Happy, Haunted Halloween

Who doesn’t love to be spooked? OK, plenty of us, which is why The Voice-Tribune production staff set out in search of the area’s best Halloween attractions. They range from the eeriest-scariest to the simply cute. Here, are some of our favorites.

Ratings are on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being the highest.

“Dracula” at Actors Theatre

Fear Factor: 4/5 While not necessarily inspiring the same kind of fear you’d experience going through a haunted house, “Dracula” manages to spook, startle and genuinely frighten the audience far more than one might expect in a theatre setting.
Fun Factor: 5/5 The thoroughly entertaining performance, featuring talented actors and impressive effects, promises to stay with you long after you head home (with locked car doors) that night.
Boo For Your Buck:  5/5 The quality of the production more than justifies the price of a ticket (from $37) to see “Dracula.” Save a little by searching out alternative parking or taking advantage of group rates. Twenty $20 tickets are available the day of performance for all Actors Theatre productions, limit four per person. Day of performance discount tickets go on sale when the box office opens.

Baxter Avenue Morgue

Fear Factor: 4.5/5 The actors are creepy and talented, but the real fear comes from knowing what used to occur at the morgue – and the alleged haunting that continues – long before it was a Halloween hotspot.
Fun Factor: 4.5/5 If you’re a history buff who appreciates a good scare, this is the perfect Halloween attraction for you. If you just want a good scare and appreciate an authentically spooky locale, this is the right place for you, too.
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 General admission is $20 – regardless of age – which, is a bit pricey, but you can always purchase a ticket at area Circle K stores and receive a $5 gas card. That incentive makes the admission price pretty average then. If money is no object, you can always purchase a $40 Speedpass, which allows you to bypass the line and go directly into the morgue. To inquire about large group discounts, contact Jamie Stephenson by calling 502.589.0959. By the way, the average wait on a Thursday or Sunday is about 10 minutes. Peak times can mean a 30 to 60 minute hold, though we’d like to think of that as part of the anticipation building. So be patient and have fun.

Nightmare Forest

Fear Factor: 2/5 Compared to newer haunted houses, Nightmare Forest seemed empty with too few actors.
Fun Factor: 2.5/5 Your party (large or small) won’t be paired with others, so make sure to bring some entertaining guests. However if you purchse a $30 VIP ticket you can skip to the front of the line, snap a souvenir photo and gain entry to their Side Show attraction.
Boo For Your Buck:  3/5 This is one of the longer haunts you’ll find, lasting at least 30 minutes with its multiple attractions.

The Devil’s Attic

Fear Factor: 4/5 We reluctantly turned each corner, alley and tunnel knowing someone or something was coming; the only thing that would have made the haunt scarier is if the creatures could have actually touched or grabbed us.
Fun Factor: 5/5 Though we almost had mild panic attacks, we couldn’t help but laugh at our intense state of terror, which our friends found all too entertaining. After we found a safe exit, we were ready to face the challenge all over again.
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 At only $17 for about 15 to 20 minutes of terror, The Devil’s Attic carries a slightly cheaper admission price compared to most top-level attractions. For an extra dollar, you can enter a drawing for a Harley Davidson Sportster and $500 gift card to Harley Davidson of Louisville. A portion of raffle proceeds will be donated to the Humane Society. Drawing will be held Oct. 28. A second contest features the 2012 “I Just Got Slimed” XBOX and “Saw” game giveaway, with a brand new XBOX 360 with 4GB of memory.

Meijer Presents “The World’s Largest Halloween Party!”

Fear Factor: 1/5 Not so scary, but that was a-okay by us.
Fun Factor: 5/5 Entire families get to see their childhood memories come to life, plus there’s candy.
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 Tickets can be purchased online at www.louisvillezoo.org or at the gate for $8, $6.50 at Meijer locations, Free for zoo members Oct. 11-14 and half price ($4) for zoo members all other nights.

Haunted Asylum

Fear Factor:
 3/5 Frightening enough to make you anxious to turn the next corner but knowing that no one can grab you lowers the fear factor by a point.
Fun Factor: 2/5 With haunted cabins, slides, bridges, a maze and more, we had a good time walking through this haunted forest.
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 At $20 and coming in around 40 minutes, you get much Boo For Your Buck at Haunted Asylum.

Fear Factor:
 3/5 Once again, knowing that the actors can’t touch you lowers the fear factor, but not knowing where the creatures will come at you from keeps is entertaining.
Fun Factor: 5/5 We got to shoot zombies with machine guns, what more could a zombie nerd ask for?
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 The cheapest of the three, while short on time, was still worth the $15 admission to live out my zombie killing dreams.

Fear Factor:
 4/5 While not terrified, we found this the scariest of the three. You’re told that the zombies can touch you and will take you away if you’re not careful. You’re also told not to run, which went out the window when we found ourselves surrounded by the undead.
Fun Factor: 5/5 We loved “Zombie City.” This fueled my zombie craving until the real zombie apocalypse occurs.
Boo For Your Buck:  5/5 If you only have $20 to spend then go with “Zombie City.” If you have $40 and are up for an evening of frights then see all three but save this for last.

The Haunted Hotel

Fear Factor: 3/5 There were several scream-inducing moments, and with such a small tour group all of the actors’ attention was on us, but there were also some nice pauses between monsters during which we could enjoy the hotel’s neat effects and details.
Fun Factor: 4/5 I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find our way out of some of the trickier passages, and the breaks between ghouls during which we could enjoy the scenery and effects during the tour. But don’t mistake “fun” to mean “for kids,” this attraction includes some frightening graphic images and adult language, and will appeal to teens and older.
Boo For Your Buck:  4/5 The ticket price, $18, is pretty standard compared to other haunted attractions in town, and when you consider it’s a once-a-year experience with several satisfying scares, it’s reasonable. You do have the option to skip the lines with $27 VIP tickets, which seemed a little steep to us, but I suspect that pass will gain value as Halloween approaches and the length of the wait increases.

More Haunted Halloween Attractions

ColorFest and the Scarecrow Jubilee at Bernheim
The seventeenth annual ColorFest at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest will be held Saturday, Oct. 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21, noon to 5 p.m. Enjoy nature-related activities for kids, an expanded area of local artists with demonstrations and items for sale, live entertainment (including a set from Bernheim Horticulturist Casey Hammett), refreshments from the Bernheim Grill, Jarfi’s, KY Pork Producers, kettle corn, ice cream and tons of outdoor fun for kids of all ages. See this year’s creative community entries for Scarecrow Jubilee 2012, Hungry for Nature and vote for your favorite. (Proposals accepted through Friday, Oct. 12). Scarecrow Jubilee at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest will be held Oct. 20 through Nov. 15 daily; 7 a.m. to close. Events are free after entering Bernheim (regular $5 per car weekend environmental impact fee at Bernheim’s front gate for non-members; members enter Bernheim free; admission is free during weekdays). For more information and an entertainment schedule, visit bernheim.org.

Real Haunted Happenings and Paranormal Investigation
Discover some of the paranormal happenings at Corydon Capitol State Historic Site on Oct. 20. Guests can participate in part of a special night tour guided only by a lantern and learn about true stories of unexplained experiences that have happened throughout the site. Two ghostly tours will be offered, the first will begin at 8 p.m.; the second at 9:15 p.m. Tours are limited to 30 people. Tickets are available for an exclusive spot on an overnight paranormal investigation with paranormal team Interstate Paranormal Investigations. Be one of ten lucky guest investigators to learn about high-tech ghost hunting equipment and understand how professional “ghost hunters” gather and evaluate evidence while being on a real life ghost hunt. Tickets for the overnight paranormal investigation experience include the ghost tour and access, as a paranormal team member, to areas currently closed to the public. No one under age 18 is allowed on the overnight investigation and participants are required to sign a waiver. Ghost tours are $15 per person; $20 if purchased after Oct. 17. The overnight is $100 per person and includes the Real Haunted Happenings ghost tour, refreshments and breakfast the next day. After Oct. 17, the overnight price is $110.   For tickets, stop in the office at 126 E. Walnut St. in downtown Corydon, Ind., or call 812.738.4890. For more information, visit indianamuseum.org/corydon.

Danger Run
The Danger Run is a game played in your car with your friends.  You start at one of three Louisville locations, where you will be given a book of rhyming clues. You must work together with those in your car to solve each clue, one by one, as you find your way on dark, spooky, desolate roads to two new scary haunted houses. It is like a scavenger hunt, but in this case you are trying to find the haunted houses. So instead of only getting 15 to 20 minutes of scares at your local haunted house, you will get an entire evening of Halloween entertainment, including a great game and  two haunted houses, for one price. The object is to follow the clues exactly as they were designed and accumulate the exact mileage of the course on your vehicle. If you can crack the clues perfectly, you will be invited to the Finals Party for your chance to win several prizes. Participants can begin Danger Run at one of three Lowe’s locations: 501 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy and 6651 Dixe Hwy in Louisville, or 1350 Veterans Pkwy in Clarksville, Ind. The attraction will run Friday and Saturday nights, now through Oct. 27. Admission is $18.95. For information visit www.dangerrun.com.

The Seventh Street Haunt
The Seventh Street Haunt is Louisville’s newest haunted attraction, featuring over 13,000 square feet of terror. The haunted house features an indoor line, concessions, a photo booth and even a casket ride, and is open every weekend, now through Oct. 28.  Hours are Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 8 to 10:30 p.m. The Seventh Street Haunt is located at 2900 S. Seventh Street Road. General admission is $20, and you can email tboling@7thStreetHaunt.com to learn about group rates. For more information call 812.989.9224.

Haunted House Reviews

The Haunted Hotel

The Haunted Hotel claims the title as Louisville’s longest-standing Halloween attraction, with a 23-year history of terrorizing and terrifying. The creepy mansion’s current owners spent the summer updating and enhancing the hotel’s frightening rooms and gory details – so past visitors can expect a new experience this year.

This is an attraction in which the actors are allowed to touch you, so be prepared for a more in-your-face, physical experience. My guest and I could hear yelling and cursing through the front door and were met with more inside, so if profanity is something that would deter you, this may not be the attraction for you. We were forewarned that we would also get a little wet – but were reassured that it was just water. Before we entered, the hostess offered to take our photo, which she explained we could see (and tag) after a few days by visiting The Haunted Hotel’s Facebook page.

Small tour groups – in my case, just us two – eliminated my hopes of finding safety in a crowd. We were greeted by a startlingly  aggressive hotel concierge, who pointed us through total darkness to what I felt was the highlight of the tour – the elevator. I won’t reveal what transpired inside, but by the end of the longer-than-average elevator ride, my date and I couldn’t find our way out fast enough!

From there, we felt our way through darkened passages and rooms with sometimes gruesome decor and usually at least one creepy inhabitant lurking in the shadows, silently grabbing our limbs or suddenly popping up beside us. Some neat visual effects with light and smoke, non-traditional rooms with features such as moving floors or walls and a closed-in inflated passage that we had to squeeze our way through made the tour just as much fun as it was frightening.

The entire tour took us about 20 minutes, traveling at our own pace. Rather than finish the moment we stepped outside, we were surprised to find that the tour continued, and just when we thought we’d made it through unscathed we heard the unmistakable buzz of a chain-saw. And if you think this is frightening when the actors can’t touch visitors, imagine how terrifying it is when they can! We made a quick exit, shaken but also satisfied by the overall experience.

For more information on The Haunted Hotel, visit www.hauntedhotelky.com. Tickets can be purchased online or in person. The attraction is open  Oct. 11-14, 18-21 and 25-28. Hours are Thursdays and Sundays 8 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Parking is available on the street.

The Devil’s Attic

For the last several years, I’ve kept a tradition of visiting at least one haunted house each October. But, make no mistake, my immunity to fear is virtually nonexistent. In fact, I’ve only become more frightened by each attraction I see.

After wandering through The Devil’s Attic, 647 W. Hill St., it may be awhile until I stop by my next haunt as I calm down from the adrenaline rush. Since 2010, the Devil’s Attic, founded by Jason Besemann of JB Production, has left thrill-goers sprinting with panic toward safety. While only about 15 to 20 minutes long, depending how fast you run through the nearly 15,000 square foot building (I ran fast), each corner of the house brings a bang of excitement. Filled with infamous characters from horror movies and a few original demons, your heart will pound each step of the way. I’ll admit, I closed my eyes half of the time in fear, but the scenes that stood out most included the mad scientist, who locks you in a room inhabited with many gruesome spectacles, and a draw bridge too narrow to squirm away from danger. My favorite part, perhaps, was the classic dumb blonde moment I suffered as I neared the end. Throwing my hands up in victory after escaping two villains, I exclaimed, “I did it!,” only to realize the haunted tour wasn’t quite over. Let’s just say, if my pace was quick at the beginning, it was Usain Bolt-fast at the end.

For more information on The Devil’s Attic, visit thedevilsattic.com. The attraction is open Oct. 12-14; 19-21; 25-28; and 31. Hours are Friday, Saturday and Oct. 31 from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Thursday and Sunday from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Parking is available on site. Due to graphic material, children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Baxter Avenue Morgue

By ANGIE FENTON | Managing Editor
I live in Irish Hill and am fairly friendly with my neighbors – except for one: the Baxter Avenue Morgue. Yes, I’ve given the building a persona, but that’s because it evokes a physical response in me nearly every time I pass it, which is almost every day, and that’s why I was both reticent and curious to finally make my way through it.

Now a Halloween attraction, the facility first opened over a century ago as the Vanderdark Morgue. Its real-life history includes murders, missing people and gory tales of secret experiments, bodies kept partially alive and apparitions that appear out of nowhere, including one animal-like creature that has (allegedly) scratched both patrons and actors alike.

The actors at Baxter Avenue Morgue are talented and creepy and the tour through the venue is scary. If you get the chance to speak with them before or after going through The Morgue, their (again, allegedly) true tales of seeing apparitions and experiencing unexplained occurrences are even creepier. Perhaps creepiest of all, at least for me, is having a friend I trust very much believe she actually saw a ghost at The Morgue while there during an afternoon photo shoot. My friend described what the figure she saw – after she stopped crying – which made operators believe she’d laid eyes on Lillian Vanderdark, wife (and second cousin) of original morgue owner Warren Vanderdark. Lillian disappeared in 1938.

The Morgue,  451 Baxter Avenue, is open 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Sunday (except Oct. 12, when it will open at 9 p.m.). Street parking is available and fairly easy to navigate. Due to graphic material, children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, go to www.baxtermorgue.com.

Nightmare Forest

By MALISSA KOEBEL | Graphic Designer
A $20 ticket gives you access to four haunts: Nightmare Harvest, the Drive-In, Nightmare Forest, and the Trail of Terror. (While they advertise four attractions, the Drive-In is simply a horror movie playing while you wait in line.) The ticket booth was hard to find since the parking lot is pitch black, but after walking through a few yards of weeds we found the correct path. The recent rains took a toll on the trails and some areas were quite muddy. (With any outdoor haunt, take note of the weather beforehand and wear sturdy footwear!) The unfavorable weather also kept the crowds at home. We only had to wait in line for 10 minutes.

Nightmare Forest’s highlight was the zombie town in the Trail of Terror. If you have a fear of the zombie apocalypse, the moans and groans of the actors creeping behind you will make you want to head for the hills. The haunted forest and corn maze were both a little drab with too few actors. (Freddy Krueger was even MIA at his station.) Watch out for props! I hit my head on numerous dangling meat items and almost tripped a few times.

I was also a little disappointed that they didn’t group smaller parties together when one of the highlights of haunted houses (for me at  least) is seeing other people’s reactions. Nonetheless, the creepy woods at Otter Creek set a good vibe for this attraction. It’s also one of the longer haunts, lasting from 30-45 minutes.

Nightmare Forest is located at 850 Otter Creek Park Road, Brandenburg, Ky. For more information and a $2 off coupon, visit yournightmarebegins.com. The attraction is open every Friday and Saturday in October from dusk until 1 a.m. Parking is available on site. Due to graphic material, children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. 

 Meijer presents “The World’s Largest Halloween Party!”

By JOANNA HITE SHELTON | Lead Graphic Designer
This Halloween doesn’t have to be so scary, and a trip to the zoo with your little ones will prove it. Promoting to “be seen, not scared,” children ages 11 and under can dress up in their favorite not-so-frightening costumes and walk through Subway’s Land of Oz, PNC’s Grow Up Great Storybook Land and Ford’s Ogre Swamp, just to name a few, filling up trick-or-treat bags with goodies along the way. For an extra thrill, you can ride the Not-So-Haunted Carousel ($2 per person), watch the 4-D theater experience with Dora and Diego’s 4-D adventure  ($5 per person/$4 Zoo members) or go on The  Headless Horseman of Sleepy  Hollow Tour ($2 per person). I had a great time, as some of the themes brought me back to my own childhood, plus I got to see some adorable costumes along the way.

For more information on “The World’s Largest Halloween Party,” visit louisvillezoo.com. The attraction is open Oct. 11-14; 18-21 & 25-28. Hours are 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. Parking is available for $5 at the zoo.

“Dracula” at Actors Theatre

An Actors Theatre Halloween tradition now in its 18th year, Fifth Third Bank’s “Dracula” is a hair-raising, blood-chilling thriller that thoroughly entertains and will certainly put you in the mood for the spooky holiday. This performance is ideal for those looking for a scare but wishing to skip the haunted house wait-and-trek in favor of a comfortable seat, and also for anyone who would enjoy the thrill of riveting theater and a classic horror story, come to life.

The performance is recommended for ages 11 and up and includes strobe lights, gun shots and fog effects, as well as a few other frightening sights and sounds. Compelling performances by a mixed cast of “Dracula” veterans and actors new to the annual performance kept me on the edge of my seat the entire night. Randolph Curtis Rand (Count Dracula) is frighteningly convincing as the powerful, exotic, bloodthirsty monster, and Director William McNulty (Van Helsing) plays a rousing leader to the vampire-hunting team, but also deserves much applause for having adapted and put together this year’s incredible performance. Marc Bovino (Renfield) steals the show as Dracula’s tortured minion, portraying a sometimes frightening but often hilarious escaped mental patient who can’t quite seem to get the others to take his advice. Young performers Maggie Gediman and Faith Oukroop do a superb job as creepy children, offering blood-curdling screams and unexpected frights.

This year’s “Dracula” delivers on the high expectations set by the theatre’s reputation for stellar past productions. The quality of the performance and pleasure of the experience are, unsurprisingly, unparalleled by other local Halloween attractions.

For more information on Fifth Third Bank’s “Dracula” at Actors Theatre, visit www.actorstheatre.org. The play is showing now through Oct. 31, multiple days with varying show times. See website for individual days and times, or call 502.584.1205. Indoor parking is available in the Actors Theatre garage adjacent to the theatre, with entrances from Main Street and Third Street, rate is $10. This production is not for the faint of heart.

Haunted Asylum

By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | Chief Photographer and Designer
My comrade Josh Keown and I arrived at the Asylum Haunted Scream Park, 3101 Pond Station Rd., around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night. We were greeted with a horde of scare fans standing in line to get tickets to the three attractions offered at the Paintball Asylum turned horror theme park. Your choices are a haunted trail through the 40 acres on the property, an alien-zombie shoot ‘em up game with paintball guns and a staged backwoods town overrun by zombies.

After we picked up our all-access passes to the three attractions, we began our night at the Carnival of Souls, a freak show with fire-breathers, clowns on motocross bikes, carnival games and more. There’s also a photo staging area where you can get your picture taken with monsters and ghouls and an outdoor eating area that serves drinks and food.

Darkness Falls
This is what I imagined a haunted forest to be like. After an hour wait in line we took a self guided tour on the paths through the 40 acre backlot to the Paintball Asylum where we encountered a crazy old lady that wanted to chop us up and bake us into meat pies, redneck alien hunters, evil clowns, haunted bridges, multiple chainsaw-wielding psychopaths and many more things that might keep a sane person up at night. The trail lasted about 40 minutes before letting us back out near the Carnival of Souls.

Xterminated: Zalien Attack
Next up was the one for which we were most excited, and let us down the most. After a 40-minute wait in line, we were armed with paintball guns loaded with Co2 but no paintballs (might be messy otherwise) and sent into a warehouse to “kill” zombies. Keown and I were at the front of the pack so we were able to take down all the “Zaliens” that came at us before they got too close.

The cool thing about this is that you get to shoot at real looking zombie-aliens as they charge towards you and they fell dead after being “shot.” The downside is that they seemed to be short on “Zaliens” and the 15-minute attraction lasted only about five.

Zombie City: Doomsday
This was our favorite attraction of the night. After an hour wait in line we were let into a tent where an Army General debriefed us on what was about to take place. We put on the surgical masks we were given to avoid being infected and entered the small zombie-filled town.

“Zombie City” is an interactive attraction in which we were stopped every few minutes to talk to the locals, who would tell us a little more about the infection and their story. The scariest (and most awesome) part comes towards the end when you’re in the center of a courtyard that gets overrun by zombies. Your only hope is that the bullets in the guns of the militia can save everyone before you become zombie food.

For more information on Haunted Asylum, visit www.asylumhaunts.com. It’s open Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27. Hours are from 8 p.m. until at least 2 a.m. Parking is available on site.