As a child, I was scared of my shadow. While I loved Halloween and spooky things of all sorts, I had no stomach for them.
Every Saturday afternoon, Rochester had its own version of a “Creature Feature” after the children’s cartoons were over. Each week a different monster movie would be featured and each week I would faithfully tune in. However, also each week, I would turn the channel within moments after the host would introduce the movie.
I guess my first experience with a “haunted attraction” was the annual “haunted house” at the Dome arena in Henrietta, NY. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old and had seen the signs along the road as we’d head off to get groceries at Wegmans. Like a moth to a flame, I begged my folks to take me.
They agreed and off we went. I was fascinated by the decorations and creepy sounds. However, when it came to enter, I started to get weak knees. Ultimately, the “good witch” at the “Scardey Cat’s” exit was my savior and I was back in the safe, light of day. This ritual played itself out for at least the following few years.
My fortunes started to change when I was around 11. That year there was a haunted house held at Gillette elementary school in Henrietta (where the School of the Holy Childhood is now). I successfully managed to make my way through the gauntlet along with a couple of my little buddies. That little victory changed everything. lol.
From that point on, I threw myself headfirst into any scary attraction I could find, with great glee. Ultimately, I guess that’s what lead me to starting to work for the Cobblestone Arts Center’s Haunted House and wearing the Frankenstein (err, monster) suit.
At any rate, I’ve made it into quite a hobby over the years. As a matter of fact, back in ’97, my ex-wife and I spent a week touring some of the best “haunted attractions” in the country.
One of the best haunted attractions I’ve ever encountered is up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Open all year, Nightmares Fear Factory is not for the faint of heart. Don’t be fooled. It’s not one of the cheesy haunted houses on Clifton Hill, with static displays from the 70s. This is the real deal.
Instead of being populated with bored teenagers in latex masks, the Fear Factory is run by hardcore folks who pride themselves on making their guests call out “nightmares!” (an act which will immediately lead to them being escorted out of the attraction). You will find no Spencer’s Halloween decorations or Halloween soundtracks here…Nightmares is a “feel your own way” romp through pitch black corridors in complete silence (aside from the sounds that you and your companions make).
Seriously, I realize that I enjoy this stuff far more than the ordinary individual. However, if you happen to find yourself up at the Casino or passing through, on the way to Toronto, you should check it out. I promise that you and your friends will be talking about it all the way home.