Tour of Terror: Part 2

Tour of Terror: Chapter 2

 

As you are all aware, we love horror and Halloween in the Chauncey household. With that being said, our Tour of Terror continued in Orlando where we attended Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal Orlando Resort. We met up with friends, had some drinks, ate some pizza fries, and got to experience six of the nine haunted houses being offered this year, along with all five scare zones, and one final showing of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. Universal always puts on a premiere event, showing guests every year that the best nightmares never end…. usually.

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Here’s a breakdown of the houses we saw and what we thought.

 

This year, HHN brought a classic to life: The Shining.

The scenic and decor were good and touched on all the major scenes in the movie. It had some good scares and some predictable ones as well. It would have been nice to have a visual of the hotel in some kind of far perspective view, seeing it off in the distance when first entering into the house. But alas, that piece was missing which was kind of disappointing. The scareactors in the house had some decent scares, and their energy was good however, in my opinion there were a few too many Jacks in the house. Having read the book (I’m a huge Stephen King fan) and having seen the movie many times I would have to say the best nightmares do indeed sometimes end.

Next up was American Horror Story: Part Two. My wife and I are both huge fans of the show, and have rewatched the seasons many times, constantly trying to find different clues that pull everything together. Since we are such big fans, this house was a must see for us. Just like last year, AHS was done very well, covering Asylum, Coven, and Roanoke. The scenic and decor were spot on; I felt like I was on the set for each episode. The scares and scareactors were timed well and delivered with precision and energy. The house delivered on every aspect, and this was one of the houses where the nightmare never ends.

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Pizza fries!!! Not related to the houses, but still worth posting!

The Fallen was a Universal original concept house. If you attended the event in 2012, it reminded me of Gothic from that year. It was awesome seeing that the stunts made a return in the house and gave some refreshing scares that we don’t see often enough. The scenic and decor were beautiful and the energy of the cast really brought the house to life. The nightmares have a solid stone foundation that will live on for centuries.

 

Taking a trip to the Bayou was on the list as we experienced Dark Waters. This house by far gets my vote on one of the most beautifully done in regards to scenic and decor. I was in awe at the sight of the riverboat upon entering the soundstage, and pulling us into this dark, mysterious atmosphere. Throughout the entire house I was blown away by the attention to detail. It was a wholly immersive experience, something only HHN truly knows how to pull off. Like the previous houses, the scares and energy were good, and the costumes were on point. My only complaint about Dark Waters was that it was too short and should have lasted longer. If there is such a thing as a beautiful nightmare that never ends, this house was it.

Another IP house this year was Blumhouse, bringing together Sinister, the Purge, and Insidious into one dimension. Honestly, the house had a slow start. The first few scenes were okay and depicted the movies they represented, but there was still something missing. Once the house entered it’s Insidious realm,  it finally shifted into gear and became a house were nightmares truly reside. The intensity of the scares in the Insidious portion increased with every room. This is definitely where you can actually step into your nightmare. However, another thing that seemed a little off was the fact that Sinister and Purge had very few scenes, which was unfortunate as Sinister actually bothered me a little bit in my core when I saw the movie.

The final house to discuss that we went through was Scarecrow. Where do I even start with this house?This was a house that all of our friends had recommended, as well as fellow guests, and management within the event. The outside that was adorned with a cornfield and windmill set the tone before we even stepped foot in the house. As soon as we were in the first scene, it was intense. The smells of burlap and corn filled the air along with the screams of fellow guests in front of us. It was dark and had some tight spaces which only added to the intensity. To say this house was scary does not do it justice. I have been doing haunts and going to them for quite some time and this house is in the top five of all time for me. The performers were aggressive and terrifying, scaring everyone in our group several times. I was actually sweating by the time we got out and quite possibly was breathing heavily. The scenic, audio, lighting, costumes, make-up, and performers were all AWESOME. A classic, original concept full of energy and terrifying creatures is something we didn’t realize we had been missing, until we were reunited with it that night. This house is my pick for house of the year out of the ones were we able to experience this year.

 

Next up, let’s chat about the scare zones.

 

This year there were five and we got to spend a little time in each of them.

Altars of Horror was the first scare zone we encountered. This zone had quite the selection of characters from each of the IP houses. The scareactors did a great job of depicting their characters and provided some good scares. It was cool to see the Grady Twins from the Shining interacting with guests, while Pig Head from Saw wasn’t too far behind them.

The Purge was a return street and did its predecessor proud. I was actually the manager of this street the first time it was a scare zone and this theme holds a concept very near and dear to my heart because of the awesome cast and management team I was privileged to work with. Once again, this year it did not disappoint. With the truck, bikes, and newly added wood chipper, all together it made this one of my favorite streets this year. They performers made their Founding Fathers proud, and for me it deserves to be in the running for street of the year.

Trik R’ Treat was another well done scare zone this year. The theme brought the glowing jack-o-lanterns back to the trees of Central Park, where they rightfully belong. The scenic and decor combined with the fog weaving through the area was amazing. Prominent characters from the movie were represented who knows, if you were lucky enough, you may have just ran into Sam himself.  All in all, the zone had good scares and high energy, making it a fun one.

Invasion was the scare zone located in San Francisco this year, and like last year’s zone, it was done really well. There is an advantage to San Francisco being so small. One or two big set pieces can make the entire scene. Throw in the right scare actors and you’ve got a hit. Since the Superstar Parade doesn’t go through this area, they have the ability to do the in depth scenic, without having to remove it after every event night. This year, a huge UFO crash landed in the streets of San Fran, and it was an awesome sight to behold. The costumes and masks that the scareactors were adorned with were very detailed and realistic. I felt as though I needed to protect myself, lest I be probed.

Hollywood was overrun by the Festival of the Deadliest this year. Once again, the scenic and decor were elaborate, and with this being part of the parade route, they had to set it up every night. This is where I give a shout out to all the techs that bust their butts making sure all the set pieces are in place every single night. I wa a little confused by this scare zone to be honest, and the energy level could have been a little higher. I don’t fully understand the concept, but either way there was still a good scare or two witnessed.

Last, but definitely not least, we spent quite a bit of time among those crazy, maniacal, and fun-loving chainsaw-wielding clowns who were left to bestow the fear of the visitors of Springfield. I am not a fan of clowns to begin with, but these guys and gals know how to bring the fear. It was indeed a pleasure to watch the Klowns bring their own brand of humorous fear to the masses.


Finally, after all the houses and streets were done, we were able to make it to the last Bill & Ted’s show of the evening. The pre-show consisted of flashbacks to the pasts shows which brought on a feeling of nostalgia. The show contained it’s usual parody of pop icons and current events, and when the show ended, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. Thanks PJ and Jason and the rest of the cast and crew for a great ending to a legacy.

This was the first time in eleven years I came as a guest, and solely a guest. No longer working the event in any sort of way or capacity was kind of weird to me. To not be a part of such a great event was slightly surreal. Even though the weather was a little soggy, and the wait times were longer than one would hope, we still had fun catching up with friend while waiting. To sum up the event, I feel it was good. We were able to see all the houses we wanted to see, plus more, and catch the Bill & Ted’s show which with this year being the final tour, that was an absolute must.

With the Tour of Terror being done and in the books, we had fun. We got to see both great events and catch up with family and friends, plus have some grown-up fun which doesn’t come as often now-a-days. Until next time, Florida. Be excellent to one another and party on, dudes.

Tour of Terror: Chapter 1

Our “Tour of Terror”, our “Weekend of Wickedness”, our “Florida Freight Fest”… I think you get the picture. We made the long journey from Nashville to check out two of the premiere Halloween events on the east side of America. Our first visit was to Howl O Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa, where I coined the phrase “Fear in the Busch”, which can have many meanings, especially to those of us that have seen the evolution of grooming habits of the human race. I digress, back to the subject at hand.

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We arrived at the park early and by having our tickets on our phones and with little baggage made it through security and into the fear with no issues. With our early arrival we had plenty of time to have a drink and make a plan of attack.

 

 

The plan of attack consisted of starting with one of the new houses, two this year, which was in the back of the park and make our way to the front going through scare zones along the way. While waiting for the time to arrive we ran into a friend that was there with some other friends and decided to join forces, you know that whole safety in numbers thing.

 

 

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Demented Dimensions was the first house that we would be taken on. The tag line and back story of the house was “Unwanted worlds come together at Demented Dimensions”. Constructed above a vortex of otherworldly energies, the abandoned, Sterling Manor houses every door to unwanted worlds, creating a series of portals in Demented Dimensions. Every room and hallway holds a door to a different universe where rules of your world do not apply and escape is nearly impossible.I felt this was a good house. The scenic atmosphere was good and the house had good scares coming from multiple levels and angels. I give it a seven out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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From there we made our way through our first scare zone “Wasteland.” As we made huddled together and made our way through this dark, post-apocalyptic wasteland we saw scenes of past and present atrocities that remained in an abandoned strip of roadway. We made our way through the rusting and rotting piles of debris bearing witness to those that remain and would do the unimaginable to survive, and behold, Dominique got her first big scare of the night. It was a simple scare, distracted by something on her left, being attacked by a creature who was hiding behind something on her right. She never saw it coming. This was one of my favorite scare zones. The scenic and props were well done as well as the costumes. The scareactors had the distract and scare tactic down to a science and actually got a jump from me as well, when another camouflaged scareactor popped out. I give it an eight of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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By this time we were ready for a snack and had worked up a thirst so we gave the food truck a try. This is where we encountered our first real glitch and felt that a better system needed to be implemented. In order to get food from the food truck you were required to stand in the same line that serviced the bar to place your order and that would be fine if you were ordering an alcoholic beverage but if you just wanted food it proved to be a major inconvenience. Anyway we finally ended up getting our Philly Cheesesteak which turned out to be quite tasty even though consumed standing in line for the next house.

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The next house we went through was a repeat from last year and was one of my favorites called “Motel Hell”. The tag line and back story for this house was “Where your worst nightmares are inescapable” and the backstory claims that your nightmares become reality at this deserted motel once you realize why it’s conveniently vacant. The paranormal presence of its former owners still lurks on the untouched property, mysteriously preventing the brave souls who have attempted to tear it down. Guests who dare to enter will find themselves face-to-face with their worst nightmares and inescapable fate. Once again this house did not disappoint and the scareactors had high energy and great scares. I give this house an eight out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

 

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Next on our journey of fear was a house called “The Black Spot” also a house held over from last year. The house actually had scareactors in the que line which I like and I feel enhances the experience leading up to the house. The tagline for this house was “Escape from Saw Tooth Silas’s murderous hideaway” and the back story was a tale of an infamous pirate that has you marked for death and he has you right where he wants you.When Saw Tooth Silas decides that one should no longer exist, he marks them for death. Victims are then sent to the The Black Spot, where they meet their horrifying end. The trick lies within the dimly-lit corners of the mysterious retreat, holding the secret to escape… or demise. This house had some solid scares even the energy was kinda low in the middle part of the house I still feel it was a good house. I will give it a seven out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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We made our way through one of the new scare zones next that was called Carnie Camp. The back story tells the tale of how the backstage area of an old carnival breathes new life with its lingering dirty inhabitants. Eerie music filled the air as spine-chilling fairground performers prowl for new test subjects to be featured in the next spectacle of this horrid attraction. This scare zone had a lot of potential in my eyes given the subject material. Nothing I hate more that being called out by a carney while walking down the strip at the fair to play one of their rigged games to win a stupid stuffed animal. Wow! I don’t know where that came from but let’s continue. I felt this zone could have been a lot better scenic wise and that the scareactors could have been a little more energetic. Honestly it feel short of my expectations. I give it a five out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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Next on the list was another one of the new houses that was highly touted for this year. “Undead Arena Live”. The tagline for this house was “Step into the arena and try to stay alive”. The back story is in a post-apocalyptic world, survivors of the Great Conflict have been divided into the Worthy and Unworthy. Now for sport, you are the Unworthy and the stars of a gruesome event at the Undead Arena Live. Infested with Brain Eaters, this gauntlet is an almost impossible feat without guarantee that your group will stay together. This house was a huge disappointment. Once we finally got in the house after a forty five minute wait I was separated from the group I thought, “Okay this is about to get intense,” but it only led to what seemed like an endless number of hallways with barely any scareactors in the corners and chain link fence for decor. You might be thinking that they just did a cast switch, and you correct, except they did it about five minutes before we got in. There were a couple of rooms with some scenic attributes but they didn’t seem to be part of the backstory. I basically left the house confused and disappointed, and no lost to where my wife and the rest of our group were. I give it a four out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

 

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We made our way through one of the new scare zones on our to the next house. It was called “Meat Market”. The tag line was watch a band of sinister and cannibalistic creatures feast on the weak. With chainsaws and sheer disregard, they might just smell your fear and add you to their monstrous menu. This scare zone seemed a little crowded with food vendors and games along with scaractors trying to perform. I did however like the touch of an actual grill being used providing a great smell to go along with the carnage. Also, the sound of “Dueling Banjos” in the background just always warms my cold, black heart, so that was a plus. I give this scare zone a seven out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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After finding the wait times a little long we decided to check out another scare zone. This one was titled “Class Deceased” also a new offering. The back story is “see what happens when savage school kids punish their cruel headmaster in this abandoned schoolhouse scare zone”. The fans on Facebook voted on the name for this zone, which is pretty cool and gives the fans an opportunity to take an active role in what happens with the event. This has been a common trend with the event in the past as well. The scare zone was full of energetic scareactors and we were bombarded from every angle with scares. The scenic could have been a little more in my opinion, but that’s just me. I give it an eight out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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The last house we were able to get into that night was also one of my favorites from last year. The name is “Unearthed” and the back story is that during maintenance at the park, an excavation crew uncovered a centuries-old house buried deep beneath the ground. Upon entering the house, a sinister force is Unearthed. The vengeful demon takes her revenge by collecting the eyes of all who enter the house. Like I had mentioned earlier this is one of my favorites from last year. This house has good scenic aspects as well as a highly energized cast. Once again it did not disappoint. I give it an eight out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

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Finally, as we continued to roam the park to see the remaining aspects of the event, aside from the two houses we did not get to, we came across the ghillie suits. For those of you who are not aware, a ghillie suit is a full on camouflage outfit, where when someone is wearing it and sitting on a curb, or among other foliage, they look like a bush. Every single year these guys and gals get me, and that happened once again. Busch Gardens has lots of landscaping and foliage throughout their entire park, so these guys blend in just about everywhere and are a fantastic scare. Dominique jumped up and down with glee once we found them as they are her favorite. Mainly because they scare me every year and she thinks it’s hilarious. This year, and every year, they did not disappoint and will probably never disappoint.

In the end between the long lines and some other shortcomings our experience was not as good as in years past. Thanks to meeting up with an old friend and making a couple of new ones to share the experience with it made it a little more tolerable. As far as the crowds go we could have bought a fast pass but figured giving the past we wouldn’t need them but we were wrong on that account. The houses were good but with so many return houses and only two new ones, one of which was highly disappointing, the scare zones were good as well but as with a lot of things in seemed as we had seen it before. The scareactors were on point for the most part and were able to elicit a few screams from everyone in our group. I honestly think we can skip a couple of years depending on the house line up and how many of them are new verses reruns. I would definitely recommend going if you haven’t been in awhile because everything will be new to you. Those that went last year could probably take a pass on this year. After it is all said and done I give the event a seven out of ten on the fear-o-meter.

 

All house photos and stock images credited to the Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream website.

Cinders and Ashes! Day out with Thomas!

Jase loves Thomas the train and can name every single character on the show. I think it’s funny how he can easily say “Sir Topham Hat,” but has trouble say things like “please,” or “sorry,” but what can you do?

 

This year we decided to participate in Day out with Thomas at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum. This included various kid activities, a meet and greet with Sir Topham Hat himself, and an actual train ride pulled by the one and only blue engine himself, Thomas.  When we arrived, we were greeted by volunteers taking tickets and handing out “passports” of activites where the kids could get stamps when the visited each one. After all stamps were completed, the kids with filled passports would receive a prize on the way out.

 

The event was really cool, and the activities were geared to kids of various age groups. Jase went directly to the play tent, where he played with some other kids and a Thomas set, something that he could do at home whenever, but, you know, when in Rome I guess.

 

 

After that, I was the lucky one picked to escort him on a mini-train ride, while we waited for our ride with the big guy himself. As we circled around the parking lot a few times, gladly accepting the slight breeze that came with it as it was definitely a warm day outside.

 

 

Once the mini-train ride was completed, we went to some of the other booths to get Jase’s stamps and then it was time to get in line to meet Sir Topham Hat who, might I add, was much bigger than I imagined considering his stature on the show (granted it’s a cartoon, but whatevs).

 

Then, ladies and gentlemen, it was time to get inline for our ride with Thomas! We lined up in for our designated cart, Cart 1 to be exact, and got ready for our 15 minute train ride. This was the real deal, you guys.

 

 

After a short 7 minute ride away from the station, and a short 7 minute ride back to the station, it was time to get our picture with Thomas!!!!!! Guess what? Jase didn’t really get it. He saw Thomas, but when it was time for the picture, he seemed to be a little confused and didn’t actually want to face the camera for the picture. Two year olds, am I right? However, it was still very cool to see a life-size version of the really useful engine.

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Last but not least, there was a petting zoo. Let me tell you, Jase LOVES animals. All kinds. Dogs, birds, cats, cows, sheep, goats, elephants, lions, all of them. This is where we spent the majority of our time at the event.

At one point, he nearly got knocked over by a goat, but he didn’t care. He thought it was awesome.

 

All in all, Day out with Thomas was a fun event. I think Jase was still a little too young for it, but that’s alright. Will we go again sometime? I think so. It happens every year and hits various cities throughout the country. It costs $20 for 2 year olds and up, which is a little on the expensive side if your child might be too young to truly enjoy it.

 

If you’re interested in going, check out the website here for more information:

Day out with Thomas