Thursday, 14 May 2009

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: The Fear Factory

When in Niagara Falls, Alan and I went to Nightmares: the Fear Factory. This haunted house is just down the street from the Hampton. It was pouring. Ted and Jon were not really interested in going to a museum or haunted house, so it was just Alan and I.

It was pretty dark when we got in there (ie. the lobby) and much of it was made of dark, rough wood. Afterward I learned that it was supposed to look like an old abandoned coffin factory. Anyway, we got tickets and waited for the green light, while the rules came down a screen. The rules include no kicking, stay close together, and, if you chicken out, yell the word 'Nightmares' and something will lead you out. They keep track of all of the people who chicken. Apparently it's quite a few. Anyway, the idea is that you follow the red lights. Got it.

We go in pretty casual--a bit nervous, I guess, but not bad--and we come to spot around a corner where there's something that looks like an exhibit in a zoo or museum. The lighting is fairly low. In the exhibit there's a table with a shrouded body on it. Where the signs would be beneath the 'glass' is a red button. We discuss it for a moment, and then Alan pushes it. A huge spike-ladden board slams down over the 'window,' and then the lights shot off. It's pitch black. So we follow around these little red LEDs in darkness. After losing each other and being growled at to keep together, Alan grabs my shoulder so we don't get seperated. Also, if I know Alan's behind me, then I also know that he's not whatever's moving ahead of me.

The passageways were pretty interesting. The ground sloped a lot, and sometimes the ceiling came down in strange ways. The most awkward was the passage you had to crawl through. That was unnerving.

I can't precisely remember the order everything happened in, so I'll have to give you anecdotes...

Well, first to explain: this didn't have animatronics or electric eyes that make glowing skeletons pop out at you with a pre-programmed chuckle. It was operated by what seemed to be two guys running through the walls (and sometimes the passageways we walked through). Now to particular events.

At one point a light shone down on a hatch in the wall as one of the guys popped up through it. The light went out before he retreated, though, which was creepy. To quell my fear, I said, "Hello," to the guy. He then started mimicking me in a high-pitched voice. From the darkness. Sometimes in the walls.

As we went through certain corridors, we could hear a teenage-sounding girl sobbing and begging for mercy.

Every so often they gave us a stairwell for respite. These stairwells were properly lit and 'safe.' On the other side of one that went down was another short stair in darkness. As we approached the red light, something closed behind us. I felt out and discovered that the light was mounted on a wall. A little tactile exploration determined that we were locked in this room. Shortly thereafter a door opened so that we could not see the door or the people standing in it, but could see the light from the other side of the door shining onto a wall above us, back where we came from. We could also hear two people discussing something, but couldn't make out what. Then the door closed, and someone was walking down the stairs we had just come down. Suddenly a now-lit cellar door slammed shut above us and a new passageway opened to our left.

Partway through the maze, one of the guys started giggling hysterically. As in, as though he were insane. From the darkness. Sometimes in the walls. Sometimes in the passage behind us.

In another part, when I knew for a fact that one of those guys was behind us, we came to a bridge. You know those rope bridges with wooden boards along the bottom? Like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, only smaller? The ones that shake if you jump on them? There was a faint light beneath it so you could see what it was and get a sense of where the 'railing' rope was. The guy behind us waited for us to be about two-thirds to a quarter of the way across that bridge before he ran up and started shaking it, jumping up and down and jabbering like crazy. He sounded like a cross between a furious child and a territorial chimp. That and crazy.

At one point, of course, they grab you from behind. They got Alan, though, and not me.

Another memorable part is when a small car with bright headlights flies toward you. Of course it does not hit you, but it also stops somewhat later (and therefore sooner) than you expect. This is when they take your picture.

Eventually, we were out, and the lobby did not look as dark any more. I bought the picture, too, and sent the digital version to Alan.

Meditations on the experience:

It is funny how scary these things can be. Even though I know there is no possible way that I'll be bodily or psychologically harmed, I was throughout in a sense of high anxiety. The fact that that it isn't all animatronic or computer-operated but rather run by employees--real agents, in the psychological sense of the term--adds a definite amount to the fear factory. Knowing that they used passages in the walls, floors, ceiling, etc. didn't help any. It simply let you know that they could be anywhere and that you couldn't trust your ears. In pitch blackness, what sounds like it's in the walls could actually be around the next bend. Anyway, things in the walls is always a little creepy unless it's rodents. (At least, I don't find rodents in the walls creepy. I find it comforting to know that living things that mean me no harm are sharing my space. But I recognize others likely don't feel the same way.)

It is also funny how much we can enjoy 'safe' fear. I found the experience marvellous, and I know Alan did as well. Especially once I stopped trying not to be afraid. And yet I'm not a fan of movies that are actually scary. Correction: I am not a fan of being afraid after watching a scary movie, which can sometimes happen. The Haunting of Hill House did that for me (the movie, not the book, though that book was one of the creepiest I have ever read). I am certainly drawn to the horror genre, but I don't usually know what to do with it.

Alan said that it would have been better with girls along. If only Linda and Roz had come...both said that they wished they could have gone. Linda, at least, would have reacted more audibly to the strips of plastic (I think they were plastic) that hung from the ceiling to brush against your head. Alan says she doesn't like those because they make her think of bugs.

Anyway, that was the Fear Factory. I enjoyed the experience.

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