Senior Review Crew Member

Ted (Captn_DeathSchlager)

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Why do I like Halloween? Here are a few reasons why my ghoulish tendencies come out for Halloween every year: (1) Imagination: What other holiday encourages kids to pretend they're adults and adults to pretend they're kids? (2) Creativity: Fueling our imagination while providing a chance to showcase our creativity so that our alter egos can shamelessly take center stage for a day! (3) Originality: No two Halloweens are ever the same! (4) …plus the candy is a pretty nice perk too. J

What do I look for in a haunt? These are elements that give me the heebee jeebies at a haunt: (1) Anticipation of the element of Surprise such as wondering through a dimly lit hallway (2) interactive haunts that include you in the action rather than relegate you to the mere role of spectator (3) techno-effects that excite your senses while challenging your mind to figure out how they did that.

Previous Reviews: 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

2017 Reviews

Please note: this review is for the 2017 season rather than the current season.

Dwelling Of Despair (PERMANENTLY CLOSED)

by Captn_DeathSchlager (Senior Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 6, 2017 at about 9 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: High

Review

If you tour as many haunts as I have you’re likely to encounter one that’s a traditional favorite you absolutely adore that unexpectedly disappoints you.  While this first sentence may sound like this is going to be a bad review for Dwelling of Despair, it’s not meant to be.  My tour group of 6 adults (3 couples) really enjoyed this haunt and thought it was “Super Fun” (…to quote a haunt newbie from my group…) but we all had one concern that I uncharacteristically can’t resist the urge to mention.  …but first, here’s what my group really enjoyed about the Dwelling of Despair…
 
The Dwelling of Despair Haunted House & accompanying Forest of Fear is a self-guided, interactive ghoulish attraction known for its awesome animatronic special effects, elaborate decor, skilled actors, unique monsters, unusual themes and chilling detail! Now in its 32nd season the Dwelling of Despair has prided itself in providing a creative and ghoulishly good time to all haunt goers along with a few (ahem, more like several!) frightful moments. 2017 marked my 25th visit to this haunted venue and similar to prior years I was once again amazed at how many of the sets/themes have changed. While you may notice a few similarities along your terrifying tour outside of this haunt what awaits inside will torment and twist your mind in new ways. Following the lead of last year’s version, the chills, thrills and scares are delivered more upfront and in your face than with the skits that traditionally tormented you in the Dwelling of Despair. Rest assured though, this haunt still offers opportunities to interact with the demon’s inhabiting the Dwelling of Despair and retains the same Halloween charm that has brought guests back for the past 32 years!
 
The 2017 edition of this haunt presents two horrifying sections to test your wits and your desire to survive. THE Forrest of Fear kicks off your terrifying tour on a dark and twisted path patrolled by evil spirits and several fiendish ghouls.  If you're lucky enough to slip past these gorish guardians the entrance of the 3 story Dwelling of Despair awaits from the 3rd floor balcony.  To escape the nightmares found within the unfriendly confines of the Dwelling of Despair you must successfully navigate a maze of uniquely themed rooms and hidden passages through the bowls of the entire house.  Along the way you are sure to encounter each and every inhabitant of the house...some fun, some helpful but most of all they are all quite frightful!
 
If you’re touring this haunt as a couple….BEWARE!!!  How would you feel if a stranger in your tour group tried to separate only your partner from the tour group?  What if this stranger not just once but several times ONLY attempted to separate your partner from the group and didn’t once attempt to separate anyone else?  What if this stranger wasn’t in costume or didn’t offer any indication that they were with event security?  …and what if this stranger joined your group wearing a plain grey hoodie NOT from the watchful eyes of event security but while you were walking through the woods as you were approaching the entrance of the haunt?  This situation resulted in a few tense moments during my tour of the Dwelling of Despair which unfortunately ruined the experience for both me and my date.  As there were 3 couples in our group we are all scratching our heads at why there were repeated attempts to isolate only one person (versus two) from the group and why it was always the same person.  In my opinion it is unacceptable for a haunt to not clearly identify the ghouls and event staff that are interacting with you as it creates an unsafe environment for haunt goers and event staff alike.
 
TOUR GROUP RATINGS:  Here’s how my tour group rated Dwelling of Despair for both the Scare and Fun scale (1 to 5)
 
Haunt Newbie (first timer) #1:  SCARE-4 / FUN-5
Haunt Newbie (first timer) #2:  SCARE-3 / FUN-5
Haunt Newbie #3:  SCARE-4 / FUN-5
Haunt Newbie #4:  SCARE-3 / FUN-5
Haunt Novice:  SCARE-4 / FUN-2
Haunt Veteran:  SCARE-3 / FUN-2

Signage / Visibility / Location


This may not be the easiest haunt to find.  If you’re on HWY 60 in slinger look for the lighted portable sign with a flashing arrow on the north side of the road.  Fireman’s park is an immediate right turn after you turn north off of HWY 60.  The Haunted House is actually tucked away after a short winding drive into the park.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


This haunt offers a heated wood shack with a concessions stand to comfort you while you anticipate the horror that awaits you.  A tented staging area provides shelter from the elements as you undergo last minute preparations before your terrifying tour through the woods.

Actors' Performance


A great mix of adult and young actors delivered entertaining performances…unfortunately most of these were overshadowed by an overbearing and controversial tour guide. Less veteran haunt goers looking to get freaked out will not be disappointed. All haunt goers will be certainly be entertained.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Some really unique sets and a several outstanding special effects.

Length


Approximately 25 minutes.

Crowd Control


Numbered tickets allow you to purchase your tickets and assemble wherever you’d like while you wait.  No long lines to stand in at this haunt.  VIP tickets allow you to avoid the wait and skip to the front of the pack.

Most Memorable Moment


Sorry but I cant get past how annoyed I was by our apparent tour guide....so this unfortunately has become my most memorable moment of 2017 for the Dwelling of Despair.

Summary

The Dwelling of Despair provides an exceptional balance of scares, ghoulishly gratifying visual treats and interactive entertainment making this haunt a fun Halloween destination for both kids and adults alike.  The indoor waiting area complete with concession stand make this a howling good time regardless of the weather.

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Please note: this review is for the 2017 season rather than the current season.

Terror on Rural Street

by Captn_DeathSchlager (Senior Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 6, 2017 at about 8 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

It was a dark and stormy night on the evening I visited Terror on Rural Street.  It was clear that Mother Nature had chosen to begin the Halloween Season for this haunted venue in a more trick than treat spirit.  Contrary to Mother Nature’s unpleasant tricks, Terror on Rural Street comes stocked with several creature feature treats to combat life’s unavoidable tricks. 

Upon arriving this haunt greeted my tour group of 6 adults with a well-lit, paved and spacious parking lot along with a patrolling ghoul which little doubt that we were in the right place.  (No trudging through muddy dim lit fields as you approach the ticket window here.)  As an added bonus we were delighted to find that Terror on Rural Street has a heated indoor waiting area with a fully stocked concession stand complete with food, snacks, beverages, beer and Jello-shots.  (A very welcome perk for my tour group companions who had just finished working out at a nearby fitness center!) 

Another nice treat offered by this haunt is the numbering of tickets which allow you to wander about as you wait for your tour to begin…no need to stand in a dreadfully long line and count spiders on the wall as you wait here!  If you love taking selfies with your brothers and sisters in crime you’ll certainly enjoy the photogenic ghouls wondering about the waiting area who are just dying to photo bomb your shot.
 
Here are some of my personal observations about Terror on Rural Street…
 
SPACIOUS ACCOMODATIONS: My tour group of 6 adults consisted of 4 haunt newbies (…2 of which who were attending their first haunt ever…), 1 haunt novice who visited Terror on Rural Street for the first time in 2016 and 1 seasoned veteran who has yet to miss a season of Terror on Rural Street.  Despite having the option to tour this haunt as a smaller sized group the 6 of us decided to stick together….a decision that was not taken lightly by me as being placed into an oversized tour group and crammed into small rooms is a personal pet peeve mine.  Put your mind at ease if you share this personal peeve as we found that the mystic maze of mind bending sets and corridors easily accommodated our group. 
 
CINEMA QUALITY SETS:  This haunt features several Cinema quality sets many of which are pimped out with a dedicated sound system and special effects you won't find any place else.  Portions of this haunt are an interactive style haunt with rooms showcasing a unique theme and a skit performed by volunteer actors. While the actors may be volunteers the costumes and make-up were professionally done and very realistic.  This was most evident in the final pre-tour staging where you receive final instructions before embarking on your tour.  While it’s very easy to get distracted by the costumed actors be sure to take note of the keen attention to detail found with the facial make-up/costumes of the actors as well as the staging set as well.  This same attention to details persists throughout this entire haunt.
 
DAZZLING SPECIAL EFFECTS:  Admittedly not all of the acting performances knocked my socks off nor did every room send me off screaming to the next.  But what Terror on Rural Street lacked with its actors and potential scare factor it more than made up for with its dazzling special effects and elaborate sets.  Scares and surprises frequently came from unexpected flashes of brilliant light, dedicated room specific sound systems and a variety of lifelike techno effects
 
CREATIVE CONCEPTS:  Terror on Rural Street continues its strong tradition of being a techno haunt goer’s dream come true!  There has never been a year when I have been disappointed with the electrifying showcase of terrifying themes found at the Terror on Rural Street.   This year was certainly no exception.  If you’re leery of visiting a haunt more than once in a lifetime you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the number of new rooms/concepts found in this year’s edition.  While a few of the techno-effects have been recycled for this year’s haunt most of them have been given a new creative twist.  (I particularly enjoyed this year’s version of the observation deck!)
 
TOUR GROUP RATINGS:  Here’s how my tour group rated Terror on Rural Street for both the Scare and Fun scale (1 to 5)
 
Haunt Newbie (first timer) #1:  SCARE-4 / FUN-4
Haunt Newbie (first timer) #2:  SCARE-3 / FUN-3
Haunt Newbie #3:  SCARE-4 / FUN-4
Haunt Newbie #4:  SCARE-3 / FUN-4
Haunt Novice:  SCARE-4 / FUN-4
Haunt Veteran:  SCARE-3 / FUN-4

Signage / Visibility / Location


Don't let a full parking lot scare you away before this haunt does!  Terror on Rural Street shares it's parking lot with the Schauer Art Center and the Wisconsin Automotive Museum.  Not all the cars parked in the lots may necessarily be for Terror on Rural Street. 

This haunt can be found right off the main drag (Hwy 60) in downtown Hartford. Look for the flashing sign to point you to the parking lot. Great location. An abundance of well lit parking and a warm place to hang out while you wait. The court yard between the waiting area and the entrance really set the tone nicely.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


A heated indoor waiting area with a concession stand that features beer and mixed drinks.  If you’re of drinking age be sure to try the syringe style jello-shots!  By the way...all proceeds from the concession stand benefit the Schauer Arts Center which is located just next door.

Actors' Performance


We had a lot of fun interacting with the performers in the waiting and staging areas.  Throughout this haunt the elaborate costumes and finely detailed make-up enhanced the appearance of all performances.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


A nice variety of sets and some superb special effects. For those of you who traditionally checkout a few different haunts every year you'll appreciate the creative concepts and elaborate sets that have the look feel of a genuine movie caliber set. Compared to other haunts, the rooms here were quite spacious....a nice perk for those who don't particularly enjoy being squeezed into a room when your grouped with complete strangers.

Length


My tour lasted approximately 15 minutes.

Crowd Control


Waiting room with concession stand is fairly spacious. Plenty of room in the court yard to wait also. Patrons are free to roam about until the Reaper calls their number to be assembled for final preparations before entering the haunt.

Most Memorable Moment


Several to choose from for me...I particularly enjoyed exploring the multi-level sets and the observation deck.

Summary

A fantastic venue along with a nice variety of sets, creative ideas and exceptional special effects make Terror on Rural Street a haunt definitely worth checking out!

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Please note: this review is for the 2017 season rather than the current season.

The Dark Side Haunted Adventure

by Captn_DeathSchlager (Senior Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, September 29, 2017 at about 8 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: Medium

Review

OVERVIEW:  While most haunts measure their size by square feet The Dark Side actually measures its size in acres.   At 40 acres The Dark Side is larger than the Bradley Center (6 acres), the Pettit National Ice Center (9 acres) and Miller Park (25 acres) combined!  If you compare The Dark Side to a popular Theme Park like Noah’s Arc you’ll find that the 40 acres and 6 attractions of the Dark Side compare to 70 acres and 8 attractions for Noah’s Arc.  With this in mind perhaps The Dark Side should be considered more of a haunted theme park than a haunted house or attraction? 

Haunt goers that appreciate the use of endowments over size will find that this haunt has an impressive arsenal of astonishing surprises.  The base price of admission includes 6 distinct adrenalin filled adventures that feature a multi-story mine shaft, hay-ride, ginormous vortex (…perhaps Wisconsin’s largest?), wilderness village, tree top suspension bridge, two mind boggling and bizarre mazes, an exploding car, multiple bonfire locations and a train ride to boot.  For an additional admission fee ($10-$15) haunt goers can join the fight to prevent the walking dead from invading The Dark Side’s base camp aboard a double decker hay wagon equipped with fully loaded paintball guns.  (Yes, that’s right…on this ride you not only see zombies, you’re actually allowed to shoot them!)
 
PERSONAL THOUGHTS/REFLECTIONS:  My immediate tour group consisted of one novice haunt goer, three 13yr old first time haunt recruits and myself…an avid scare seeker of 20+ years and over 100 haunts.  (Yes, that's 5 or more a year!)  For the duration of our 90+ minute tour through the haunted attractions of The Dark Side my immediate group was combined with approximately 15 others.  If being stuck at the back of a VERY large tour group makes your blood boil like mine fret not.  At the entrance of the Decent, Backwoods Revenge and Foxglove Nurseries attractions the large tour group is broken down into groups of 2-5.  The large group reassembles for the hay wagon ride that tours “Twilightmare” and the grand finale attraction. 

As most of the theme park tour is outside and requires a little downtime for the large group to reassemble definitely do come dressed for the weather.  If you’re concerned (…as I was…) that a haunted theme park that’s been voted “Wisconsin’s Scariest Haunted House 4 years in a row” would be a bit much for younger first time haunt goes, don’t be.  While the new haunt recruits of my group did scream on a few occasions these screams were always followed by laughter and never tears of terror…a noteworthy point since the three 13yr old first timers were allowed to tour the attractions by themselves when the large group was divided. 

While personally I wouldn’t consider my experience at The Dark Side as the Scariest I would definitely classify it as THE most immersive haunted theme park adventure I’ve ever toured.  The Descent, Twighlightmare, Backwoods revenge and train ride contain amazing effects that will satisfy even the most avid scare seeker’s thirst for thrills!
 
INSIGHT & SCARE/FUN RATINGS FOR EACH ATTRACTION:  (averaged 1-5 rating from my group of 5)

The Descent – Multi-level tour of a haunted mine.  Scare: 4  / Fun: 4

Twighlightmare – Enjoy a bonfire hosted by locals before taking a hayride through the forest that surrounds The Dark Side.  Scare: 2 / Fun: 5

Backwoods Revenge – Warm yourself by the fire and listen to the stories of Grandma Townsend before taking a self guided tour of the pine forest dwellings.  Scare: 4 / Fun: 5

Mephistopheles Lair – Enter if you dare and exit if you can find it.  Scare: 1 / Fun: 3

Schizophrenia – Tour the corn maze but beware of what lurks in the shadows.  Scare: 2 / Fun 3

Foxglove Nursery – Visit briefly with a bizarre botanist before taking a peak at what’s growing inside these greenhouses.  Be careful, it is not what you’d expect to see!  Scare: 3 / Fun 4

Train (with no name) Ride – Enjoy a ride through and around The Dark Side Theme Park while being entertained by the locals.  Scare: 2 / Fun 5
 
note:  I toured The Dark Side on it’s opening night which can be a blessing a curse when it comes to a fully operational haunt.  As most haunts don’t advertise their technical issues it’s quite possible that I may not have experienced The Dark Side at an unintended scare level.

Signage / Visibility / Location


This may not be the easiest haunt to find as most would likely consider this location the epitome of “the middle of nowhere”.  If you’re traveling on HWY 67 keep your eyes open for the small town of Ashippun.  In the heart of Ashippun you’ll find an angled intersection for Hwy O.  Follow Hwy O west until you see a lighted sign with an arrow that points you towards The Dark Side haunted theme park.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


This haunt offers a heated barn complete with ticket window, gift shop, concession stand and a waiting line that features a spa/salon station for those looking to spruce up their ghoulishly good looks.

Actors' Performance


During our tour we encountered 5 locations with actors who’s role was intended to interact and entertain rather than to just scare the bejeezus out of us.  These actors portrayed their roles brilliantly and were absolutely exceptional at adlibbing and allowing you to playfully interact with them.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


A nice variety of themes and superb special effects you won’t find anywhere else.  A genuine haunted theme park complete with rides and demented dwellings.  All sets were elaborately decorated with a fine attention to detail to ensure haunt goers receive a totally immersive experience.

Length


Approximately 90-120 minutes.

Crowd Control


Indoor waiting line weaves through the stables of a barn.  Ghouls entertain you periodically while you wait.  VIP tickets allow you to avoid the wait and skip to the front of the pack.

Most Memorable Moment


As you may have guessed if you read this entire review, the immense size of this haunt and how much they’ve packed into this experience make this a uniquely memorable haunted theme park!

Summary

With 7 different attractions covering 40 acres The Dark Side has more in common with a Theme Park than a traditional Haunted House!  For the base price of admission haunt goers enjoy 6 distinct adrenalin filled adventures that feature a multi-story mine shaft, hay-ride, ginormous vortex, wilderness village, tree top suspension bridge, two mind boggling and bizarre mazes, an exploding car, multiple bonfire locations and a train ride to boot.  For an additional admission fee ($10-$15) haunt goers can join the fight to prevent the walking dead from invading The Dark Side’s base camp aboard a double decker hay wagon equipped with fully loaded paintball guns.

View all The Dark Side Haunted Adventure reviews

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April 24th, 2024 6:43 a.m. CDT 24.05