Who's the weird old person hanging around the packs of high school kids at Portland-area haunted houses? The one who reeks of good coffee and cheap gin? Yeah, that’s a Willamette Week writer out reviewing local haunts for Creeper Crawl 2012.
Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Rose Quarter, 1 N Center Court St.
I was expecting, I dunno, at least the fanfare of a Winterhawks game. Instead, FrightTown—Portland’s premier haunted house attraction, by all accounts—was nowhere to be found when I first arrived at the very dark, very empty Memorial Coliseum. Turns out, it’s under the building. Appropriate, I guess. Once you locate it, it’s essentially a giant concrete basement with three haunted houses: “Baron von Goolo’s Museum of Horrors,” “the Black Box” and “the Contagion.” In the dank, musty area between each of them, groups of teenagers flirt and there’s a sad-looking kiosk selling sad-looking junk food, but it’s not really a set-up conducive to hanging out and socialising. True to its reputation, FrightTown offers a sophisticated set-up inside each haunt, with immersive sets, a small army of actors, quality animatronics, professional makeup jobs, and almost certainly a far more detailed backstory to every scene than the audience will ever know or care about. On a quiet night such as my visit, you can do all three in under half an hour, but I’m told the lines get pretty long closer to Halloween and on weekends.
$20 general admission or $40 to get straight to the front of the line.
Very little information was actually offered by the staff during the actual visit, but from the website
, I can glean that Baron von Goolo’s—FrightTown’s oldest haunt—is a freakshow and the Black Box is supposed to be the basement of even freakier freaks below his freakshow. The latter is the least impressive in terms of story and stunts, but the scariest in terms of just actors getting up in your personal space in a dark, cramped maze. The Contagion, the newest haunt, and a sort of post-apocalyptic Walking Dead
kinda set-up, is the more sophisticated and immersive story, but scary only in the sense that diseased people (even pretend diseased people) coughing on you is gross.
The guy in front of me in line telling his son to remember to keep his knife in his pocket. He wasn’t joking.
Plenty. There’s a particularly impressive animatronic... thing eating another thing at the end of the Black Box that was exceptionally gorey.
Spending five minutes trying to find my way through one of the pitch black sections. Those aren’t scary—just annoying.
B+. There’s no doubt FrightTown is Portland’s preeminent haunted house, but such a slick set-up lacks some of the chintzy fun of neighborhood haunts.