TOWN OF TONAWANDA —
The house — its storyline based loosely on the themes of the Resident Evil and Walking Dead franchises — takes its visitors on a journey through a zombie apocalypse ... through a withered garden, a police department under siege, a TV shop someone — or something — has smashed into, into the sewers, through laboratories and out into the woods. Narrow alleyways and hallways are splattered with "blood," aged and rusted with tricks of the haunters' trade.
The storyline of the companion haunt, Lake Effect, takes place months after the "events" of first house, in the winter, as participants undertake a journey downtown in search of a underground bunker and more survivors. In keeping with the theme, air-conditioners and fans keep the air chilled, and white-strewn walls evoke an icy environment.
Small groups will move through this haunt one at a time, with only the bluish light of a tiny LED flashlight to see by, Chris said. "We hope the anxiety levels are going to be a little higher as people are shuffling through there, with only that little light."
No matter how scary the surroundings, however, without the haunts' actors (dozens of them between the two) things wouldn't be very successful, Chris said.
"You can walk through one of the greatest haunts in the country ... but if you're not getting scared, then what's the point? I think that's something that the big guys forget over the years," he said, noting with pride that one 2011 customer told him, "We jumped more times in your smaller house than some of the bigger haunts combined."
In the pursuit of better scares, District of the Dead has the assistance of Greg Hinaman of Kenmore, who ran his own haunted house at his Tremaine Avenue home for decades until this year. Hinaman's Terror Technologies is assisting with acting, makeup and costuming at District, and many of the actors who took part in his haunt are volunteering there.