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2005 Portland, Oregon Haunted House guide

Explanation of ratings
Passing Fads

Haunts with the same rating are roughly equal

Click on the title for location and review details.

13th Door
Milburn's Haunted Manor
Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors
House of Midnight - Forbidden
Scream at the Beach - Lost Exhibition
Scream at the Beach - Wraith Manor
Screamland - Trilogy of Terror
Fright Town - Elshoff Manor
Scream at the Beach - Nightmares
Scream at the Beach - Biohazard
Fright Town - The Black Box
House of Midnight - Labrynth
Screamland - Carnival of Blood
Fright Lites Nightmare - Haunted MansionNot Yet Reviewed
Fright Lites Nightmare - 3D Clown HouseNot Yet Reviewed
Nightmare FactoryNot Yet Reviewed

Click on the titles above for details and click on the titles below (listed alphabetically) to visit their web sites.
Schedule and cost info is subject to change. Some haunts offer discount coupons on their web sites.


13th Door
Beaverton: Washington Square Mall, next to TGI Friday's.
Oct 1-2, 7-9, 13-16, 18-23, 25-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat through Oct 1 & Mon Oct 31, 7pm-12 Fri/Sat Oct 15 on, 7pm-10 other nights.
$15 per person.
This is the best year yet for the 13th door. The theme this year is "Facility 13". The 13th door has been transformed into a scientific reserach facility reminiscent of video games such as Resident Evil and Half Life. It's a great theme for a haunt and the attention to detail is astounding. The theme provides good story elements, but without boring us with long bits of dialog. They have also added a lot of special effects this year and lots of mutants! Yeah for mutants!


Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors
Portland: Beneath the Memorial Coliseum at the Rose Quarter (at Fright Town).
Oct 14-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$20 per person for all three attractions (with Elshoff Manor and The Black Box).
$5 off coupon on web site
The Baron in crazier than ever. This one really starts on the outside where you are greeted by a couple beautiful ghouls who engage you in a staring contest as you wait for your turn to enter. The facade is a wonderful haunted freak show collage. After the "waiting room" you hit a dark maze. You know how I feel about dark mazes. But wait! I was fooled! I totally bought it for a second! I don't want to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say this was an excellent use for a dark tunnel. But what's with the redneck gals? In the middle of a musem? One of three haunts with rednecks this year. I don't get it. The evil clown laboratory was wonderful. As usual, more wacky weirdness than you can shake a spine at.


Fright Lites Nightmare Haunted Houses
Hillsboro: Washington County Fair Complex, 873 NE 34th Avenue.
Haunted Mansion
3D Clown House
Oct 14-16, 21-31.
7pm-10 Fri/Sat, 7pm-9 other nights.
$8 per person for both haunts.
Not yet reviewed.


Fright Town
Portland: Beneath the Memorial Coliseum at the Rose Quarter (at Fright Town).
Elshoff Manor
The Black Box
Oct 14-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$20 per person for all three attractions (with Baron Von Goolo's).
$5 off coupon on web site
Note that parking is $5 or the Max lets off at the Rose Quarter.
Elshoff Manor: While this was done by the people who did the Elshoff manor that got top billing last year, this year it had a different feel to it. The facade on the outside was very well done to look like you were entering a haunted mansion, even though you're downstairs at the Rose Quarter. There is an effect at the end that is well done since you aren't really expecting what happens. I could have done with less of the high-pitched screaming - that crossed the line from scary to annoying. This haunt was not as cohesive as last year. The mad doctor scene seemed out of place for the manor and there was no spooky story tying everything together.

The Black Box: Lots of dark tunnels. As you know, I'm not a big fan of dark mazes (see my dark maze diatribe below). Now I cut them a little slack for using dark tunnels between rooms, but realistically nothing was done with the tunnels other than causing traffic jams and some guy's arm hitting me in the face. Once you get to the rooms there is a bit of fun, but could have used more effects.


House of Midnight
Wilsonville: Bullwinkle's Family Fun Center
Forbidden
Labrynth
Oct 6-8, 13-31
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 per person per haunt or $14 for both haunts.
$1 off coupon on web site
Forbidden: This really is a house - complete with vinyl siding and a mailbox. Similar to the Black Box at Fright Town, this haunt has a series of rooms connected by empty dark hallways. The best effect was one of my favorites of the year. They call it the "cieling crawler". I don't want to spoil it for you, but you'll know it when you see it.

Labrynth: Not quite as much going on in this one. There was a nice effect involving multiple spiders. This haunt relied a little too heavily on automated scares that didn't always activate at the right moment. Watch your step, as there are a couple tripping hazards here.

Note that both haunts end in one of those rotating tunnels, which seems out of place in a haunt these days as it's more of a funhouse gag.


Milburn's Haunted Manor
Hubbard: 11503 Broadacres Rd NE. (about 20 miles South of Portland)
Oct 13-16, 20-23, 27-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat & Oct 31, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8.00 per person.
This haunt gets better every year. This haunt has a sense of humor, putting it in the small category of "horror comedy" haunts also occupied by Baron Von Goolo's. There are some well done ghost effects as well as a large cast of enthusiastic actors, including this year's "best haunt actor", the guy with one eye. The entry room where a man who had an encounter with a sharp object introduced you to the house is funny and well done. There are some dark halls here, but they are "active". It's only about 20 minutes South of Portland on a small farm in Hubbard. They also sell pumpkins during the haunt. Be sure to print out the map on the web site.


Nightmare Factory
Salem: 999 Locust Street NE
Oct 21/22, 26/27, 28-31.
7pm-11 Oct 28/29, 7pm-10 other nights.
$7 per person. $1 off with 2 cans of food.
Not yet reviewed.


Scream at the Beach
Portland: Jantzen Beach Mall, next to Toys R Us.
Nightmares
Lost Expedition
Biohazard
Wraith Manor
Oct 1, 6-9, 13-15, 20-23, 25-31.
7pm-11 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$8 for each attraction or all four attractions for $20.
$2 off coupon at nearby stores
Nightmares: This haunt starts out a bit different. You enter a home with a scarily pleasant women telling you her daughter is going to read you a story. All seems way too happy and chearful until the lights go out and the nightmare is revealed. For the most part the theme worked well for this haunt, but I don't get the rednecks. In the middle of the haunt you come upon some rednecks banging pots. It seemed a bit out of place. Even more strange is rednecks also appeared in two other haunts! Is this a new trend? Will we see rednecks in every haunt next year? There was quite a bit of dark maze area in this haunt. Of course it makes sense for the theme, but too much feeling walls can get old.

Lost Expedition: The temple is fairly close to what it was last year. Not many changes, but still pretty cool. It has one of the better animatronic effects (same as last year) and the monkeys are fun. Again there is a little too much of the dark halls, but at least here they have mirrors at the end of the halls that make it look like someone is coming at you when a little light gets in.

Biohazard: This is the latest version of SATB's Alien haunt, with less focus on aliens. I would like to say it was more focused on genetic mutation, but it was somewhat lacking in the mutant department and most actors were youths. It was still fun and some of the cool former OMSI exhibit pieces were still there, but I preferred the direction it was taking last year with aliens invading a starship. The elevator effects at the start and end of the haunt were nice touches.

Wraith Manor: Ghost effects are used throughout and are pretty cool. I especially liked the mirror that makes you look like a ghost, like the hitchhiking ghosts from Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. With all the noise going on, you could not hear what the ghosts were saying, and I'm sure it was very important! Not quite as spooky as last year, but still lots of fun.

Note that Scream at the Beach is like a big party. There were dancers in two areas and the PT Cruiser Club had a haunted PT Cruiser event the night I was there.


Screamland
Portland: Oaks Park.
Trilogy of Terror
Carnival of Blood
Oct 14-16, 18-23, 25-31.
7pm-12 Fri/Sat, 7pm-10 other nights.
$18 for Trilogy, plus $2 for Carnival.
$2 off coupon on web site
Trilogy of Terror: The main haunt included three distinct themes but you only have to wait in one line, as each haunt follows the one before. My favorite section of this was the Mortuary. This included the "best haunted actress" of 2005, the gal singing a lullaby to her "It's Alive" baby. I also liked the idea of crawling through the furnace, though they missed out on a "burned alive" scare. Don't worry, there is a door for those who are unable or unwilling to crawl. The cemetery flowed nicely from the morturary and is fairly short compared to the other sections. The voodoo swamp had some strong points, including some cool animatronics, though it lacked detail in some parts. The slabs of meat were a nice touch. A fun gory haunt, not up to last year's top billing but still worth visiting.

Carnival of Blood: This is a small add-on they usually charge only $2 for but they had a problem with the animatronics so they were throwing it in free the night I went. The big devil guy from last year is in here and he should be working after they fix him. Evil clowns throughout. Well worth $2 but of course not as much going on as in the larger haunt.


EXPLANATION OF RATINGS

What makes a haunted house good or bad? Here are a few things:
GOODBAD
Original ideas and design.Anything seen in many haunted houses.
Surprise and misdirection.Everything happens just as you expect.
Good acting with real characters that don't just jump out and scream.10 year olds in Freddy Kruger masks going "AHHHH!"
Cool mechanical effects and surprises.Someone shaking a can of beans.
Cool electrical and lighting effects.Oh boy, a strobe!
Detailed scenes.Sparse rooms and empty mazes.
Convincing makeup effects.Some rubber limbs and costumes from the local party store.
A group of scares that work well as a whole or tell a cohesive non-cheesy story.Disjointed unconnected themes or cheesy kid stories.


Who am I to say what is good or bad?

I have not gone through any special training on haunted houses and I am no more an expert than anyone else who has been to way too many haunted houses. I have simply seen a lot and I know what I like. If you agree with my Good and Bad criteria above, you are more likely to agree with my reviews. If you are considering haunted houses for small children, note that I am not a small child so your child's opinions are likely to vary from mine.


Ok, so why do we disagree?

I get emails sometimes from folks who disagree with my ratings, and sometimes they are not one of the haunted house owners. :) If you agree with my method but not my madness (you agree with my rating system above but not with my rating), it is likely we did not have the same haunted house experience. I generally go to haunted houses early in the season. Some houses are at their best because their actors haven't gotten sick of doing it yet, while others are at their worst because they are behind schedule and generally not ready to open yet. Some haunted houses invite me to a "press night" where they are being extra careful to put forth their best performance for the press. If this performance is not consistent when open to the public, your mileage may vary. Generally speaking the best time to go to a haunted house is their SECOND weekend. In theory they will have fixed the bugs by then and the actors won't have grown weary yet. If you go on a night where they have so many people waiting in line that they have to rush people through faster, you will not get the same experience as a "normal" night. Then again if you go on a night where the actors aren't prepared because it's been so dead they didn't realize there were people coming, you also will get a less than perfect experience. I get that a lot since I tend to go opening weekend to most houses. A good haunt should be ready for a perfect tour during all posted operating hours.


Passing Fads

There have been many "fads" in haunt history. You see them in one haunt, then two, then almost every haunt, then back down to one or two. They are interesting when first encountered but quickly grow dull and repetitive. I am speaking of things like the vortex tunnel, 3D artwork, and the dot room. This year a lot of the haunts include a "dark maze" - a section of rooms you walk through in total darkness with an occasional rubber spider hanging from the ceiling. Hopefully this trend will die soon. There are no special effects, nothing to see, and more often than not there are no actors. I can create this effect at home by turning my lights off and feeling along the walls - and my house has real spiders! Of all the haunts with dark maze sections, the only haunt to use a dark maze properly was Milburn's Manor. The dark section covered a short area just long enough to get your eyes used to the dark before hitting you with a light-related effect. Also, an extensive dark maze tends to render a haunt not wheelchair-accessible.

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