The Haunt continues to scare Grand Rapidians

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Photo Courtesy of The Haunt

Tickles the Clown is the star of this year's attraction.

As Halloween approaches, the brave among us get into the spirit of the season by seeking out haunted attractions to get our scare on, and there’s no better place to do this than The Haunt. Warning, this review contains spoilers.

Located on 28th Street, The Haunt has been around for 18 years and boasts itself as “West Michigan’s premier haunted attraction” on its website. The Haunt consists of five different themed segments, together telling the life story of this year’s character, Tinkles the Clown. 

The first of the five sections is called “Dark Manor,” which shows Tinkles’ childhood, complete with living dolls, moving rooms and incredible attention to detail. The second section is called “Vox Sanitarium,” named after the establishment where Tinkles spent most of his adolescence. Visitors would do well to keep their eye on the head doctor, who followed our group through the whole attraction. Don’t linger here too long, lest you be dissected and made a permanent patient!

The third area is called “Condemned” and is set in an abandoned mannequin factory. Tinkles’ family reportedly stays there, so watch out for them. Automatonophobes will love this one. The fourth section is called “Beasts” and takes you through the swamps behind the factory. Was that a snarl? A growl coming from around the next tree? Most likely yes, because werewolves abound.

The fifth and final leg of The Haunt is called “Sinister Circus” and features by far the most interactive actors and scares. You will face clowns that make fun of your clothing, hair or intelligence. You think you like cotton candy? Try it when it’s black, hair-flavored, and shoved in your face. Want to go toe-to-toe with Tinkles? Then get ready for him to chase you with a chainsaw. 

 In several rooms, items (some of them bodies) are hung from ceilings. Ducking beneath hanging syringes, squeezing through tight spaces and feeling things you cannot see brush against your face in the dark all add to the immersive experience. In one room, the front bumper of a mechanized truck crashes through a wall to make a clever and unexpected jump scare. In another, guests cross a bridge placed in the middle of a revolving neon cylinder for a mind-bending and disorienting walk.

Altogether, the experience took around an hour. With this length of time, it is easy to become accustomed to jump scares and special effects like  jaded horror movie watchers, and by the end attendees can become much more difficult to scare. The Haunt takes this into consideration and produces fresh scares and unexpected effects all the way to the finale. 

As with most popular haunted attractions, The Haunt implements a strict “no touch” rule for its actors and its guests. This means that scare actors are not allowed to touch attendees and vice versa. That being said, The Haunt does a fantastic job of making you feel the danger while maintaining boundaries that provide a fragile sense of safety. 

Your senses will be toyed with when you encounter strobe lights and moving rooms, and your perception of reality will be challenged at the hands of Tinkles, but The Haunt lets attendees appreciate the adrenaline rush safely, in accordance with their “no touch” rule. Whatever nightmares you experience after are your own to deal with. 

One of the most standout parts of The Haunt is the set design. Between avoiding killer clowns, one is able to take in the incredible detail of each part of the attraction. What other place can you name that has a fully-decorated medical wing, complete with gurneys and a doctor who wants to give you a lobotomy? Inside “Dark Manor,” the walls are lined with what look like hand-drawn pictures, photos of the family, and completely decorated mantels. The “Sinister Circus” is overflowing with carnival trappings. There are prize stands, stuffed animals (sadly, decapitated), the aforementioned cotton-hair-candy, and an actor in full-body makeup appearing to be a tiger. 

The Haunt also does lighting very well. There are multiple scenes with intense strobing effects, giving actors the appearance of jumping from place to place. There are also bright neon lights shone on flowing water to give it a “toxic sludge” effect. 

The lighting will go away, however, when The Haunt hosts two “Blackout” nights, Nov. 1 and 2, where patrons will receive one glowstick per group before they are thrust into a completely dark Haunt.

Those attending The Haunt should consider that this attraction is not for the faint of heart. However, if you think yourself brave enough to set foot within the cursed grounds of The Haunt, consider this your personal dare.