Why You Need to Attend Wisconsin Fear Fest Next Halloween
Why You Need to Attend Wisconsin Fear Fest Next Halloween
Happy Halloween, readers! It’s my favorite day of the year, and in honor of that, I’m writing a special blog just to celebrate the holiday and share with you the best Halloweekend I have ever had. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to head to Wisconsin Fear Fest, located at Road America, and get the full haunted experience. As a horror and Halloween enthusiast, one of my favorite things to do every October is attending haunted houses. I love the thrill of anticipation, the desire to scare myself, and feeling right at home among the scarers and guests who share my obsession with Halloween. The atmosphere is perfect: high energy, dark and eerie sets, loud rock music and creepy noises, the feeling that a scarer could sneak up behind you at any second… I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. It’s a form of escapism, and an excuse for me and many others to let their freak flag fly. Who I am at a haunted house is completely different from who I am anywhere else during any other time of the year. I am more daring, buzzing with the excitement of the thrill, knowing I am surrounded by people who could also talk about horror movies and the art of scare and terror for hours, I love showing off my love for the holiday, and embracing my inner Halloween freak. I go to haunted houses every year, and I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to attend a new one. Wisconsin Fear Fest was no different in that regard, but in every other way, it was. So today, I am here to tell you all the ways that Fear Fest is the epitome of a haunted experience.
Fear Fest Itself
First off, let me familiarize the lay of the Fear Fest land for you. The park has 3 haunted houses, but it offers many other experiences and entertainment besides the main haunted attractions. When you enter the park by walking underneath the Wisconsin Fear Fest arch, complete with LED skull signs and shooting flames, you’ll see the ticket and merchandise booth to your left, a stage for live music and a DJ to the right, and in between is open green space, the Midway of Mayhem, where you can warm your hands over bonfires, watch the band play, or enjoy food and drinks. Near the back of the green space are four food trucks offering delectable treats like donuts, apple cider, coffee, cow pies, tacos and burritos, and pizza. There is also a beer tent for those 21+ that is located close to the music stage. In the same area as the food trucks there are more Fear Fest attractions such as axe throwing, a rage room, paintball shooting, fire dancers, and two mini escape rooms. In addition to the 3 haunted houses, there is also a haunted hay ride just up the hill from Midway of Mayhem. There are plenty of entertainment options and experiences at this Halloween attraction; I was impressed by the variety of experiences that people who want to attend the festival, but maybe aren’t as into haunted houses can still enjoy. I think the best part about Midway of Mayhem is that it is free to scope out (plus, parking is free for Fear Fest as well!) so there is no harm in going and viewing what this event is like for yourself.
Although there are plenty of fun experiences at Fear Fest besides the haunted house attractions, I got to walk through all three haunts: 13th Ward Asylum, Hillbilly Hell, and Anarchy. WOW, was I thrilled! I’m going to break down my favorite aspects of these three haunted experiences (without giving it all away) and hopefully convince my readers how and why Fear Fest stands out as the best haunted attraction I’ve been to.
The 13th Ward Asylum
The first haunted house I walked through at Fear Fest was the asylum, a classic archetype of haunted houses, but with an “outside the box” execution. First of all, the effects in this haunted house are disorienting, and if you know anything about horror, this is one of the most important factors of fear. Upon entering through the doors of the asylum, you automatically get the overwhelming sense that you are outside of a regular domain, there are twists and turns ahead of you, and who knows who or what you’ll be led to. Not only is the set of the haunted house unique, but the scarers awaiting you in the shadows are innovative in ways unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to give away any scares or tricks up their sleeves, you’ll have to go and find out for yourself, but I will hint at some of the scares that stood out to me as impressive and terrifying. The special effects and props were exciting and engaging in ways to scare that I haven’t seen done before, you’ll be unable to guess what might be coming at you next. Sometimes scares become predictable in haunted houses, you can guess when someone might be hidden around a corner, or walk into a room with a specific effect and you know what the effect always leads to. Fear Fest is not like this, there were times when I thought I knew what was around the corner, or sets I thought were a giveaway for the next scare, and then turned up totally incorrect, caught by surprise, and shocked by what tricks were up their sleeves. Let’s just say you never know what direction a scare might come from. When I stumbled out in the end, I couldn’t believe some of the scares I had witnessed. I am still impressed by the creativity put into this haunt, the attention to detail in the costumes, set, and props. Probably my favorite aspect of the 13th Ward Asylum was the way the scarers interacted with the set in order to scare you. What I mean by this is that without the set the scarer isn’t as effective, and neither is the set without the scarer. The combination is what sets this haunted house apart from others that I’ve visited before. The set and the actors are equally as important to the haunt, neither can stand alone as well, but together they are so successful it’s scary (literally). It’s clear that the physical atmosphere was built in order to accommodate the specific types of unexpected scares waiting for you to just stumble into, and that, is what I would consider mastermind.
“Who knew hillbillies could be so scary?” I believe were the exact words I said as I exited this haunt. Now, let’s pause and break this sentence down. Em, scared? And of all things, by hillbillies? What? Let me share, I am not someone who is easily scared by horror movies, haunted houses, or scary stories. My comfort show is The Haunting of Hill House, I put on The Exorcist to fall asleep to, my favorite toy growing up was this big rubber spider whom I had affectionately named “spidery”, I even pretended I had a ghost friend and would talk to them just to freak other kids out and have a little “6th Sense” moment. I am unfazed by blood, gore, and in high school, my best friend and I decided to have a competition: who could last the longest watching the Saw movies while eating? (I won). But Hillbilly Hell got me, on more than one occasion. This haunt featured an apocalyptic zombie farm, with rotting hillbilly faces, chainsaws of all sizes, swampy sets, and a woman who was obsessed with my teeth… and asked me if she could use her mallet to remove them from my skull. Sweet lady, very warm-and-fuzzy. Would have stayed for dinner if it had included more than human flesh and teeth. But man, oh man, this haunt is not kidding around by having its title as Hillbilly Hell. And for these reasons, I can’t recommend it enough! That is, if you’re a freak for Halloween the way I am. It is not for the faint of heart (although that won’t stop me from trying to convince you to still go, because you never know for sure until you try!). I was really impressed by the theatrics of this haunted house, clearly it has a bit of a specific theme to it. The theme was integrated into not just the costumes the actors wore, but the set, the environment (and yes, there is a difference. Set incorporates elements of detail and decoration, environment is how open or closed the space is, the color of the space, the smell, the sounds, etc.) and the props all contributed to this overwhelming feeling of terror that I’ve never experienced to this degree in any other haunted house. You can’t miss this one if you like being scared. Of course, we were given the disclaimer on the way into the haunted house that the actors aren’t allowed to touch you and you aren’t allowed to touch them. If you get too scared, you simply need to tell one of the actors and they will kindly lead you out. All of this is to say, I highly recommend you give it a try. If it ends up not being your cup of tea, no harm, no foul!
The last haunted house attraction at Fear Fest had a bit of a Purge movie vibe to it. The maze it leads you through was entirely constructed of shadowy tarps, broken down cars, barrels, and barred cells. Again, just like the other two, this haunt used its environment to its advantage, and the art of terror used by the actors is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Without giving too much away, I’ll say if/when you walk through this haunt, watch. the. shadows. It doesn’t get much more cryptic than that, does it? The element of suspense in Anarchy was insane, I felt like I was on the edge of my seat even though I was standing. There is an overwhelmingly creepy feeling that you’re being watched as you find your way through, and because of the demolished looking set, your eyes will be frantically trying to dart around and gather your surroundings despite the dark, dark setting. The way the actors interact with you as you walk through feels like a completely different motive than the deranged asylum patients, and the disturbing hillbillies. Their movement, placement, and costumes are such a stark difference, I really felt like I was wandering around the streets in the Purge movies. To top this all off, the sound effects in Anarchy are enough to keep you on edge. What exactly I mean by this, I leave for you to figure out for yourself next year. And bonus! The nightmare doesn’t end there! As you leave (any of the haunted houses) there are scarers running around Midway of Mayhem wearing protective joint pads that allow them to skid across the concrete with sparks igniting when they make contact with the pavement. Seeing them do these tricks really elevates the feeling that they are true monsters, not humans. The tricks they have up their sleeve to jump scare you don’t end with their unpredictable and igniting movement.
The end… muhahaha
If someone were to ask me “what distinguishes Wisconsin Fear Fest from other haunts you’ve visited?” my answer would be that Fear Fest is innovative. They consider all the elements of what makes a place a scary and terrifying experience, and it goes beyond just the way the actors are dressed. It includes how they hide, where they are able to hide, how they interact with you and are able to scare you, their props, makeup, costumes, the sounds, smells, and use of space all come together to create a unique and horrific experience. I am so thrilled I was able to gain the Wisconsin Fear Fest experience, and I can’t wait to return next year. As always, rock on Sheboygan, and Happy Halloween!
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