Sounds peaceful and serene. Bucolic bliss, right? Wait, there’s more.
I hurt everywhere. My clothes are torn and bruises have appeared on my arms and legs. My body is covered, from head to toe, in blood and maybe a little vomit. Also maybe some dried cow feces.
To make matters worse, monsters are lurking nearby. In the last few minutes, Count Orlok has drifted past my tent. Cthulhu sauntered up and slathered me across the face with his multi-tentacled metacarpus, leaving stains of primordial ooze on my cheek. There’s some kind of undead burn victim and a bird/man hybrid. A shambling creeper approaches on all fours. I offer him a Fig Newton and he sits for a while, nibbling on a cookie, before lumbering away.
What is this? Some twisted fantasy or the disjointed madness of a fever dream? Neither. This is camping.
Welcome to The Great Horror Campout, the full-immersion, extreme camping experience with the Horror theme.
Here’s how it works: An hour before sunset, you line-up with other campers at the camp site. After signing the appropriate waivers releasing the monsters from liability in the event of your death, you are ushered into the campground. The entire place is sealed off for 12 hours, from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM. You are not allowed to leave. You are assigned a tent, where you drop off your sleeping bag and personal effects. Next, deformed camp “counselors” usher you to a gathering area. Here, you review a dossier filled with tips, riddles and clues, while a master of ceremonies, called “The Headmaster,” outlines the rules of the game.
Yes, it is a game. The camp is a giant playing board. There are challenges you must complete to earn SCAG (Shit Campers All Get). These items are proof of your accomplishments. Gather up all the required SCAG and you are awarded the title of Hellmaster at the end of the game, which makes for interesting conversation around the water cooler when you get back to the office on Monday.
But be warned: while in play, monsters may hinder your progress. You may get captured, hooded, tied-up and locked inside a cage. Buckets of blood may be poured on you at any moment. Think full-sized 5 gallon orange Home Depot buckets. Or you may be asked to handle objects bathed in gore. The monsters present challenges, called “speedbumps,” to impede your pathway to greatness. They have a whole collection of dirty tricks they can use to screw you over at any time. Most of the objectives require physical movement, such as crawling, climbing or tug-of-war. There are also challenges that test the strength of your will, like the one where you swim in a pool of leeches, or dip your fingers into a bucket of human vomit. When the game is over, there is an outdoor theater where campers can rest and enjoy Horror movies. Also a campfire with marshmallows to roast, sing-alongs and, of course, ghost stories.
All in all, the Great Horror Campout is a terrific experience. The actors are excellent, the costumes fantastic and the sets show attention to detail. Everything is done to provide campers with an adventure they will remember for years to come.
If I had to offer any sort of critique, it would be that the sets could benefit from some form of minimal stage lighting. LED minispots could be employed at some of the locations, such as the Witch’s Circle. This would heighten the creepitude of the performance. Although the challenges of running power over long distances to outdoor sets is a problem, so the lack of lighting is understandable. But often the only illumination at some of the challenges was the handheld flashlights the campers brought in.
Also, campers get coated in fake blood and every manner of sticky goo. The only facilities provided for clean-up are a handful of camp wash stations. Without a method to scour off the caustic filth, guests may stain the upholstery of their Lexus or BMW while driving home. Maybe some kind of high-pressure hose would help with personal hygiene after the event. Plus it would be like a haunted wet t-shirt contest. Bonus.
If you plan on attending the Great Horror Campout, here are some helpful pointers:
Completing the challenges involves physical exertion. If you get short of breath climbing a flight of stairs, or experience a minor cardiac event while reaching for your third jelly donut at breakfast, this is not for you. You don’t have to be Jack LaLanne, but, relatively speaking, you should be living within a two mile proximity of some kind of semi-optimal physical condition of some variety.
If you cannot handle anything gross, stay away. Far away. This is not for you. Another thing: the monsters swear. A lot. You should have a healthy tolerance for profanity. Of course it would also help if you were a true fan of Horror and dark attractions.
Here is what you will need to bring with you:
- A sleeping bag. You won’t sleep, but bring one anyway.
- A flashlight. Another flashlight. And some extra batteries. You’ll need them.
- Food and water. The Great Horror Campout will not feed you. Monsters like cookies. Bring some.
- Bring cleanup supplies, soap and extra water to rinse your body after the event. Otherwise you’ll stain the upholstery of your Lexus. Better yet, borrow a friend’s POS 1989 Ford Escort or… even better… your ex-spouse’s shiny new Prius. Come to the campout in that. Yeah, that’ll work.
- Do NOT bring alcohol or drugs. They are not allowed.
- Do NOT bring weapons of any kind. Bad idea.
MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL:
Make sure you show up at the Great Horror Campout carrying two big, steaming handfuls of WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. Why? Because there are voodoo dance rituals, witch’s circles, living Greek statues, mazes filled with Chupacabra and a whole host of other make-believe stuff. Nothing sucks worse than the camper that can’t jump-start his own imagination and get into the moment. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you bring your desire to “play along.” These Monsters WILL invade your space. They’ll touch you. They’ll try hard to give you the heebie-jeebies and the creepy-crawlies. They’ll mock you like a marine drill instructor at basic training. If it bugs you, you are losing sight of the idea that it is all part of the fun.
And it is fun. The Great Horror Campout is a stay up all night, dance with monsters, swim with leeches, bathe in blood sort of scary-assed joy ride. You don’t want to miss it.