Frightful Delight

October is here which triggers images of colorful leaves, bonfires, autumn, and haunted houses.

Yes, the season for spooks has arrived which means the country starts breaking out haunted house attractions by the bushel.  And in nearby Kansas City, MO lay two of the USA’s most famous horror attractions:  The Beast and Edge of Hell owned and operated by Full Moon Productions.

Now I had visited these two attractions many years ago, but that was before I became a travel writer and, also, my memories of my original visit had faded so I felt it was time to revisit them and put the power of the pen to work.

So it was that this past Saturday found me on the road with my haunted house loving friend, Eric Grant-Leanna, to revisit a pair of legends plus Full Moon’s other attraction:  Macabre Cinema.

So what makes for a truly great haunted house?

  1. It should be scary (or at least generate a certain level of tension)
  2. It should be long.
  3. If possible, it should be non-linear and open for exploration.
  4. Actors should be fully committed to their roles.

With those in mind, let us proceed.

Now each house costs $35, but you can get a combo pass for all 3 for $90 or a VIP pass for $150 which lets you bypass the line on all of them.  As we both detest waiting in lines, Eric and I went for the VIP Pass.

We first visited Macabre Cinema (1222 W 12th St) and Eric and I agreed that this one was the best of the three.

As we briefly waited for our turn, we were treated to a digital portrait that morphed into several characters which behaved ghoulishly to whet the appetites for the public.  Then my trusted companion and I ventured into the cinema.

You’re immersed into the attraction from the beginning as you enter a movie theater with a horror movie playing on the screen and you go through the screen and into the scares.

Now this house ticked all of my boxes as we wandered throughout the cinema.  It is very long as it took us over 30 minutes to venture through the theater.  It’s even a little non-linear as you have to do a little bit of searching to find your way out of each room, usually having to find a hidden exit of some kind.  We wandered through sets reminiscent of horror movies such as The Mummy and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.  Horror legends such as Michael Myers pursued as along with a psychotic clown which reminded me of The Joker’s moll, Harley Quinn who seemed to warp between rooms and floors to follow us with her creepy, high-pitched laugh.

Highlight of this house was the Bloody Mary room where you are forced to play the game.

After 4 floors of frights, we burst out into the cool night and made our way across the street to Edge of Hell.

Edge of Hell (1300 W 12th St) was definitely the weakest of the three largely due to its linear nature as Eric and I were able to complete it in about 15 minutes.  Now this house focuses more on phobias with some tight squeezes and the presence of the world’s longest, living snake.  But it also has some traditional spooks with vampires, crypts, and the like.  Two of its unique attractions was a room meant to be Heaven which serves as a respite from the scares at least until you’re given the boot.  While creative, one element of the room did push the boundaries of taste a bit and may offend people of faith.  The other unique attraction was the five story plunge down a slide to escape from the house.  Stairs are available for the fearful or those unable to slide.

From there we marched the few blocks to the legend:  The Beast (1401 W 13th St).

Now this was second to Macabre Cinema only by a hair.  I promise you that you won’t find a haunted house quite like this one.

This is the most non-linear house I have ever visited.  You begin by traveling around a swamp on shaky suspension bridges and I dreaded something coming out of the water.  There is also the feared Werewolf Forest (and, yes, it is a forest).  This is a maze so baffling that cast members sweep it periodically to help the hopelessly lost.  We got jammed behind a group of school girls who did get hopelessly lost here and in the castle maze (I wonder if they’re still wandering the halls).

Animatronic creatures pop out of walls to startle and scare and you’ll also need to find hidden exits to escape from some of the rooms.  This attraction also has its own multi-story slide to escape (stairs also available), but you use waxed paper to help speed you down.  They may want to rethink the paper as it makes you slide down like lightning and I nearly vaulted past the stop zone.

My only real critique of the three houses is that I thought the lights could be brought up just a bit as there are some considerable details put into the rooms of these houses and it would have been nice to make them out.  Sometimes it was so dark that I needed Eric’s glowing shoes to help guide me.  Also, proceed very carefully through the houses.  You will need to indemnify the houses before entering and these are old buildings where a bad step could lead to injury if you’re not careful.  But if you take it slow, you’ll have a great time.

But if you’re a fan of haunted houses, then you need to visit this legendary trio.  It’s a spooktacular good time!