Why We Find Extreme Haunted Houses Empowering

A response to Stephanie Sylverne’s article “Extreme Haunted Houses Aren’t Cool – They’re inhumane.”

We love Halloween. All of it – the history, the whimsy of pumpkin picking and bobbing for apples, and the ability to make yourself feel more alive by stepping outside of your comfort zone. We freely admit that we are adrenaline junkies. We love the adrenaline rush we get from performing on stage and we love the adrenaline rush we get from extreme haunted houses.

Extreme haunted houses provide a safe environment to test your physical and mental limitations within the realm of a fictional immersive theater experience. We have attended many extreme haunted houses (including the infamous off-season events of Blackout Haunted House) and we have never been placed in any real danger. 

That being said, we are both women in our early 30s (one of us is even a mom) and we take our safety very seriously. We do not sky dive, bungee jump, or participate in events like the Tough Mudder extreme obstacle mud run because we are unwilling to risk our safety. 

Extreme Haunted houses like Blackout and Freakling Bros create the illusion of an out of control experience, but the reality is that every moment is precisely planned and monitored. The actors are trained to handle different scenarios and many have backgrounds in stage combat and professional wrestling. This illusion allows you to push your boundaries and face your darkest fears in a safe environment where no real harm will come to you. Nearly all extreme haunts have a safe word. If the experience becomes too much for you then you say the safe word and it’s over. McKamey Manor is the one exception. They do not have a safe word and all participants are aware of that fact before they enter. No one enters an extreme haunt against their will.

The psychological aspect of these experiences allows you to project your deepest fears on the subject matter, which can be very personal and unsettling, so it is perfectly understandable that survivors of abuse like Ms. Sylverne might find the thought of these simulated experiences appalling.

Extreme Haunted Houses are not for everyone. Fear is subjective and affects everyone differently. I sleep just fine after visiting an extreme haunted house, but I can’t watch horror movies like Hostel, Silent Hill, or the Saw franchise because they give me nightmares. So, I believe that it’s inaccurate to suggest that extreme haunted houses exist solely because our society has become desensitized and dead inside. Everyone is different and it’s important to know your limits before you participate in any kind of extreme activity. 

Extreme Haunted Houses are what you make of them. We find it very empowering that we are able to withstand the simulated violence and horror scenarios that others cannot. The adrenaline rush you get from playing the role of the lone survivor in a simulated horror movie comes with a sense of accomplishment and pride for having challenged your fears. Standing up to our fears makes us feel powerful and we’d like to think that in some small way our experiences in extreme haunted houses might help us to remain calm in dangerous real life situations. And it’s fun. Because it’s not real. It’s make believe, but when it’s over you return to your life with perspective and a deeper understanding of who you are.


In the future, we encourage news publications and journalists writing about these events to contact the haunt owners directly or speak to someone who actually participated when it comes to the content of these shows. Just because you think something happened, doesn’t necessarily mean that it did. There are numerous theatrical tricks that can be used to create illusions and the haunt owners can discuss how they safely create the moments that feel very dangerous.

Why We Find Extreme Haunted Houses Empowering

REVIEW: Nyctophobia

Nyctophobia
Anywhere
Long Island, NY

Nyctophobia 2014 was like stepping into a Lynchian nightmare where garbled sounds and blurred visuals gave way suddenly to eerie scenes that drove forward themes of loss, longing, regret and obsession. An interrogation scene managed to get under my skin without being intimidating, but by forcing eye contact while probing my thoughts on love and failure.  I couldn’t help but feel vulnerable throughout the haunt, though a highlight was being guided through an open field with my vision impaired by scratched goggles.

While Nyctophobia deprived me of my senses to make me uneasy, it also directly assaulted them with great success. The smell… oh the smell of one gentleman I encountered inside the haunt…  just awful. And this is coming from someone who lives in NYC (subways, cab drivers, hipsters!) If I was not thoroughly creeped out by the first 90% of the haunt, the ending climax was enough to push me over the edge with understated acting that ranks with the best that I’ve experienced.

 

Final Thoughts

Nyctophobia is an intense immersive experience, but the intensity comes from the subject matter, from playing with your senses, and from the terrific performances inside the haunt.  It was never overly aggressive, nor did it rely on jump scares, but it was still one of the more affecting haunts of the 2014 season.  

 

Nyctophobia’s 2014 Season

October 10 – October 26

 

Age Requirements

Not appropriate for children. No one under 16 permitted. You must enter in pairs, but you will be separated.

 

Additional Information

REVIEW: Nyctophobia

REVIEW: Waldorf Estate of Fear

Waldorf Estate of Fear
6325 Interchange Road
Lehighton, PA

The haunt that got my adrenaline pumping the most this Halloween season was The Waldorf Estate of Fear.  Even though they told me not to run, I did anyway!  More on that in a bit…  Located in Lehighton, PA, Waldorf is celebrating their 10th terrifying year, with three attractions – a hayride (Terror in the Corn), a group walk-through haunt (The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel), and new for this year, an interactive zombie experience (Infection) where you don a flag football belt and attempt to juke your way through an onslaught of the undead while keeping your vital organs (three flags representing your brain, heart and lungs) intact. 

Is It Scary? 

According to the Official Website: “Come find out for yourself!!!

The Raven & Black Cat says: Our competitive nature took over during Infection and it’s hard not to get a jolt when a zombie jumps out at you that you are actively trying to avoid – especially while you’re running for your life!  Between the rush of this experience and some genuinely dark sets in the group haunt, Waldorf delivers solid scares.  

What We Loved

Infection was an absolute blast.  Upon entering, we were told not to run and rather to just try to dodge the zombies who were coming for our flags.  I don’t know if it had been a slow night and the ghouls inside were extra hungry, but they seemed to be chasing us harder than I expected and as a result I ran.  I totally ran.  I tried to pull a spin move on one of the zombies coming for me, and I lost my balance and fell on my ass.  As I lay there, my head still spinning from dizziness, I quickly imagined the classic horror movie scenes of a horde of zombies descending on a poor soul, ripping out his innards and having themselves a feast.  Luckily for me, the Jaded Viewer selflessly pulled me off of the ground and saved me and my flags from that sad fate.  

After Infection, with our adrenaline pumping, we were greeted at The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel by James Cudie (spelled CU Die), a cross between a demon bellhop and a stand-up comedian.  It was the start of a terrific trip through a haunted hotel that felt real because it’s built out in a space that was previously a restaurant.  The kitchen set was actually a kitchen.  The bar set was actually a bar.  Beyond the great use of space, the haunt was well paced and the monsters inside interacted with us well. 

What Could Be Better

The hayride wasn’t on par with the other two attractions at the haunt.  Things started off on the wrong foot when we were instructed by a giant demon pumpkin not to smoke during the hayride – this could have been handled by attendees who are not supposed to be a part of the show as we were starting.  There were some enjoyable cameos by familiar characters and nice sets, but there was too much reliance on actors screaming as loudly as they could as they mounted the wagon.  I was mostly scared for their vocal cords. 

Final Thoughts

The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel is dark, creative, and one of the better group walk through haunts I experienced this season.  But the star of the show is Infection and it’s a blast for anyone who has ever watched a zombie flick and thought ‘I could dodge those zombies easily.’  Guess what, you can’t!  I may have only lost one flag (I assume it was my brain – I didn’t use it much anyway), but I definitely lost some dignity lying there on the ground.  It’s hard to imagine enjoying being chased by the undead more. 

Waldorf Estate of Fear 2014 Season

September 26  – November 1

Ticket Information

  • Terror Package (All 3 Attractions):   $35
  • Scream Package (Any 2 Attractions): $30
  • The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel Only:  $15
  • Infection Only:  $15
  • Terror in the Corn Hayride Only:  $20
  • VIP Upgrade (Skip to the front of the line): Add $15

Age Requirements

According to the Official Website: “There is no age limit, parents must use their own discretion. Our rule of thumb is 10 and over!”

Additional Information

REVIEW: Waldorf Estate of Fear

REVIEW: Ouija

 

I’ve always heard that you need to be careful when using a Ouija board.  Assuming you make contact with someone, it likely won’t be the person you were actually trying to reach, rather it could be someone pretending to be them.  You wouldn’t just dial up a random phone number and expect to get grandma, would you?  At least over the phone you can tell that the heavy breather on the other end doesn’t sound like her.  How are you supposed to know that you’ve gotten a faker with a Ouija board?  Realize that grandma wasn’t this good at spelling?  

That’s essentially the premise behind the new Universal Pictures movie, 

Ouija based on the game by Hasbro – which by the way is appropriate for ages 10+ (don’t you dare contact the dead if you’re 9).  Following a friend’s mysterious death, a group of teens decide to use a board to make contact and get answers.  Shortly after using it for the first time, the teens find themselves stalked in a particularly creepy and jump scare-worthy fashion.  For some reason, the teens think this is actually their dear friend trying to reach them, despite the fact that their encounters are scaring the crap out of them.  To all of my friends or loved ones – if you pass on and want to contact me from the other side, please just send me an email.  Or an edible arrangement.  Something non-threatening would be appreciated.

From there, our plucky group of teens look to unravel the mystery behind who they’re actually talking to, and how it all links to the death of their friend.  

Ouija had its audience squirming in their seats in anticipation, jumping at the right places, and then laughing/groaning at their poorly controlled reactions (myself included…  I knew the scares were coming and I still jumped).  At a quick 89-minutes, the movie never drags and has the traditional horror bad judgment necessary to move the plot.  At one point, a character in the movie asked, “What should we do?”  During our screening, the woman next to me responded to that question with “Run, fool!”  That would have been the right answer, but in the movie they just used the Ouija board some more… which I suppose makes for a scarier and longer movie.

Is Ouija going to freak me out and make me turn on a night light tonight?  Nah.  But is it a movie to get you into the Halloween spirit with some solid jump scares that will have you grabbing the arm of the person next to you?  You bet.  Just make sure to introduce yourself first.

Ouija opens Friday October 24th.

http://www.ouijamovie.com/

REVIEW: Ouija

GIVEAWAY: Ouija Merchandise

 

To celebrate the new OUIJA movie (in theaters October 24th!) we’re giving away some awesome OUIJA merchandise. Enter to win below!

Five Winners will be selected. Each winner will receive One of Three Prize Packages. Winners will be given their choice of available Men’s Grey T-shirt & Ladies Black T-Shirt sizes.  

The deadline to enter is 12:00 AM on October 26, 2014.

Grand Prize Package: OUIJA Board, Two T-Shirts, & Headband
Grand Prize Package: OUIJA Board, Two T-Shirts, & Headband
OUIJA T-Shirt & Headband
OUIJA T-Shirt & Headband
OUIJA T-Shirt & Necklace
OUIJA T-Shirt & Necklace

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OUIJA opens in theaters October 24, 2014. Universal will be sponsoring a promotional event on Tuesday, October 21st, starting at 7:30 pm at LoveCraft in NYC. They will be giving away additional merchandise and tickets to an advance screening of OUIJA on Wednesday, October 22nd! 

GIVEAWAY: Ouija Merchandise

REVIEW: Field of Screams

Field Of Screams
191 College Avenue
Mountville, PA

Imagine it’s Friday night and you’ve just come home from a long day of work/school/doing nothing and your sweetheart says to you, “I really want to have a local teenager run a chainsaw against the back of my legs, tonight.”  And you say, “I was hoping we could go have Italian sausages and some fried dough.”  And they say, “But I want a demented clown to braid my hair.”  And you say, “But I’ve been practicing throwing softballs at empty bottles in the backyard and I think I could finally win you an over-sized teddy bear.”  This is clearly a tense moment, but then you realize together that there’s a place you could go that would make you both happy and you say in unison: Field of Screams!  Field of Screams (saving relationships since 1993) is a terrific reminder that a little fear can be a whole lot of fun.  With three walk-through haunts (Frightmare Asylum, Den of Darkness and the new outdoors Nocturnal Wasteland), and a top notch hayride, along with a series of horror-themed carnival games and food, there are hours of scare-filled entertainment to be had. I’d offer my services to Field of Screams as a marketing consultant, but with a packed house on the first weekend in October, it’s pretty clear that they’re doing just fine.

Is It Scary? 

According to the Official Website: “Live in your nightmares as you journey through each attraction and be prepared for the most horrifying experience of your life because Field of Screams takes fear to a whole new level.”

The Raven & Black Cat says: I saw a woman in a full on sprint being chased by a monster with a chainsaw… out in the main entertainment area!  I also watched the bravest preteen I’ve ever seen go nose to nose with the haunt’s inhabitants and barely blink (she had ice water in her veins!).  I had a few moments of anxiety myself, but more than anything I had a great time throughout.  

What We Loved

Right when I entered the Frightmare Asylum, a “patient” snuck up behind me and took my arm like we were on a date.  It was sweet and it felt right, but just before I could ask her to prom, a fellow inmate popped up and screamed in my face.  I was not expecting to be touched and it wasn’t aggressive, but that automatically upped the intensity.  The walk through haunts are terrific, however the hayride is the star of the show.  Highlights included a creepy butcher family and some pig carcasses, a barn full of giant snakes and a spooky circus.  I was hoping for once that the spooky circus would be filled with trapeze artists or lion tamers, but nope… clowns.  Always clowns. 

What Could Be Better

When I entered the creepy emergency room, the actor said “What are you doing in my emergency room?”  When I entered the creepy power plant the actor said “What are you doing in my power plant?”  “What are you doing in my kitchen?”  “What are you doing on my lawn?”  Guys, I’m at a haunted house, that’s what I’m doing. Encountering creative dialogue when you enter a room can make a huge difference.  

Final Thoughts

Field of Screams is at the top of their game combining great sets and effects with engaged actors and clever scares.  A crazy doctor sprayed me with something and said it was Ebola.  That’s an actor having fun, and it translates to a guest having fun.  By the way, should I be worried about the cough I’ve developed?

Field of Screams 2014 Season

September 12  – November 9

Ticket Information

  • Scream Pass (All 4 Attractions):   $33
  • Triple Combo Pass (Any 3 of 4 Attractions): $30
  • Double Combo Pass (Any 2 of 4 Attractions): $27
  • Haunted Hayride Only:  $16
  • Den of Darkness Only:  $14
  • Frightmare Asylum Only:  $14
  • Nocturnal Wasteland Only: $14
  • VIP Upgrade (Skip to the front of the line): Add $15

Discount Tickets

  • 13Haunts Coupon: $8 Off VIP Scream Pass/ $5 Off Regular Scream Pass –Click Here!
  • Join the Field of Screams Mailing List for Additional Coupons and Discounts.

Age Requirements

Not recommended for children under 10 years old.  (They have a non scary daytime event for children and adults who are young at heart at Corn Cob Acres.)

Additional Information

REVIEW: Field of Screams

REVIEW: Nightmare: New York

Nightmare: New York
107 Suffolk Street
New York, NY

Nightmare Haunted House has a new theme after retiring two years of serial killers. This year the scares are inspired by the real life horror and urban legends of New York City. Journey back in time to be cursed by the Lenni Lenape indians and fight your way through the crazy homeless people, drug dealers, and sexual predators of Ed Koch’s New York. Along your way you’ll also encounter mole people, Typhoid Mary, sewer alligators, and giant rats.  

Is It Scary? 

According to the Official Website“Yes. This isn’t a theme park ride. The whole purpose is to scare you. We have worked long and hard to create the most horrifying experience possible. Get ready for your adrenaline fix.”

The Raven & Black Cat says: Nightmare: New York brilliantly displays the real and imagined situations that keep your relatives in fear of the visiting the big city.   

What We Loved

The 1980s subway car set and the Dakota room are both gorgeous and filled with compelling actors to put you on edge. Opting to have a bloody red X painted on your forehead will allow the actors to touch you. Look forward to getting up close and personal with Typhoid Mary and the Headless Horseman.  

Other highlights include a sensory deprivation maze, Uncle Touchy’s Tunnel of Love, and meeting the giant Rat King.  

What Could Be Better

The amazing subway set is just asking to be the scene of a mugging. Throughout that entire scene I just kept asking myself, “Why is no one getting mugged?” That would be scary. 

Another missed opportunity is not dedicating a room to every New Yorker’s worst fear: BED BUGS. Forget roaches! Imagine a room covered in faux bed bugs and then the lights go out and oatmeal (or literally anything) is sprinkled on you as if you might be taking some of them home with you. Chills. 

Final Thoughts

Nightmare: New York is another solid offering from creator Timothy Haskell. History and urban legend combine to put you face to face with your worst inner city nightmares.

Nightmare: New York 2014 Season

September 26  – November 1

Ticket Information

Timed Ticketing:  $30.00 Online  |  $35.00 At The Door

VIP (Front of the line access): $50.00 Online  |  $60.00 At The Door

DISCOUNT TICKETS

  • $20 Student Rush Tickets Available 1 Hour Prior to Listed Start Times.
  • Sunday, October 5th: Military Night – half off for all military personnel all night long at the Box Office.
  • Wednesday, October 8th: Public Servants Night – half off for all police, FDNY, EMT, etc at the Box Office.
  • 50% Off Timed Ticketing & VIP Tickets – Click Here!

Age Requirements

Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. No children under 10 will be admitted. 

Additional Information

REVIEW: Nightmare: New York