The Nightmares Fear Factory “Fear Pics Remix” contest

Shortly after I started my blog last year, I wrote a post about Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Having spent the past 25 years catching every haunted attraction I could find, Nightmares has always remained my favorite.  I wanted to spread the word about this spooky little gem, in hopes that other folks could share in the chills.  I had no idea at the time that my favorite haunt was about to become an Internet sensation.

Over the years, Nightmares has taken to snapping some rather amusing pictures of their patrons and posting them to their Flickr feed.  If you’re familiar with the way that big theme parks take photos of roller coaster riders, you’ll have a general idea of what they do.  The difference here is that instead of bracing for a big fall, Nightmares customers are photographed while having their wits scared out of them.  The resulting “Fear Pics” are often quite entertaining, if not downright hilarious.

Well, in early October of last year the currents of social media picked up on the Nightmares Fear Pics and they went viral.  All types of media started buzzing about the pictures and Nightmares was even featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and ABC News.

Building on all of this publicity, the folks at my favorite haunted attraction have come up with a new idea which is sure to be entertaining.  From April 9th-June 8th of this year, Nightmares Fear Factory is holding a “Fear Pics Remix” contest.  Entrants are asked to break out with their Photoshop skills and transform one of their existing Fear Pics into something even more fun and creative.

The first place prize will be a 8GB iPod Touch, 4 Tix to 4 premier Niagara Falls Attractions (Nightmares & 3 Ripley’s), & Nightmares T-Shirt.  Voting will be in the hands of the fans, so you’re welcome to enlist the help of all of your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Full contest rules may be found here.

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As always, thank you for reading.  If you’ve ever visited Nightmares Fear Factory, please share your experiences.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Midwest Haunters Convention

Calling all monsters!  If you’re a Halloween enthusiast who is counting the months until your favorite holiday, the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC) may be just the ticket.  From June 8th-10th, the MHC will be coming to the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH.

The MHC is the largest Halloween show of its kind in the US serving Haunted Attraction Industry professionals and enthusiasts.  The MHC features a tradeshow, education, chartered bus tours and entertainment.

Nearly 8 years have passed since the original MHC was held at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, OH.  Now, this event has grown from a few hundred attendees to host thousands of haunt owners, actors, workers and enthusiasts to celebrate Halloween and Haunted Attractions.

The MHC Trade Show will feature a 60,000 square foot show room floor with over 100 vendor booths.  Educational seminars and workshops as well as networking activities are offered.  The 2012 MHC features a 2-day bus tour of Ohio/Michigan haunted attractions, a Monster Masquerade Costume Party featuring the Body Art Fashion Show and contests including the Bloody Mary Monster Makeup Wars Competition, Ms Midwest Scary Pageant & the Scariest Character Contest.

While many of the events and seminars are geared toward operators or staff of haunted attractions and home haunters, there is plenty of fun available for even the most casual of Halloween fans.  For example, for the ridiculously low price of $5, trade show registration gives you weekend access to vendors offering the latest in costumes, props, and all sorts of Halloween goodies.

If you’re looking for a bit of spooky fun to get you through the summer, consider paying a visit to the Midwest Haunters Convention.  You can read more about the event here.

 

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Dublin, OH haunted house features unusual holiday display

Howdy folks.  I hope that your holiday plans are coming along nicely.  Typically, the holiday season is about as far away from Halloween and other spooky festivities as you can get.  However, if you happen to be in the Columbus, OH area and need a little fix of the macabre, I believe I may have scared something up for you.

The ScareATorium haunted attraction, in Dublin, Ohio features an unusual holiday themed window display lighted from 6-10 pm nightly through December 31, 2011.

Growing up in Worthington, Ohio; it was a holiday tradition for ScareAtorium Producer Kelly Collins to travel to downtown Columbus with his family to see the Christmas window displays at Lazarus.  They would spend hours looking at the windows and then drive around town to see the festive lights on local buildings.  It’s those memories that inspired Kelly to decorate the windows at the Scare-A-Torium; their Halloween haunted attraction in Dublin at the Dublin Village Center.

ScareATorium Actors spent two weekends decorating the Castle façade with garland and lights and creating several window displays.  Of course; since it is a haunted attraction, they needed to keep some of the attraction slightly on the macabre side.  “I guess the zombie and clown toy workshop teeters towards the Nightmare before Christmas theme” said Kelly Collins;  “and the Christmas trees are adorned with pumpkins, spiders and a few skulls” he added.  Additional window displays include a giant Sock Monkey in one window and holiday pigs in another.  Collins noticed dozens of people driving by were stopping to observe the decorators in action; with some walking up for a closer look and picture-taking.

The Scare-A-Torium is closed until next Halloween season, but the window displays will be up providing holiday cheer on a dark side of the shopping center through the end of the year.  So if you are driving around the Dublin/Sawmill road area at night, be sure to swing by the Dublin Village Center and spend a few moments enjoying the Halloween themed Christmas displays!

About the Scare-A-Torium:  Located southwest of I-270 and Sawmill Road (exit 20) in the Dublin Village Shopping Center at 6765 Dublin Center Drive, Dublin Ohio 43017.  The Scare-A-Torium is a 30,000 square foot haunted house open in October (Thursday through Sunday evenings) which hosts the Scare Store gift shop featuring Halloween makeup artistry provided by Funhouse Faces.  For more information, email Info@ScareATorium.com or please call 614-433-9343 or visitwww.ColumbusHauntedHouse.com.

Haunted Attractions

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.

Dream Reapers Haunted House presents: Nightmares Before X-Mas

I’ve been a busy monster these past couple weeks.  Between recuperating from Halloween festivities and planning a move, I haven’t had much to report.  However, I caught wind of something today which I had to pass along.

The folks over at Dream Reapers Haunted House have been scaring folks as the #1 haunted attraction in Illinois for 3 years in a row.  Unfortunately, this year, they were the victims of a robbery at the end of their season.  In order to recover some of their losses, they are planning a special event in December.

For 4 days this December, Dream Reapers Haunted House will present a tale of Christmas fear…Nightmares Before X-Mas!

I’m seriously considering a road trip for this one (anybody else interested)?  It would be great if they could recoup their losses.  Beyond that, consider the trend that could be started if a high profile haunt like this has a successful December run.

You can check out their information here.  Spread the word and give me a yell if you’d consider paying them a visit with me.

Thanks for reading.  Hope you’re all making the transition into the holidays nicely.

Nightstalker Manor…where your nightmares begin #Rochester, NY

In my last post I made mention of the passion and good spirited nature of Halloween fans.  Today I’d like to illustrate that by telling the tale of a charity haunted attraction in my hometown of Rochester, NY.

Joe Naber and his family are some of those “Halloween people” I’ve been talking about.  Over ten years ago they started a home-haunt.  As time went by, the creation grew and for the past two years they’ve been a charity haunt for the Henrietta Food Cupboard.

Ultimately, his operation got too big for his little home.  This year, Nightstalker Manor will be held at the Henrietta Moose Family Center.  Best of all, their haunt isn’t the only thing that is growing.  For 2011, all proceeds will go to The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Moose Charities, & the Henrietta Food Cupboard.

This kind of thing just makes me happy.  Considering all of the hard work (not to mention jumping through hoops) which is involved in operating a haunted attraction, going the charity route is very cool indeed.

I’ve been reading Joe’s posts for a couple of months now.  He and his crew are pumped and ready to put on a killer show.

If you’re one of my readers in the Rochester area, I strongly urge you to check out Nightstalker Manor this season.  With an admission of only $6 ($5 with a canned food item for donation), how can you go wrong?  If you’re not in the area, maybe just give them a shout out and some encouragement.  These are the kind of folks who make our hobby so special.

Location:  The Moose Family Center, 5375 West Henrietta Rd., West Henrietta, NY  14586

Ticket Pricing:  $6 (Cash Only) or $5 with non-perishable food donation

Hours & Dates:  7pm-11pm every Friday & Saturday through October

Phone:  585-451-9996

Website:  www.nightstalkermanor.com

A Monster reflects on Halloween

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

There’s something about “Halloween people”.  If you are one, you probably know what I mean.  We’re a special breed.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re all still individuals but there are common threads whether you’re a crafter, home-haunter, horror movie fan, or whatever.

Unlike other groups, like say bikers or investment bankers, we largely sit dormant and undetectable for most of the year.  Then, we catch a glimpse of orange & black or feel the days getting shorter and all of a sudden, our inner ghosts and goblins come out with a passion.

That passion can manifest itself in any number of ways.  The common thread is that it’s generally good-spirited.  For a holiday that revolves around monsters, scares, and things that go bump in the night, it’s a pretty friendly and social affair.

Sure, we gives gifts for Christmas but on Halloween we give treats to complete strangers.  How cool is that?  A case could be made that the whole shebang is about others.  I’m sure that people enjoy carving pumpkins, making costumes, and decorating their home.  However, how fun would any of these  activities be if nobody saw them but you?  It’s all about sharing the fun.

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you are one of the “Halloween people”.  You probably have friends who listen to you each year, as you regale them with stories of your Halloween activities.  They probably get a big smile on their face, tell you that they think that it sounds like fun, and then promptly get sucked back into their humdrum life.

This year I encourage you to push the  envelope with some of these people.  You know how much fun you have every year, don’t your friends and relatives deserve a taste?  I’m not suggesting that you try to talk your next-door neighbor into building a corn maze in his backyard.  However, if you could get someone to carve a pumpkin with their kids, sit and watch a horror movie marathon with you, or take in a haunted attraction, I bet they’d never forget it.

Halloween is the one precious time of the year when we can all be kids again and enjoy a bit of fantasy.  Everybody could use a bit of that.  Besides, memories made while wearing a costume just last longer.

 

Monster joins cast of the Scare-A-Torium!

     Here’s just a quick note to let you all know that my Monster will be joining the cast of the Scare-A-Torium in Dublin, OH this year!

     Every Sunday from now until Halloween, I’ll be taking part in their “lights on” tours.  Running from 4pm-6pm, I will be joining the Ghostbusters.  Younger children and their parents can attend on Sundays for a Lights-On Tour of The Scare-A-Torium.  They will have all of the lights on and there will be no scares or sounds during the tour.  It’s a great opportunity for the young ones to enjoy the haunted attraction with out the fear of the dark or being surprised.  It’s also a wonderful way to see all the detail and work that’s involved in the artwork, design and, creation of a haunted house attraction.  Members of Ghost Busters of Columbus will serve as tour guides.

     The Lights-On Tour admission is only $7 for an adult. Every paid adult ticket will admit one adult along with four children under 12 for $1.00 each. Additional children will be required to purchase an adult ticket. All children must be accompanied by an adult to participate in Lights-On.

     As an added bonus, I’ll then be joining the rest of the spooks for the regular haunted attraction until 10pm.

     So, if you happen to be out in the Columbus area on Sunday, please stop by and say “hello”!

 

The Ghastly Ones

 

     Ok Halloween fans, I’ve got a real treat for you today.  Hardly a Halloween season passes without the topic of Halloween music coming up.  Whether planning for a rocking good Halloween party or driving from haunted attraction to haunted attraction, folks want some tunes to go along with the fun.

     As someone who spends a good bit of his life dressed up like Frankenstein’s monster, I’ve always been partial to The Monster Mash.  There are certainly other “classics” out there…Purple People Eater, Thriller, and even Nightmare on My Street come to mind.  However, these are all very different.  This makes it hard to build a theme to your evening and you can just about forget any dancing going on.

     This year, for a rocking good Halloween vibe, let me suggest that you give the Ghastly Ones a listen.  The Ghastly Ones are a surf–garage rock band from Van Nuys, CA with a particularly spooky sound and late-night monster movie theme.  With crazy guitars and a driving drumbeat, imagine their stuff as a revved up version of the theme to the Munsters.

     Rob Zombie who released their first album in 1998 on his label Zombie-A-Go-Go Records, teamed up with them to record Halloween (she get so mean).  With other titles, such as The Ghastly Stomp, and Haulin’ Hearse, how can you go wrong?

     I lack the ability to link videos here but I’ve posted a couple to my Facebook page.  Pop over and check them out if you get a chance.

     Thanks for stopping by.  Were you already aware of the Ghastly Ones?  Do you have any favorite Halloween music of your own?  Leave a quick comment below and let me know.

Notable Trick-or-Treating memories

     Over the years, I’ve had many Halloween related memories.  As grand as some of my adventures have been as an adult, I think the best memories are from the years that I was young enough to still go trick-or-treating.

     As a kid, you tend to feel the build up to Halloween even more.  You watch as the leaves continue to fall, decorations slowly go up, and the pumpkins on the porches transform into jack-o-lanterns.

     I realize that things are different now.  Often, children trick-or-treat at the mall instead of their neighborhood or even in broad daylight.  Well, things were different in the 1970s.  Back then it was still quite common to see packs of ghosts and ghouls, roaming the streets, in search of treats.

     Now as a youngster, the mere act of knocking on a stranger’s door and being rewarded with candy was quite a thrill in itself.  However, there were certain people who went the extra mile to make things really special and those memories stay with me to this day.

     We had one family who, instead of giving candy, would hand out nickels to all of the trick-or-treaters.  It sounds rather funny, because a nickel wasn’t much (even in 1977), yet I clearly recall that every child in the neighborhood made it a point to not miss out on “the house that gives out money”.

     One neighbor would have a life-sized scarecrow sitting outside his door, with spooky music playing in the background.  On one year in particular, our neighbor removed the scarecrow on Halloween night, dressed in its clothes, placed a jack-o-lantern on his head, and sat himself down in the same spot. 

     He would wait for kids to get close and then reach out for them while laughing a hideous laugh.  This totally scared the bejeezus out of everyone involved.  Good times!

     We had one older couple down the street who always took pictures of all the kids.  They would set up a 35mm camera and snap pictures, just as the kids said “trick-or-treat”.  They also gave out little prizes for their favorite costumes of the night. 

     I always thought that this was very sweet.  Sweeter still (though quite sad) was the fact that the husband continued this practice for a couple of years, after his wife had passed away.  It’s unfortunate but I suppose that if someone were to do that today, parents would be terribly alarmed at having someone take pictures of their children.

     My favorite trick-or-treating memory of all time was one that parents probably should have been concerned about, there just didn’t happen to be any adults around at the time.  I grew up in Henrietta, NY (a suburb of Rochester).  It was a quiet little neighborhood and as such, parents weren’t afraid to let kids go off on their own (so long as they remained relatively close to home).

     I believe it was 1981 and I was 11 years old at the time.  My buddy Jason and I were wrapping up a long evening of trick-or-treating.  Just as we were about to head back home, we stumbled upon a curious house.

    The lights were all out (the international signal for “we don’t want trick-or-treaters) but there was very loud “haunted house music” coming from the house.  We looked at each other and shrugged.  Figuring that it would be a shame to miss out on any extra candy, we proceeded down the driveway, to the house.

     Arriving at the front door, we were met with another strange sight.  The door was wide open and there was still no sign of light from within the house.  I was a rather timid youth and was quite ready to turn around and leave.  However, before I could, Jason reached up and pressed the doorbell.

     Immediately, from within the blackness of the house, we heard a woman calling to us and the sound of chains rattling.  At this point we were too startled to move so we just stood there, staring into the blackness.

    As we watched, a woman crawled (yes crawled!) into view.  Not only that, but she was half-naked!  Clad only in a flimsy, white teddy, the woman crawled toward the door. 

     “Thank you for coming boys.  You must save me from my master!” she said.

     Our 11 year-old eyes were out of their sockets, wanting dearly to stare at her barely covered breasts but feeling the urge to run screaming into the night at the same time.

     Then things got really weird.  Now in full view, it became clear that the woman had a collar around her neck and was tethered by a chain.  The chain was held by a large, bare-chested man who emerged from the dark.

     “Candy, candy…candy for the children” he said.  His voice was slightly muffled under a horrid Don Post mask (like the one in this picture).

     The man held the chain, preventing the woman from “escaping”, and proceeded to stuff a TON of candy into our bags.  With that done, he shut the door and we ran off into the night.

     Neither of us mentioned that to our parents, for fear of freaking them out.  We certainly didn’t want to be prevented from trick-or-treating on our own, in future years.

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     Well, thank you for reading.  If you’ve read this far, I’m betting that you have some great Halloween memories of your own.  Please take just a moment and leave a comment.  I would love to hear your tales.  We’re less than 100 days from Halloween, it’s not too late to make sure that you can create some memories this year!