Haunted House “Illustration”

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Illustration is in quotes because I don’t think this poorly drawn picture that I made when I was 9 years old deserves that description. Drawing was never one of my strong points, but what this haunted house lacks in technical accuracy it excels in spirit. My passion for horror began at a young age and when October rolled around, there were many assignments in school that involved Halloween and all things spooky. This haunted house was the result of an assignment my teacher gave us: Draw a haunted house and then write a story describing the house using similies.
I ate assigments like this up. I remember that I couldn’t wait to get down to business. I also figured that I had an “A” in the bag since I was one of the few kids in my class obsessed with watching horror movies, not to mention that I was one of the only ones who had parents that allowed me to. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)
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I jam packed every creature that might be associated with a haunted house. This drawing included ghosts, spiders, candles, 8-bit mini Frankensteins, bats, talking pumpkins, Jason and Freddy, and of course…that other thing you have NO IDEA about. The thing standing to the left of Jason is actually supposed to be Chucky from Child’s Play. The other conundrum is standing outside the house perched on top of a coffin. Yes folks, that’s supposed to be a werewolf who, poor thing, has no arms. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I left Dracula out because he was still chilling in his coffin. Since the moon is clearly visible on the top left, it’s high time he got his blood sucking ass outta there.

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The Sexy Armpit Goes to Nightmare: Bad Dreams Come True in New York City

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After I wrote this entry I realize, “gee maybe I should Google this idea before I write it.” Of course, the same showdown appeared over at Geekanerd’s awesome blog in ’07. Luckily, I detailed this year’s Blood Manor in an earlier post and this review focuses mainly on Nightmare NY. Either way, I’m sure you’ll find this review helpful if you’re thinking of going to a haunted house in New York City.  If you haven’t done so already, please read my review of BLOOD MANOR before you read this post.

Recently, The Sexy Armpit took a trip to the lower east side of Manhattan (CSV Cultural Center 107 Suffolk Street at Rivington) for Nightmare:Bad Dreams Come True. This haunted walk through bills itself as “New York’s Most Horrifying Haunted House,” and from my experience I can tell you that it definitely isn’t. This is one of the more hyped haunted attractions in New York City, and even though I commend it’s effort, it didn’t make me feel nearly as scared as Blood Manor did.  Here’s why:

“Nightmare New York” attempts to make you feel as if you’re walking through someone’s bad dream. My major complaint is that each phase of the walk through seemed to fall flat without having a “home run” scare before you went into the next room. I realize not all of the rooms should have a major scare, but I felt myself wanting to be more scared. For instance, in one room there’s a small Asian girl (Asian girls have the monopoly on horror nowadays) getting out of bed while the covers and bedsheets come off of her by themselves. I didn’t find this very unsettling since it looked too mechanical. Then the little girl gets up and walks over to the door to coerce us into the next room. Now don’t think I’m being overly picky here, but as she got out of bed and started walking past the visitors in the room, it was a perfect opportunity for her to scare us or for something to happen to her. This was probably just a transitional room so I assume that the covers coming off the girl was the big scare. It just seems like there were missed opportunities for scares. What if she kept her head down the whole time and then when she was finished walking over to the door she moved her head up and her eyeballs are all white and she has black goo pouring out of her mouth. That’s one of the many possibilities that I’ve come up with. But they can call me if they’d like to discuss. 
Please consider that I’m not the type of guy who likes to have constant extreme gore and loud noises battering my senses every second like the younger SAW generation. I love to get creeped out, but I think it’s the authenticity of the actors in Blood Manor that makes it the winner. Since when are gross hillbilly guys scary? It seems like there’s a heck of a lot of horror movies that feature redneck mutants and that’s just not scary at all. One of the rooms in Nightmare NY contains a platform where one of these rednecks resides.  He looks like he’s into some kind of torture and he’s knocking back brews and crushing the cans and and dropping them on the platform. Once the full group enters the room he starts blathering on about something and says he’s got a surprise for us. He begins to motion toward his crotch as the the lights go out. Then, Johnny Redneck squirts water across the room at all of us as if he’s pissing on us. Real nice! That’s class. I’m not being stuffy, but when I think of haunted houses I truly want to feel frightened, not grossed out. I think the horror movies of today are to blame. If horror producers weren’t so concerned with cutting limbs and fingers off and torturing people maybe the climate in the horror genre would be different. Why did the “gross out” shift in horror occur anyway? If I was going to “Gross You Out NYC” then I’d probably have given them a good write up. I guess I’m just a purist when it comes to classic horror and psychological thrills.
Nightmare NY is the clear winner in the length of time it takes to go through the attractions. Nightmare NY actually contains 2 separate attractions for the price of one. I would say that it took about a half hour (give or take 5 minutes) to get through both attractions while Blood Manor was no longer than 20 minutes. In this case though, the length of the attraction doesn’t make up for the fact that I didn’t find it scary at all. 
I was hoping that the the second part of Nightmare, called Nightmare Legends had some familiar movie characters. There were only a few but you won’t see your favorite characters like Freddy or Jason. Legends starts out with a room that has the corpse of Frankenstein’s monster moving his torso up and down as if he’s going to get up.  What I didn’t like about the second part was that there were red buttons that had to be pushed to get the “action” of the room to engage. Naturally there were a bunch of goons in front of me who incessantly pressed the button if nothing happened instantly. Then they would start touching everything in the room thinking they were going to activate the specific room’s display. It was a big mistake giving the people the power to activate the displays because that not only allowed them to act like douchebags but also took away from the spontaneous feeling that these haunted attractions need in order to be scary. When you have to press a button then it seems like any old display in a seasonal Halloween store. “Hey kids! You can buy this life size corpse of Frankenstein’s monster for your front yard for only $800 bucks! Quick, yell for your parents and then press this red button to see me rise from the grave!”
The physical aspect of Nightmare NY turned me off. You’ll see warnings abound before you go into the attraction that there are a few instances where you will need to be “physical” to make it through to the next room. The first obstacle that I had to make it through was a door made up of 2 inflated walls smooshed together. I basically had to muscle my way through it. I’m a pretty claustrophobic guy and I really didn’t enjoy that part especially knowing that it’s been pressed up against a thousand other sweaty people. Keep in mind that it’s pitch dark and at first I didn’t even understand how to get through the contraption in the first place because even with my superior night vision (!) I didn’t see the slit that I had to force myself through. Finally, I realized what I had to do. I guess I was disappointed that I worked for a scare that never happened. Another room had visitors crawl onto and over some little girls bed. The scary part was supposed to be that the girl was actually kneeling on the bed spazzing out from a nightmare. 
All I can say is that if you’re planning a “haunted house night” in the metro area, then do some online research first.  Let Google help make your decision for you. It’ll help your wallet because admission to these attractions are usually quite a few doubloons. Usually these haunted houses are about $20-30 dollars admission and you may have to shell out more for transportation or gas depending on where you live. If you feel like you were just totally gypped after you come out of the haunted house then you just blew some cash you could’ve spent on a couple of DVD’s! You also may want to make a night of it and get a little tanked before or after the attraction. Both Nightmare and Blood Manor offer alcoholic beverages but Blood Manor features an actual swank lounge where you can sit and drink with your friends in style. In this grudge match of haunted houses, for me it’s no contest, BLOOD MANOR contains more higher quality scares, better actors, and it’s way closer to NY Penn Station than Nightmare NY.

The Sexy Armpit visits Blood Manor New York City’s Premier Haunted Attraction

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Zombie Girl: Come see me later and I’ll give you a Brazilian on your head.
Jay: No, I’m gonna give you a Brazilian!
Zombie Girl: Too late!

This was an exchange I had with just one of the many wickedly costumed dwellers of Blood Manor whom I encountered as they lurked about at Home the swank club/lounge underneath the haunted attraction. I’ve heard of New York City’s Blood Manor before but I never experienced it. While at the Monster Mania Con I noticed a bunch of postcards ads for it on a vendor table. The Sexy Armpit was lucky enough to enjoy the special press preview of Blood Manor. The building is closer to Penn Station than I realized and it only took about 10-15 minutes to walk there from MSG. (542 W. 27th Street) I have to hand it to the organizers of this attraction since they truly built up my anticipation and curiosity as to what kind of terror I’d find within the walls of Blood Manor. If you’re saying to yourself “But Jay, it’s a haunted house, if you’ve been in one, you’ve been in them all.” Then you simply have not experienced the better ones. Blood Manor is one of the best I’ve been through.

For a Thursday night this was a formidable graveyard smash. Filing in were the super cool hip and trendy group of TV, radio, and print folks with their ultra fashionable messenger bags. (I packed light a cell phone and ice breakers) We all assembled in the sleek Home lounge while enjoying drinks from the bar and watching scenes from horror films on the large drop down screen. It was like a Disney character breakfast except for it being evil, twisted, in the evening, lacking breakfast food, and no shortage of Vodka. That’s smart, give your visitors a bunch of cocktails and then let them loose in a haunted house where they’ll no doubt be so scared and disoriented that they’ll piss themselves. I love it when a plan comes together! The bartender thought he was Ashton Kutcher and he even had one of those plastic hair bands holding his long hair back. You need to remember, this is New York we’re talking about…everyone wishes they lived in L.A but they’re all really from Jersey.

My friend Steve and I were about to sit down on a leather bench until the moment we realized we wouldn’t be doing much relaxing. All of a sudden a freaky fellow welcomed the crew to Blood Manor and began rapping “The Blood Manor Theme Song” which was actually an awesome song with a hip hop vibe to it. It definitely begs to be a part of the Halloween playlist on my iPod. Just as the song started blaring, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Samara, and a host of other characters made their presence known by greeting each and every person in the lounge by scaring the bejesus out of them. Freddy Krueger kept clinking the blades of his gloves together by my ears and telling me in that slithery voice of his that I was an easy target, which was a correct assumption since he successfully startled me numerous times throughout the night. Later, a little gothic girl who reminded me of one of those living dead dolls came over and stared at us with her huge innocent eyes as if she was confused as to why we just murdered her entire family. We actually didn’t murder her fam but she sure as hell made it seem like we did! The actors did not break character once and their costumes and makeup were exceptional. The oddities continued haunting us until the first group was let into the elevator and finally brought into Blood Manor.

Going into too much detail about the specific rooms inside of Blood Manor would spoil your experience. But I’m feeling generous so I’ll give you a few teasers: The Electrocution is sickeningly realistic, you also may want to reconsider your appointment for that makeover at the beauty parlor, you’ll feel like you’re in another world in the 3-D room with surreal blacklight murals all over the walls, then there’s the Saw room, and of course the boiler room. There are some genuinely unsettling parts of the walk through. The actors do a helluva job of freaking you out without touching you or doing anything crazy. If you’re like me, you’ll probably be more taken aback by some of the unexpected scares rather than the blatant ones. Some of the most fun moments come when you’re unsure of where you’re going in complete darkness. I must say that the finale is the best part. If you make it that far…

Once you’re out of Blood Manor alive, it feels like it didn’t take very long to get through. This might be the “I had so much fun effect” where you’re having such a good time that you had no concept of time or it’s just over too quickly (insert sex joke here). Infusing some good old fashioned carnival simplicity might do the trick. One way the attraction could improve is by possibly adding in a few different transitional areas without actors in between the main rooms. Doing that would make the ride longer as well as calm your senses a bit before you get the shit scared out of you by some of the actors again. These rooms could be just for viewing only and they don’t need to be elaborate. Another aspect that Blood Manor and other haunted houses lack is the presence of ghosts. With all the concentration on such iconic and recognizable horror movie characters, a simple eerie light show projecting some apparitions might work perfectly. Not everything has to be so “in your face.” Ghosts are spooky, just think back to the first time you saw one sitting in your cart the first time you went on the Haunted Mansion ride in Disney.

Blood Manor capped off an amusing night filled with scares, adult beverages, and me almost breaking my nose. In addition to it’s proximity to Penn Station, Blood Manor will not take a big chunk out of your night. Go ahead, plan a night out in New York but if I were you, I’d make Blood Manor you’re first destination rather than you’re last mwahahahaha!!!

Six Flags Dark Knight Coaster: A HUGE LETDOWN

If you’re into the whole brevity thing and you simply can’t stand my never-ending tangents, then here’s the short version: I’ve had more exciting rides on a compact John Deere Gator. Better yet…I’ve taken my life in my hands on numerous occasions reaching speeds 30 to 40 times faster than the Dark Knight Coaster on my Mongoose BMX bike. And yes, you CAN ride on my pegs.

A new ride at a local amusement park is usually pretty damn exciting. It gives us even more motivation to flock to the park and shell out zillions on season passes, parking passes, hopper passes, etc. This season, Six Flags Great Adventure in N.J capitalized on the popularity of the Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight, and threw up a dark ride in it’s honor. Naturally, like any die hard insane Bat-Fan, I needed to ride it.

I got there before the park opened because I knew I wasn’t going to want to stay in line for an hour and a half to ride it. Even though it was the Dark Knight, I don’t have the patience that I used to. Waiting for Kingda Ka was the biggest letdown because we must’ve waited 2 hours for a ride that seemed to last 7 seconds. The anticipation was high judging by how fast everyone sprinted to the Dark Knight as soon as the security guards let down the rope to get into the rest of the park. Don’t you hate it when you’re in a holding pattern in an amusement park waiting for it to open and you realize people actually work there and it isn’t just a fantasy world? There’s guys filling cold cases with soda and iced tea, opening up the doors to the various memorabilia and candy stores, and others are sweeping up. I always thought that stuff was done by the amusement park fairies that live in the old Victorian house at the front gate.

For young park visitors, the Dark Knight is a fun attraction but for the majority of people expecting a thrill ride similar to the Aerosmith Rock n Roller Coaster, they’ll surely be disappointed. It’s the most boring, lame, and uneventful ride in the park. I didn’t have to wait on line, but if you do you’ll wait in what they are trying to make us believe is the Gotham City transit system. The lights are dim and the big screen is showing a press conference with Harvey Dent (actually played by Aaron Eckhart) answering questions about crime in Gotham. Then the lights get even dimmer and the Joker’s catchphrase WHY SO SERIOUS comes on the screen while random Jokeresque quotes scrawled on the walls illuminate. There was a short montage with jolts of James Cagney and melting celluloid that for some reason got me so pumped. We boarded the ride, and not soon after I was deflated. I realized that we rode the majority of the ride and I kept saying “I’m sure it hasn’t even kicked in yet.” Was I wrong! The ride was over and nothing happened.

The Dark Knight “coaster” as it’s called is far from a coaster. It felt like it went about 5 mph!! There’s nothing even going on inside while you’re in you’re little 4 person train. You see some blacklit/florescent markings on the walls to make you think Joker is around, and you hear someone who sounds like Heath Ledger trying to spook you out, but other than that there’s really nothing to the ride.

Leave it to Six Flags to make a shitty ride. They can work wonders with their roller coasters but when it comes to other rides and attractions they suck. They rarely show any creativity and it usually seems like they don’t want to offer a variety of attractions. If they wanted to create a throwback dark ride, why didn’t they make a haunted house? At one time Great Adventure had a haunted house but it burned down in ’84. Check out this great article at Dark in the Park about the old Six Flags haunted castle. I haven’t been to a good haunted house since Castle Dracula.

It seemed like they whipped up the Dark Knight coaster in 6 weeks so I’m sure Six Flags has the means to make the most kickass, scariest haunted house on the east coast. You’ll always hear them bragging on TV with their annoying ads about how much bigger Great Adventure is than Disneyland, and how they feature a safari. Who cares how much land they own? How about concentrating on making Great Adventure an awesome amusement park with awe inspiring rides? Isn’t that the point? Their coasters are kickass but they are seriously lacking when it comes to creating atmosphere. I want to escape when I go to a theme park. I want to be pulled into Metropolis when I wait for the Superman ride, I DON’T want to feel like I’m waiting an hour in the sweltering Jackson, N.J sun by the greasy haired kid dressed all in black, yellow converse, who’s blasting some metal song from his ruby red Razr phone.

With Six Flags association with the WB and DC characters, it’s a shame that they can’t get a grasp on the rides in their parks. How about a Marvin the Martian Space Mission? A Gossamer Funhouse? A Wonder Woman Invisible Jet ride? C’mon people…this is off the cuff here! Imagine what I could do if I really put my mind to it!

I love going on rides like Nitro (my favorite), El Toro, Superman, and The Scream Machine, but they don’t offer much personality. The rides themselves are awesome but what I value is the atmosphere. Six Flags chinces out and they don’t take the opportunity to sweep you into a different world as you’re waiting to go on the ride. That long wait is sometimes excruciating and could be made a lot more interesting. You know what I mean if you’ve been on any ride in Disney World and Universal like Spider Man, and Star Tours in MGM. I want to be transported and be so distracted that the greasy haired kid won’t even make it into my brain because I‘m seriously convincing myself into thinking that I‘m about to rocket into space. Maybe the people who run Great Adventure could go take a ride on Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, or even one of the awesome rides in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. They could learn a thing or two.

Have you gone on any terrible rides? If so, tell us about it!

Mike Spade’s Haunted House

Last week my girlfriend told me that I had to check out this house that was all done up for Halloween. My first reaction was, “How cool can a house be?” I figured it was done by some run of the mill obsessive decorator, like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. You know how neighbors are always trying to one up each other. Well, I’ll be damned, because I was dead wrong about this one!

Mike Spade, a local magician, has the most kickass Halloween setup and he told me he’s been doing it for about 19 years. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard about this and I lived in the area my entire life! It’s obvious that Mike genuinely loves putting his Haunted front yard up year after year. The amount of work that goes into his display and the details that you can pick out are spectacular. After checking it out on a cold October night, it was outrageous.

I’ve been to a ton of haunted houses. I’ve visited independent walk throughs, Disneyland, big sponsored haunted ordeals, and I can tell you that nothing can compare to one man’s quest to scare the shit out of people. Mike basically put a dark ride in his front yard sans the boats. What’s most surprising is that he does this all because he loves it and he doesn’t charge people, he only puts out a donation box.

Mike’s Halloween setup has been featured in Weird NJ. For those who aren’t aware, Weird NJ is a magazine that began as a small fanzine type newsletter featuring oddities around the state and now it’s gotten so popular that the publishers Mark and Mark have hosted their own show on History Channel and now also publish books about oddities in other states.

There’s only one day left but you should definitely check out “Mike’s Haunted House.”

Pictured above are some of my favorite moments from the display. You’ll see Samara from The Ring crawled out of a television set and is climbing up a tree. There were some glowing ghosts that moved so gracefully, exactly how I picture a real ghost. Mike also built an old fashioned hearse with a coffin inside that won’t stay closed because of that damned skeleton in there! Coming out of the ground are some ghouls that clearly want to come and join you while your taking your spooky stroll through Mike’s haunted house. For more info about Mike and video of the display click here.

Haunted Hayride of Terror

With Halloween approaching I realized that I’ve never been on a haunted hayride before and that needed to change. On Friday night we headed down to Marlboro N.J to check out the “Haunted Hayride of Terror” and the Haunted barn. It was a cool autumn night and there were a lot of people showing up to get scared which reminded me of how Halloween should be!

If you think to yourself “How is a barn going to be scary?” There were no slaughtered hens or pigs scattered all over the place, but they did the place up nice. It was no Castle Dracula or the Haunted Houses you remember from your youth, but it had a spooky atmosphere. We wandered through the dark “barn” and finally came to a spinning tunnel through which we walked across a swaying catwalk. The spinning tunnel was a great effect and I enjoyed the feeling although if I stayed in there I felt the small glass of Jim Beam I had earlier in the night might’ve came up. We saw the usual setups, like the exorcist, and the crypt keeper. We also passed by skeleton pirates and at the end there was a real masked midget that jumped out at us who was doing a grand job of keeping still so we didn’t know he was real. There was no feeling of impending danger but the different animatronic setups were a throwback. It’s a little much when your walking through a local haunted attraction and all you encounter around corners are teenage kids donning various horror movie masks. To me that’s never scary. We did witness those exact kids when we went on the hayride.

After the barn a mess of people hopped on a big tractor that sat everyone on bails of hay which were actually comfortable. There were torches to light the way of the tractor driver as he slowly drove us through the woods. Scattered about the woods were various scary setups, some with live actors and some with fake bodies or skeletons. The live costumed actors would actually jump up onto the tractor and come try and scare each of us. One of the guys had a chainsaw, while another dressed like Michael Myers. At the end of the ride we stopped to take some “wacky” pictures of ourselves in the cardboard stand ups of Frankenstein and the Phantom of the Opera etc.