Day Terrors: Haunted Overload

October 25, 2017 — “Why would anybody visit an empty haunted attraction during the day?” This was the question posed by one of our party before we walked into an empty haunted attraction at 11 am on a Sunday morning. It was a legitimate question.

Haunts thrive on the dark. It’s the night and the discombobulating lighting and fog effects that allow us the suspension of disbelief to imagine that the foam and plywood surrounding us are actually the walls of a centuries-old haunted mansion full of monsters. It’s those same elements that turn made-up teenagers and accountants into terrifying mutants from the netherworld. Going into one of these during the day can be like staring down into the proscenium of a puppet show. Oh, it’s just a couple of people with arm cramps sitting atop each other, as silly as a nightmare remembered over a bowl of Cap’n Crunch the next morning.

But not Haunted Overload. Its monsters don’t scuttle away when the rock is overturned. They stand up to their full heights and blot out the sun themselves.

Haunted Overload is in Lee, New Hampshire. I’m not the most plugged-into that scene, but from what I’ve heard and read, it seems as if it’s one of the more famous haunts in the country. I did the traditional night haunt there almost a decade ago, but have only a hazy memory about the specifics of it, honestly.

I’d always wanted to do its day haunt, though, but had never gotten a chance. Sunday was that chance, and now I feel stupid for not doing it every year. Basically, for a severely discounted rate, the attraction owners allow people to walk through the haunt in the daytime without any actors populating the maze. It’s basically a set tour.

And it’s a great idea. I’d say that for any haunt that takes pride in its environments, but particularly for Haunted Overload. Few haunts take pride in their environments like Haunted Overload takes pride in its environments.

Within two minutes of entering the wooded trail, our jaws dropped like we were decaying skeletons. I’m talking apocalyptically massive characters four-stories high looming over us like demi-gods. Entire buildings shaped liked skulls and dinosaurs and jack-o-lanterns. Just awe-inspiring stuff everywhere we looked, even without all the lighting effects that make them look surreal and overwhelming at night. Like, it looks amazing just rolling out of bed.

The place feels like something a major theme park in a big city would erect, not a haunt out in the middle of the least-referenced state in the union, but that fact certainly added to the atmosphere. I mean, Disney can erect spectacles like no other, but just the simple atmosphere of forest and giant pumpkin scarecrows that Haunted Overload achieves is a nuanced effect that takes a level of love and personal commitment that the big parks can only pay salaries to fake.

And we could examine it all at our own pace, like it was (and it kind of is) an art museum. No pressures from mobs of people pushing us from behind. No delicious stress of wondering where the next jump scare will be.

I mean, I wasn’t the one who asked the question that I opened this post with, but I was still surprised by the sheer scale and atmosphere of the place. To the point that I’m really sorry, like sick-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach sorry, that I’m telling you about it so late in the year.