2015 Golden State Haunts and Events Annual Halloween Attractions Awards

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This year was a great season for everything Halloween from independent haunted houses to theme parks and live theater.  A lot of thought went into choosing winners and we wanted to recognize those that stood out the most for us.  We want to note that doesn’t mean that the ones not listed weren’t great.  There were a lot of new attractions this year and it seemed to us that the returning haunts and theme parks really amped things up this year.  We want to note that our winner for best experience may seem a little biased, but we’re going off feedback from everyone’s experience and the location living up to its reputation.  We’d also like to note that unfortunately due to other commitments this was the first year we weren’t able to attend any home haunts so those have been omitted from consideration.  So without further ado, here are our winners for 2015.

Best Halloween or Halloween Themed Experience
(Tie)
Investigation Yost Theater and Ritz Hotel

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Valley Investigators of the Paranormal along with Golden State Haunts and Events hosted a paranormal investigation at The Yost Theater and the Ritz Hotel.  Before this investigation the only groups to ever investigation both locations were VIP and Ghost Adventures.  Joining this exclusive investigation were members of Paranormal West and PARA.  Both locations lived up to its reputation.  In the Ritz Hotel an investigator’s scarf was pulled and another investigator’s shirt was tugged.  There were unusual malfunctions in one of the rooms were a night vision camera was being used and visible orbs were seen flying through the air.  There were also EVPs captured and intelligent responses on multiple spirit boxes.  In The Yost Theater an investigator was scratched in the basement and the same investigation also had his private area messaged by an unseen force in the balcony.  There were EVPs captured throughout the theater and conversations had with the spirit box, most notably in the balcony where one specific Asian lady kept coming through.  The Hack Shack even said, “Fuck You” in the green room.

Underground Empire Wrestling Presents “Hellbound”

UEW held a special Halloween event where every match was hardcore and saw the crowning of Sean Black as new UEW Heavyweight Champion.  There was also a Pumpkin Patch Death Match where Sage Sin’s mystery opponent turned out to be none other than The Vicious Nomad Homeless Jimmy.  But, the highlight of the night was the Satanic Sanitarium Cage Match which pitted The Resistance (BC Killer, Michael Krueger and The Insaniac) against “Vandal” Andre Verdun, JD Horror and “Halfbreed” Billy Gram in a steel cage match that was filled with weapons.  There was so much bled shed in this match this one of the participants actually passed out after posing for pictures after the match.  If that wasn’t enough there was an all-night movie festival that went into the wee hours of the morning including the premier of “Ash vs. Evil Dead”.  Also shown were “Trick ‘r Treat” and Darren Bousman’s “Tales of Halloween”.

Best New Haunt
CreepLA

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This was a hard one as there were so many great new haunts that popped up this year.  The one that stuck out the most for us though was CreepLA.  This is one of those haunts where you can actually feel the energy as it’s located in a 110-yr old abandoned warehouse that’s really haunted.  That alone isn’t enough to garner a win, but it definitely adds to the atmosphere.  What we enjoyed most was that in an interview we were told that one of the inspirations for the haunt was one of our favorite movies “Session 9”.  They were able to pull of the creepy feel of the movie with a great scene featuring Bloody Mary and one featuring Slender Man.  The Slender Man scene where you hide in a box was truly frightening.  While you’re in the claustrophobic box Slender Man appears in the dimly lit room and you can see him lurching in the near distance through port holes in the box.  He comes closer and you can hear horrific scratching on top of the box and see him trying to look through the port holes looking for his prey.  This scene actually makes you feel like you’re being hunted.  There were other parts of the haunt that enabled CreepLA to pull off the theme of “creeps”.

Most Innovative Scene in a Haunt
The 17th Door

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This actually goes to another new haunt and there’s actually THREE scenes that really stood out.  The first one is the “buried alive” room where while sitting plastic balls fill the entire room until you get the feeling like you’re actually drowning.  It is amazing how they were able to pull this trick off.  Another scene is the meat locker scene where the temperature suddenly drops into the mid 30’s.  In the room are actual pig carcasses hanging from the ceiling.  The final scene is the autopsy scene where you see a dead Paula (the protagonist of the story).  The room actually smells like death and is filled with live cockroaches (some that actually wind up smashed in an unlucky persons hand or even back).  They actually cut down on this room as the first time we went through there were literally so many of them you couldn’t walk without smashing them and there was also mild nudity.

Most Extreme Haunt (That Isn’t McKamey Manor or The Victim Experience)
Heretic Horror House Hex

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This was an easy winner.  Like we said in our review, it became so real so fast that for a moment we actually didn’t know if we were going to be involved with an occult ritual or possibly even injured or killed.  This haunt involved a bloody bed you lay in where real murders occurred.  People who went through Hex were subjected to full-nudity, being scratched, being slapped, being choked and even being puked on.  After we went through we had bruises on our face and our clothes had been torn to shreds and ruined.

Best use of a Location (Other than Dark Harbor)
Alone Index of Absorption

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Alone always puts on incredible haunt experiences.  Their locations are used to perfection and always seem to be haunted.  Index of Absorption was no different taking place at the old UCLA Film Archives in Hollywood.  This haunt played a video in the old theater, had you walking around the whole building and even had you crawl under it.  The theme was corporate and there was even a hallway with doors marked like different offices and work spaces such as “Film Lab”.  There was also a puzzle you had to solve which led you to a bookstore where you picked up a business card which had a code on it to open an extra room.

Best New Maze at a Theme Park
Paranormal Inc: Case #1 The Haunting of Hayden Hill (Knott’s Scary Farm)

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This maze was right up or alley with the theme being that you’re with a reality film crew filming at a haunted asylum.  This maze had the best opening of any maze we’ve ever seen with high-tech special effects including a ghost that flies right over your head.  This was a fun maze that made you feel like you were at a haunted and abandoned asylum and not only had scare elements, but comedic as well.  The story line was cohesive and the acting was right on point.

Best Maze Set Dressing
Crimson Peak (Universal Halloween Horror Nights)

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This was a beautiful maze that puts you right into the hit movie.  As you you go through you actually feel like you’re in the remote gothic mansion in the English hills.  It’s amazing how they were able to put every aspect of the film into a single maze.  They even had the bathtub scene.  We liked it so much that we ventured through Allerdale Hall twice.

Best Costumes in a Theme Park
Queen Mary Dark Harbor

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Dark Harbor had everything from ghosts and ghouls to voodoo priestesses and evil clowns.  Each maze had a unique theme with a central character.  The Ringmaster costume is always impressive and the character has been a big hit since its debut.  The simplicity of the Scary Mary costume (paranormal investigators know her as Jackie) was creepy and gave her a real ghostly look.  The Captain looked like what we would expect the spirit of a ship captain to look like and Graceful Gale was elegant and classy.

Best Halloween Theater
Wicked Lit

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Taking place at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, Wicked Lit is Broadway quality theater that takes place in a really cool location.  The acting, set design and special effects are all amazing.  We were especially impressed with The Fall of the House of Usher which took place in the mausoleum.  The acting was superb and what was done with the set dressing and lighting left us in awe.  The way the event was organized with three different groups seeing three different plays at the same time and all meeting at a central point where there was theater in the round was well orchestrated.

Best Haunted Theme Park
Dark Harbor Queen Mary

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Everyone we talked to who attended Dark Harbor thought the same thing, that it was amazing.  There was only one new maze, Lullaby, but all the returning mazes were pretty much completely redone.  Lullaby actually startled us at some points and the character of Scary Mary (who was played by different actors) really enjoyed playing the part and had fun with us playing hide-and-seek and saying things such as, “are you my new friend”?  Soulmate had more gore and was scarier than last year featuring an all new ending.  Circus had a new feel as it felt more like a funhouse and there was one really neat scene where you crawl through plastic balls (like at Chuck E Cheese) with a clown waiting at the end.  The other two mazes, Deadrise and Voodoo also were redone and seemed to be more intense than previous years.  There was also nonstop entertainment, an all new Anubis Paintball and a bar with a stage where you could see side show acts and even The Ringmaster.

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Crimson Peak, This is the End and Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home Headline 2015 Horror Nights

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Universal Halloween Horror Nights opened this past Friday with six mazes and an all-new show.  They were able to work around space constraints by putting mazes on the lower lot.  The mazes this year have the best detail we have ever seen with Crimson Peak being a new masterpiece.  Also of note was This is the End and Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home which we found to be the scariest maze of the evening.  Insidious remains a favorite for us and The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far as well as Alien Vs. Predator both have a brand new look.

The Mazes

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak is based on Guillermo Del Toro’s haunted house movie opening this October.  The maze takes you through a Victorian mansion located on top of an abandoned clay mine where the floors and snow bleed red from the clay.  This is a beautiful maze with elaborate set dressings where the spirit of a bride dressed in black chases you through the dark corridors.  We loved this maze and went through it twice.

This Is The End

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You’re invited to James Franco’s house party on the night of the apocalypse.  This is a 3-D maze which actually relies more on comedy than scares.  Before entering you see an impaled James Franco.  Inside you’ll see things such as a Jonah Hill exorcism.  Visitors will travel the boundaries between Heaven and Hell.  TV clips are seen throughout the maze and Satan pops up on more than one occasion.

The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far

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Now in its fourth year, this is the longest running Horror Nights maze.  This year it’s entirely revamped.  Gone is the prison scene and this time you’ll walk through sets such as a cemetery, church and packing plant.  There is one awesome scene that combines props, animatronics and live actors for a truly frightening experience.

Insidious

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Insidious is back with Lin Shaye’s voice heard talking about demons.  The maze features all three movies and even features the elevator scene from the last one.  You’ll enter The Further as you encounter spirits and demons all set in a spooky paranormal setting.  This is still one of our favorites and we went through twice.

Alien Vs. Predator

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This maze returns from last year pretty much the same except for a few differences.  It remains a top-notch attraction with its attention to detail and good jump scares.  We recommend doing the other mazes first, but if you’re a fan of the films you might want to revisit this one.  The Alien Queen at the end is always impressive.

Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home

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This was actually the scariest maze of the evening.  The beginning goes all the way back to Michael Myer’s childhood.  The rest combines scenes from the rest of the movies even including the strangulation scene of P.J. Soles character and the pumpkin masked kids from Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  One really cool scene was a gun toting Dr. Loomis confronting the masked killed.  There’s one mirror scene that really stood out since you don’t know where Myers will jump out as well as a pitch-black walkway with a unexpected surprise.

Scare Zones

Corpz

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The undead Parisian soldiers from World War I fill this gruesome street scene featuring skeletons and ghouls in a war ravaged setting.  Corpz is one street over from Dark Christmas.

The Purge: Urban Nightmare

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For one night each year there is no law and citizens are free to unleash their darkest fantasies.  Murder and torture fill the fog filled zone where masked psychopaths unleash their chaos.  One cool scene was the machine gunner shooting down guests from the back of a truck.  The Purge: Urban Nightmare is located on the lower lot near Crimson Peak and Alien vs. Predator.

Dark Christmas

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Dark Christmas is a dark and twisted take on the cheerful holiday.  Undead carolers and Krampus rule here where bad little kids face their worst fears.  Once again this was our favorite scare zone.  Dark Christmas is located on the London Street Scene.

Exterminatorz

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Mutant bugs revolt against humanity in this zone filled with insects, spiders and rats.  Exterminatorz features some of the coolest masks and costumes and is backlit by a huge metallic structure shooting high flames.  Exterminators on the New York Street Scene where Purge used to be.

Show

Jabbawockeez

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This hop-hop dance crew from San Diego were the winners of the first season of “America’s Best Dance Crew”.  This is a must see show if you’re into music and dancing.  Featuring choreographed dance numbers as well as video scenes.

Tickets Now On Sale For Universal Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood

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Tickets are now on sale for “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood as Southern California’s premier Halloween event unveils a slate of new mazes, an exciting hip-hop dance show, a new cutthroat Terror Tram experience and terrifying Scare Zones, beginning Friday, September 18, 2015.

Tickets to this year’s event are available for purchase atwww.HalloweenHorrorNights.com/hollywood, including a “Killer Deal Nights” ticket option with discounts of up to $25 on select dates as well as a Front of Line ticket option which enables guests to enjoy priority access to each “Halloween Horror Nights” maze, “Terror Tram,” Jabbawockeez show and theme park attractions.  Advance purchase is recommended as event nights will sell out.

 Halloween Horror Nights” dates are: September 18, 19, 25, 26, 27, October 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31, and November 1, 2015.

“Halloween Horror Nights” brings together the sickest minds in horror to immerse guests in a living, breathing, three-dimensional world of terror inspired by TV and film’s most compelling horror properties.  This year’s line-up includes:

 All-New Mazes and Show:

“Guillermo del Toro Presents Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness” is inspired by the visionary filmmaker who directed, co-wrote and produced the upcoming October 16 Legendary and Universal Pictures feature film. The three-dimensional living replica of the film is designed to send guests spiraling through the chilling world and into the footsteps ofCrimson Peak’s lead character, Edith Cushing, first as they venture from her home in America, then to the decaying and haunted Allerdale Hall mansion in a remote English countryside. With a foreboding “Beware of Crimson Peak” message that echos from Edith’s past, guests will navigate a labyrinth of paranormal tortured souls who have born witness to the estate’s dark history of unspeakable acts…and who continue to reside in vengeful, ghostly forms.

 Bringing together the most sinister of scenes from all three films, “Insidious: Return to the Further,” investigates unexplained phenomena in the Lambert family’s eerie Victorian home as guests find themselves at a séance that unleashes chaos and horror. They’ll journey into “The Further” – a supernatural realm that houses tormented spirits – and face deadly ghosts and demons like the Woman in Black and Oxygen Mask Demon, that will stop at nothing to infiltrate the world of the living.

 “The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far,” inspired by season 5 of AMC’s critically-acclaimed, Emmy Award®-winning television series, this all-new maze will feature twice as many walkers in the longest and most gruesome maze ever built at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Following in the footsteps of “The Walking Dead” cast, guests will begin their journey at the Terminus safe-haven compound, where an unspeakable hunger has consumed the demented souls of those dwelling within. As the chaos ensues, guests will encounter even greater atrocities as they stumble upon dismembered “W” walkers, witness the horror of victims besieged by the living dead, and step onto the loading dock of the Del Arno Food warehouse to face hordes of “W” walkers.

 The hilarity of this genre-defying blockbuster movie, This is the End, will take a dark turn in this all-new maze experience, “This is the End 3D,” that will come to life in hypnotic 3D. The end of the world will begin as guests head to the ultimate A-list party at James Franco’s new Hollywood Hills home before the Apocalypse strikes, and they find themselves trapped in a life-or-death struggle against the demons of the underworld.  With the fate of humanity at the crossroads of heaven and hell, “This is the End 3D” will offer defining moments for those guests brave enough to tempt the devil as their destiny hangs in the balance to be damned for eternity or raptured to heaven engulfed in a sea of blue light.

 Halloween, hailed as one of the greatest horror films of all time and starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her acting debut, will come to life in the demented new experience, “Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home.”  The haunted maze will take guests through the tormented town of Haddonfield, where on one fateful Halloween night in 1963, a six-year-old child by the name of Michael Myers inexplicably and brutally stabbed his sister to death with a kitchen knife. Guests will relive the terror that a maniacal Michael Myers inflicted upon the once quiet town after his escape from a psychiatric hospital to take bloody revenge on new and unsuspecting victims.

 The visually stunning, yet terrifying “AVP: Alien vs. Predator” maze is back by popular demand to entangle guests in the middle of an epic and primal war between the universe’s most deadly species in a horrifying haunted attraction inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox cult sci-fi franchise.  This menacing maze will bring to life the violent creatures cohabitating our world as it pits two rival alien species in a fight to the death with Earth as their battleground.  “AVP:  Alien vs Predator” will uncover a dangerous alien spaceship carrying a race of hunter aliens known as Predators and a threatening new alien life form that uses human hosts to propagate its species.  After crash landing in a remote section of America and escaping to the countryside, the Alien and Predator become hunter and prey with guests caught in the crossfire.

 The all-new “Terror Tram: Survive the Purge” experience, inspired by Universal Pictures’ blockbuster film series, invites guests to a disturbing “Purge Party,” luring them with exclusive access to the world-famous backlot and thrusting them into the film’s depraved world in which all crime is declared legal as part of the government’s annually sanctioned 12-hour Purge, and where citizens take to the streets to dispose of the country’s less desirable humans without fear of retribution. Recognizing that not all citizens choose to hunt during The Purge, the newly endorsed “Purge Party” welcomes guests to honor this proud national tradition by watching the night’s dramatic events unfold on large video screens set up around the famed Universal backlot – until the experience quickly turns into an unforgettable living nightmare.

 Jabbawockeez, the highly-accomplished, award-winning hip hop dance group and universally recognized as America’s best dance crew, will bring their innovative choreography, intricate synchronized style and signature white masks to Universal Studios Hollywood in an electrifying all-new show created exclusively for “Halloween Horror Nights.” Currently starring in the acclaimed “PRiSM” show at the Luxor in Las Vegas, and following up with a newly reimagined performance at MGM Grand Las Vegas this fall, the Jabbawockeez are considered dance movement pioneers, having shattered the glass ceiling for dance groups worldwide as the first dance crew to ever headline their own show in Las Vegas.

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