|RECAP by Jim Massie (John Kennedy and Joanna Rose contributors)|
|HAuNTcon is an acronym
that stands for "Haunted Attraction National Tradeshow and Convention."
This annual gathering consists of educational sessions, displays of the
latest technological advances the industry has to offer; a costume ball;
and tours of local haunted houses, the latter of which is the focus of
this particular recap. The 2011 installment kicked off with a pre-show
tour bright and early Wednesday morning commencing at one of the most renowned
haunted locations in the world - The Waverly Hills Sanatorium!
Although the seasonal haunt itself wasn't up and running, various floors
of the former tuberculosis hospital were made available for exploration.
Once the Waverly tour concluded, chartered buses proceeded onto
Lexington, Kentucky where Wicked World Nightmare Haunted House was
next on the agenda. Wicked World utilizes a theater setting
to treat visitors to a brief documentary style presentation of their back-story
before unleashing some rather unique scenes and scares courtesy of Dr.
Sheppard and the (No) Mercy Hospital.
Scream Park was the next stop on the pre-tour, and plays host to three differently themed "mini-haunts" ranging in scope from a darkened maze (The Abyss), to the medieval Castle of Fear, to the utter chaos of a complex fence maze entrapment better known as Insanity. From here, the tour traveled onward to Cincinnati, Ohio and one of the country's longest running haunted houses - St. Rita's. Many described the local icon as a nostalgic reminder to the days of Jaycee's attractions. An enthusiastic cast complimented the spooky journey through dimly lit rooms of gothic decor combined with appropriate mood music. A "lights on" tour was also offered, then following dinner the pre-show tour concluded at The Dent Schoolhouse.
Dent was simply fantastic! Numerous impressive changes have already been made since the conclusion of last season and several more are still pending prior to the official launch of this year's Halloween festivities. Beginning in a frightening playground, the course progresses through rooms of unsurpassed detailing and realism into the world of the villainous, child-hating Janitor (Charlie) whose claim to fame is the mistreatment and execution of unruly students. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed visiting this high profile attraction that annually finds itself slugging it out for the coveted Ohio Valley Haunts "Haunt of the Year Award!" Actors put their best foot forward, and the owners were hospitable hosts as always.
Thursday saw the buses making their way to Necropolis in Indianapolis. Although no characters were on duty and the effects were not turned on, Necropolis treated HAuNTcon tourists to plenty of "eye candy" while giving their imaginations an opportunity to appreciate what their presentation may be like during the month of October.
The official tours began later that evening as travelers from around the world made their way to Louisville's best haunted house - The Haunted Hotel! Sold-out crowds were treated to Haunted Network's amazing display of intense, in-your-face acting from a cast that literally drips blood and gore! Scares range in variety from elaborate CGI's to a Christmas themed "splatter-fest" that witnesses cheerful carols morphing into heavy metal in accompaniment to a maniacal Santa Claus who endlessly pursues his next victims toting a loudly revving chainsaw before wrapping up in a Clown maze of equal endangerment.
Thursday concluded at New Albany, Indiana's Culbertson Mansion, where the annual haunt serves as a fund raiser to restore the historic plantation-like dwelling. Following a tour of the Mansion itself, guests were escorted to the carriage house out back where a demonic circus was riding roughshod and a variety of creepy characters terrorized the queue line waiting to enter. Multiple rooms and staircases weave their way through a labyrinth of methodic scares, the favorites of which seemed to be the beginning room that "comes alive" with a surprising "living" chair, and Culbertson's patented casket ride finish!
Friday's events crossed the river to neighboring Jeffersonville, Indiana's Industrial Nightmare that included the sight's secondary attraction Dementions. The facility is accessed through a brief maze that delivers patrons into a wax museum-like waiting area that finds classic horror monsters meeting up with modern day slashers. The haunt itself formally begins with a gargoyle "surprise" and includes an elaborate Swamp setting that houses a giant monster growling through the profuse fog that amasses him. Realistic recreations inhabited by Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger are likewise present, as is a SAW elevator entrapment, as well as a gentlemen's club, a.k.a. "The Sticky Floor" where all are treated to a good time and nobody gets kicked out! A brief pause separates Industrial Nightmare from Dementions, and the entire experience is once again accompanied by the brutality of Haunted Network's star performers!
Seymour, Indiana was the destination for Friday night's dramatic capper at Fear Fair which has also undergone significant changes since last Fall. A new debut scene focuses on an irate animatronic creature that's being held at bay by military combatants who also strive to protect visitors from some sort of infectious epidemic in addition to the enraged behemoth itself by ushering them onto a moving train that whisks them away, but not to safety. Instead, a plethora of visually appealing horror flick recreations featuring the likes of Freddy Krueger, Dr. Frankenstein, Jason Voorhees, Ghostface (Scream), and Pinhead are encountered that find the notorious murderers interacting with victims and patrons alike. A viscous attack from the starving Creeper is narrowly avoided onboard an actual school bus, and a blood-soaked Michael Myers stalks as well before slamming his unfortunate sister up against a deadly furnace. An elaborate SAW group separation scene is also on tap in advance of a hell-bent Leatherface chase-out that climaxed the evening's activities and set the stage for the weekend.
Haunted house tours took a brief hiatus on Saturday for the annual Costume ball, then resumed following a hearse parade on Sunday for one final excursion to Clarksville, Indiana and the 12,000 square feet of fear known as Psychomania Theater of Terror. A brief video history introduces Amos Blackman, the haunt's primary antagonist who terrorizes the adventure through a thunder and lightning filled cemetery and subsequent trek into a traditional haunted house environment that wraps up HAuNTcon for another year.
Sincere, heartfelt thanks to all the attractions, their workers, and of course the hosts themselves for all the hard work and sacrifice that went into opening their doors for this premier event, and to all the volunteers who made this production possible!