At the climax of Joe Hill’s fantastic short story Best New Horror when the editor of a genre periodical is in the final stages of tracking down the mysterious author of a piece that blew his mind. Jaded after reading years of subpar submissions, the editor’s nerves catch fire and he is amped up despite every instinct telling him that he should turn around and head back to the safety of civilization instead of turning down windy dirt roads in the middle of Nowheresville.
Heading towards Destination Haunt in Lebanon Maine, I couldn’t help but think of Hill’s story, as this outdoor attraction takes place in the middle of nowhere. There may have been a few moments my navigator asked “Are you sure you want to go this way?” rather than provide the turn by turn directions. The roads heading to the haunt are pitch black and packed over with dirt. There’s little to no homes in the surroundings and it looks like the perfect stretch of area for a murder hole.
Destination Haunt takes place in a long stretch of woods, with about eight to ten separate horror vignettes populated along the trails. In between each attraction there’s long stretches of trail lit by the night sky and tiny LED lights to guide your way. It’s a self paced tour, but you should expect to spend at least a solid thirty minutes making your way through. It’s actually quite a nice walk through the woods when you’re not being yelled at by teenagers in clown masks.
That brings me to the biggest downside of Destination Haunt: there’s no disguising the subpar costume design snd performances the actors. Rather than put together an ensemble that represents the area they’re working in, most of the performers tossed on whatever teeshirt and jeans combo they could dig out of the hamper and topped it off with a clown mask. The whole thing had the feel of a juggalo gathering instead of a Halloween Haunt. Whereas an attraction like Ghoulie Manor offers seasoned performers in impeccable makeup creeping up on you in order to burrow under your skin, Hauntseemed content to jump out and yell boo or bang a stick against a fence every few seconds in order to “scare” patrons.
The outdoor nature of the haunt does offer one very cool benefit if you allow your imagination to wander in this territory. Roaming around outside, under the stars in a wide open area, it’s easy to imagine some lunatic buying a ticket, hiding in the woods then absconding with any of the paying customers without anyone being aware. If you allow your mind to wander into that twisted territory, it makes the long stretches walking on isolated trails all the more unnerving.