Out into the dark nights we go, come October, to be surprised, startled and scared out of our wits.
Some of our TX. staff members embraced the fright factor of Halloween and visited a few of the Top of Utah's haunted attractions. But they didn't do it just for fun and chills -- they also had a mission, to seek out the best and worst elements of each venue.
So -- with a drum roll, please -- we now present our TX. O'Scares awards for 2012.
Black Island Farms
Most horrifying hillbillies: The haunted Nightmare Acres maze in Syracuse was filled with redneck zombies and humans that were constantly popping out from the corn. They were frightening and funny and they fit in well with the setting.
Corniest: This attraction wasn't cheesy -- but there was a lot of corn to get lost in, and lots of people to startle you along the way.
Most nonthreatening workers: Unlike other attractions, the haunters at Black Island Farms did not invade personal space. It decreased some of the scare factor, but it was also nice to have some breathing room.
Best use of space: Nightmare Acres used its setting very well. The attraction weaved in and out of the building and the cornfield, making the maze seem bigger and making the distance to the end of the maze seem unpredictable.
Most terrifying Freddy Krueger: Two almost identical girls paced the hallway together chanting rhymes in sing-song voices. Suddenly, the sound of metal clanking against itself filled the hall and Freddy Krueger popped out from inside of the wall. It definitely made me jump!
Most diverse settings: The different rooms in the maze ranged from a creepy doll room, with hundreds of porcelain eyes staring at you, to a torture chamber where blood and guts were everywhere. There were also scenes of remote tribal villages, army forts under attack, a semi truck and a trailer home.
Sara Hawker, Syracuse High School
Castle of Chaos
Creepiest clowns: You think clowns would be the happiest people in the world; they make you laugh and smile. This haunted house in Riverdale will change your perspective on clowns forever. Putting on your 3-D glasses, you enter a world where clowns not only have size 20 shoes, but they carry machetes and have a taste for blood.
Best scream theme: Walking into the Castle of Chaos' 7 Deadly Sins house, you hardly know what to expect. What are the 7 Deadline Sins anyway, and how are they scary? But room by room your terror grows as these sins are presented to you in a way that leaves you screaming for your mommy.
Murderous makeup: From bulging eyes, infected faces and blood everywhere, the makeup at this house made you scream bloody murder. More than half of the faces I saw made me remind myself that they were covered in makeup and not actually real.
Best scenery: As you walk into the three different parts of the castle (3-D, Screamatarium and 7 Deadly Sins), both bright and dark murals cover the walls. In the 3-D section it was the BEST! Strange galactic, glow-in-the-dark patterns littered the walls. One room had hundreds of polka dots that hid clowns that were also dressed in polka dots.
Most original idea: I think the 7 Deadly Sins was an absolutely wonderful idea, very original and quite interesting. It could have been executed better, though; some of the rooms, like lust, envy and vanity, weren't very scary.
Best use of lights: In the 3-D section of the castle, one room was completely black with a single red light at the far end of the room. The red light made it eerie and made you stand next to the wall while hearing yelling sounds of "scary beings" echoing throughout the room.
Best cast members: In every part of the Castle of Chaos, the cast members would feed on your fear. It made the experience really fun. If you screamed, they would chase you faster or get close to your face. While in the 3-D section, my name was called from one of the members of my group, and the clown repeated my name, taunting me. It was super scary!
Worst cast screamers: As already mentioned, the 7 Deadly Sins sections of lust, envy and vanity were kind of annoying. The girls portraying these sins would scream loudly, and instead of being scary, it was just obnoxious.
Sierra Bruggink and Krystal Ruiz, Weber High School
Most claustrophobic venue: There were air-filled bags at the Haunted Hollow in West Haven that you had to push your way through; the bags made you feel like you were being suffocated while you were trying to get through.
Best hillbilly: The girl who told you her Ma and Pa ran away. She was looking for a new ma and pa, but we were too pretty to be her parents so she chased us away with a torch.
Worst scare: There was a Utah version of the chain saw guy chasing you that wasn't scary and was kind of lame. You could obviously tell that there wasn't a blade on the saw.
Scariest room: The Haunted Hollow has a room that was filled with strobe lights. There was a butcher in the room who had a knife that was sparking; I got so disoriented that I couldn't tell if I was walking forward or not.
Sneakiest guy: There was a hole in the ground that I didn't notice until the guy crawled out of it and was reaching for my ankle. After I screamed, he sank back into the hole, waiting for the next person to walk by.
Lamest character: When you first enter the haunted house, you meet the Phantom of the Opera and he keeps repeating the name, "Christine." It was not scary at all.
Morgan Pales, Fremont High School
Nightmare on 13th
Best overall concept: Rated scariest house in Utah, Nightmare on 13th, in Salt Lake City, focuses on the idea of nightmares. Three different nightmares are chosen every year to single out certain fears and bring out the screams. This year's house has three levels of nerve-rattling, bone-shivering, illusionary terror: Zombie Apocalypse, Cirque Du Fear and Netherbeast.
Best entertainment while you wait: Although the lines go on for what seems like forever, Nightmare on 13th has prepared quite the entertainment to keep patrons excited. In the outside lines, creepy characters from each level of nightmare walk around, engulfing awaiting fear seekers and giving them an uneasy feel of what lies ahead.
Then, inside, guests are lined up in front of two big screens that play live footage of people getting scared inside the house. There's also an interesting remake of LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It," created by workers from the haunted house, to give a quick laugh while heartbeats begin to race in anticipation of what's coming.
Best place to get dizzy: Nightmare on 13th offers many exhilarating and panic-filled obstacles, one of which is hidden deep inside the Cirque Du Fear. As you cross a bridge, the walls around you spin, causing a sudden uneasy feeling of uncontrolled dizziness. Then comes a room with a slanted floor and powerful strobe lights that catches people off guard.
Worst group activity: Given that there are so many obstacles, Nightmare on 13th has many areas that cause groups to get split up. My advice would be to take a date, and if you're going in a group, make sure you are in pairs, because you will find yourselves eagerly trying to stay together.
Best photo opportunity: This haunt gives all customers a chance to get their picture taken with a character from the Zombie Apocalypse, and allows groups to take both a smiling photo and a screaming photo. As most haunted houses don't do this, it is a really fun addition offered before facing the thrilling levels of nightmares.
The best part of the photos is that they are free online with a password, and you get to see them at the end of your journey -- then show them off in pride as proof of surviving Nightmare on 13th.
Danielle Collier, Northridge High School