March 21st, 2017
Walking in The Darkness: St.Louis’ scariest Haunted Attraction
The Darkness/1525 South 8th St./St.Louis, MO 63104
Why does the name “The Darkness” feel so overwhelming and sinister, like you’re smothering in an evil blanket of horror and fear and you can not escape? You take one step over that iron threshold and hold on to your partner as the adrenaline warms your body. The harder you try to suppress those feelings of disgust and anxiety, the quicker those feelings creep up on you like a zombie hiding in a dark corner. You begin to dread each corner of darkness, yet you must move forward because you know something is following you. No stopping now. One horrid picture after another. Are you really in a haunted attraction with actors and mechanical devices, or is there just something too real about this place to be artificial? Your mind begins to play tricks with you and the neurotic overload within your body forces strange things to happen. Your legs tremble, your clammy hands squeeze your partner’s hand even tighter, your body struggles between fight or flight as you nervously shuffle down the haunted corridors. Your screams overpower anyone else that is trying to survive this insanity. No reason to try to be tough, you have no chance and they have no remorse. You begin to lose hope as each monster and creature dominate their realm and you realize you shouldn’t be there. As you reach for another doorway and push your way through the fog, a cloud of fresh air touches your face like opening a window on a cool October night….you made it through The Darkness! One step after the other, real or pretend, scary and exciting, dark and sinister…you made it! Wanna do it again?
The Darkness is a mystical wonderland and work of art; it should be a shrine to all haunters for inspiration and for haunt seekers to worship. From the attitude of the characters to the finest detail on a complex set, Darkness had it all. When I first arrived, I noticed an actor aggravating the que line. It was the guy off the www.scarefest.com website. There were about 100 people or more and he was patrolling the queue line like an SS soldier in a Nazi prison camp, waiting for his next victim. When he spotted a weak one, maybe she was a little too close to her boyfriend or the skinny teenage boy who couldn’t make eye contact with him…who was next? After a few harassments, he came over to my wife and I. He began to work his magic on her, trying to push that button of her nerve center. His face only inches away from hers, she retracted and grew closer to me. He spoke words like “you still love me?”…”I’m going to marry you.”..he dressed in a Tuxedo and had a ring box with a ring..and the finger of someone’s hand. Definitely a man who didn’t take no for an answer. After his blessing and sharing his intensity he noticed my TransWorld t-shirt and began to ask me my background. We spoke shop for a few minutes and I felt as he was a genuine person, who loved the sport of Halloween, and had passion in what he did. His name was Gary McManus and he had been working at The Darkness for many years. After he let me take his picture with my lovely supportive wife, he faded back into the crowd and began his assault.
I grabbed a glance of Larry Kirchner: he looked like he was trying to run three haunts at one time or something. Oh yeah- he does. CreepyWorld and The Lemp Brewery Haunt too. But that’s another post. I must say he has done an awesome job on all three plus he keeps Hauntworld magazine up and running. Wow…he’s my hero! Here’s another link to keep you busy: www.hauntworld.com
While we had just a few heartbeats left before we went in…a large creature appeared in the crowd and I’m not sure where he came from but he was scary! He was over 6 feet tall and built like a St. Louis Ram defensive lineman! He wore old coveralls and he was believable as a creature of the night. As he searched the crowd he prowled over to us and performed a small act of scaredness. After his skit I asked about his character and his mask. He treated me with kindness and we both had mutual respect for the haunt business. I asked what his character’s name was and he didn’t have one…but he said a lot of people call him ‘BigHead’. I could see why but I didn’t want to offend him. He was a lot bigger than me! Plus I knew he had the advantage after I entered HIS house. He was down-to-earth and quiet, yet his presence manifested an energy that even those not looking could feel. As I turned my head to look at my wife and looked back- he had disappeared. I looked around and found him nowhere. I felt a little more comfortable when he was in the light…then I thought to myself “will he be as friendly in the darkness?” Just then the announcer yelled out the rules and took our speed passes- we were the first ones to enter- all the monsters had been hungry for hours and we were the first victims. I put my arm around my wife, like I was going to protect her, and we dragged our way through the front door-leaving the safety of the real world behind.
We realized we were in a different world as soon as we came to the first area. Our minds were slowly transforming us into the realm that everyone experiences when they come here. With the attention to detail that the workers put into the set design, the realism the actors portray in their characters, and the unity of everything flowing together: you really have no choice but to believe that it is real. I have ruined a lot of the scare factor in haunts by searching for the scare and taking my time to observe the work involved; but I could not do that here. I stayed alert, but was startled around the next corner. There is so much detail and so many ideas that as soon as I left one area, the next area consumed me. Even the soundscape and lighting was perfect! A lot of haunts ignore this aspect, but The Darkness has it nailed down. I can’t honor you with everything I saw and experienced because it was such an overload that I could not mentally take it all in. Each area had its own feel. There were startle effects, animatronics, actor skits, scenic sets, and everything you’d never expect. The transition was smooth between areas and the timing was spot on. I met up with ‘BigHead’ again, I won’t tell you his location because you need to meet him for yourself, but this time he wasn’t as friendly. I actually wanted to get away from him! As we barely escaped his wrath, I should have thought about getting out of here, but I wanted to stay. TerrorVisions 3D brightened things up a bit and the art work was amazing. It felt like I was in a twisted Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen was going to jump out and chop off my head. Even though my body was trembling- I didn’t want it to be over, but it soon was. After we found the exit, we entered a neutral space- the Monster Museum. A collection of many years worth of life-size monsters and creatures: The Predator, Alien, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. I tried to recollect my thoughts, but I kept thinking about the stimulation I had just experienced. I turned to my wife and asked, “Wanna do it again?”