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Joel (dirkadirka)

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Previous Reviews: 2009 | 2008

2008 Reviews

Please note: this review is for the 2008 season rather than the current season.

The Dark Side Haunted Adventure

by dirkadirka (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 18, 2008 at about 5 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: Medium

Review

By day, the Glacier Rock Farm is an outdoor classroom for schoolchildren to learn and explore the beautiful Kettle Moraine scenery.  At night the scene morphs into a spooky monstrosity known as the Dark Side that sprawls across all 100 acres and includes a haunted mine, hayrack ride, haunted trail, and corn maze.  Are those cute Shetland ponies actually undead flesh-eating zombie horses controlled by the freaks and demons of the Dark Side? Probably.

Signage / Visibility / Location


Usually googlemaps is sufficient, but I got lost trying to find this haunt.  There is a sign at the end of the lane, but one in Ashippun would really help.  Street signs are small and dark in this rural area, but that just adds to the adventure.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


Because this is a multi-attraction haunt there are several different wait areas as you progress deeper into the rotten heart of the Dark Side. If it is a chilly night $1 hot cocao and cider from the gift shop will make the initial wait more bearable. The last two wait areas both have toasty bonfires but no marshmallows. There were no actors to entertain those waiting but whatever; I would rather put those actors in the woods and fields anyways.

Actors' Performance


All of the creatures inhabiting the forests, cornfields, and mine did a great job.  Most of them successfully used the old-school scare tactics of surprise and loud noises, and having a chainsaw in your hands makes it easy to be terrifying.  Probably more actors than I have seen in any one haunt location so far this year and many of them manage to scare you more than once.  My favorite actor was a young guy who got stepped on by almost every group that went by.  He's got to be pretty dedicated and tough to be taking that kind of abuse.  There also seemed to be a lot of clowns although I don't remember a circus theme anywhere.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Of the four different attractions, the hayride was by far our favorite.  The creators designed great sets that reach down and touch your face while you're constantly on the lookout for the next monster.  Sharing the scares with the whole group is fun because you start laughing at someone else's screams, but then you get spooked and the laughter is returned.  The production value will not blow your mind but the craftsmanship and unique touches make the Dark Side different than anything else you will find this Halloween season. 

Length


Clear your nightly haunt schedule because this one took us an hour to get through, seriously.  Probably 20 minutes were spent in the four waiting areas but this is still the longest haunt I have been to.  The anticipation from being outside and hearing screams from both your group and those a half mile away keeps your blood pumping during the down times.

Most Memorable Moment


It took some convincing, but my parents accompanied me on the trip to the Dark Side.  The last time either of them joined me, my chauffer dad was sleeping in the van waiting for my 14 year old friends and I to finish our hauntings for the night so he could take us to Pizza Hut, a yearly tradition.  They both really enjoyed the experience, especially the hayrack ride. I enjoyed hearing my mom scream and swear every time she got scared.

Summary

The Dark Side is absolutely worth a drive out into the country and is a perfect haunted destination if you are part of a large group.  The operators are good people, the actors are dedicated, you get four completely different experiences in one place, and everything costs only ten dollars.  At a price that low I almost felt like making a donation or starting a tip jar because I definitely got my money's worth.  Be sure to bring a sweatshirt and old shoes because there is a lot of walking and some of it can be muddy and treacherous in the dark. 

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Please note: this review is for the 2008 season rather than the current season.

House of Bathory (CLOSED)

by dirkadirka (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at about 5 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: Very High

Review

Wow. The House of Bathory and Dead by Dawn Productions is my new favorite haunted house in Wisconsin. Most haunts stick to a certain formula, and some have perfected this prototypical attraction better than others. The House of Bathory has a totally different feel to it. It seems as though you are walking through someone's house, and you pretty much are. The creators own both the costume shop downstairs and the apartment directly behind the building so the horrors of the house have been evolving since January 2008. These depraved individuals turn nonthreatening scenes (i.e. Wizard of Ox) into terrifying reality.

Signage / Visibility / Location


Use googlemaps or mapquest whenever you are planning a trip to a haunted attraction.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


Other than the music playing in front of the entrance there is not much entertainment. I would recommend striking up a conversation with Dawn or one of the other operators. She will be glad to tell you the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the namesake of the house. The line moves very slow, but be patient because this haunt takes its' time and does things right before excreting your lifeless corpse from its' bowels.

Actors' Performance


There are a lot of people working in this haunt, and almost all of them have very sinister intentions, except Cheech and Chong of course. Some actors have ominous and freaky dialogue, some are loud and surprising, and some are creepy without saying a word. Even the disturbed kids working as slave labor are unsettling. The demons throughout will definitely mess with you and make you uncomfortable so be prepared to be touched and cornered.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Every scene that I can remember uses one-off pieces and sets that cannot be purchased at any store, although if there is something you really want you can convince Dawn to let you buy something in hers. Because there is so much detail in most rooms, the actors are able to wait and surprise you, leaving you terrified of which props are real or dead. Without giving more away, the House of Bathory has four essential haunt elements while most have only one: a slide, a claustrophobic room, a vortex tunnel, and glorious chainsaws.

Length


I completely forgot to look at my watch for this one, but I would guess twenty minutes to a half hour. I was honestly pretty dazed and disoriented with all the levels by the end and had trouble remembering all of the individual rooms. Some sort of terror-amnesia brain response maybe?

Crowd Control


The operators are really nice people, and can sternly handle security themselves. On our night groups were limited to four or less, but this will increase over the following weekends. Victims are let in at long intervals so that you do not run into the group in front of you and the actors have time to recover.

Most Memorable Moment


A munchkin latching on to my leg and being drug along as I tried to escape.

Summary

This haunt was a frightening rush from beginning to end. The best way to get scared is to let yourself go and get caught up in the madness created by these talented actors and designers.

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Please note: this review is for the 2008 season rather than the current season.

Dominion of Terror

by dirkadirka (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at about 3 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: Medium

Review

Simply put, this year Dominion of Terror has some of the best sets I have ever seen in a Haunted House. I was even more blown away by the fact that almost everything is new for 2008 with virtually no scenes being repeated from previous years. On top of all that, this haunt supports the non-profit Jaycees charity group which means all actors and designers are volunteers. For the price and the quality, an hour drive from Green Bay or Milwaukee is well worth the trip.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


All the action takes place in and around an old condemned looking three story brick warehouse. Outside there is music, a hearse, and frequent scares from actors to keep patrons entertained while waiting in line. Inside there is a brief wait in a staging area before the scares begin.

Actors' Performance


Overall, most actors gave very engaging performances.  Many ghouls had unique dialogue and noises to get your attention. There were several loud and shocking surprises, but nothing that is overdone or will leave your eardrums ringing. For me the scare factor is always dependant on the group I go with, so on a different night it may have been higher.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


It is safe to say the themes and rooms of the Dominion of Terror will not be found in any other haunt in Wisconsin. Work started in July, and if they chose, volunteers were able to let their imagination go crazy and design their own sets staffed by their own friends. This accentuates the uniqueness of each scene because they are built and overseen by different people. Although it may sound disjointed, this is an incredibly well tied-together haunted house. Rooms transition smoothly from one theme to another and many ideas carry over for two or three rooms like the sprawling city scene (props to the butcher). The vortex tunnel was so effective I had to close my eyes, great use of old-school dark tunnels to break up scenes, and my favorite room was the movie theater.

Length


It took 20-25 minutes to work our way through.  Great length, and it seemed even longer.

Crowd Control


The group size was limited to four victims, which is an ideal size for any haunt.  This will probably change towards Halloween when lines get longer.  Everything moved very smoothly through the haunt, and there were five or six security guards on hand outside. All of the actors take a break between 8:30 and 8:45 so be patient while waiting in line.

Most Memorable Moment


We were paired with a nine year old girl and her father. Initially, I was concerned that this may be too scary for someone of her age, but her father assured us that she watches plenty of movies and will take the haunt in stride. She went first throughout the entire haunt and was visibly calm and unafraid the entire time! I could not believe that we were more scared than she was. Seriously, how many 9 year olds do not find a chainsaw terrifying? I was pushing past her like George Costanza in Seinfeld at that point.

Summary

Great scenery, good actors, admirable charity, extended length and terrifying chainsaws.

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Please note: this review is for the 2008 season rather than the current season.

Gilly's Haunted House

by dirkadirka (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 10, 2008 at about 4:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: Medium

Review

Gilly's is the perennial underdog haunted attraction that always seems to deliver. Once again this year the haunt had virtually no wait on a Friday night while other haunted houses in the area were backed up for thirty
minutes to an hour. What those line zombies missed is a haunt with great acting performances and operators who strive to please you, not pick-pocket you. While the Haunted Circus is not ground breaking or fight-or-flight
terrifying, it continues to improve and deliver a solid experience every year.

Signage / Visibility / Location


Lights and carnival music let you know you're in the right place. It's pretty amazing that the operators are able to build this haunt while maintaining a winter business selling and renting tropical flowers out of
their greenhouse.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


The ticket girl is very sweet and can convince even the most undecided guests to enter the big-top. Old newspaper clipping pinned up in the covered wait area tell the backstory of the circus and actors make frequent
appearances.

Actors' Performance


The organizers and operators take great pride in their actors. By holding auditions they ensure that only the most dedicated and talented ghouls populate the various scenes. While the surprise scares and fear factor are
not as intense as other places, I was just as entertained by the great dialogue, unique accents, and novel characters that are created.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Much of the setup was similar to past years. The vortex tunnel (take your hands off the railings if you can), foggy chain link fence maze, and freak show all are present again this year. The addition of a marionette room is a great idea. The actors were much more memorable than the scenery.

Length


10-15 minutes. Just a touch on the short side so take your time and interact with the actors.

Crowd Control


Crowd Control? Gilly watches over the haunt while double-fisting two hatchets, do you want to screw with him?

Summary

A solid spook-house that I go to, and enjoy, every year. While similar to past years, the outstanding actors made it worth the return visit in '08.

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Please note: this review is for the 2008 season rather than the current season.

The Haunted Barn Stoughton (PERMANENTLY CLOSED)

by dirkadirka (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 3, 2008 at about 3:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: Medium

Review


Signage / Visibility / Location


The setting is one of this haunt's strongest assets. Located just off I-90 to draw people from around the region, close enough to Stoughton to receive local support, and yet still retaining the feel and darkness that only haunts in secluded rural areas can provide. By capitalizing on the farm
venue the TTT Ranch has created a unique haunted attraction that starts in a barn, transitions to an outdoor trail, and re-enters the barn via a creepy old school bus.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment



There is plenty of free parking and as soon as you leave the safety of your car you hear the foreboding music of the haunt and see the menacing hearse in front of the barn. We heard the themes from Beetlejuice, Psycho, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show on our trip. There is a covered wait area
that would not shelter more than one group and a lonely guy selling pizza.

Actors' Performance



Even though I was with a couple of newbies, this haunt was more fun than it was scary. We rolled up
on the first day of the season so many of the ghouls were still working on their scares. The only minor complaint I have with this haunt is the lack of actors, specifically outside. Talking to the owners, they assured me that there will be more monsters over the following weeks, especially on Saturdays. Our favorite performers were the young girls terrified of Freddy and the creepy lady with a baby. This haunt has great potential for 2008 and I found myself thinking about actor improvements that would put the TTT Ranch on a higher level.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX



The all new interior of the barn has been spruced up this year with the acquisition of a vortex tunnel and set pieces from a defunct haunted house in Wausau. There were no sparse rooms or hallways and
the creators did a great job of putting decorations everywhere and constructing the haunt by hand. Money was well spent on full-size monster props tucked into dead ends and a couple of animatronics
scattered throughout. All of the actors had good costumes/masks/makeup and the Freddy Krueger sequence stood out as a favorite. The addition of a trail leading through the prairie and woods into a 'cemetery' adds a whole new facet to this year's spooky attraction. To nitpick, the Haunted Barn would have benefitted from more than two themed rooms and the solar lights near the graveyard were inadequate (the operators planned on bringing in a generator for better lighting the next night)

Length


Good length. It took us about 25 minutes because we spent time enjoying the outside walk and the anticipation of the surroundings

Crowd Control


I don't think the Haunted Barn uses a ticket numbering system like others, so bring a sweatshirt and some friends you can stand. There are no mazes in the haunt so even on a busy night things should move smoothly. Hidden security cameras monitor the action

Most Memorable Moment



The one-of-a-kind bottomless pit

Summary

This haunt has a lot of things going for it. $8 is a fantastic value, the haunt competition in the greater Madison area is weak, and the owners are very nice people. We rolled up on the first night of the operation and it was obvious that they will improve throughout the season. Although the Haunted Ranch may not be on the same production level as major haunts in the Milwaukee area and elsewhere, we still had a blast and it is well worth a visit. Just remember to bring a sweatshirt because you will be waiting and walking around outside

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February 23rd, 2024 3:01 p.m. CST 24.01