Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Secrets of Frightmare Manor

I sat down with Chris Wooden, the creator behind Frightmare Manor, now open for their third year in Talbott, smack on the border of Jefferson and Hamblen counties, to see if we could get some more details about what audiences can expect if they dare take the journey through all four stages of frights and chills offered at this "screampark".

I can tell you that the pure enthusiasm from Chris and his crew of Frightmare Fiends is enormous. As they have said before, for them, running Frightmare Manor is like Christmas for them.Their delight is indeed much like a wide-eyed child on Christmas morning - except of course, the child here is rather demented and deeply devoted to making you shriek out loud many times, no matter what your age.

So Chris, tell us a little about the planning that goes into this huge event. Do you have a regular team of creators involved?

"Planning for Frightmare Manor is truly a year round event. Our managers and actors keep in touch throughout the year and brainstorm new and creative ways to torment our victims. This event is in our blood and is something we enjoy working on year round. Once our plans are set, the redesign and renovation work usually begins late April."

Tell us what a visitor can expect from the four different attractions at Frightmare?

"Each attraction for 2011 is designed to be a completely different experience for our victims. We offer 3 unique haunted attractions at 1 location, plus the Frightmare Challenge - each mesmerizing in their own way. Whether it be through high-tech animatronics and Hollywood DMX Lighting, or old fashioned blood and chainsaws, we attack ALL 5 senses when someone steps foot onto this old plantation. We invest more and more money every year to give our victims a terrifying experience, that they want to experience year after year. We guarantee new and innovative haunts every year!

"New for 2011, we have a 1 of a kind, custom, entry piece that, by now, everyone has noticed when they drive past our property. Victims must enter into Frightmare Carnivore through this enormous Beast Facade Piece. There is not another example of this creation in the world. It was the Entry Piece to one of the largest haunted attractions in the U.S. for many years, until it's relocation to Frightmare Manor. This is only 1 example of how we will go the extra mile, traveling the U.S., to provide our customers with the Ultimate Haunted Experience. When customers come to Frightmare Manor, they will be seeing the fruits of not only our hard work, but the evidence of the vast industry connections we have, which allows us to bring the BEST props and scare-tactics to the Knoxville, TN area seen ANYWHERE in the U.S.!"

What can you tell us about the tales of a serial killer on this property?

"Jeremiah Lexer was the original property owner of this entire plantation around the turn of the 18th century. The past 2 years we have focused on more recent, controversial events surrounding the 2001 closing of the
successful restaurant on this property. Over the past year, we have dug into the record books and unearthed a lot of forgotten (or hidden) information about Jeremiah Lexer and his original homestead. We believe
Haunted House customers want to experience TRUE TERROR. Because of this, Frightmare Manor will remain at the old Jeremiah Lexer Plantation. We will continue to learn and share with our customers the evidence over the next few years."


This must take a lot of work from performers and tech crews - about how many people are involved?

"Many Haunted Attractions choose to use volunteers to staff their event. Frightmare Manor is proud to employ close to 80 staff seasonally. Most of our actors tell us it's an experience they would do for free, but we believe our actors truly appreciate the payment and we feel they absolutely deserve it! Working at Frightmare Manor is a unique experience and we have hundreds of applications per year. Providing seasonal employment to our community is truly a joy for us. It's a true Win-Win!"

I can verify for you, dear reader, since I worked at Frightmare last year, that everyone involved works very, very hard to make your experience unforgettable and uncanny.

Don't miss it!

'Grand Guignol' Opens At Relix in Knoxville

I've said it before many time - I like Halloween scares and events so much I frighten even myself. And that means it's time to share a unique fear-filled thrill being presented in Knoxville at Relix Variety Theatre on Thursday and Friday nights by The Wild Thyme Players.

Titled "The Ghastly Gala of the Grand Guignol", the show draws from the legendary productions of melodrama and mayhem of live shows in Paris in the late 19th century, shows which dared to shock, scare, and amaze audiences with theatrical madness. As the Wild Thyme Players explain on their website:

"The The√Ętre du Grand Guignol, located in the bohemian Montmartre district of Paris in the late 19th century, was famous for its mystery and horror plays. These performances later inspired works by Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino. Project Director Courtney Woolard says, “Grand Guignol was innovative and provocative theatre for its’ time, and remains relevant today as the basis for many of the modern horror films we love to scare ourselves with.”

Woolard explains that Grand Guignol translates into “puppet master,” and the performances are designed to manipulate the audience’s emotions with a “hot and cold shower” of horror, eroticism and comedy."

How about a little more enticement? Thursday's show is only 10 dollars, Friday is 15 dollars, so attend one or both and be prepared to wade deep into the disturbing world of the Grand Guignol. This show does include a parental warning -- Due to the adult nature of this show, parental discretion is advised. For more information call (865)325-9877

Shatner Sings 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?

Halloween seems the most appropriate time to release a new album from iconic actor William Shatner. It's called Seeking Major Tom and includes an also appropriate line-up of iconic musicians - Zakk Wylde, Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore & Ian Paice, The Strokes' Nick Valensi,  Scorpions' Michael Schenker, country star Brad Paisley, funk legend Bootsy Collins, '70s rock god Peter Frampton, folkster Sheryl Crow, Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese, The Kinks' Dave Davies, and Yes guitarist Steve Howe

More on the ... um, musical enterprise ... from FearNet.

This 2 disc collection arrives with a video for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". And yes, Shatner's face is made of stars.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dear Mr. Limbaugh - Survivor of LRA Horrors Asks For Humane Treatment

I've often had the misfortune to hear the bizarre rants and twisted fabrications which flows like a broken sewage pipe from talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Late last week, his idiocy and lust for attention brought him to claim that President Obama was attacking Christians in Uganda. Not only is that a lie, horrible enough, he also sided with the group known as the Lord's Resistance Army and read their propaganda on his program.

Oddly, for a change, his despicable comments have been rebuked by officials and average folks from all corners. However, a survivor of the unimaginable brutalities of the LRA, named Evelyn Apoko, abducted at age nine and forced into a life of endless terrors, filmed a calm, compassionate reply to him. Now at the age 22, she has begun traveling into the West to encourage support for ending what can only be called a war on children.

Here is her video response to Mr. Limbaugh, evidence of a courage and an honesty and compassion arrived at with an enormous cost - something Limbaugh is utterly incapable of understanding.


Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Evelyn's Appeal from Strongheart on Vimeo.

Late last year, The Hill published a vivid account of her ordeal, just one example of the hundreds of thousands of children and adults being butchered by the LRA. Her survival is a miracle. That she now seeks to aid those still left in grip of such endless nightmares come to life is testament to her courage and humanity.

Limbaugh, called out on the floor of the U.S. Senate for his lies, simply laughs and jokes about how officials are talking about him. He has yet to apologize much less to admit his vile statements were more than a result of being "misinformed".

This event is yet another example of how deeply deceptive lies and hateful tactics are the norm for Limbaugh. How anyone can listen to his show more than once or twice and not emerge with a realization his words are slimy and ugly distortions of reality, made in hopes of collecting fame and wealth, is beyond me.

Shame is but the smallest hallmark of Limbaugh and his followers.

(thanks to Xeni at Boing Boing for sharing the video)

A recent website is tracking the atrocities conducted by the LRA.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Frightmare Manor 2011 Now Open!

Ah, Halloween.

".... you don't know much, do you ... on this night, the barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in..."

Chilly nights, shadowy forms shambling through the darkness, screams echoing across the rolling hills of East Tennessee - and the return of Frightmare Manor in Talbott, right on the border of Jefferson City and Morristown.

I worked there last year and had a real blast scaring folks silly, and owner Chris Wooden has gathered another horde of horrible things to scare you silly for 2011. Student night is this week, Oct. 20th, and with a student I.D. you can get a $2 discount off admission. Also on Oct. 30th at 2 pm it's Kid's Day - and it's free, people. And kids can meet some of the cast members too.

The Screampark (I love that!) is open Oct. 20th from 7 til 10 pm, Oct 21 and 22 from 7 til 1 am, Oct. 27 from 7 til 10, Oct 28 and 29 from 7 til 1 am, Oct 30 and 31 from 7 til midnight, and Nov 4 and 5 from 7 til midnight.

Order tickets online and you can save on admission too.

Here's a trailer for this year's amazing 4 Attraction Screampark:


In coming days, I'll share more behind-the-scenes info with you from Chris and his Frightmare Fiends. UPDATE: Click here for the interview and more secrets of Frightmare!

Ah, Halloween.

Zombie Politics 2011


A pair of recent editorials tries to crack the code to answer a "what does it mean?" aimed at the Occupy Wall Street and other spreading protests nationally and globally. But I'm not sure really that there is a code to crack.

Bernard Harcourt writes an editorial for the NYTimes that OWS is designed to be "political disobedience" - a rejection of the current state of American ideological political divisions, goals, and practices. "Ultimately, what matters to the politically disobedient is the kind of society we live in, not a handful of policy demands." Perhaps he is right.

Casey Seiler writes an editorial for the Albany Times Union saying a leaderless, shambling protest of the OWS stripes can accomplish little - that "Without direction, it's walking -- but dead." Perhaps Casey is right.

From my perspective, the Tea Party folks and the OWS are both expressions of the same deep dissatisfaction with American politics. Serious efforts to provide economic policies, devise solutions to complex global problems and limit the influences of corporate cash support are truly absent in today's political world. And none in charge seem to want to alter the current status in any way, instead doubling-down for more of the same, which leads to less than nothing and nowhere. Those in government, local and national, do not understand any of their failings and remain focused on one goal - election and re-election. Tragedy is poised for performance.

Sadly, as noted by Seiler, the overall effect looks far too much like the chaos of a society overrun by endless, mindless hordes of consuming monsters. The survivors want two things - survival and a way to reinstall some normalcy - but none have all the answers. Make your best guess, try and endure, and try to maintain some kind of human community.

At this point, as in most zombie movies, all I can say is "good luck with that".