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Rating Fright Fest attractions

Updated: November 10, 2012 6:16AM

Shivering in the wind at my son’s baseball game on Saturday, I heard another father raving about his experience at Fright Fest the night before:

“It was so cold, no one was there!” he said with amazement. “We got on, like, 20 rides in five hours!”

I would have nodded in agreement, but my neck was still frozen from having been there myself.

Not that I let November’s premature arrival sour my spirit. In fact, I was able to stay indoors more than usual at the outdoor theme park, since Six Flags Great America offered a media preview of Fright Fest’s separate-admission haunted houses, which in one case was more of a haunted moat.

In fact, we found that one of the rooms in Massacre Medical Center, near the old games area in County Fair, was nearly as warm as a sauna (not to reveal too much, but a room has to be warm if a park employee/crazed patient is going to emerge dramatically from a tank of water).

What was my overall verdict on these haunted attractions? The aforementioned medical center had the most interesting set decorations, and the most clever scare, which might involve participation from a member of your group. But I was most intrigued by the new Wicked Woods, which travels through a drained (and remarkably shallow) Roaring Rapids in Mardi Gras. A guided tour of a winding canyon ends up unguided, leaving you to walk through one ambush point after another, possibly involving Bigfoot.

To be honest, my advancing age and understanding of insurance limitations spoils the fun for me at any for-profit haunted house. I know that I not only won’t be maimed, but cannot be actually touched. Still, my wife did grip my hand tight enough to hurt at least twice during our visit, which was good for a laugh.

Speaking of advanced age, visitors to Fright Fest 2012 should check out the ride graveyard near the train station in County Fair. It features tombstones for more than a dozen defunct Great America attractions, and issues a taunt that “if you remember them all, you’ll be spared eternal rest.”

I remembered them all: The Edge, The Tidal Wave, Skywhirl, even Rolling Thunder and The Hay Baler. My favorite tombstone? “Shock Wave: 1988-2002. They said ‘Save The Whizzer,’ and Shockwave Became Chopped Liver.” I still don’t know anyone who wants that ride to rise from the dead.

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