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Village of Terror

the Valley hasn’t seen anything this massive for Halloween

Trevor Kupfer, photos by Andrea Paulseth

 
Grawr.

Some of the most respected haunted house critics say if you want to truly experience a place, you have to go on the first and last nights. The idea being that actors are more into it early on, but operations aren’t as smooth, while the reverse happens by the end. Well a few of us over at V1 were excited and checked out the Village of Terror on Oct. 14, and even though we aren’t going to need to for a critical review, we very well might be back on Halloween.

As we pulled into the parking lot at the Renaissance Faire grounds in Chippewa, we were immediately taken by the spectacle of the event, as giant glowing pumpkin posts lighted the way and a spotlight traversed the sky. It was already clear that the Chippewa Valley hasn’t experienced anything of this magnitude for Halloween.

We got there a little before 7pm, when the grounds and activities are skewed to youngsters. I ran into a young family around 8:30pm, who said they’d been there four hours and still hadn’t done everything. It’s not hard to believe, with about a dozen carnival rides and at least that many mini haunted attractions that most brave youths could handle.

By “the witching hour,” the attractions reflected the skyline and grow dark. We were first drawn to the Sideshow Stage, where the comically charismatic Manolete displayed an impressive pyrotechnics show. He shared the stage on a rotating basis with Wyck, a freak show stuntist working with nails, broken glass, animal traps, and fire. These shows certainly had some adult humor not suitable for kids, but Wyck put it best. “My act is designed to go over your kids’ heads. If they get it, it must be your fault.”

The vendors and refreshment stands are similar to the Ren Faire, but the fortunetellers (tarot and palm) and spellcasters seem a better fit in this setting. The two spots to get beer had some fun entertainers (magicians, a snake dancer), but none better than The Polka Band From Hell, an awesome four-piece group with a Tom Waits sound that made me wonder if Eau Claire’s Dead Dogs were acting the part. The Dreamland Dance Hall is the main place to be for music, with an incredible sound and light/projection show, a dance floor, and a great stage setup for bands (local and in-house) and the Thriller dance.

 


But, of course, you want to hear about the haunted attractions. There’s no less than three maze houses. Two of them are completely dark and make you wonder if something might be around the corner, while The Amazing Maze was garnering the most buzz. The $4 spookhouse is one part trippy fun house (mirrors, lights) and another part haunted house (witch, chainsaw). My personal favorite wasn’t so much scary as it was creepy. The Unnatural Wonders and Brutal Oddities shack had four rooms, each with a creepy story, setting, and actor. 

There’s also a graveyard in which zombie and vampire actors spawn every so often, and a rickety fence is the only thing between you. And because it’s getting cold, there are several fire pits and campfires, one of which had a scary story teller. 

There’s so much stuff going on (more than I’ve mentioned) that the timing of some attractions becomes key if you want to fit everything in. While barkers and fireworks are used to mark some features, others require lucky guesswork. The Asylum was a particularly disappointing instance, in which upwards of 100 people gathered at the gates, waiting for up to 30 minutes, only to see a two-minute scene with an abrupt end. The Haunted Hayride was likewise disappointing, but for a different reason. The tractor couldn’t handle a load of people and broke down.

Not surprisingly, the people I ran into with the most enthusiasm for the Village were of the middle and high school crowds. The young kids were loving the carnival rides (they were free the first weekend), but these teens were all about this place, dropping words like “awesome” and “crazy” (and sometimes combined) in our brief conversations.

So, sure, the Village of Terror has its share of things to smooth out and tighten up. But given that this was the first night of the event’s first year, I take comfort in knowing it can only get better from here …

Oct. 21-23, 28-31 • Eagle Ridge Campground, 2302 Nelson Rd. & 117th St., Chippewa Falls • 4pm to midnight • $15 adult, $6 ages 5-12, FREE military & under 4 • 723-9999 •www.festfun.com