In 2013, I presented my first batch of fun awards to area haunted houses. Unique categories were created with the intent that, once awarded, the category would be retired unless a new haunt stepped up to win. The idea was to prevent a haunt from winning for the same thing over and over.
For 2014, I created several new awards, and even a new survey to let DMHH visitors vote on the haunted houses in various subjective categories (“DMHH Victim’s Choice” Awards).
2014 DMHH Awards
- Ames Haunted Forest
- Kramer Couldn’t Do It
- Worth the Wait
- Bondurant Yard Display
- Best Controversy
- Best Dirty Trick
- Coolest – Runner Up
- Funnest – Runner Up
- Most Excessive Use of Strobe Lights
- Only One – Runner Up
- Overall Best – Runner Up
- Scariest – Runner Up
- Haunted Barn
- Best Use of Inflatable Dummies
- Most Liked
- Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
- Best Value – Runner Up
- Only One
- Overall Best
- Sleepy Hollow Sports Park (general)
- Best Value
- Most Excessive Use of Fog
- Stage Fright
- Best Actors
- Ultimate Haunted House
- Shortest Season
- Newest Concept
Best Actors – Stage Fright
New to the scene in 2014 is a group called Stage Fright. They are an offshoot of the Iowa-based stunt team Joust Evolution that does horseback jousting at the Des Moines Renaissance Faire and other regional events. Stage Fright provided actors to roam the lanes at Sleepy Hollow’s Haunted Scream Park. They continually changed costumes (clowns, werewolves, and even a Ghostbuster) making it seem there were far more of them which. They really enhanced the feeling of the park.
Best Controversy – Bondurant Yard Display
In October 2014, local media presented a story about a “controversial” home Halloween display in Bondurant that involved three bodies hung from a tree. The display was inspired by a scene in the 2012 horror movie Sinister, but some neighbors thought it represented suicide or a lynching and was in bad taste. It seems even a creepy Halloween display is not safe in these politically correct times.
Best Dirty Trick – Chaos
Sleepy Hollow’s Chaos is seen by many to be the most intense attraction that the scream park has to offer. The exit of this haunt, like many, features a chainsaw maniac that chases visitors out (hopefully running and screaming) past those waiting in line to get in. For 2014, the house manager thought it would be a nice idea to install a tunnel right at the exit, presenting no obvious way out. Many park visitors clustered along the outside fence to watch victims being chased all around obstacles as they scrambled one at a time through the exit tunnel. That’s just mean.
Best Use of Inflatable Dummies – Haunted Barn
Although the Haunted Barn did not have its traditional “live snakes and rats” this year, they did add something as terrifying: inflatable dummies. This incredibly simple effect gave the illusion of a hallway full of people, any one of which might be ready to attack you. It was surprisingly effective, and no doubt embarrassing to visitors who realized they were spooked by blow-up dolls.
Kramer Couldn’t Do It – Ames Haunted Forest
Long-time commenter on the DMHH Facebook page (and video interview subject), Kramer, seems to make it to all the haunts in the area during. But, in 2014, he admitted publicly that he ended up exiting out of the Ames Haunted Forest without making it all the way through. The only questions we have now is: What scene was the one that pushed him over the edge? And, will he try again next year?
Most Excessive Use of Fog – Sleepy Hollow
When a haunted house has its fog juice delivered in 55 gallon drums, you expect things will be foggy. At certain times, their dozens of fog machines created so much fog that you couldn’t even see from one end of the park to the other. It really felt like visiting one of the major amusement park’s Halloween events, but nearby neighbors in Pleasant Hill were probably not pleased to see that experience invade their streets, blocks away. There was even an unconfirmed report that the city contacted the park to ask them to please tone down the fog.
Most Excessive Use of Strobe Lights – Chaos
When Pleasant Hill changed its safety codes for haunted houses in 2014, it meant the removal of most of the ceiling over the scenes inside Chaos. Without the dark enclosure, Sleepy Hollow decided to come up with a new approach to lighting the attraction. Four computer-controlled 1000 watt strobe lights were added, and a new lighting pattern (nicknamed “Chaos mode”) was created. This made all those warning signs about “strobe lights in use” even more appropriate.
Most Liked (on Facebook) – Haunted Barn
This is a simple one: Out of all the Des Moines-area haunted houses, the Haunted Barn had more fans willing to “Like” their page. Enough said. People on Facebook really dig the Haunted Barn.
Newest Concept – Tormented Souls Zee-Pacolypse
The newest haunt in our area, Tormented Souls Haunt in Madrid, added a new paintball experience in 2014. They custom-built two trailers that had mounted paintball guns on them, and guests were driven around a long course so they could shoot glow-in-the-dark paintballs at targets and “live” zombies. It was ludicrously fun, and a great addition.
Shortest Season – Ultimate Haunted House
This long-running haunt at White Water University received some devastating news on their opening night. The City of Pleasant Hill decided to shut them down for not meeting new haunted house building codes, even though the attraction had operated safely the same way for decades. They never reopened during the season, so we present them this award for their one partial night season.
Worth the Wait – Ames Haunted Forest
How long would you wait to get in to a haunted house? Visitors to the Ames Haunted Forest were willing to wait up to 2 1/2 hours to experience it on a peak night in 2014. Most people won’t even wait half that long for a great steak dinner, let alone to be chased through the woods by maniac clowns with chainsaws.
And, a brand new category based on votes submitted to this website: DMHH Victim’s Choice. We asked you to tell us which haunts you visited this year, and then pick your favorite one from several categories. The more haunts you experienced, the more your vote would count (since you had more to compare with). Here are the questions we asked, and the results of our first annual non-scientific survey, which is most categories had the same winner by a LANDSLIDE.
SCARIEST: First, which haunted house did you think was the “scariest”? (Not the overall best, but the one that scared you or startled you the most.)
Scariest – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
Scariest Runner Up – Chaos
FUNNEST: Second, which haunted attraction did you think was the “funnest”? (Again, not overall “best”, but the one you had the most fun going through.)
Funnest – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
Funnest Runner Up – Chaos
COOLEST: Third, which haunted attraction did you think was the “coolest”? (For instance, best sound, coolest sets, neatest special effects — regardless of if it was scary or not, or expensive or cheap.)
Coolest – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
Coolest Runner Up – Chaos
BEST VALUE: Fourth, which haunted attraction did you think was the “best value” for the ticket price? (For example, you might think a $5 haunt was great for the price, even if it wasn’t anywhere as good as a $20 haunt you visited. Or, you may find a $16 haunt disappointing, but would have loved it if it was $10.)
Best Value – Sleepy Hollow Haunted Scream park
Best Value Runner Up – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
OVERALL BEST: Fifth, which haunted attraction did you think was the overall “best”? (For whatever reason – maybe it had the coolest special effects even if it wasn’t scary, or it was the longest — the one YOU personally liked the most.)
Overall Best – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
Overall Best Runner Up – Chaos
ONLY ONE: And finally, for whatever reason (most fun, scariest, best for the money), if you had only gotten to choose just ONE haunted attraction to attend this year, which ONE would it have been?
Only One – Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
Only One Runner Up – Chaos
For 2015, if a past winner of category has no challengers the next year, that category will be retired. This will keep the same haunt from winning the same category over and over.