Eville Attractions: Downtown haunts prove lackluster

Jake Tapley

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courthouse-catacombs

In the Evansville haunted house scene, The Old Courthouse Catacombs wins the award for creepiest atmosphere; hands down.

Situated in the basement–or lack thereof–of the Old Courthouse in downtown Evansville, you wouldn’t think that much of an effort would have to be made in order to make The Catacombs scary.
Already, the underground tunnels are a bit unnerving, with the uneven dirt floor beneath your feet, the occasional low ceilings that require ducking and even the random objects like pipes that protrude from walls and ceilings.

But from my experience, there needed to be a bit more of an effort put forth than there was this year.

“Moster Dolls” is the theme for both the Catacombs and the House of Lector, which are joint haunted houses that function independently of one another yet also work together to offer combo tickets (one is on Vine Street and the other is on the Main Street walkway).

This makes complete sense with the recent popularity of horror movies like “The Conjuring” and subsequent spin-off release, “Annabelle.”

But the whole thing seemed cheap and gimmicky, like the entire staff had gone to a local costume shop a few days before they opened.

There were masks I had seen before from previous years of going to local haunted houses and costume shops. Some of the masks even repeated, which made the scares increasingly stale. (I’m pretty sure there were at least three or four different people wearing the same creepy baby mask).

I mean, I understand there are budget limitations to be had for all of these locally-owned-and-operated haunted houses, but come on.
When I go to a haunted house, I expect a bit of creative invention and, of course, a few scares.

Like any other form of entertainment, a haunted house should entertain.

Unfortunately, the most entertainment I received during the walk-through was in a room that simulated a dance party – literally people in morph suits pretending to be DJs to the song “Turn Down For What” – which isn’t exactly a good thing in terms of what you expect from a haunted house.

What is ultimately most disappointing here is a missed opportunity and a feeling of untapped potential.

At The House of Lector, it is what’s inside that counts.

From the get go, the entrance isn’t clearly marked, which causes for some initial confusion. I want to say that this was done for effect, but it could have just as easily been an oversight by the staff.

Regardless, right when you walk in the entrance (an open doorway just off the sidewalk), you find yourself in a long, creepy hallway. For a moment, you wonder if you’re already in the haunted house, and you half-expect someone to jump out at you at any given moment.
However, once you make a couple turns and see the ticket booth, you realize this isn’t the case.

Then, the haunted house starts.

I was surprised by the amount of stairs there were to climb up and down throughout the haunted house. The layout made the whole thing feel like some endless maze that had become displaced in time and place.

At some point, it really became impossible to figure out what floor you were on or how high you were from the ground or how much longer you would be stuck inside the confines of the building.

But for the most part, despite its strange setup, the House of Lector was pretty standard. There was nothing too out-of-the-ordinary or particularly noteworthy. There were a couple of aesthetically creepy rooms that resembled operation rooms or mental institutions, but nothing really blew me away.

With that being said, the haunted house wasn’t terribly bad either. There were people jumping out consistently in all sorts of masks and makeup, other people simply acting and not necessarily interacting, and even a few people who were following patrons around to drive up the feeling of unease or strangeness.

For me, the best part was the spinning tunnel at the end, which acts more as a trippy optical illusion than a scare tactic. Still, it’s pretty effective in achieving disorientation – for putting you into a world outside of your own.

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