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  • Scarywood 09

    I wrote a trip report from my recent trip to Scarywood for my own blog/facebook and I guess I'll paste a basic version of it here. Not many photos sadly though and I'm not sure I'll post mine here. Coaster Alley did take a few earlier in October though...


    Despite being a theme park fanatic, I've never been to a real haunt event. So when I heard that Silverwood (closest park to home) was hosting its own haunt I jumped at the opportunity to see the beginnings of their new event.

    Tickets were a great deal at only $27 and rumours were that some nights were being oversold, so my group ordered online and showed up on Halloween itself. Silverwood doesn't normally operate in the fall so Halloween would also be their last day of operation. The Park offered two special Halloween attractions. One was a Halloween layover of their traditional train ride across the property (Silverwood actually has a rather large acreage to it so the train travels through a bit of forest and other areas outside the traditional park grounds). The other attraction was a walk-through called "Terror Canyon Trail", which was placed in the drained flume of their "Thunder Creak Rapids" ride.

    When I showed up on the 31st though I found that the park was fairly uncrowded and it seemed to remain so for the rest of the day. Most rides had no wait time and crowds seemed to materialise only around 6:00 (start time for the special events). There were daytime events for the kids like a Halloween trick or treat trail and a costume contest of sorts featuring Garfield and Odie. It all looked cute enough but since there weren't any kids in my party we just enjoyed the awesome custom wooden coasters until nightfall (Silverwood has four coasters but only the two wooden ones are truly one of a kind).

    When 6:00 rolled around the music to the park switched over to more Halloween styled songs (including the theme to "Halloween" the movie). Guests were instructed to briefly all return to the main street area of the park while the rest of the park switched into Halloween mode. My group took this time to get in line for the train before the wait became too long.

    The train took a while to bring around the track and get loaded so the ride didn't start until after 6:30. The overlay was interesting, basically they setup a few setpieces and areas around the track for a bit more show then is featured normally. Most of the scares were prop based with a few instances were live actors interacted with the people on the train. The three main events on the train ride were a ghoul who destroys the bridge, a hold-up by two ghouls who eat one of the guests on the train, and an extra stop that has zombies hop aboard the train and scare guests for a while before the train starts moving again. Overall I didn't actually care for the ride though. It felt much too childish then the signage implied. I really felt that if children were to have the daytime events then the nightime events should be more (especially when there are only two real attractions).

    After we got off the train we decided to immediately go to the next special attraction. The train ride loaded on the mainstreet plaza so to get to the walkthrough we had to travel through the bulk of the house. The pathway from mainstreet into the park now had fog machines set all over it and a few actors posing as dolls and scarecrows to move subtly as you walked past them. The overall effect was great. The whole night-time atmosphere for the park was top notch and far above what I had experienced on the train ride.

    The walkthrough continued this trend. There were several great scares and small areas to move through. They had even organised a few areas of the park as scenes with different themes and the actors were all very energetic and did their jobs well. If the train ride was based on props then the walkthrough was carried very well by its actors. The only complaint I can think of for the walkthrough is that there was only one (rumour has it there will be more in the coming years since this event has been considered a success by management).

    After we were done with the attraction my group was tired so we headed back home. There was a magic show but the rest of my group didn't want to wait for it since we had a long drive ahead of us (which in retrospect is too bad as I hear the show is good).

    Overall it was a great experience that I highly recommend, especially to those who can't make it to the big park events over in California or Florida. Theme parks are a great venue for this since their facilities much more capable then most spaces (comparing to your average haunted house in a rental space).



    My Suggestions
    Moving back to my original comments on the train ride. There were signs in-front of the ride that warned those getting aboard that the ride was not recommended for children under the age of 12. I however found that in its current condition this isn't the case. The ride wasn't really scary at all and had many childish moments that if anything discouraged the older rider. There were many areas were it was obviously trying to be more but couldn't quite reach it.

    The language was one element that reflected a kind of confusion about were the age group would be for this ride. Instead of mentioning the ghouls feasting on our oragons they often spoke of how they would consume our souls (a very PG way of phrasing things) and the fact that they were callled ghouls rather then demons or anything that might convey a greater danger.

    Though the bigger issue wasn't language but the audio in general. There was a character called scary jerry who was obvioulsy included simply for injecting humor into the narrarators lines but he often annoyed more then anything. The audio track often ran long and rambled alot more then it really should have. I was reminded of how Disney actually took a step out in recent years and cut back some of the dialog from the Ghost Host in the Haunted Mansion. Sure some extra dialoge can give riders a few cleaver puns and more backstory but often a scary ride really needs to have a moment or to were the atmosphere reaches out to you. If the narrarator can't shutup then eventually riders start talking above the narrarator and the scary atmosphere will completly vanish.

    The other issue was mainly in repetative props and not enough motion in most scenes. It could have been that because we were there for their last night they did not have full actors out but it did feel like more could be done to automate the attraction. If they could just get a few small motors working to make a couple of the bodies twitch in a few places that'd be a great effect. The Spiders likewise could be more bountiful and perhaps have more webbing placed along the leadup to the spiders themselves.

    My basic suggestions in order of importance would be:
    1. Muzzle the narrarator - have him only give backstory and only during dead spaces in the ride (such as traveling past the water park). Most of the backstory would be better given in the audio tracks for the queue (which were a bit too repetitive).
    2. Add atmospheric tracks - basically in place of the narrator try getting a few subtle recording tracks of scratching and creatures walking through the bushes, and a good creepy whispering tracks. Discovery used to have a show called "A Haunting" that made great use of this kind of audio work, really set people on edge while they go through the forest.
    3. Lighting - most of the lighting was alright, but study what works and what hasn't. My main suggestion would be to temporarily shut off the lighting to the bridge when it is supposedly blown up. It will add much more to the explosion effect that way.
    4. Improve animation - get a few simple motors to create a twitching effect for the corpses or a since of life to the spiders. There are some great Internet guides for how to make ghosts swoop by using things like garage door openers, use those suggestions along with basic projection effects on the trees.


    I hope that Silverwood can really evaluate how this years event went and make it even greater next year for everyone. I like the rumours of added attractions but I'm not sure what other rides they could really overlay. One candidate would be their log flume, however that ride isn't operable in the cold temperatures and had already closed ahead of the park due to the risk of freezing.

    I think that I'd be fairly happy with even one more maze. If finding sufficient actors becomes an issue for them then I'd suggest doing one based more on funhouse style dissorientation. Such a maze could use motion sensor activated sounds for most of its effects along with only a few set actors and one roming one.

    Of course with a park like Silverwood its probably better to expect a fairly slow improvement grade as their market isn't as great as that found in California (the park is based out of Idaho after all).
    "We all have sparks, imagination! it's how our minds... create creations!"

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