NYC haunted house and Nightmare

I’m considering calling this page “chicky’s haunted house blog” because there are certain haunted houses that I don’t think I’d ever be brave (foolish?) enough to enter. 

chicken hen

Bawk, bawk! <3

Here are two I read about recently in New York City.

 

1. The NYC haunted house – From its non-descript name and equally secretive website, this haunted house is surrounded by deliberate mystery.  So of course, I had to search far and wide on the internet to find out more about it.  The experience focuses on psychological horrors  from the mundane to the topical.  It makes me think of black box theater and bondage dungeons. 

            

Here are spoiler links to people’s experiences over the years.  Be warned, this haunted house is not for the under 18 crowd in so many ways.

Kashmir Hill 

Raven and Black Cat

Jaded Viewer writes about a special, non-Halloween event

2. Nightmare – This haunted house has had a variety of themes in recent years, including vampires and superstitions.  Each contains an elaborate story, which I will summarize here.

Vampires: Victims Guests are touring a museum of vampire artifacts and come face to face with the real horror.

Superstitions: Brave souls wander through a mental hospital in which the inmates have barricaded themselves to hide from physical manifestations of their superstitions.  Guests must perform the superstitious action (like opening an umbrella indoors) to proceed to the next room.

I really like how story and theme are interwoven in these attractions.  The director, Tim Haskell, also is a playwright, which may account for the elaborate nature of his haunt stories and his eye for discerning what topics have a wealth of intellectual and visual content. 

On the other hand, Tim Haskell is absolutely insane.  Superstitions, for example, requires guests to wade through “excrement”-chunky water.  (It’s really oatmeal.)

Written walk-throughs of Nightmare

Jaded Viewer again.  His site is really comprehensive for haunted houses and the adult horror genre.

The examiner: in-depth and disturbing!

This year, Nightmare is focusing on Fairy Tales. This is an excerpt from director Tim Haskell’s blog.

We are basically creating an enormous pop-up book. and it isn’t set in a house, but rather the woods. You will walk from one cottage to another. You’re gonna be given a map and everything. Tons of fun and interactivity and plenty of scares to go around. I am beside myself with excitement for this house tbh.

Yeah, me too, Tim.

I wish I could be part of the creative aspect (behind the scenes).  I’m extremely curious what will be inside the haunted house.  Lacking money and courage, however, I doubt I will ever enter.

Anyone want to make me a loan, hah hah?

Bawk, bawk, bawk!

zelda chickenzelda chickenzelda chicken

The Importance of Story

Once, I read a webpage that had tips for designing themed attractions for an amusement park.  It said something like this: Just decorating your ride with pictures of fish, mermaids, and so forth does not make it a themed attraction. Story is the most important part of theme, however implicit.

 

As a writer, I really like the importance this advice put on story. I believe haunted houses (and themed attractions in general) need a story because a story is a frame for conflict.  As my undergrad writing professor used to say, “Only trouble is interesting.”

 

Most haunted houses, you’ll find, have a story, or at least elements that can be linked to form a story.  Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion has many.  The main idea is that the mansion is a retirement home for ghosts.  Some of you may recall that the Ghost Host says, “There are several prominent ghosts who have retired here from creepy old crypts all over the world.”  This idea lets one see each ghost in the mansion as having a separate story, or all the stories connecting together.

 

I enjoy the loose stories of the haunted mansions throughout the Disneyland’s.  In my usual English word-nerdy way, I think it is fun to explore the different interpretations and possibilities people can come up with. 

 

I have a few theories of my own about the Disneyland haunted mansion ghosts.

 

Theory 1: Absalom, Absalom

In my first and last semester of grad school, I read the novel pictured above.  Absalom, Absalom is the story of a mysterious stranger, Thomas Sutpen, who comes to Mississippi.  The whole town of Jefferson seethes with rumors about him because he builds his house, only to leave it standing empty for many years.  He comes back with a fortune to furnish it and starts prowling town for a suitable wife.  Many scandalous happenings occur at his house, and many more stories reach the reader as rumor, some with supernatural qualities.  Lately I have begun thinking of the Ghost Host as Sutpen. 

 absalom, absalom

 

haunted mansion exterior

You have to admit that the mansion exterior and Sutpen’s house on the cover look similar.  Compared to Sutpen, the ghost host is far more family friendly, of course. 

 

Theory 2: Whose shadow is that?

In the haunted mansion attic, a shadow wearing a top hat plays the bridal march on a tiny wooden piano. (I received a similar piece of furniture for my dollhouse one Christmas.  It always creeped me out. But I digress.)  It reminds me of Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog, specifically, his shadow.  At the end of the movie, Facilier is dragged into the underworld because he cannot pay his debts to the voodoo spirits.  The haunted mansion is part of New Orleans square, and Princess and the Frog is set in New Orleans.  So it’s possible that while Facilier is busy in the underworld, his shadow sneaked off to the Haunted Mansion for some R&R.

 

Doombuggies.com has collected the many canon stories of the Haunted Mansion at their website. 

 

A long aside: I find Phantom Manor (the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland Paris) especially interesting, story-wise.  A mysterious curse hangs over the house, as well as the chilling line, “A ravishing bride, a vanishing groom.”  The pictures in the stretching gallery surpass their predecessors in creepiness and contribute to the story.  check them out on this page (scroll ¾ down) http://doombuggies.com/phantom1.php

 

What haunted house stories have you heard? What stories do you think would be fun to bring to life? (ghastly, inverted pun there).

The Haunt Blog is at technorati!

Here’s hoping 4RU6ZQ6G3TSG for more visitors as a result!

Lovin’ the detail work!

Of all the haunted attractions I’ve experienced, Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is the most detailed.  It is these details that keep me coming back, despite knowing all the gags (except for random guests and cast members walking against the doom buggy flow).  Collectively, the Haunted Mansion’s details contribute to an eerie atmosphere that inspires me to write ghost stories and design atmospheric haunted houses.  And on the minutiae level where I am taking you today, there is much to appreciate, artistically.

 haunted mansion gate

The circular design on this gate (it appears on the gate’s double, too) makes me think of a ship’s helm.  (Or, as Rizzo the rat puts it, “The boat steering thing.”)

 ship weathervane

It’s easy to see why when you consider this peculiar weather vane on top of the house.  Aren’t most weather vanes shaped like roosters?  Maybe the master of the house went on a sea voyage and brought back some nasty artifacts (or new servants), cursing his imposing residence.

 see no evil

Nothing says “ghosts” to me more than gothic statues and ironwork.   This little guy (who has a twin on the opposite gate post) reminds me of the “see no evil” monkey.  Kind of ironic that he has a lantern underneath him.

 haunted mansion gate2

The crypt has a statue that looks just like the figure in the ironwork at the top of this gate.  I find it rather eerie.  

 entry sign

I can’t decide what the frame of this plaque consists of.  My two guesses are bones or leaves.  Check out the face at the top – yikes!

 13 min wait

I think 13 minute wait is a haunted ride’s way of saying “There is no line.”  They do it at the Hollywood Tower of Terror, too.  In my opinion, a 13 minute wait corresponds nicely with the 13 hour clock inside the Haunted Mansion.

 

What details do you like from the Haunted Mansion or other haunted attractions?

isnUnconventional Scares

Unconventional Scares

I live in Anaheim, home of Disneyland.  One of my favorite attractions in the park is the Haunted Mansion, which I will focus on extensively in later posts. Today, I want to tell a story about two recent experiences.

 

The Haunted Mansion cars, known as Doom Buggies, file down a dark flight of stairs to the loading area.  Guests step on a moving platform to board.  One cast member, or Disney employee, assists people climbing into the Buggies.  Another stands at the bottom of the staircase that begins the ride in earnest.  As I got closer to the stairs, I noticed there was no cast member. 

 

Then the girls ahead of me started shrieking.  They seemed like the type to get really scared in a haunted house, like my friend S, who goes through them with her eyes shut.  I giggled at them, but the joke was on me.  A woman with ghostly blond hair, in a dark green dress swept past my car.  I jumped when I saw her and uttered several exclamations on the order of “Whoa!” and “Yikes!”  She was just a cast member, coming down the stairwell, though they’ve never done that in the Haunted Mansion before.  I hopped back on the Haunted Mansion immediately after to see if she would come down the stairs again.  She didn’t.

 

But 2 weeks later, I was back at the Haunted Mansion in the same spot.  This time, there were no screams to warn me.  An old man shambled down the loading platform, going the wrong way.  He grabbed hold of the tops of the Doom Buggies to steady himself.  Adrenaline blasted me when I noticed him.  In the eerie atmosphere, he made me think “zombie.”  I saw him again at the ride exit; he had gotten the Doom Buggy behind mine.  I slowed down so I could fall behind him and watch him in the sunlight.  He did not vanish, but stumbled off toward Splash Mountain.  Makes me wonder what happened to the rest of his party.  Perhaps he’s like me and enjoys solitary theme park adventures.

 

I’m not sure which Haunted Mansion incident was the scarier.

 

Here is an unintentional scare from younger days.  I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii with my parents from about age 3 to 12.  My mom and I went to the same hairdresser who had her own shop in Waipahu.  One day in October, I went to Ruthy’s (the hairdresser) bathroom.  As I shut the door, something cackled behind me.  I shrieked and jumped a mile when I saw a motion-detecting witch with glowing green eyes hanging from a hook in the door.  Finally she quit, but by this time, the pee was scared right out of me.  I sat on the toilet staring at the witch, willing her not to start up again before I had finished.

 

After the witch startled me, I was always wary of Ruthy’s bathroom.  Even if it wasn’t Halloween, I would inch the door open, reach in and flick on the light.  Then I would peer around the door to make sure that hook had its usual patchwork wreath hanging from it.  Ruthy probably never intended it, but her bathroom had become a scene from a haunted house, an extra potent one because the victim had no idea in advance that they were going to get scared.  I think this would be a neat idea for an extremely unconventional haunted house.

 

What unconventional scares have you experienced? (Or **perpetrated**, bwa ha ha?)

OC Fair Haunted House

A few weeks ago, I went to the OC fair.  Being unemployed, I had pretty much decided I was not going to ride anything, as carnival rides are expensive. The Rave Wave chipped at my resolve a little bit, but it was the haunted house that got me to break out my Visa card. 

 

I forgot my camera that day, so I can’t remember entirely how it looked.  I want to say it consisted of a rickety house façade.  I definitely remember a mural behind it painted with characters from horror movies. Freddie Kreuger stands out prominently in mind.  The paintings were done in a striking carnival style that makes me think of old-fashioned comic books.

 

The queue led through the “grounds” of the haunted house.  Signs directed fair-goers to “the asylum,” “the morgue,” “the Bates motel,” “Elm street,” and others.  Grotesque figures lined the picket fence.  These had seen better days.  One had a finger-shaped gouge taken out of its cheeks, and I discovered it was made of foam.  I thought that was pretty cool, as I am always interested in the how-to of haunted houses.  The tombstones had humorous epitaphs such as “Sal Monella.”  These were some new puns that I had not seen before and got a chuckle out of me.  I wish I had thought to write them down.  

 

Farther along, a coffin lay open with a corpse reaching out of it.  Body parts were scattered nearby with red at the ends that recalled spray paint.  On the porch, more dummies.  These sat in chairs and watched guests inch up the path.  Maybe they were watching the fair, too, who knows?  Some were animatronic, featuring moving heads or arms.  Their clothes, as I recall, were reminiscent of an asylum or hospital, loose fitting gowns and scrubs.  Two were quite old with a shock of white hair.  The one farthest left had long black hair reminiscent of Sadako in The Ring.

 

The entire time, the loudspeakers piped a Satanic voice over the area.  Given that every ride in the midway was trying to drown one another out with their music, it was difficult to make out just what “he” was saying, which imparted a subtle menace to the haunted house area.

 

The entry price was 4 tickets.  For $5.00, I was able to purchase 10 tickets.  As I toured the rest of the fair later that afternoon, I discovered that the haunted house was the cheapest attraction there, even cheaper than the carousel.  I soon found out why.

 

This haunted house was not a walk-through; it had simple black and white cars that could seat 4.  It reminded me of old timey dark rides as described on laffinthedark.com.  I sat behind two boys who looked about 8-10.  It was a deliberate choice on my part not to be in the front.  I know, I know… :P

 

I needn’t have worried.  In the first room, an animatronic seated on an electric chair laughed maniacally.  He reminded me of Jason; he may well have worn a hockey mask.  Electrical currents hummed through the air.  We turned a corner into pitch darkness and relative quiet.  The buildings set behind the house façade must have been pretty far back or well-insulated. I don’t remember hearing any fair music.  The guys in front of us had been screaming for the fun of it (short, obnoxious blasts of “Ah!  Ah! Ah!”) but I couldn’t hear them, either.   

 

Our car squeaked along.  The suspense grew.  A witch cackle sounded, and an animatronic emaciated lady swooped toward us.  Of course, it was behind glass in an area that would light up as the car clunked by. 

 

After that, it was pretty much the same idea: a scary noise would get our attention, such as a laugh, or a moan; a spotlight would flicker on or a strobe would flash; and the dummy would lurch toward us or rattle the bars of its cage.

 

Right before the exit, a creature that made me think of a gargoyle descended toward us with an evil laugh.  That, I felt was a nice touch.

 

Riders get off on the opposite side of the house from the entrance.  The adjacent yard consisted of more tombstones.  In the corner right before you leave is a figure called Bad Betty holding a doll; I guess she is supposed to be a demonic child.

 

It occurred to me after I left that the haunted house was probably best appreciated at night, both for the contrast of light inside the dark house and the general eeriness.  Though I passed by again around 9, there was no one in line, and I was afraid to go through by myself.

 

Though this was a “budget haunted house,” as I texted my friend that afternoon, I really enjoyed the experience.  I have wanted to try a new haunted house for a good while and, quite unexpectedly, I got my chance with this one. I love how haunted houses can be super cheap and cheesy or elaborately-themed and still give me creative thrills and chills.

 

So what about you?  Do you have any carnival haunted house memories or recent stories?