Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frightworld Night

     In Western New York, it may be taking our weather longer than it should to chill from summer, but we are getting there. The leaves have turned, started to fall. But so far this October, I have not felt October-- at least as strongly as I should have when I start to see pumpkins for sale and ghosts in windows. Tonight fixed all of that for me-- with a visit to Frightworld, our annual trip to one of the best experiences of fear you can have.

 I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk with the man behind Frightworld earlier this season, to see what new things we could expect with the haunt-- which made us here at the Ghost that much more excited to see what would lie in the haunted houses this year. One of my personally best loved features of Frightworld is the ever-evolving journey of the haunts from year to year. Every fall, Frightworld offers something new, innovative-- whether that be in the actors, mazes or an entirely never-before-seen haunt. And every year there are pieces of Frightworld's history still very much a perfectly connected within the haunts. Think coming out of a new maze of cornstalks you've never traversed before, winding among the scarecrows, to meet the eeriely wonderful Headless Horseman you came to love in years past.

 This year was no exception. At a new location not far from the former, Frightworld this year has multiple new houses like the backwoods, masked wearing terrors of "Condemned" and what was my stand-out favorite of the night, "Eerie State Asylum." In Frightworld, fear is found in many a place at first thought unlikely but is in reality ideal-- like a secluded, watery cave in one of the new haunts. Across the houses, old and new, I was thrown right into what I love about Frightworld, and what Frightworld gets so right about fear. Many of the houses have superbly talented and dressed actors and incredible props and effects-- but still work in time to use some of the simpler tricks of the trade which work hand in hand together to create fear: walking in the dark, sometimes alone, through a maze, not knowing what is around the next corner, or who, or where that corner may be. Or when the claustropbia of the balloon walls will end, and when-- or if-- you will make it out alive. (And, yes, Stephen was right: they are longer this year. And something else, too.)

The H H Richardson Complex, formerly the Buffalo State Asylum.

 Without a doubt, what impressed me the most this year about Frightworld was "Eerie State Asylum." What so often is a part of what puts Frightworld a step above the rest is the local roots the attraction has, roots which can clearly be seen in the "Erie State Asylum" house. Any haunted attraction can give you a haunted house, or creepy woods. Only Frightworld has given me a house based on Buffalo's H. H. Richardson Complex, a building built in 1870 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. The Asylum, which operated until the 1970s is without a doubt haunted in likely many forms. If you ever pass the building by, which sat empty and neglected for decades until recent projects have hopefully begun to revive it, you know. Just looking at the towers, the imposing structure of the building, you feel what happened there. The sadness, the terror, the fear of the unknown. Volumes of local lore and ghost stories have been told, time and again, throughout the years. In fact, the Buffalo State Asylum is likely one of Buffalo's biggest ghosts. I have long had a deep, personal connection to the building, one that has lead me to do a great deal of research on the place and its history-- research that will appear later this month here on the blog. To walk in and see one of the haunts made out with a complete recreation of the fomer Buffalo Asylum Building-- complete with lights flashing in windows, and the famous bronze green of the asylum's towers (made, I would come to find out, of actual bronze)-- was, and is, something special. And that was just the outside. The inside of the haunt excelled.... but I promise not to spoil the outside or what lies within here. 

 Whatever the weather outside may be, if it is not yet quite as cool, calm, windy as October will become so very shortly-- this is October. Within the walls of Frightworld lies October, in all of its pumpkin flickering, heart racing, chainsaw weilding, bump in the night, ghost story glory. For all the fear, for all the October-- thank you, Frightworld, for bringing us Halloween.

Two ghosts, Bryan and Laura, on either end of Frightworld's GM, Stephen Szortyka

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