with video: The search for Michigan's best haunted house explores Night Terrors at Wiard's Orchards
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Night Terrors has to be seen to be believed. Actually, it has to be experienced.
The Halloween-themed attraction at Wiard's Orchards in Ypsilanti Township encompasses six separate attractions, each with its own theme. It's an enormous operation on a 100-acre site, and each weekend might draw several thousand visitors, depending on the weather.
So when AnnArbor.com's statewide partner website, MLive, undertook the search for Michigan's best haunted house, we knew would probably end up at Night Terrors. And sure enough, it was one of the top 2 local finishers in an online poll of readers that drew more than 1,000 votes.
John "Gonzo" Gonzalez, statewide entertainment reporter for MLive, has been leading the charge on this project, visiting some of the top haunted attractions around the state. Friday brought him to Washtenaw County.
Our guide was Night Terrors Manager Mike Connors, a 21-year veteran who designed and oversaw the building of the entire operation. Now retired from his full-time job, Connors still spends countless hours at Night Terrors. "It's turned into a labor of love," he says. "I love it out here."
That's obvious from the care and craftsmanship that are clearly at the core of Night Terrors. Of course you expect scares and gruesome scenes, and they are almost endless. But one remarkable aspect is the attention to detail and good design throughout the attractions.
But the main thing about Night Terrors is simply how much of it there is. There's a haunted hayride. A labyrinth with monsters lurking around way too many corners. A crazy house full of caged clowns. And a haunted asylum, barn, and mine shaft, each with its own set of scary sets, animatronics, amazing special effects and live ghouls. All told, Connors says, more than 100 actors help make it all happen on any given night.
The AnnArbor.com / MLive team made it through all 6 attractions, but we needed some help. Halfway through we met up with high school seniors Caleb Brudi, Gabri Patti and Shannon Cahalan, and who knows if we would have gotten out alive without their help. (Gonzo and I made Caleb go first through the scariest haunts. We're no fools.)
"I've been to Disney World. This is so much better," Patti says of Night Terrors.
If you want to get through it all as quickly as possible, it might take an hour and a half. But Connors says the goal at Night Terrors is to really make the entire experience an attraction; if you want to make a full evening of it, you certainly can. Beyond the haunts, there's "scareyoke" and a bakery full of homemade goodies.
Some people just come to enjoy the atmosphere, Connors says, and some even tailgate in the parking lot.
"It's not your typical haunt; it's more an evening of entertainment," Connors says.
Night Terrors at Wiard's Orchards is open Oct. 21; 2-28; and 30-31. For information on hours, admission, location, and more, check out the Night Terrors website.
And if you need more:
A winner in the search for Michigan's best haunted house will be named on Tuesday. Find all the articles about Gonzo's search here.
Check out AnnArbor.com's complete guide to Halloween events and activities.