INSANITY LIES AT THE EARTH’S CORE!
Madame Macabre, the gypsy fortuneteller who sets up her
wagon at the Lewisburg Haunted Cave each season, was intently gazing at our
proffered palm as she began to unravel the mysteries held within. She commented
on our strong spirit line, and how it intersected with our destiny line-showing
that the spirits of our loved ones would have a major influence on our life.
Noticing a break in our life line, she explained in a heavily accented tone
that we would live a long life, but the majority of the latter part would be
spent in insanity. Little did we suspect that her prediction would come true so
quickly. Who knew that insanity would lie at the Earth’s core?
As guide Kyle Hatton led us away from the attentions of the colorful prognosticator, we entered the ‘feeder tunnel’ that slopes at a steep angle down into the mine. A gust of warm air greeted us as the Cave’s maw was approached-Kyle said that it’s just the fact that the mine is a pretty constant 54 degrees, warmer than the current outside temperature. Us, we can almost feel the blasts of fire from the Cave’s multiple pyro effects. As we reached the bottom (80 feet under the ground), we’re greeted by the Cave’s owner Mark Schaefer and his second-in-command Jarred. About that time, there’s an explosion behind us, the lights dim, and a huge cloud of smoke billows out of a large electrical panel! Three years and the Cave STILL hasn’t gotten that fixed. Mark grins and says, “Yeah, maybe I should give our electrician a case of beer and he’ll do it right this time”. Maybe he should wait and give him the case AFTER he fixes it-that might be the problem! At any rate, the lights flicker back on-at least until the next time the effect fires, leaving nervous members of the crowd wondering if it’s part of the show or if they’ve stumbled into a worst-case scenario in the bowels of the Cave.
The new arrivals comprise just a small fraction of the
hundreds-yes, HUNDREDS-of animatronics and mechanical effects within the Cave.
When asked just how many of these there actually are, Jarred didn’t have an
exact figure-but he does know that there are 150 controllers in the Cave with
multiple effects linked to each one. These run the gamut from standard
automatic animatronics to vibrating floors, a Pepper’s Ghost illusion, floors
that raise and lower at random, CGI effects, laser lights, jumping coffins, and
breathing walls. Mark tells us many of the bigger effects come just a short
distance away from special effects masters Scarefactory in Columbus. “We
usually wait a year after something comes out before we buy it,” he explains. “That
gives us a chance to talk to other haunt owners and see how it performed, how
well it held up, and any issues that came up with it”. With animatronics from
any company, it’s never a question of IF they’ll have problems, but rather
WHEN. The new Dragon is just one example-the mounting pillar partially sunk into
the ground of the Cave after being installed, and the screws on the armature
proved problematic. There are also problems unique to the Cave-“You’d think lithium
grease would be best, but we can’t use that here because of all the moisture in
the Cave”. Keeping the Cave’s clockwork denizens in proper working order is a
full time job, and Mark is aided in this by Jarred-in fact, he tells us “When
Jarred tells me something, I pretty much always listen”. To their credit, we didn’t spot a single
effect that wasn’t working correctly. And in addition to the mechanical
effects, just as amazing is the sheer number of candles that have to be lit in
the graveyard every single night-hundreds of them!
But animatronics, as large, cool, and impressive as they
are, can’t take the place of a real actor. And the Cave has plenty of those as
well-routinely a hundred or more ghouls, maniacs, and demons stalk the stygian
underground darkness. And these are no ordinary haunt actors-not by a long
shot. They’re the craziest, most aggressive, and relentless group of actors
ever put together. They’re aided in their quest for the ultimate scare by the Cave’s
policy of letting their actors initiate limited contact with the hauntgoers.
And as we were to find out, ‘limited’ likely means ‘limited only by their
The tour always starts in the lair of the Water Monsters.
Walking across a rickety bridge in complete darkness is nerve-wracking enough
for most people, but add the sounds of splashing and waves from the wet-suited
creatures lurking under the bridge, and you have a recipe for wet pants-and not
just from the lake water. Halfway across we had creatures on each side of the
bridge grab a leg and pull while another had clambered onto the bridge and
grabbed us from behind. The Water Monsters perform a valuable function, and that
is to let everyone know that the Lewisburg haunt means business-those that are
faint of heart rarely make it past the water monsters, scurrying back to the
relative safety of the entrance. Fortunately, we made it past the finny freaks
and caught up with our group. In rapid succession, we were rousted by tree
branches, snapped at by the giant skull of a T-Rex, ambushed from behind by a specter
with glowing red eyes, hosed down with ‘gore’ from a zombie having its head
blown off (special effects from a CGI window), and witness to a werewolf
clinging tenaciously to a victim as he ran past us. Creatures from inside a
wall came alive to grasp at us as we passed, two headless skeletons tore at a
girl’s hair as they battled for control, and a corpse came flying out of a
coffin. This all happened in about 30 seconds! The group was then met by a huge
blast of fire from an outbuilding, pushing us further along the path. We were
met by a miner wielding a large metal hook. When he deftly slipped the hook
around our neck and began to pull us towards him, we knew this was going to be
a tour unlike anything we’d ever experienced in 40 years of haunting…
And the Cave was just getting started.
Entering the ‘Red’ maze, we were surrounded by what
seemed like four or five crazy guys with fingers that emitted red lasers (Mark
says there were only two of them in there, but they seemed to be everywhere at
once). The too-helpful psychos slipped a glow necklace around our head and then
the fun began. We here at the HOD!!! have a set of haunt rules for successfully
navigating a haunted attraction. Rule #2 is “Never, EVER, trust directions
given by a psychotic killer”. The problem is, these guys really, REALLY want to
help, and they won’t take no for an answer. And that means you’ll be hopelessly
lost with no clue on how to get out within minutes. And of course, the nutcases
just blame everything on you, take you by the arm, and drag you off to another
dead end. It’s a lot like being at work, actually. But eventually their
attention was diverted by new arrivals long enough for us to slip away and luck
into the way out. It felt pretty good looking at the other side of the fence
and see all the unfortunates who were about to get the same treatment-until a
demonic looking creep beckoned us through a curtain and escorted us into…Hell.
The Cave’s Hell is legendary among haunters. With a voice
enhanced Devil (only one of several actors throughout the haunt that use voice
amplification) and huge jets of flame spouting from the ground, it provides an
unforgettable tableau as the Prince of Deceivers challenges you to find the
only possible ‘path of redemption’ from among dozens of combinations and
reclaim your soul. As they put it, “From the looks of you, there’s no doubt you’ll
fail”. To reinforce what’s at stake, the Devil receives the flaming soul of
someone who didn’t make it from a nearby demon, letting the flames engulf his
hand for the audience to see. Hell in the Cave is so downright evil that it
needs two Devils to watch over it-we had a chance to speak with Brent, Devil
Number 1, as he was relieved by Kenton, Devil 2. Both demons sport different but
effective looks-Brent is leather clad with a pentagram medallion and Black
Sabbath T-Shirt, while Kenton has skulls on his shoulders, bat wings, and a
pentagram painted on his chest. As Kenton barks out instructions to hauntgoers
in a demonic voice and ‘turns up the heat’, Brent tells us of his several years
at the haunt, starting out wielding a chainsaw inside the maze and eventually
being ‘promoted’ to Satanhood. The most challenging part of the job is giving
customers a memorable speech while keeping things moving-not to mention dealing
with hecklers. So we were privileged to see not just one Devil, but two!
Besides that epiphany, we made it past dragons, wrecked cars, a vortex tunnel, flying bat demons, a 15 foot tall giant termite alien, rattling coffins, spitting snakes, was fired at by a truck-mounted machine gun as it sped by, got ambushed while slogging through a swamp, and got insulted by a surly school bus driver-in a bus half buried in the ground. Giant leaping spiders, an octopus, and a huge prison guard dog/wolf showed us our friends from the animal kingdom were thinking of us too. Somewhere during the tour we were set upon by our fiends from goregrind band Fetus Omelete, who tore off a chunk of the young lady they were ‘working on’ in their blood soaked lab (the picture on top of the page-sepia tone disguises the blood, you know) and then had one of their experiments spit blood on us-nice guys, but they have a funny way of saying ’hi’. Finally, just as if it were a final shot from the Cave, we took the full force of a spirit spritz when it rose from the lake on our way out and were soaked. There was more, but we think our subconscious blocked it all out. I’m sure it’ll visit us in our dreams some night.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Cave’s
soundtrack, easily the best in the business (Mark gives Jarred credit for that
too). It’s a blend of prerecorded sound, sound from individual effects and
weapons (chainsaws, a LOUD machine gun, cattle prods), the whoomph of fire
effects, the chaotic soundtrack of the maze, the screams of the audience, the
booming voices of the voice enhanced actors, even the watery sounds instigated
by the water monsters, combine to provide a wall of sound that assaults the hauntgoers
from the time they enter and never lets up.
After finishing the tour, we were given the opportunity
to take a ride through the unused part of the Cave. As he drives, Jarred explains the habits of
the nesting and migrating bats, pointing out a few of the winged creatures on
the ceiling (he’s written quite a few papers on the subject). Jarred’s been
trying to talk Mark into using the old ‘refrigeration’ Cave as the ultimate
black maze-his idea is to turn off all the lights, give hauntgoers a penlight
or glow stick, and then challenge them to find their way out through the maze
of pillars and passages. Having lost count of the identical tunnels we’ve
passed, we can say with assurance we wouldn’t like our chances to succeed!
Sadly, the spread of White-Nose Syndrome that Mark told
us about two years is still spreading among the bat population of the Cave.
It’s a nationwide problem that has killed millions of bats nationwide, wiping
out as much as 95% of certain species and endangering even once common species
such as the little brown bat. Striking at hibernating bats, the fungus appears
to be spread from bat to bat and grows around their muzzles and wings. There’s
no cure for it at present, and bat sanctuaries like Lewisburg can only do their
best to prevent the spread of it.
While the bats are having a hard go of it, we came out somewhat better after our hour and a half long tour of the Cave. It was exhilarating, exhausting, thrilling, maddening, and just downright awe inspiring. And for just a moment, it managed to make us doubt that any of it was really happening. We couldn’t give a haunt any higher praise than that. For anyone looking for an intense, dark haunt in a sinister natural environment, loaded with talented actors and a warehouse of huge animatronics, with a bargain price for an hour and a half tour-look no further. You’ll find it at the Lewisburg Haunted Cave, where insanity lies at the Earth’s core!
Hell Is Even Too Rough For Satan To Deal With On His Own, So...
...He Brought Along His Brother In Badassery!
Twice The Damnation For One Low Price!
2013 EVENT INFORMATION
The Haunted Cave At Lewisburg is located at 4392 Swishers Mill Road in Lewisburg, Ohio. It is open Fridays and Saturdays from September 20th through October 25th. Hours are 7 PM-Midnight. Ticket prices are $16 with children 10 and under $5-a $1 discount coupon is available on the Haunted Cave website. For more information email infoAThauntedcaveatlewisburg.com (replacing AT with @), visit the Cave on Facebook (they have two!) or check out the Haunted Cave At Lewisburg website.
THE HAUNTED CAVE AT LEWISBURG 2012
Making Things Hot For Sinners
Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire...
Pass It Down The Line...
THE HOTTEST HAUNT GOING!
Now entering its 35th season, the Cave’s popularity has spread like wildfire the past several seasons. This season it entered the #8 spot on Hauntworld’s list of the ‘Scariest Real Haunted Houses In America’. During the course of the evening we found that people had come from all across Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky to see it (and in some cases, hauntgoers hailed from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Hawaii!). Owner/operator Mark Schaefer has overseen the transformation of the Cave from a charity haunt with a cool location to an event that rides the cutting edge of haunt technology. What’s new down in the bowels of the cave, 80 feet under the ground?
“Well”, said Mark, “We haven’t added many new scenes but have instead added more effects to what we already have. We have a new animated T-Rex skull that comes out of a wall and snaps at the crowd. We bought a shock panel that features a head that comes out to startle the audience-we used it as a template and built several more on our own and worked them into existing scenes. The machine gun on our truck is new, and the cavern it’s in has an elaborate lighting setup. The Devil’s Maze has had two new doorways added to it. The White Strobe Maze had all of its dead ends eliminated to cut back on some of the congestion of years past, although you can still easily go around in circles. The lighting in there isn’t as harsh, either (it’s now a subdued red rather than the glaring bright white of years past)”.
That isn’t to imply the Cave was lacking in effects-it’s loaded with them. It’s hard to walk ten feet without being blasted by an air cannon, having a flying spectre cut across your path, being sprayed with water by the vengeful spirits of the Cave rising from the lake, or having an entire room of coffins begin to thrash wildly. Then there are the show-stoppers-the giant animatronics that have the ‘wow’ factor. These range from the giant bat that comes flapping up from below a walkway to what we call the ‘giant termite’-a creature that stretches two stories up from the ground to strike at hauntgoers as they cross the same walkway. From there, you can look across an open cavern to see a huge gargoyle rising up from the ground and carrying away a human body. A vibrating walkway across a bridge creates the illusion (along with a train horn) that you’re soon going to be mashed by an onrushing train careening through the fog. The Cave also has two CGI effects-the Zombie Attack, which can leave you feeling as if you’ve just been splattered with the brains of a zombie hit by a shotgun blast, and the Asylum Door, which features a door that appears to be having dents hammered into it by an ax-wielding psycho that can be glimpsed through a window in the door.
The Cave has also replaced much of its lighting this season with LED’s rather than traditional floodlights. Still, the Cave employs several distinct lighting schemes. The lair of the Water Monsters is lit with sporadic bursts of artificial lightning. The underground cemetery is lit largely with over a hundred candles, giving it a creepy gothic air. A lone coffin, seemingly laid out for a funeral viewing, is brightly lit with natural lighting. The swamp (featuring several ‘claustrophobia’ effects that give one the feeling of slogging through mud) has laser lighting that works with a layer of fog to obscure an entire cavern. A crafty cave creature took advantage of this fact to pop up directly in front of us from below, seemingly appearing out of thin air. The cavern that the ‘Machine Gun Truck’ roars through has a spectacular computerized lighting scheme that makes it look like a swirling portal to another dimension-it was the most breathtakingly beautiful thing we’ve ever seen in a haunt. The Cave also cannily follows up well lit scenes with completely dark ones, completely disorienting hauntgoers and playing havoc with their ability to adjust to the light. You haven’t seen-or NOT seen-dark until you’re 80 feet under the ground. The monsters have night vision goggles. You don’t. Good luck. And don’t think the two glowing ‘eyes’ in some scenes will lead you to the way out, because they don’t-except when they do, so you never know.
The soundtrack to the Cave sizzles as well. There is nothing more gloriously chaotic in hauntdom. The acoustics in the Cave carry sound to and fro, making some scenes ear-splitting and some so quiet you can hear the frantic heartbeats of the people trapped in the Devil’s Maze. Sparking electric fences and sizzling short circuited wiring add to the ca-‘coffiny’. With spoken dialogue, music, and the screams of actors and patrons alike reverberating everywhere, nowhere has a soundtrack more perfectly complemented its event.
While the Cave is well known for its elaborate and over-the-top effects, at times these features overshadow its fine cast and crew. Most haunts have problems trying to fill a couple of dozen acting positions with capable actors-but the Cave on any given night will have well over a hundred actors inside. When one considers that many of them are inside bulky and restrictive costumes or in exposed positions like lying on the floor, suspended on platforms, inside coffins, or immersed in the depths of icy water, the level of their performances is amazing. None of this happened by accident, something that became apparent as we followed Mark on his rounds. With the combination of being open a week early and a thunderstorm, crowds were lighter than usual (although there was still a constant line) and Mark took advantage of this to visit each area and work with the actors. His advice ranged from the best types of clothes to wear in a certain role to telling the gravediggers how to move around the candles in the graveyard to obscure their faces and help hide the other actors in the scene (placed on the ground or behind trees). The individual attention and encouragement each received spoke volumes towards the desire of the event to not only train them to be the best actors possible, but also to see to it that they were enjoying themselves doing so. It also gave The HOD!!! the opportunity to speak with many of the Cave’s characters, many of them longtime denizens with a unique perspective on the event.
Ted’s currently hiding in the Cave’s graveyard, inside a ghillie suit (a camouflage suit that blends in with foliage-and in this case, the cave walls). He’s been with the attraction several seasons and started off as a ‘caveman’ (what better for a cave?) throwing a spear at the audience. The spear was attached to a line that prevented it from actually reaching them, although in the dark it was impossible for them to know that!
While most of the time you’ll get fired for laying down on the
job, Amy’s playing an undead corpse inside a casket, so it’s OK. In her second
year, she’s reprising her role from last season and is having a great time.
We met many more of the Cave’s actors as they ramped their way up the old feeder shaft to the surface, all with their own unique experiences. We were impressed not only with how seriously they took their roles, but also at what a great and convivial group of teens and young adults they were. But when the lights go down and it’s time to get down to business, they’re among the best in the area. And boy, do they ever WANT to scare you. Allen, Ted, and Amy all said that terrifying people was the best part of the job by far. Unlike most area haunts, the actors at the Cave are allowed to touch you (the mudprints left by the water monsters on my pants cuffs are testament to that!) and this gives their performance an immediate impact. They’ll also come from any angle-from below, from behind, from up above, and suddenly right in your face-occasionally all at the same time!
Some scenes might not have fancy effects or lighting, but still manage to impress. The underground jail is one of those. Once you manage to squeeze through a narrow passage past a ground of burly…shall we say, ‘lonely’ inmates looking for companionship and groping at you through a fence, you make it to the safety of the guard station. Too bad they’ve mistaken you for inmates! You’re likely to be searched for weapons and then spun around like a top by the all-female guard staff-the three guards that descended on us literally bounced us from one to the other, turning us around in a circle while screaming abuse the whole time. It was a lot like being at work, but strangely enough, we liked it.
The only downside to the evening was the massive thunderstorm that hit the event about 9:30 that evening. While the Cave was unaffected (along with its covered queue line), the rain washed out for the evening its companion event, the "Historic Mine Tour" offered by the Lewisburg Historical Society. This wagon ride takes you through the grounds of the old mining operation and past many decrepit old buildings like the dynamite shack, drills, and the 100 foot tall kilns that were used to process the ore. It also enters a part of the cave that’s not being used for the haunt, which if anything is eerier than the part that is. With scattered pieces of old equipment scattered about and colonies of bats lining the ceilings, it’d be a perfect location for the next ‘My Bloody Valentine’ movie. The tour guide on the wagons explains the history of the cave along with detailing what each of the old buildings did. It added a whole new dimension to the Cave for us when we toured it last season and we highly recommend checking it out-preferably BEFORE you take the main tour.
Another effect the thunderstorm had was the HOD!!! getting the opportunity to sit in the Cave’s ticket office (thanks to Sandy Schaefer, who obviously took pity on a drowned rat) and observe things from the business side. Even with a raging storm that Sandy called “the worst I’ve seen in all my years here”, there was a steady stream of customers eager to get inside the attraction. We also saw one of the funniest things we’ve witnessed in over 40 years of covering haunts, and made the trip to Lewisburg worth it just for that. And no, we can’t tell you what it was, except that it involved someone collecting a bounty. While hiding out in the office, we also met the young lady that sells glow necklaces and other novelties in the queue line-she manages to fund her school volleyball team through the sales of the items, demonstrating another facet of the Cave’s contribution to the community.
The Cave continues to earn its reputation as one of the area’s elite attractions. With an hour plus tour, over a hundred crazy actors, tons of special effects, a killer soundtrack, and the cave’s natural creepiness, it’s a haunter’s dream come true. The Water Monsters would tell you a ‘wet dream’ come true. And the Devil would assure you as he puts out his smoking hair that it is indeed “The Hottest Haunt Going!” Head up to Lewisburg and see for yourself just how Smoooookin’ it is.
Gateway To Another World
Our Photo Completely Fails To Capture The Beauty Of This Scene-
But Trust Us, It's Awesome!
Take Our Advice...
DON'T Stand In Front Of The Window.
Even If You Make The Zombie Cry.