Welcome One and All!

For all you Halloween Fanatics....this will be a review and links site of the Best Haunted Houses in the country that my wife Lisa and I have had the pleasure - or displeasure - of gracing....

I've been a *huge* Halloween and horror fan since I can remember...I dunno...it just brings the kid in me out...by the end of September, our place is suitably adorned and we await each weekend with anticipation of which haunts to hit next....

We've been blessed enough to be able to travel quite a bit around the country and see some wonderful attractions and the cities they lurk in...and we're hoping to pass on the fun we've had on to anyone willing to listen in....

Saturday, June 6, 2015

THE SCARE FACTOR - where people go to find where to Haunt!


What IS The Scare Factor?   www.thescarefactor.com 

If you LOVE haunted houses and getting “scared out of your pants” sounds like a great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night, then The Scare Factor™ is THE website for you!

We want to give the haunted house fan a place to find current reviews that they can trust to lead them to the scariest dark attractions in the land!

The Scare Factor™ team is dedicated to providing the most un-biased and complete reviews and ratings for haunted houses and dark attractions throughout the United States! These reviews will be provided by an ever-growing network of “Scream Teams”

In 2010, Nora Parsons and Tyler Proffet successfully applied to become a “Scream Team” for The Scare Factor. After working with the site’s founder, Tom Schaeffer, for four years, Nora & Tyler’s review team, Team Zombillies purchased The Scare Factor from Tom. Team Zombillies became the new owners of TheScareFactor.com in January of 2014. 2015 will be Team Zombillies’ 6th season professionally reviewing haunted attractions

We have made many new additions to our website since we took full control. In April our web designer started completely re-doing the site, which went live when haunt season began in September. Our old site was flash (not mobile friendly) and with technology these days, we knew it was time to do something about it. Although we hated to part ways with the old site, the new one is much easier to access from multiple types of devices. One of the biggest benefits of changing the site is that we can make updates practically instantly!

The site's deceased looked....


...and it's reanimated appearance...



New features of the updated site include: Team Zombillies award listings, “Scream Team” bios, a nationwide news page, attraction and vendor advertisement capability, our North American haunt directory that features approximately 1800 attractions, our quarterly newsletter, and a links page so we are now able to link to our friends! 

Link to our newsletter page: 

Since 2010 reviews have been submitted by two teams: 

Indiana: Team Zombillies – Team leader Nora Parsons (covers haunts in KY, IN, OH, MI, & IL)

Ohio: Team Mysterious Misery – Team leader Amanda Hansel (covers haunts in OH)

In 2014, we added a team from Alabama: Team Scurryface – Team leader Tyler West (covers haunts in AL, GA, TN, & FL)

For the 2015 haunt season The Scare Factor site will be showcasing reviews from three new review teams! They are as follows: 

Tennessee: Team Feardom – Team leader Tonya Gaboriault
Wisconsin: Team Hell Hounds – Team leader Cassie Stallard

Oklahoma: Team Terror Trackers – Team leader Justin McIntosh

Also new for this year, Team Zombillies started taking the camera with them to some of their outings including haunt visits, interviews, and more. 

You can find these videos by visiting The Scare Factor’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/thescarefactor 

Here’s the links to our other social media pages:

Scare Factor’s Facebook: 

Team Zombillies’ Facebook: 

Instagram: 

Scare Factor’s Twitter: 

Team Zombillies’ Twitter: 

_____________________________________________________________________________

So what does haunt season look like for Team Zombillies?

Like this: 


Before haunt season formally begins, we (as Team Zombillies) take on the daunting task of scheduling around 40 haunted houses into our 8-9 week window. Juggling dates/hours of operation, distances from other haunts (not to mention, from home), and haunt-owner preferences is no easy task.

In 2014, we visited over 40 separately-located attractions (AVG. of 5 haunts per weekend), drove over 7,000 miles, and spent around $1000 in gas, fast food, energy drinks, etc. 

Oh yeah, and we also bought a gas-saving car last year to make our travels cheaper!

Our review process begins by interviewing the owner or general manager of the attraction being reviewed. We’ll ask background questions (e.g. “How did you get started? How many actors are you using this year? Do you make your own costumes/props?) to get acquainted with the haunts we are about to experience. We usually bring a hidden voice recorder with us and make verbal notes when we walk through, just to make sure we don’t forget anything when it comes time to start writing. If we make it through the attraction(s) alive, we start filling out our post-haunt questionnaires when we get back to the car. These forms include over 40 questions and preliminary scores for the haunt(s) we just went through. This further helps to ensure we didn’t miss anything during our walk-through. Usually during our trip back home, we go ahead and start making an outline of each haunt that we visit while everything is still fresh in our memory. After outlining each haunt, we start with the first one we were able to visit for the weekend and spend approximately 6 hours writing each review, sometimes longer. This probably explains why we look dead at the end of haunt season. 

Before we broke the 30 haunts/year mark, we didn’t use voice recorders and had to rely solely on our memories to write and score the haunts we visited.

The Scare Factor’s Reviews are broken-down into 8 categories. Those categories include Cast, Costuming, Customer Service, Atmosphere, Special Effects, Theme, Fright Effect, and Value. Each category is scored on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) down to the nearest 100th of a point, as deemed necessary by the Scream Team giving the scores. Each of the final scores from each category are then averaged together to produce the haunt’s overall score, which we lovingly call that haunt’s “Scare Factor” score! The “Scare Factor” section of the review is a general summary about the attraction, based on the Team’s visit.


Devils Attic, Louisville, KY – 2013


Land of Illusion, Middletown, OH – 2013


Dungeons of Delhi, Cincinnati, OH – 2014

_________________________________________________________

After haunt season ends, we (as Team Zombillies) take the liberty of giving out a variety of awards.

 These awards include:

Shout-Out Awards: Only actors that are mentioned in TZ reviews are eligible
“Big” Awards: Given to a variety of creatures, characters and haunts for different accomplishments

Highest-Ranking Awards: Given to the haunts who scored the highest in each of our separate categories.

Memorable Moment Awards: Just for giving us the most memorable experiences during that haunt season that don’t necessarily fall under any other awards.

Nora was born close to Halloween so she thinks that’s one of the reasons she’s always had a thing for Halloween. She went to her first haunt when she was 12 (Culbertson Mansion) and hasn’t stopped since. Nora is a full – time Pharmacy Technician and just obtained her Associates Degree in Computer Information Technology. When Tyler and Nora started dating, she also got him hooked on haunted houses by talking him into visiting The Baxter Avenue Morgue in Louisville, KY. Tyler is a full-time maintenance man at a coal powered power plant as well as a certified welder. Together, Tyler and Nora have 23 years of haunted house experience. They also enjoy dressing up every chance they get, and throw Halloween parties around August since they don’t have time for that during haunt season! On August 15th, they will even be having a Halloween wedding! 

Here are a few costume pics of us: 



























In closing, The Scare Factor strives to be haunt-goers’ go-to destination for all things Halloween and Haunted House-related! We’ve got more things up our sleeves for the upcoming seasons… we can’t reveal them just yet, but all we can say is the search for the perfect haunted house will get a whole lot easier! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

A DECADE OF HOME HAUNTING....FROM THE APARTMENT PERSPECTIVE

2015 marks our 10th anniversary of haunting our current complex, and, with that in mind, and responding to a few requests, here's a look back at ten plus years of apartment haunting from Lisa and I...

DON'T EVER SAY YOU CANNOT DO EFFECTIVE HAUNTS IN AN APARTMENTS!

WE ARE PROOF THAT YOU CAN!


I think the most frequent question we get is how we can pull this off – for starters,  we’ve always been in close contact and cooperation with our landlords, always laying out our plans moths ahead of time to work out any objections...likewise, they’ve always been hugely supportive of anything we’ve asked, offering help and technical assistance – I think the only things they’ve ever said “no” to were the use of strobe lights and excessive background music.

This is a major point to consider - communication is *everything* in these waters - they can make or break your haunt - not to mention get you swiftly evicted! - if you don't have their cooperation.

As a counterpoint, most apartment complexes really won't say much if you're only using your patio space for a small display - I have yet to see one balk at any of our designs, and my wife Lisa and I have moved more than a few times since we were married in 2001 - the issues come more from use of yard space.

We started to dabble with the concept back in 2003....the next couple of years were nothing remarkable, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

2003

Pretty basic stuff, but it had a nice atmosphere to it when the lights went out...













2004

We moved late September and got a little bolder and a lot more colorful...we were still doing the old store bought cardboard cut-outs of yesteryear....in any event, for what it was, the patio display looked really slick in the evening...




























2005 

We moved yet again...and we've stayed put ever since!

...and this is where things really start cooking....we moved in literally on October 1rst, we were also running around like mad just about every night with some friends who were moving away on Halloween...ah well. in the midst of all the unpacking and  late night chaos, I thought we did alright...our costumes certainly were pretty cool that year....


Our first few years in our current residence – we’ve been here since 2005 – were pretty tame, but, as we grew more ambitious, we expanded quickly and have had some marvelous results – our patio scene has always been our centerpiece, and we work on the apartment interior as we go along.

We’ve had some tremendous responses to our displays over the past decade – our themes – both outdoor and in, change annually, and, with our landlord giving us plenty of leeway – 2012 marked our first yard cemetery and it's grown consistently since then.


As most home haunters know, if you put something like this up - we start around Labor Day weekend and have the entire set up finished by the first of October - you're going to draw a crowd - but that's kind of the point, isn't it? 





And for the record? My wife Lisa *still* has that teddy bear, I *still* have that Godzilla model (albeit with a new coat of paint), and we *still* have that VCR - the vegetation, alas, has gone the way of the Dodo....green thumbs, we have not....we can kill plastic plants! 













This year began a tradition of ours...the "Tabletop of Terror" - yes, I nicked that from the Simpsons!

Very early days here, and it took us a few years to get a grip on it, but, once we realized what we *could* do with it, it became one of our primary visual focuses, but more on that later...






Told ya' our costumes were pretty cool that year... ;-)

2006

and here is where things start to happen for us... with a little financial help from a friend - special thanks to Betsy Halki that September who was quite generous with us - things got more sophisticated...not perfect, mind you, but we did up the ante a bit...

...and, I honestly can say, our Jack O'Lanterns had never looked better before or since....
























View from the Bar






Yeah, our interior decor was nothing to write home about, but it did allow us to go a higher levels in the following years...this stuff? *groans* 




We always try and give our front door a bit of character as well....














2007


Chronologically speaking, from 2005 to 2008, we kept it fairly simple on the patio - dungeons or crypts, haunted rooms, a mini-cemetery, and so on...our interior was a classic case of hit and miss - we decorate EVERYTHING, including the bathrooms! - and while everyone seems to get a kick out of that, we look at photos from these years and kind of moan. Better was to come.

This year had a lot to recommend it - we took things up a notch, but, then again...*wince*
























This is where the bathrooms got in on the act...for a first time, these still look good...










 Yeah, yeah...I know...not exactly a great decorative achievement on the wall...hey, it looked TERRIFIC under blacklight, I'll say that much for it!


















Even Lisa's son got in on the act that year! 
Say Goodnight Gracie! 

2008


Inspired by our increasing success with props, and fired up by our own imaginations, THE DARK KNIGHT and having the remnants of Hurricane Ike blow through in mid-September - on my wife's birthday, no less! - and knock the power out for a week, we created a haunted cemetery theme and get even more sophisticated with our interior trappings...it's all very simple, organic and very glow in the dark, but these are the themes that seem to work best for us...























 
















John, Paul, George and Ringo

This is the year our "Tabletop of Terror" really starts taking shape....we started to hit our stride in terms of lighting and dynamics...











REALLY liked the hallways this year...



























2009

This ranks as one of our favorite years -we'd been wanting to incorporate the Big Three of the Universal Monsters  - Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man - in a display and, bets be damned, did so. These were constructed of wood rods, pool noodles and old clothes from Goodwill.

We build stone columns behind the monsters from cardboard boxes taped together and then wrapped in dungeon scene setter wallpaper.  

Our neighbors above us decided to give us a run for our money this year...our displays complimented each other really well and looked terrific at night together! 

As a matter of note, days before we began setting up our patio that year, a HUGE spider had settled in on the railing corners and established an enormous web that lasted for days on end....we took this as an omen...we knew  it was going to be a grand year after that!!!
























We grew a little bolder this year and started to publish a few photos of our works here and there - MySpace was OK, but Facebook gave us very wide exposure - and we saw some of our scenes pop up on a few websites...













"Just what do you think you are doing?"


This was the first time we took a *ahem* STAB at doing up the kitchen - this was all my wife Lisa's doing, and it was quite well done, even for a first attempt.





















2010

....and here we fall flat on our faces - not our best year - we took a shot at a Mummy's Tomb and it just didn’t pan out all. Put it down to laziness, A LOT of traveling and just a bit of burn out - granted, our interior hit new heights in regards to layering, but our mummy looked like he had growth hormone issues...

It wasn't a complete washout, but we'd do it differently now...especially after all our neighbors kept saying "It looks great - what is it?"

Ouch. 



















Another year our "Table Top of Terror" garnered us a lot of praise - *this* is the one I am most proud of - it just hit all the right notes....


















Lisa took a crack at some custom prop bottles...












...meanwhile Freddy and Jason dominated the hallway...


















For some odd reason NO ONE wanted to use our bathroom....













2011

One of our all time favorites.

We discovered the online Halloween community, message boards, podcasts - and the possibilities were endless…this year, the theme was Sleepy Hollow and this it was a labor of love, cuz the horse was MURDER to get together and nearly fell apart at the 11th hour!

Still, looking back on it, this had a wonderful vibe and really captured a special moment...we learned a lot about timing and planning ahead...oh yeah, and PVC glue. That was a big one.

This was a year of a lot of firsts - first foam tombstones, first tree prop - again, very much a learning experience, but it set the stage for what was to come next.


















































Settting up the Evil Tree....

....while Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy dominated the halls...























We held our first Halloween party this year, centered around THE WALKING DEAD - the second season premiere - so Lisa took to preparing a Zombie Kitchen and it turned out marvelously.






























...when ya' gotta go....

2012


2012 opens a few doors for us and inspires us to push the envelope even further....this year, it's The Vampire's Crypt....complete with huge Styrofoam walls and stone columns AND WE FINALLY GET TO DO A CEMETERY SCENE IN THE FRONT YARD!!!!

On the flip side, Hurricane Sandy blows through the day before Halloween and sends all kinds of crap blowing everywhere and just wreaks havoc...and I hate to say it, but all those dead leaves that ended up in our cemetery sure gave it all a nice touch! 

This one required a lot of layers...






















View from the Bar






















Panoramic view.



Lots of prop work this year - dungeon walls, stones, candles..... 









My lovely Bride...







































































































2013

2013 saw us expand our cemetery a bit, while going to a more organic level, theme-wise, inspired by the work of PumpkinRot we create out our Great Pumpkin and minion scene and it is so simple and basic, but it just bows people away....sometimes the simpler things in life are the best…literally not one day passed from the time we erected the haunt ’til we took it down six weeks later, that someone did not come by with a camera- some evenings two or three times a night!

Object lesson - keep it simple and do what you do best - stretching is good, but is a risky business as we found out the next year...

Also. so much love and gratitude to our friends Sandi Wozniak and her husband Michael, who gifted us with close to $1000 worth of props that summer, asking nothing in return. 

Truly wonderful people. 








































































































































2014

After years of promising  and cajoling, we finally break down and our patio theme is the Phantom of the Opera in 2014 - unfortunately, due to size restrictions, we have to eliminate some of our props and it turns into the Phantom of the full service bar as someone coyly remarked.

....you have no idea how much I wanted to pop that guy in the mouth....

Object lesson - PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING!!!!

We made the Phantom's pipe organ pretty much blind with out pre -measuring, and well, you can guess the rest.

On the up side, our cemetery never looked better...

























































Remember what I said about layering...? 

A closer look at the Phantom's organ




























































































...and this brings us to the present - as of this article (late May of 2015), my wife and I have been working on props since March, and we have major plans - no, I'm not going to give anything away - and, this being out tenth anniversary year haunting this place, it's going to be something quite special....we hope!

Time will tell, but, we're keeping it simple and doing what we do best - and, yeah, making sure everything we make will actually fit where it's intended...

To give a bit of perspective, here's a look a t a few of the home and apartment haunts around out neck of the woods....


This was in done in one of neighboring communities, Kettering, Ohio - very nicely assembled, but they shut it down in 2006 due to theft - a shame really, it was very impressive in person























Our neighborhood of West Carrollton is quite an active little community....picked up on these guys in 2010....



































Another area we ran into in the West Carrollton neck of he woods...this is either apartments or co-ops, and they did a terrific job with a semi-minimalist approach...












...and right across the street....






When all is said and done, I think my wife and I do a lot of this for the sheer love of it – you HAVE to love this to even attempt it, considering the time, finances and energy you pour into it – selfish? Maybe.

Self-indulgent? Yeah. 

A tremendous amount of fun? Most definitely….

Never forget to spoil your inner child, he’ll thank you for it later.

As I mentioned at the top of this segment, this is not the first time I've waxed and waned philosophical on this subject, and. for those interested, I recommend you check out the site homehaunting.net - I wrote an article for them in April of 2014 on the subject...also, for those craving a more audio based experience, go check out the August 2014 episode of Fright Radio - I did an extensive interview with Jason DiOrio on this, and many other things, for that matter.

Extra special thanks to these amazing people for their advice, inspiration and input over the years:  

T.C., Amanda Trux, Jack Velut, John Mueller, Kathy Cavanaugh-Cayton, Sandi Wozniak, Suwadi Heid Ryan, Kim Trusty, Bonneville Fontanne, Shaun Guftafson, Dick Terhune, Ed Gannon, Stacey Rager, Jason Besseman, Chris Tillman, Ryan Haidet, Aaron Swan, Marc Meader, Jason DiOrio, Jon Farmer,  Sean Overton, Ed and Marsha Edmunds, John and Carol Terra, Melissa "Grimmy" Gilmore, Mandi Doll, Aaron Munchnick, Rob Putnam, Dylan Putnam, Yvonne Hartley, Celeste Marcus, Sheila Bowers, James Kluener, Victor Bariteau, Terra Lair, Drew Badger, Jerry Vayne, Jim Millspaugh, Johnny Thunder, Revenant, Aaron Hart, Michael Armstrong, Becki Lee Reindl, Travis Van Zandt,  Mike Jones, Victor Ives, Robert Santos, Stacy Fitz, Damien Reaper, Daniel Craig Hoffman, Jon Moran, Hannah LaFevers, Raven Lunatic, Andy Bryan, Roger Brucker, Shellhawk, and, of course, Chris "Doofus" Baker

To anyone I may have forgotten - I profusely apologize, and feel free to email me used kitty litter for this transgression...

Finally, for anyone who wishes to visit our little suburban haunt, we reside at the Carrollton Point Apartments in West Carrollton, Ohio, off of Camphill Way - we're towards the back, our area is directly behind Cox Arboretum...

We start setting up on Labor Day weekend - about 60-70% of it goes up, and the entire haunt is finished by the first week of October....

For those wishing to come and take a look this  - or any - year, drop us a line at ervysther@woh.rr.com and let's se what we can arrange...

Hope everyone enjoyed this somewhat self-indulgent bit of rambling, and we'll see ya' next time around!