Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Haunting on Wood Avenue welcomes the wicKED.

    I was having a Wretched Wednesday, just wiring a skeleton up to the pond, when my phone beeped. Seemed I had just received an anonymous, and somewhat foreboding, invite to witness the first practice run of "A Haunting on Wood Avenue". This local attraction is being ran by the Big Stone Gap Volunteer Fire Department, which is the first big scale haunted house I was ever able to help in (some 20ish years ago). Of course I jumped at the chance.
   After a couple of quick calls to verify times and if I could bring camera equipment, I was all set to get a sneak peek at one of the first haunted houses in Big Stone Gap. I was greatly honored by the invite.

   Miranda and I arrived at at the scene at around 8:30pm. The location the haunt occupies is in the old Westmoreland building on (you guessed it) Wood Ave in downtown Big Stone. The stone structure of the building is creepy in and of itself.
   We found a flurry of firemen and other volunteers working furiously to prep for the first practice run of 2011. One thing about firemen, they are organized. I kept hearing voices crackle over the walkies they were all carrying, asking for duct tape or where a fuse panel was. It was a promising sign to me. These guys were passionate about putting on a good old fashion haunt and it showed.
   The suspense kept building as we could hear voices over the walkies naming off rooms like. "the swamp" and "the clown room". Finally, the word came down that the haunt was ready for it's fist victims... er... customers.
   We were told they would only take 5 or less in at a time. I was glad to hear that. So often greedy haunters will bring in groups of 12 or more and by the time the first 6 are scared, the room you walked through is over and you miss out on the whole thing. Seeing how there was 8 of us waiting to go through, we opted to go second. That way we could gauge the reactions of the 3 young girls in the first group as they came out. We were not disappointed by this decision.

   It was our turn to go through. I graciously allowed Miranda to lead the way as I stayed in back and tried to catch as much as I could with a video camera.
   I wasn't able to get too much on video for 3 reasons:
  1. It was dark and my mini DV was not built for this.
  2. The rooms had some startling things going on and I would miss or forget to film. 
  3. I don't want to give away all their secrets. There was some great things in this haunt that I just did not include for the sake of the surprise.
   I was really impressed with the production. Especially since this was the very first practice and it was run by a (pardon the pun) Skeletal Crew! I cannot imagine how it will be when they get into the swing of things and get more bodies in the building. 
   The haunt group was kind enough to allow me to go back and take some still shots of various rooms after our initial walkthrough. Without giving too much away, here are some of the highlights of the haunt you can look forward to :
  • Lost souls crying out in confusion and asking for help throughout the haunt. 

  • Startling lighting effects as things appear and disappear as you wait to enter.

  • Each room has it's own musical/sound effect track. This really lends to the atmosphere of each of the unique rooms. (So often haunts will just have one Walmart purchased scary CD blaring over everything. That is not wicKED at all.) It also promotes dread as you hear the unmistakable lullaby from A Nightmare on Elm Street... you just know what is coming next. 
  • High quality masks, some familiar, some shocking, had been purchased for almost all the actors. 
  • A really good electric chair execution scene. 

  • A swamp. Complete with real live swampy plants, a very swampy/vegetative odor, and an enigmatic pirate skeleton! This guy totally caught me off guard on the first run. He scared Miranda when we went back through to take pictures.

    • Good lighting and unique scenery coupled with very enthusiastic actors made for some great scares. This thing kept "barking" and screaming all through the haunt.

      • The Funeral Parlor full of coffins and a very "persuasive" undertaker who was eager for new business.

        • The Clown Room. Blacklights, strobes, carnival music, small clowns running around your feet like demons, and a huge mutated jack-in-the-box. Need I say more?

          • They were lucky enough to have a doctor on staff, but he seemed more intent on experimenting on the customers and getting spare parts than helping anybody. That must be why they keep him in a cage....

          • Freddy Kreuger in his boiler room. I am not usually a fan of Freddy in a haunted house, but they pulled this room of very well! Sound effects, lighting, and a very shocking performance as Freddy comes at you from everywhere!

            • There is a maze in the very center of the haunt. It is a maze in every sense of the word. I got lost TWICE in it. So dark, you have to feel your way through. I was accused of cheating by using my video camera light to see by. I prefer to call it, "utilizing my resources". It did not help! You pay for it when you enter the wrong door. Terrible things jump out at you and chase you down deeper into the maze.

            • There was even a good old fashioned lynching going on. Complete with heartless executioner who is proud of the work he does and the trophies he keeps. I did not ask what the young man had done...I don't think it mattered. You could almost hear the poor guys neck snap as the lever was thrown.

              • What haunted house wouldn't be complete without CHAINSAWS. They are the great equalizer casting fear into man, woman, and child. It also helps run out the last of those pesky victims that have the audacity to survive to the end! Multiple chainsaws are even better! The things wielding them were freaking insane! Barking, hooping, and hollering and imposingly tall. You do not want to meet these creatures in a dark alley.. and that is exactly what you will do if you visit this haunt.

              • There was so much more in the haunt that I have not listed.... you will just have to experience it for yourselves.... if you think you can handle it that is.

                 All being said and done, it was a thrilling adventure. It took us roughly 12 minutes to make it all the way through. They did a good job of keeping us busy while inside despite being short staffed. The sound effects and lighting were very good as were the masks and costumes. Some of the rooms totally caught me off guard and I could tell there was some real creativity and thought put into them. 

                 This group of haunters were really enthusiastic and that transferred to their performances inside. This is a great group of people that not only volunteer their personal time too keep our town safe, but to also give a chilling haunted attraction to frequent through the Halloween Season. I am grateful they allowed me to participate in their first practice run. It was truly wicKED!
                 I will be going back for when they are officially open for business to get them wicKEDly ranKED, but they are already ranking high on my list of favorite haunted attractions of 2011. I am anxious to see how they rate against the others this year. 
                 "A Haunting on Wood Ave" opens it's doors to the public this Friday, Sept 30th at dusk. It will cost you $5 a head and that goes to a great organization. 

                 Whatever your plans are this Halloween Season, make sure they include a visit to "A Haunting on Wood Ave", where you are guaranteed a wicKED good time!
              A little video I threw together for the haunt.

              Tell em wicKED sent ya!

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