, but was less confusing.  I actually found the way out pretty quickly.  A room of doors leading to psycho wards with the patients either hanging on top of the doors, or opening the doors to get their victims.  We were then out, from the screaming girl behind us “oh, is that all?”  Kind of what I was thinking.


  They provided the 3D glasses for us for free, which was a nice treat…well, I’ll explain later.  The maze was full of black lit rooms where the walls were painted in a way that made them look 3 dimensional.  Some of the scareactors would hide in the paintings and then jump at you.  Like a swinging clown, a lady in a colored mask and a black outfit.  Why the maze started with nutcrackers, I have no clue.  Spent a lot of time looking at the paintings and the strange ways they jumped out at you.

  At the end, we dropped off our 3D glasses in a box…wait, do they recycle them?  How many people used the ones I wore…wait, what?  Now wait a minute…best to not think about it.  Lady on bed, brothel, I’m good, moving on.


  When we left Cirque we had about 10 minutes until the firedancer show so we stuck around.  The opening scene was the lady eating fire over and over again.  I kept thinking if this is 15 minutes of a lady eating fire I’m leaving.  But the show kept getting better and better and it was very entertaining with 4 fire dancers in all.  Definitely worth the wait.  I like that each segment was only a couple of minutes long, and that the show didn’t go on and on and on.  Because I could see how something like this could get boring after awhile.  But the creepy music and the talent really made for a good show, definitely worth checking out.


  I enjoyed Callson Manor.  I think Heartstoppers and Callson Manor are both equally good and worth checking out.  They both have something worth checking out, and both have actors that seemed to care about what they were doing.  The creators also put some time into the creation of their mazes and made for a very good time.  They are on a whole different level than say Fright Planet.  And for the price, it’s pretty good.

  Also, I wouldn’t recommend spending the money for the front of the line pass, get there early, it’s dark, and just hit them all in the first hour with little to no lines.  I think we were there for just over an hour. 

  My biggest recommendation is go in a large group with different kinds of people.  You know, the brave, the screamer, the scared male who is manly but whimpers in the maze, get that kind of group.  Or go in a small group and take your time in the maze, check everything out.

  My biggest complaint is the one time only in these mazes.  I want to see them a couple of times, so I can remember all the details, and see effects that I might have missed.  Fright Planet was the only one in Sacramento that you can go through multiple times, but wasn’t really worth going through multiple times.

Monday, October 27, 2014



  First event in a long time that I got to go with some newbies.  Forgot how much fun it is to be with people who have no idea what to expect.  Put a smile on my face that didn’t go away until we left, awesome time.

  Heartstoppers holds a special place in my heart because of it’s location.  It’s located in Rancho Cordova where the old Mine Shaft Mini Golf place use to be.  It’s a great location.  In the old days, you started downstairs for the first couple of holes then you went up and out to finish the course.  A great environment and I’m sad to see it sitting there not being used…well, until the haunt season.

  I went two years ago, and missing this year was the old guy who would walk up and down the line in his happy, freaky way entertaining the crowd.  This year there was a zombie gold minor with a bullet hole in his forehead.  He was helpful, but not really the nicest guy of the bunch.  There was also a huge puppet like creature walking around, something I had seen at Dark Harbor.  Again, I get so into these events I forget to take pictures, kicking myself.

  Before we begin, be aware that we did get the fancy pants tickets which got us front of the line access.  There weren’t too many people in lines so we probably could have done without for most of it, but they were nice to have.  Kept Amy and Aunt Nikki on their toes <evil laugh>.

  Before entering, there is this cool window into the building.  Now I’m not sure if it’s a video wall, or just a window that shows shadows from the other side, which I think it was because I never saw the same thing twice.  There’s a guy with a hook who starts attacking another figure, then the figure falls on the glass/video screen smearing blood all over the place.  Very cool to watch.  And sometimes when people would take a picture in front of it, the people on the other side would seem to react.


  So the dead have risen to exact their revenge on their killer.  How cool is that right?  You started the maze by walking through a long hallway with candles on both sides.  Very cool.  We had a lady follow us the whole way without us realizing it.  She let us enter and we walked pass a jail cell with a guy following us making as much noise as possible.  Walked into a bar where “the shots were on him” and he shot an air gun at us.  The best room, well for me, was the spider room.  At this point Amy was tangled up in my jacket and either pushing me forward, or pulling me back.  As she saw the huge spider on our left, she pulled me back revealing a switch on the ground.  So of course, I stepped on it and the spider came running forward.  So Amy pushed me forward, and that’s when we saw another spider up on the shelf running towards us.  Fun room, for those that aren’t scared of spiders that is.

  The exit to this one wasn’t as memorable, but there was a guy sitting in a chair waiting to pounce which sent you out and into the line for the next maze. 


  First off, this is the BEST blackout maze I’ve ever been through.  The maze was pitched black with a little bit of light showing above.  You felt the walls for guidance, but the walls were either just plain wood panels, furry walls, or rubbery walls.  Sometimes there would be fabric hanging from the ceiling, so you weren’t sure what was hitting your face.  Then from above, there would be actors whispering.  Unfortunately, I had no idea what they were whispering, but it was creepy. 

  At two points, the strobe light would come on and some kind of devil would come screaming at you.  These scenes, while simple, really added to the creepiness of the maze.  And the strobe light wasn’t so intense that you left with a headache.  Very well done.


  The problem with this maze is it’s outside and there’s a lot of space to fill, so it doesn’t surprise me that it isn’t filled with scare after scare.  It was kind of a casual walk through the old golf courses.  There were some ladies in white who liked to scream, some lightning bugs hovering over a stream, and some guy who hung himself.  My favorite part of this maze was the witch doctor on the far side.  You couldn’t get too close to him, but he would hit his staff against the ground and a flash of light would come from the tree above you with the sound of thunder.  Very awesome.

  The last scene of the walk through was an indoor room which I thought was a cool idea.  Had a small voodoo scene and then you were out again.  Not my favorite voodoo maze of the year, but that witch doctor scene was pretty powerful.


  Probably the worst maze of the bunch, and not because my Aunt was terrified by clowns either.  It seriously felt like we entered the Sideshow, then left shortly after.  The only room I really remember was the last room which two clowns were in.  You had to push buttons and pull down levers to get out.  That room depended greatly on the scareactors to be interesting, and the two we had weren’t very exciting.

  A couple of things do come to mind in that maze like the bearded lady, a lady on a bed of nails, and a couple of things that could be clowns?  I just remember short…too short.


  Sadly, the last maze because I wanted more.  You enter the Asylum and a lady is at the desk asking for your name.  Then she yells your name for the whole maze to hear…but nothing is ever done with it.  You go from room to room full of patients getting tested on and then the doctor, or whoever will come at you with whatever device he is holding, either a saw or an air gun mechanism.  At one point I was following a deranged patient crawling telling me not to pass him.  Then he enters a room, lies down and does nothing.  Very strange. 

  Asylum had a lot of potential, but lacks the theming that Deadlands had.  Hopefully they will keep adding more money into it and make this even better.


  I must have enjoyed myself because I didn’t really want it to end.  I wish there were either more mazes or the shorter ones were longer.  Hanging out with Aunt Nikki and the very terrified Ms. Amy was fantastic and a fun experience.  While I don’t think it’s as good as Cemetarium, which is a labor of love, Heartstoppers is up there.  And hopefully with continued work and funds, it could be another great haunt for the Sacramento area.