Ten Years of Fear
Each year, from October 3rd to November 2nd, Silverwood Theme Park undergoes a dark transformation. This happy, North Idaho amusement park becomes home to zombies, killer clowns, and all manner of horror movie villains. Some people pay to be scared, while my friends and I pay to watch others scream. This may sound like the manifesto of a serial killer, but anyone who enjoys a good jump-scare enjoys watching it happen to someone else even more. The main page of the Scarywood website has some prime examples from this year already. See anyone you know?
Assemble the Team
The code named adventurers for our foray into the land of screams and fog (so much fog) include three other Army veterans. We had our favorite Samurai, because I rarely adventure without her. Raven, a rising star in the writing world, was attending for her very first time. Finally, Dr. Beardlove, our faithful counselor, agreed to drive this crazy train all the way to Athol, Idaho. Cue the banjo music! Before any of this could kick off, I had to visit Cabela’s for warm socks and new snow boots. California weather has ruined my tolerance for the cold, and I went full pansy, stocking up on enough cold weather accessories for a night on the frozen tundra. Everyone laughed at me as I assessed their meager sweatshirts and sneakers. My feet were too toasty to take offense.
Amusement Park Strategy
Luckily, I’m fairly familiar with the layout of Silverwood, despite their efforts to confuse me with copious amounts of fog. I think half the budget was spent on fog. Like a cotton candy cloud over the world, we feared more for the asthmatic than ourselves as we made our way to the farthest edge of the park. While most park goers went right to the closest attractions, we planned to work back from the outside attractions. Lines were shorter and wandering ghouls had more time to chase anyone who showed the slightest amout of fear. We encouraged the leatherface chainsaw guy to really rev his motor and look for a blonde with weak ankles.
Dr. Delirium’s Rock House
Our first walk-through attraction was Dr. Delirium’s Rock House. Donning our provided 3D glasses, we entered a neon florescent world of movement and blaring music. The rotating tunnels and shrinking rooms were enough to leave us all stumbling like we were doing shots with the Cheshire Cat. We’re all mad here and we like it that way. Plenty of actors donned the bright paint to blend in and jump out at intervals throughout the maze. However, the uneven flooring and Raven’s recent knee surgery caused us to form a geriatric conga line through most doorways and ramps. Did I mention we were also twenty years older than most of the people there? I feel that our wisdom allowed us to enjoy it more.
Sadly, I couldn’t ride the Timber Terror rollercoaster because they run it fully backwards for added thrills. That just gives me extra upchuck. The Tremors rollercoaster, however, was just run in total darkness in the normal direction. We queued up to ride and picked a car midway along the lineup. Samurai asked the adolescent ride operator to make her seatbelt extra tight before lowering the shoulder bar. He probably hoped she was flirting with him, but her serious expression wiped the smile off his face. Meanwhile, I was having a hard time getting my seatbelt to buckle and contemplated how important it could really be. Raven was there with the assist and we were safely on our way. By the time the camera flashed at the final drop, my eyes were watering from the speed and my voice was squeaky from joyful exclamations. The photo shows Dr. Beardlove highspeed high fiving a werewolf, Samurai climbing into his jacket pocket, Raven reading a scene from her latest novel, and me looking like a happy Eskimo. Somehow, the fog managed to infiltrate this ride too. Whoo-cough-hooo!
Our next stop was at the Pharos’s Curse to find some of that desert warmth. The curse seemed to make all the mummies wish for more bandages. We walked through in our practiced conga line, noting tripping hazards and sticky spiderwebs while laughing at the people screaming in the group behind us. Weaving though the crypts, I was not only impressed with the actor’s costumes and makeup, but also reminded to moisturize. Looking a little dry there, Tut.
On our way to the Planet Zombie, we squeezed all four of us into the seat of the Scrambler ride. Though we were likely at maximum capacity, our centrifugal force was impressive as we whipped around the circle. Everybody lean! Once we shoe-horned ourselves out and found the entrance for the Zombie attraction, the lines had finally caught up with us. They had a park produced movie that gave background for the attraction as we filed though the serpentines like our own breed of zombies. TV zombies! Just turn on a screen and we all shuffle towards the pretty lights. The only thing able to pull us from our trance was the improper use of hand grenades. Like most veterans, we are constantly critiquing Hollywood’s military special effects, much to the annoyance of those around us. At one awkward moment, when the high schoolers in front of us ceased their drama for a rare moment of silence, I couldn’t resist a quote from Handsome Jack. “Dicks! We’re talking about dicks!” I loudly proclaimed, causing everyone to bust up in laughter. Whether you’re a fan of Borderlands or not, it’s still funny. We followed the kids into the secret lab and then through the ravaged military facility, commenting on how we would be expected to have that gruesome latrine spotless by inspection. The kids were too busy screaming and running from the zombies to notice our wry wit. We exited under the sweet music of machine gun fire to make our way to the attraction nearest to the front gate.
The Blood Bayou is a favorite of mine for the creativity used in transitioning from what appears to be outside in a Louisiana swamp, to a moldering plantation house, into the basement via a rickety elevator, and out through the sewers back into the bayou. All this is accomplished inside the park’s skating rink. The way forward isn’t always clear, which adds to the jump-scare when you come around a corner. Truly, when cannibal rednecks are part of the horror lineup, it’s scary and funny. They get to play on the stereotypes of Bubba in his overalls while also having a half-eaten actor plead with you as you walk past their dinner table. Gruesome giggles.
We skipped Total Darkness since three out of four of us had done it a few years ago and got trapped inside when the line to exit was backed up. I don’t mind the dark, but the confined space and fleshy walls were less than enjoyable for the extended time. We left the groping in the dark to the high schoolers and stopped by the High Moon Saloon for a spirited hot chocolate. In reviewing the evening, we had laughed until our cheeks hurt and still managed to see everything we wanted before 10pm. It was time to take our geriatric conga line home to bed. If you get a chance to visit Scarywood, I highly recommend it, unless you’re asthmatic. Scary travels, my friends!