MIDDLETOWN — Only the bravest of the brave dare to meet face to face with terrifying zombies, backwoods cannibals, creepy evil clowns and chainsaw-toting killers.
Then there’s us.
We totally admit we aren’t the bravest of souls… in fact, we’re total cowards. We’re scared of a lot of things: bees, spiders, mice, pickles, paper cuts and chainsaw-toting killers to name a few.
But last weekend, we decided to woman up and put our fear threshold to the ultimate test at the Land of Illusion.
ABOUT LAND OF ILLUSION
The Land of Illusion was the brain child of entrepreneur Brett Oakley, who started it all with a small haunted trail in the backyard of his wooded property in Middletown. Over the last 17 years, he has continuously worked on expanding the concept. What started out as one small, scary trail run on extension cords has evolved into a 140-acre haunted scream park. It is now the largest haunted theme park of its kind in our area with five individually-themed haunted attractions: Dr. Psycho’s Haunted Estate, The Temple of Terror, Killer Klowns, The Voodoo Bayou Shanty and the Middletown Haunted Trail. Last year, the Zombie Sniper Patrol Ride and the Voodoo Lounge full-service bar were added. Other features include a bonfire, a mechanical bull and Scareoke and live music on stage.
“It is not a typical 20-minute haunted house experience, but rather an all-night affair that consistently strives to be the highlight of the visitors’ Halloween season,” said Beth Miller, spokeswoman for Land of Illusion.
The number of visitors to the scream park ranges from 2,300-4,000 each night.
“We have fans who come from as far away as California, but our core business is from a 125-mile radius. They come every year. It’s a great testament to the evolving experience we offer – and it changes every year,” Land of Illusion owner Oakley said.
The park was just selected to be featured in Haunted Attraction Magazine’s upcoming “Must See 31 Attractions for 2014.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
Creating the Land of Illusion is no small task, and the work is year-round despite the season only lasting a few short weeks. The work for the 2014 haunt season started on Nov. 3 — the day after the attraction closed for the 2013 season. Oakley works on improvements and new construction year-round. Hiring starts a month before the park’s official opening the weekend after Labor Day, Miller explained. There are more than 165 staff members including actors, animatronic technicians, facility management professionals, make-up artists and security personnel. The staff devotes hours and hours to hands-on, in-costume rehearsal to bring the haunts to life.
During our recent visit to Land of Illusion, we tested out the following four attractions:
Killer Klowns: These aren’t the clowns you’ll find at a Ringling Brothers circus, that’s for sure. Get ready to weave yourself through this seemingly never-ending psychedelic maze with black lights and bright, funky neon colors. You’ll come face to face with creepy cackling clowns around every dark corner in this “fun house.” Several blend into the scenery until it is time to get you. At least one is dying to pull your hair out strand by strand.
Warning: If you have a fear of clowns or get a little claustrophobic, stay away unless you want eternal nightmares! Trust us on this one. Otherwise, this might be a good attraction to start with.
Voodoo Bayou Shanty: If you like to look at dead “bodies” — human and otherwise — this is a shanty for you. Imagine what it would be like if the swampy Louisiana bayou were under a black-magic curse. In this unattractive attraction, you’ll find terrifying characters with few teeth dressed in bibbed-overalls chanting and yelling at you around every corner. Some may even come after you with an axe. Watch out for the dude with the pig face. He’ll try to introduce you to his dog Fido. RIP Fido. Gulp! Also, don’t be surprised if someone — or something — grabs your feet as you weave through this dimly light maze. The characters and scenery in this featured attraction were spine-chilling, straight out of a horror movie with no survivors. We were totally freaked out and couldn’t get out of this swampy scene fast enough!
Temple of Terror: Think “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” only terrifying beyond belief. In this attraction, you’ll work your way through pitch-black tunnels and come face to face with mummies, skeletons and ghouls no matter where you turn. Your head will spin, the floor will literally come crashing down on you and you will want to escape this temple as quickly as humanly possibly!! There is nowhere to run. We almost called it quits after this one, our first destination of our evening. For real! It is a good thing Land of Illusion has a bar.
Zombie Sniper: This was actually a super fun way to end our evening and decompress after weaving our way through some heart-pounding mazes in the other attractions. You board a bus, put on some safety goggles and take out all of your frustrations with some paintball machine guns with glow-in-the dark paintballs you aim at zombies throughout the ride. Die zombie scum, die! It’s definitely worth the extra cost! Open Fridays and Saturdays only.
Two other attractions:
We ran out of time — and courage — and didn’t get a chance to take on these two scary adventures. But here’s a little of what you might expect.
Middletown Haunted Trail: Take a roughly 40-minute walk through the woods and come face to face with chainsaws, blades and more. Beware. Someone — or something — will be waiting for the perfect moment to scare the holy heck out of you. These two chickens opted out. Note, this attraction is open Fridays and Saturdays only.
Dr. Psycho’s Haunted Estate: If you like the thought of weaving through a labyrinth full of the mutilated “bodies” of mental patients, laughing “corpses”, rats and buckets of blood, this maze is for you. But it was not for us.
Some things to know to best enjoy your Land of Illusion experience:
- Coupons are available throughout the Dayton area at CVS and Kroger or through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Readers can like Land of Illusion on Facebook to find a coupon for $6 off.
- Lines are usually shortest on Friday nights. The crowds grow larger as Halloween approaches, so expect your wait in line to increase as the big day approaches.
- Not everyone you see outside of the attractions will be “human.” Beware of roaming creepers.
- Fast Pass will move you to the shorter, faster line. When you add on the purchase of a Fast Pass, you may use it at every haunt. It gives you quicker access to attractions. Totally worth it.
- The orange dreamsicle cocktail at the Voodoo Lounge is delish!
- The bathrooms are super pristine. Some of us needed to use them more than others. We recommend a trip between every attraction. You never know what might happen if you get too scared!
- Hide your terror at all costs. Trust us on this one. The characters feed off your fears and will gravitate toward you and menace you by name if they can figure it out.
- On that note, don’t let anyone in your group call you by name.
- Children: yay or nay? There is no official recommendation on appropriate age for this destination, however keep in mind that Land of Illusion is not for the faint of heart. The park is full of guts, gore and blood. Many events include strobe lights, fog, chainsaws and other loud noises — not to mention creepy creatures creeping up on you from all angles. Parents are advised to use their best judgment as to how well their child would handle the experience.
- Walk behind someone much braver than you at all times. Don’t be afraid to grab onto that person and leave claw marks.
- Cash only for extras once you’re inside the scare park. Be sure to bring plenty of cash. There are ATMs on site if you forget.
- The Temple of Terror and Killer Klowns attractions are wheelchair accessible.
Land of Illusion app: Get directions to the park, buy tickets, check in on various social media platforms, browse the entertainment schedule, share the experience with friends, and play with the Face Your Fear Photo Booth feature, which transforms your selfie into a zombie. It is available for free at the Apple Store and Android Marketplace.
Take a virtual tour of all attractions at www.landofillusion.com/park-map.
Land of Illusion
8762 Thomas Road, Middletown, Ohio.
(513) 423-9960, www.landofillusion.com
- Open: Weekends through Nov. 1, 2014
- Friday and Saturday park hours: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
- Sunday park hours (during October only): 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
These tickets give you unlimited access to Dr. Psycho’s Haunted Estate, The Temple of Terror, Killer Klowns, The Voodoo Bayou Shanty and The Middletown Haunted Trail. You can visit each attraction as often as you’d like during your visit. Children 5 years and younger are free with adult admission. With a Military ID, you will receive $5 off your ticket price.
- $34.99 – Friday and Saturday night
- $24.99 – Sunday night (October only)
Fast Pass (optional)
Add $15 – Allows access to shorter, faster lines on all features including Zombie Sniper Patrol.
Zombie Sniper Patrol (ticket sold separately)
$12.99 per ride
6-Pack General Admission Tickets
$28.99 per person
6-Pack General Admission Tickets with added Fast Pass
$42.99 per person
Group packages available.
Parking is $5 per carload, with proceeds benefiting local non-profits.