Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all the ghouls, ghosts, and goblins out there! The day well all hold so dear to us has arrived! Make sure to eat a ton of candy, scare your friends, and then hit your local Haunt!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ferrari World Update

Developer Aldar has released the above image of the completed outside structure of the Ferrari World Theme Park in Abu Dhabi. If you look carefully, you can see the two roller coasters the massive indoor theme park will have peeking out of the left side (which is still billed as the world's fastest, at over 200 kph), and in the lower right as well.

The structure is amazingly large and will contain a full scale theme park underneath it's structure, protecting guests from the heat outside. The park is scheduled to open in 2010.

For more details, see NewsPlusNotes' previous coverage.

Daily [Halloween] Spin 10.30.09

It is with a heavy heart that I bring you the very last Halloween Spin of 2009. Where has the season gone?! And more importantly, how have I gotten through it without using the expression "boo-ya" in one single post? (Oh wait...) It seems like just yesterday that I cracked open the inaugural bag of candy corn pumpkins. Now all I have to show for myself is a wad of empty bags and a pile of Hershey Kiss wrappers. (But hopefully not a few extra pounds.) These treats, like the season itself, have been positively delicious and I'm counting on my fond memories of them to sustain me through the cold, coasterless winter months. Let's not jump the gun, though. We still have a few days of devilish fun left to enjoy!

Are you ready to get Bitten? Look no further than the Wisconsin Dells. This year marks the debut of Mt. Olympus's Haunted Night at the Theme Park, and they are not messing around. The headliner of this event is "Bitten", a haunted house billed as one of Wisconsin's largest. You will also find a hay bale maze, an assortment of "hidden spooks", and the largest mummified horse in the world. (I assume this means that they've "mummified" the signature Trojan horse that's featured on one of their go-kart tracks--how cool!) But here's where Mt. Olympus really breaks the mold: Whereas most parks forbid guests to wear costumes to their Halloween events, this park encourages it. In fact, if you show up in full costume, they will actually give you $5 of "Spooky Bucks" to spend in the park!

If the name of your park actually has the word "Ghost" in it, you darn well better do something special for Halloween. Ghost Town in the Sky has obliged by bringing us the House of Terror. Featuring over 15 spine-tingling rooms, a cemetery, and two mazes, this sounds like one heck of a horrifying experience. And it better be for the price tag: $20 for adults and $10 for children, or $10 for all ages if purchased with park admission. Yikes! Would it sweeten the deal if I told you that Cliff Hanger is now open? (Again?) 'Cause it is, and that's no trick!

Turns out sea creatures celebrate Halloween, too. Who knew? I'll tell you who: SeaWorld Orlando. Their Halloween Spooktacular features fun-filled activities for the entire family. Just follow the Underwater FantaSea path to the various treasure stations, where you will find everything from face painting to a special "Countdown to Halloween" performance put on by your favorite Sesame Street characters. Did I mention that you can also collect goodies at each of those stations? Bonus! But the most intriguing part of this event (to me, anyway) has got to be the "interactive ice DJ" who can be found in the Frozen Fun Zone. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds pretty "cool".

If you find yourself in the general vicinity of Oklahoma City on this most glorious last weekend of the Halloween season, you can lasso yourself some seasonal fun at Frontier City. This park's rendition of Fright Fest appears to be notably tame compared to that which can be found at some of its sister parks. It's heavy on shows and children's activities, with many of the latter taking place in BooVille. (Does everyone stand in a circle around a giant pumpkin, clasping hands and singing, "Welcome Halloween, Halloween Day"?) But fear not (or, fear--as you choose), my fellow terror junkies. You can get yours in the inferno-themed House of Screams.

This concludes our nickel tour of a thoroughly random selection of the various Halloween events taking place across the country in 2009. With any luck, you've made it to at least one of them. If not, the clock is ticking so get out there and scare up some fun! I fully intend to do the same. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Blast From The Past - Magnum XL200 At Cedar Point

For the next few weeks we will be posting parts of a very special Blast From The Past featuring Cedar Point's Magnum XL200 which celebrated it's 20th season this year.

Editor's Note: Don't forget to check out Part 2 and Part 3!

When Richard “Dick” Kinzel was President of Cedar Point, he seemed to be always thinking ahead. “We had a great run with Gemini, our last big project,” he says, “We needed something to carry us forward because it had been ten years since Cedar Point had a major addition.” Even when he was in Florida with his wife in March of 1988, the next big thing was never far from his thoughts. “I saw a report on CNN Saturday morning about the opening of a new coaster in Japan called Bandit. We were in the middle of the inversion competition and this seemed different because it didn’t turn people upside down at all. They interviewed an ACE member and he raved about how fast and smooth the ride was, and said it was one of the best roller coasters he had ridden. I kept thinking about this for our whole trip because I didn’t like the over-the-shoulder restraints (OTSR,) required for inversions.
“When I got back home, I did some checking and found out the tallest coaster was in Six Flags Great America. It was 170 feet tall. Since it had inversions, it required over the shoulder restraints that I so dislike. I wanted a ride with only a lapbar, because that is how I feel coasters should be ridden.” So Cedar Point stepped away from counting how many times they could turn people over and led the way into a different type of ride. “I called Randy Geisler, then the President of ACE and his full-time job was in the Minneapolis Post Office. He said he was on that Japanese tour. I asked him if he thought the public would like a down and back coaster similar to wood coasters with lots of negative gs, only smoother. I wanted it high and fast with lots of thrills. Randy thought it would be well received by the public. I consider the guests in the park to be my library; I like to talk to them to find out what they are thinking.”

Kinzel continues, “At our next planning committee meeting we discussed the idea and formed a consensus that it was at least worth requesting proposals from manufacturers. We asked for proposals from four of them; TOGO, maker of Bandit, Dinn Corporation, who wanted to build a wooden coaster, Intamin, and Arrow. The dollar was relatively weak at the time, making the overseas producers a higher price, and we had already decided we wanted a steel coaster, so we were basically left with Arrow. We limited them so they couldn’t do helices or 360 degree turns to avoid the OTSRs. We specified a minimum capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 people per hour. The rest was left up to the manufacturers.”Arrow had returned a proposal for a coaster 187 feet tall. Kinzel talks about the board meeting, “As the board was considering the proposal, Dick Sheetz asked how much it would cost to break the 200 foot barrier. What a surprising question from a Board of Directors.” The answer to that question remains somewhat elusive. Ron Toomer mentioned “around $25,000” and Dick Kinzel said “$150,000 to $200,000. It was a 7.5 million coaster so that wasn’t much change in the price. You don’t get much from an engineer for only $25,000.” What ever the cost, it has to be one of the best decisions made in the history of the amusement park business. The publicity gained from being the first, and for a while only coaster above 200 feet, was immeasurable. It gave Cedar Point a lead in the coaster wars that has never been relinquished.

The contract was written for a coaster over 200 feet tall and the original press release distributed in December of 1988 touted a coaster 201 foot tall. When Magnum XL-200 was finished, it was 205 foot tall giving rise to the legend that a mistake had been made while pouring the footers. Dick Kinzel says, “We wanted a coaster over 200 feet, we didn’t care how much over 200 it was.” Ron also said the height wasn’t changed because of any problems; it just worked out that high with the curve of the hill. Ron said “I told Dick I thought we could also have the steepest drop by steepening it to 60 degrees.” Magnum opened as the tallest and fastest coaster built to date, with the longest drop ever of 190 feet. It was also the fastest, reaching seventy-two mph.

Lee Jewett, then Director of Planning and Development offers his remembrances, “Architects usually made their statements with buildings, which is why so many roller coasters have there stations along the midway. We had concerns about space, so we wanted to have the new coaster go above the midway, exit the park and then return inside. That location was selected because of the coastline was available and we thought that would be a plus for the ride. The forces involved would be relatively easy to control so basic floating footers were used to support the towers. R. E. Warner & Associates designed the 250 different footers that are thirty feet wide, fifteen feet long, and four feet deep.”

Lee also helped with the naming of ride. “I added the XL-200 for extra long and I wanted to make the height part of the ride. Kinzel says, “Everything back then was about Magnum. Magnum PI was popular on TV, Magnum Force in the movies. We wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the name. Lee added the little touch that made it special.” A legend was born and to this day, coaster enthusiasts over 48’ tall measure themselves against the Magnum XL-200 yardstick: you will either ride it or not. Steady streams of giddy first-time riders still lead their parents through the on-ride camera booth to get a souvenir of their first big coaster.

Well... this seems like a goodplace to stop for this week, stay tuned for the next part of our Magnum tribute.

An AquaDuck On The Disney Dream

Today Disney announced the details of their new cruise ship, the Disney Dream, and what a ship it's going to be. The new ship will debut in 2011 and will be 40% larger than Disney's existing ships, carrying a total of 4,000 passengers.

The ship will be filled to the brim with bells and whistles, including virtual port holes on inside cabins, themed restaurants, plenty of Disney caliber entertainment, and enough activities to fill any family's day.

Perhaps of special interest to our readers will be the ship's master blaster water coaster that will sit four stories above the deck, the AquaDuck. The 765 ft. long ride will actually take passengers out over the edge of the ship in a clear tube, giving them truly unparalleled views of the water, some 150 ft. below them. The ride also passes through the forward funnel of the ship in the middle of one of the boat's children's area.

The Disney Dream will sail 3, 4, and 5 night trips leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida to Disney's private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Family Kingdom 2008

This week we head to Family Kingdom to find out exactly what it takes to survive the seemingly constant turmoil in Myrtle Beach's amusement landscape. The year 2008 was likely a bit nerve-racking for this park. Let's see how their marketing gurus responded!

"Nothing Rocks Like Family"? Oh SNAP! Wait, I get it--because you're Family Kingdom, right? Of course. What was I thinking? I'm sure that new-for-2008 tag line had nothing whatsoever to do with a certain rock 'n roll theme park that opened down the street that same year. Now that's what I call good old-fashioned clever marketing with a side of contempt.

And that contempt just continues to roll on! I love it. Don't get me wrong, I mean no disrespect toward Family Kingdom or the target of its jabs. There's just something inspirational about David trying to out-market Goliath, and in this case I daresay David won by a landslide.

But it's not just about witty tag lines. If you read the fine print, you'll see that Family Kingdom really does have a lot to offer, and that "lot" is very affordable. They're also quite proud of the high ranking they received from TripAdvisor. Could we debate the validity of such "rankings" till the cows come home? Sure we could. But the bottom line is, if you've got it, flaunt it. There are a lot of parks in this world that do not have such claims to fame, so obviously Family Kingdom is doing something right.

One thing Family Kingdom has that its key competitor does not is a water park. And an oceanfront one, at that. Talk about ambiance! I just want to know one thing: Does the kid wearing the makeshift towel cape sign autographs? Because he is my hero. I've said it once, twice...Oh heck, let's make it a nice round three times. Nothing spells fun like a cape!!

A major selling point for Family Kingdom is that, as we've seen, it is truly "seaside". And let's not forget the fact that this park is home to Myrtle Beach's only surviving wooden coaster, the Swamp Fox. As long as we're talking "est" [even though we're not--humor me and pretend that "only" ends in "est"], Family Kingdom also has the largest Ferris wheel in the state of South Carolina. So let's see: A wooden coaster, a Ferris wheel, a drop tower, a flume...Sounds to me like this park has a lot of family favorites that you can't find at "the other guy", and they really did a great job of emphasizing that in this brochure.

Now let's talk value. Despite having over 30 rides, Family Kingdom charges no general admission. And although you can pay for your rides piecemeal, the all day and combo passes listed here are a heck of a good deal. This park knows exactly who it is and how it needs to position itself in the market. And unlike "the other guy", it didn't experience an identity crisis after the 2008 season either!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scott And Carol Present - A Scary Visit to Scarowinds

With the season winding down we wanted to present one last haunting story and we saved one of the best for last!

The stage is set for a hauntingly good time at Scarowinds

For ten years now guests having been dying to get in!

And Scarowinds wants YOU to join the Army of Darkness!

Guests are greeted with a fountain gushing blood.

Arachnophobics need not enlist

Enlistees face stiff competition

Some go as far as losing there heads.

The dead become restless

Park management is commemoratived in a ghastly way

Familiar children's toys take on a surreal appearance

Hey Y'all, are pumpkins a native species of the Carolinas?

This screamster haunted those enjoying the the Pre-scare meal.

And.....he wasn't alone!

The Asylum offers a less than positive view of the state of mental institutions.

Camp Killauee is not known for having many (if any) annual campers!

The Playground isn't a place for the nice kids play unsupervised.

And the Carolina Skytower watches over the evenings festivities!

The Haunt at Scarowinds was a spooktacular event, one that had many ghoulies and ghosties lurking behind evey corner and in every crevis of the park. Truelly a marvelous evening of entertainment.

Expanding The Saw Franchise

Thorpe Park Mania is confirming that the park will be adding the Saw Alive Horror Maze in Spring 2010. Thorpe Park brought us Saw: The Ride, for this past season, and is now expanding the franchise at the park with a new walk through maze.

This also marks another park that will have a haunted maze type attraction open all season long. The park does have a Halloween event - Fright Nights - but it appears the Horror Maze will not be seasonal. Just another example of the massive drawing power of Halloween attractions, at least in my book.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scott And Carol Present - Thrill The World at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom!

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom was one of the leading parks in Six Flag efforts to help set a new record for the most people simultaneously performing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance. Chain wide, Six Flags supplied 3,167 dancers, at parks from as far south as Six Flags Mexico City to Six Flags Great America near the shores of Lake Michigan.

The M states were represented by Maryland, Missouri, and both Six Flags parks in Texas participated. Kentucky Kingdom provided over 10% of the total, 379 registered participants. A fun vibe was in the air with participants ranging from four years old to someone with enough experience to be a park president.

Here is Louisville, Rodney L Cox, a seventeen year-old local student, got his first paying gig as a Michael Jackson impersonator. He has been recognized for his dancing prowess in the past but being a Michael Jackson impersonator was an enjoyable experience. “Today everybody’s taking pictures with me, it’s been pretty nice,” he said.

He is shown here with members of Dancensation Showbiz Kids, who did a lot more than just perform at the event. The dancers not only performed, they taught others the moves so they could also participate. A stage was set up inside the park for fans to practice and the they were quick to give pointers and practice with everyone.

In fact, during the rest breaks during the rehearsals in the plaza outside the front gate, members of the troupe directed smaller groups who wanted to practice before the big take. Various media and news organizations covered the event, and if you were registered with a wristband you could go back in the park to catch one more ride.

Here is a Youtube link to video taken by the park’s marketing department:

The second link is to a raw video provided by

While we don't know if the record was broken it was a thrill to be a small part of the attempt.

Like Brand New

© 2009 Sfafans via Twitter

Looks like Six Flags America is giving Superman The Ride a shiny new paint job. Guess this rules out the ride for a Bizarro makeover! The photos which show the old paint and new in one shot really shows how faded the ride was. Then again, 2010 will be the ride's 10th anniversary. See all four photos: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Aerial Antics: Liseberg

Hope you ran out and bought a plane ticket for this week's Aerial Antics - we're off to Gothenburg, Sweden!

Like so many European parks, Liseberg has a long history and has survived to become one of Scandinavia's most popular amusement centers. The park itself features several attractions on a large hill on one side of the park, from which Liseberg takes its name. The original owner's wife was named Lisa, and he named the hill "Lisa's Mountain" in her honor, which translates to Liseberg. How cute!

Love stories aside, here's the hill I'm speaking of. It's dotted with several unique rides. The white coaster that winds all over it is Lisebergbanan, a custom designed Schwarzkopf ride that's rather long at over 5,000 ft. There's also two S&S tower rides up there, Uppskjutet, which is a Space Shot, and Hojdskracken, a Turbo Drop.

The S&S fun does not stop there, as toward the top of the photo you can see Uppswinget, a large park model Screamin' Swing. Throw on a Ferris Wheel, Pirate Ship, and one of the longest Flume's I've ever seen and you've got one fun looking hill!

Hi, I'm Balder and I've been consistently ranked one of the best wooden coasters in the world since I opened in 2003. I'm a pre-fab Intamin thriller, and I'm often complimented on my generous curves and steep inclines. I'm looking for riders who enjoy insane amounts of airtime, quick directional changes, and the general feeling of being out of control. If interested, simply fly to Sweden and take a spin on me! Just promise to bring Mike with you.

Intamin made a return to the park in 2005 to build Kanonen - a super small but intense looking accelerator coaster. It launches at a (comparatively) slow 46 m.p.h. and then the train hops up the cutest little dwarf Top Hat I've ever seen. From there the track twists in such a manner that I can't believe there are proper clearances at times, but all is well at the end of each day. And check out that line in the photo! Yikes!

If you'd like to fly around Liseberg and check things out for yourself, here's a link.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Wet and Wild Adventure at Dorney Park's Haunt

The date was May 2, 2009--the first day of Dorney Park's regular season. It was a drizzly day in Allentown, not unlike the entire month of October has been this year. Mike and I were on hand to celebrate the beginning of another glorious "on" season, chock full of coasters, screams, and ice cream cones [although the third item was mainly just me]. Yet somehow, in the midst of all the tangible excitement and midway hubbub, our conversation continued to gravitate toward one subject: Is it Halloween yet?

Enthusiasts by choice but diehard super mega Halloween buffs by nature, the leaves simply could not change fast enough to suit us. So when Mother Nature decided to put a "damper" on our favorite season--both literally and figuratively--we set out on a personal mission to prove that Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt celebration is not all washed up.

The raindrops in mid-flight which appear in all the photos that follow are not going to help our case! It's been yet another rainy, miserable weekend in eastern PA, much to the chagrin of Dorney Park and its fellow local Halloween event planners. Following on the heels of a less than stellar summer season that was punctuated by nationwide penny-pinching and even more rain, this is not the type of Halloween season that Dorney Park (or any park) was hoping for.

Think you know what fear is, punk? You don't know Jack!

Even for two diehard super mega Halloween buffs, it took several phone conversations, a few rounds of rationalization, and a heavy dose of wishful thinking for Mike and I to convince ourselves that spending a rainy Friday night at the park was a wise decision. Fortunately, we were right! Our rewards for braving the elements were light crowds and short lines, which enabled us to experience all that Halloween Haunt has to offer and, consequently, bring you this thorough and monumentally exciting report.

First, a glimpse of what our evening might have looked like had it not been raining cats, dogs, and circus animals...

Mike captured these photos of this year's master of ceremonies, the Overlord, earlier this month on one of the rare occasions that the sun decided to make an appearance at Haunt. [In case you've forgotten, the "sun" is that bright orb that appears in the sky every now and then.] We narrowly missed the Overlord's arrival this past Friday on account of the exhaustive security measures that are put in place during Haunt. As you might imagine, it takes some time to "clear" legions of guests who are dittied up in approximately seven layers of highly fashionable rain gear.

Dorney Park was a circus, alright. It immediately became clear to us that making it through this frightfully soggy adventure unscathed was going to require some teamwork: I would take the photos, and Mike would hold the umbrella over my head to protect the recently acquired fancy pants camera whose many buttons I have yet to fully understand. Fortunately, Mike and I make a good team. By this point in our friendship we communicate primarily via telepathy, which made it easy for him to anticipate my every move and scurry after me as I attacked every potential photo op with abandon. We are a well-oiled blogging machine. Now on to the haunts!

The circus theme that dominates the main entrance plaza was carried through to our first stop, Psycho Circus. There's no gore to be seen in this maze, and frankly, there's no need for it. If you hate clowns, you will hate Psycho Circus! (That's a compliment.) Chock full of all the Big Top staples you love to hate, this maze takes the seemingly universal fear of clowns to a whole 'notha level.

It also took our friendship to a whole 'notha level, as this was Mike's first taste of what it's like to visit a Halloween attraction with me. Personality-wise, I'm as non-girly as they come. But throw me into a haunted house amongst ghosts, clowns, and myriad undead miscreants and I am suddenly reduced to a skittish, cowering mess of a human being. [Read: Obvious prey for would-be attackers and bloodthirsty consumers of flesh.] I made Mike go first, yet somehow there was a clown in my face at every turn!

Clown encounters and personal humiliation behind us, we took a stroll over to everybody's favorite fright--er, night--club, Club Blood. The tongue-in-cheek "meat market" theme is immediately evident as you enter this maze by weaving your way through a hall of dangling sides of beef (or something of that nature--it was dark!). Hard as I try , I can't seem to make it through that hall without acting out my best Rocky Balboa impersonation. (I'd like to think that it helped me save face following my uncharacteristic display of weakness in Psycho Circus.)

This parade of the flesh doesn't end with slabs of meat. Inside this aptly named club were plenty of fang-baring "regulars" who swarmed us as soon as we entered. It was kind of like Cheers, only bloodier and without the calming force that is Norm. Club Blood has become quite the popular "night spot" at Haunt since making its debut last year, and I've been known to talk some smack about joining its vampire cast. If I look hard enough, I'm sure I could find some fangs, a pair of fishnets, and a black mini skirt (or two or five) somewhere in my house. But fishnets don't make very good boxing warm-ups, so I decided to pass.

By the way, if you visit Club Blood, do not use the bathrooms. Gross!

Ar! Ye landlubbers better turn over yer candy corn pumpkins, or ye be made to walk the plank!

Skeleton crew?

Fat chance, Blackbeard. Walking the plank is hardly a threat when I'm already soaked! Pirate Passage is a brand new scare zone for 2009 which cuts right through Camp Snoopy. I was understandably disappointed when I found out that neither Johnny Depp nor Orlando Bloom would be making a personal appearance, but the fine cast of captains and pirate wenches made it up to me by showering us with attention. Seagoing adventurers that they are, they were visibly amused by Mike's umbrella, which they referred to as a "contraption". How quaint!

As the night wore on and the rain continued to fall, the sounds of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" wafted through the air. It was the perfect backdrop for our next haunt, Terror Square. This ghost town is brimming with western props and gunslinging outlaws, and I'm willing to bet that the bartender at its saloon makes one heck of a Bloody Mary. There's also an execution scene at the end that's simply to die for.

Oddly enough, this attraction also features the only tunnel we encountered during our Haunt experience. It's an optional activity, and Mike and his "contraption" (closed at the time, but arguably still an impediment) wisely chose the high road. I, on the other hand, wanted the full (or is that foolish?) Terror Square experience, so a-crawling I went. Between my camera-stuffed coat and the backpack full of essentials (i.e., all the extra rain gear I had so Type A-ly packed beforehand but which we would never touch because we preferred the "fashionably wet" look) strapped securely to my back, I came dangerously close to becoming permanently lodged in that tunnel. But before I became the first real victim of a Dorney Park Haunt, I managed to wriggle my way through and emerge on the other side, at which point I realized that my knees REALLY hurt! Seriously, if you decide to follow in my knee-steps in Terror Square, bring knee pads. There's your exclusive NPN Haunt tip of the day.

The lack of crowds on the evening of our visit, coupled with the unfavorable weather, made for an even spookier experience. The near empty midways were like a scene out of Scooby Doo. At one point I issued the universal distress signal of "Raggy, relp!", fully expecting to see a gang of vagabond, non-fashion-conscious teenagers emerge from the fog.

"And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids and your blog!"

Instead, we were greeted by one of Treebeard's cousins. Seriously though, I must pause and give props to the many talented actors and actresses who braved the elements with us to deliver an authentic and truly spooktacular Haunt experience. It can't be easy getting into character when your audience is so small, but all of them did a fantastic job and they deserve a lot of credit.

Look, Mom--No line!

On the bright side, there was no wait for the Magical House on Kill Hill! This maze's "after hours" name betrays it, as it really is a lighthearted haunt. But that didn't stop me from clasping my hands nervously as we navigated through the "ball room", or using Mike as a human shield as we struggled to fend off the "polka dot people".

By this point in the evening I had also developed an involuntary and somewhat embarrassing "tick" where I responded to every scare, startle, and stalk with an exclamation of, "Oh geez!" This is not an expression I use on a regular basis, which makes it that much more confounding, but at least it entertained the heck out of Mike. It took me a while to pinpoint why it sounded so strangely familiar, but then it finally came to me: I sounded exactly like the drunk in The Twelve Pains of Christmas.

Voodoo Glow Skull? Scratch that. Possessed Glow Skull?

Turns out the "kill" theme that was so notably absent from Magical House on Kill Hill could be found, tenfold, in Death Trap. This is another new haunt for 2009, and I will tell you right here and now that it scared the bejesus out of me. Upon entering Precinct 13, you're informed that a maniacal, Jigsaw-esque serial killer who had been captured previously is now on the loose, and could be lurking anywhere within the building. The young deputy who delivered this horrifying news was quite convincing, and really set the stage for the terror that was to come.

As you make your way through the precinct, you have the misfortune of meeting many of the killer's victims who aren't quite dead yet. For a person such as myself who can't even bear to watch horror movies, finding myself inside of one constituted total sensory overload. My newly adopted catch phrase was temporarily replaced by "I don't like this", which I continued to repeat over and over again until we finally exited--at which point I immediately proclaimed how much I did like it! This maze is very well done (from what I managed to see when I wasn't hiding behind Mike) and has some nice thematic touches that really give it that good old-fashioned horror movie feel. A+!

FIRE! FIRE! Heh heh heh FIRE!

Speaking of death traps, there are actually human beings on this planet who enjoy nearly engulfing themselves in flames sheerly for our entertainment. I've heard of playing with fire, but this is ridiculous! At multiple times throughout the evening, two supremely talented young men with a penchant for pyromania set Center Stage ablaze--literally. I'm telling you ladies (and gentlemen), this was one hot act. I shuddered on more than one occasion as, in the words of Goldmember, they came dangerously close to having "an unfortunate schmelting accident", but fortunately these brave young chaps made it through the show unharmed (and unmutilated) thanks to their mad fire handling skillz. Bravo!

An oldie but goodie, Headstone Hollow returned this year with an entirely new route and an even more immersive experience. This new and rather lengthy maze was littered with the usual array of tombstones, caskets, and crouching ghouls. [The "oh geez" returned with a vengeance.] It was definitely a positive transformation, and it would have been that much better if that pesky precipitation and those wily winds hadn't prevented the fog from setting in. I'm still hoping for a chance to experience this one in all its glory before the season draws to a close!

Another transformation has occurred at the end of the midway that used to serve as Laser's lair. The former ScreamWorks has been converted into The Asylum, where the guards are crazy and the inmates are even crazier. You can get a haircut there, or even score some food, but you might get more than you bargained for.

Being the sensitive, kindhearted person that I am, I couldn't help but feel sorry for these tortured souls. Why, there was one becoming young inmate who dropped his soap in the shower and couldn't even pick it up, the poor thing! He implored us to help him, but we collectively (and without discussion) decided that this was one good deed that would remain undone. If any of you kinder patrons decide to help him, let us know how it turns out.

Gauntlet is the other new scare zone for 2009. It is an adventure in medieval mischief which begs the question, do suits of armor rust? Still lookin' shiny so far...

Like most scare zones, this one consisted of costumed crazies who don't take kindly to visitors invading their territory. I jumped and screamed and told them all how cute they were, just like a good little Haunt victim, but they would have been wise to be equally afraid of me. With the big fancy camera hanging around my neck and zippered securely (and dryly) beneath my coat, I must have looked like I was packing at least 15 concealed weapons. ("You call that a knife?") Before they could call my bluff, we made a hasty escape and narrowly avoided being beheaded.

The last new haunt of 2009 is Backwoods, which is aptly named as it has taken up residence in the wooded area behind Steel Force. Our adventure began in a school bus (stationary, but still a nice touch), where we were given our marching orders as new arrivals at Camp Cudie. As we commenced our trek through the campgrounds, which resembled a cross between a camp, an abandoned trailer park, and a junkyard, we fantasized about how cool it would be if this whole "haunt" thing was just a massive cover-up to enable the park to prep this land for a shiny new wooden coaster installation. Hey, Halloween is all about make-believe so let us have our fun!

Our thoughts turned more serious when we noticed that we were the only "campers" who weren't covered in blood or otherwise mangled. We were directed toward one of several possible paths through the camp (Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken comes to mind), where we would be practicing bow shooting. Suffice it to say I was stoked. My hand-eye coordination is bar none, and I was licking my chops at the prospect of smoking Mike and the rest of my fellow campers in an all-out bow shooting throw down. Imagine my disappointment when we discovered that we were the hunted, as opposed to the hunters! One of our companions expressed an interest in harvesting my body parts, but I simply don't have any to spare so I had to kindly refuse. Aside from the ensuing chainsaw pursuit, I think he took it pretty well.

I proclaim Camp Cudie a most excellent haunting ground, and I hope to see it return next year, barring the appearance of a shiny new wooden coaster installation in the interim (doubtful). But if that were to happen, Dorney could simply combine this maze with Death Trap and give it a catchy title. Like, oh I don't know--Death Trap for Cudie. [Just a little Halloween humor for my fellow alternative music fans out there.]

Finally (and in record time), we came to our last maze: CornStalkers. This is consistently one of my favorite haunts, and it did not disappoint. Lined from floor to imaginary ceiling with cornstalks and bales of hay, it is a quintessential fall fright zone. The goblins who await you here have plenty of good hiding places amongst all the old farm equipment.

"Hey--Hey blonde girl? Dude, there's a walking, talking cornstalk RIGHT BEHIND YOU..."

This is not your garden variety corn maze, my friends. This corn is alive, and it will stalk you. Case in point, when I finally broke out of the intense focus I had to maintain in order to snap this inspirational shot of a fake dog eating a fake bird, I found myself face-to-stalk with one of said children of the corn. I can't remember my exact reaction, but I'm guessing it went something like, "Oh GEEZ!!" (Just a hunch.) But then, just as quickly as he had appeared, he vanished into the night. (You seriously can't see these people. I think they really are part cornstalk!)

They say you are what you eat, and sure enough, at the stroke of nine o'clock I turned into a pumpkin. (I'm pretty sure that this sudden and rather dramatic act of shapeshifting scared Mike more than anything we had experienced in the previous three hours.) Truth be told, we would have loved to stay at Haunt until the bitter end to savor the madness all over again. But Mother Nature had other plans (she's really landed herself on my you-know-what list lately), and we were forced to cut our evening short lest we drown in the continually rising waters of the newly formed Lake Dorney. Soaked but satisfied that we had completed our mission, we bid adieu to our stalking, bloodsucking, chainsaw-toting friends and parted ways to seek dry clothing and nice warm mugs of hot chocolate.

Like all NPN adventures, our official blog visit to Halloween Haunt 2009 was a courageous mission which we undertook with gusto. I only wish there were more brave souls in Allentown who were willing to put up with a little sprinkle in return for a LOT of seasonal fun. Dorney Park and its many talented actors and actresses have put a lot of work into this event, and it shows. While we can keep our fingers crossed for good weather to close out the season next weekend, I encourage you to visit either way. After all, you only live once, but Dorney's Haunt affords you 13 unique ways to die! You do the math.