I don’t know about you, but I get a little sentimental about haunted house attractions. I wrote a piece about them for issue # 12 of Diabolique (“All Abhorred!”). My article examined the broader history of such attractions in the United States and England. Among the folks I had the pleasure of speaking with for that article were Dick Zigun (“the mayor” of Coney Island), and publicists for parks like The Disneyland Resort and  Knott’s Berry Farm. Some of the larger parks have permanent spooky fixtures (such as Disney’s “Haunted Mansion”), but virtually all of them undergo a Halloween makeover between late September through October.

I got to check out Six Flags’ “Fright Fest” at the Great Adventure park in Jackson, New Jersey this past weekend. During evening hours on the weekends, they shut down many of the main areas of the park, and they unleash the ghouls. (Don’t worry about missing out on the roller coasters, though. Those are operational during Fright Fest.)

While the production values are less than stellar, there is something to be said for the scale of the thing. Between their “Bloody Fountain” ornamented with plastic skeletons, their four uniquely themed mazes, the carnivalesque oddities shows and the many costumed crew members who are hired to walk throughout the park and startle guests at random, there’s plenty to take in.

For the mazes, I recommend the reality TV show themed “Voodoo Island” (great in that “tribesmen butchering a film crew” sort of way, ala Cannibal Holocaust) and “The Wasteland” (great in that “zombie/eco-terror/scientific pursuit that’s gone disastrously wrong” sort of way, ala Let Sleeping Corpses Lie or The Crazies).

If you’re on the east coast and looking for that more extreme, psychologically terrorizing haunted house experience that’s en vogue, you’re not going to find it here.

What you will find at Fright Fest are plenty of jolts in that good old-fashioned corny Halloween way. I’d say most appropriate for teenagers and the young-at-heart-but-old-everywhere-else. Take your friends. Take a date. It’s tame enough that you can probably take your kids, too. If your little ones aren’t so into the mazes, they may enjoy the family friendly hayride.

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– by Brandon Kosters