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The HOD!!! had never been up to Springboro before-we were under the impression it was a lot further away than it actually was, but it turned out to be just a few minutes from The Chambers Of Horror in Middletown (the two events make for a great night of haunting). However, it's one of the longest running events in the area, having been around for over 20 years. We were impressed straight off by the level of organization and professionalism on display from the parking lot to the ticket booth, staging areas, and the cavernous concession area. After we left the event, we had a rather run-down feeling-something good in this case, and here's why…

The Haunted Hayride is the event's original attraction and features some of the more impressive show-stopping moments seen in local attractions. Vehicle chases are a specialty, with no fewer than three major sequences mounted (four if you count the spectacular Headless Horseman as a 'vehicle'). The drivers of the vehicles are suitably aggressive, with one driving close enough to the moving haywagons to allow the creatures inside to hang out the windows and attempt to snatch victims. One of the vehicles spits flames and no one who has ever seen the glittering teeth of the combine bearing down on them in the moonlight will easily forget it. Some nice pyro effects also figure largely in two elaborate scenes, BD's Junkyard and the sHELL station. We were glad to see the event also featured some traditional Halloween scenes such as a coven of witches, a Black Church, and a large display of flickering Jack-O-Lanterns. The set for the Psycho Circus looks like something out of a German expressionist film of the early twentieth century and has a sharp looking giant Klown. Zombies populate the 'Drive-in' Theater showing Night of the Living Dead, and there are cemeteries, down home boys, and psychos with chainsaws relentlessly patrolling the grounds. The actors are an aggressive bunch and routinely clamber onto the wagon to harass hauntgoers, vaulting over the side railings or sneakily boarding from the front while everyone is busy watching the action behind the wagon. Costuming and makeup are solid given the fact that the majority of actors require that their mobility not be constrained. However, the dialogue of the actors proved to be one of the few weak spots at Springboro-while "Hey, how y'all doin'?" is perfect for the down home boys, virtually every character that boarded the wagon was spouting it and many of them took advantage of an empty seat to take a break (with notable exceptions such as the Psycho Circus Ringmaster who had a memorable performance). Granted, climbing aboard a moving wagon dozens of times a night and then having to act must be physically draining and is asking a lot of the actors (and my hat's off to them), but coming up with better lines or simply keeping quiet would add much to their performances. Still, their energy does manage to mask the quiet zones between scenes as there's rarely a time when the wagon isn't under assault by someone…or something. The focus of the Hayride is on entertainment and excitement, and in this it succeeds completely.

The Black Bog was the subject of major upgrades over the summer engineered by Night of Fright alumnus Dave Bloom and Springboro's top notch build out crew. Their work is on display right off the bat, with a long cavern that leads into a mine. It's one of the better haunted trails that the HOD!!!'s experienced. It provides an excellent counterpoint to the Hayride, as here the emphasis is on atmosphere, acting, suspense, and horror. There are many standout scenes to be found, with one of the better ones being a fairly elaborate Western town with a Preacher's house, House of Ill Repute, a Barbershop, and a Blacksmith. The sets tend to be large, interactive and immersive rather than just 'on display'-most need to be walked through rather than passed by. This gives scenes like Freddy's Schoolbus more impact as you can get up close and personal with the pillar of souls that has replaced most of the seats inside. There's a sprawling cemetery where hauntgoers must enter and exit the individual crypts, leading to disorientation as it appears at times that you're entering the same one twice. There are haunted wells, a toxic waste dump, and many individual shacks and their denizens located along the way. There's an area near the end that resembles a low-budget carnie attraction-entered through a trailer, hauntgoers are treated to a polka dot room, a very fast moving vortex tunnel, and a roomful of stuffed rabbits that houses a rather mangy and disturbing surprise. Acting along the trail was much more effective with craftily concealed actors providing well executed startles and scares. The actors delivered unique dialogue and excelled at interaction with the crowds both individually and when grouped with other haunt characters. Costuming and makeup were on the whole more elaborate as well. While there aren't a lot of mechanical effects or animatronics, there's one at the very beginning that's absolutely fantastic and lets you know that the Black Bog means business. You'll know it when you experience it. For best results, the HOD!!! suggests taking the Hayride first and then touring the Black Bog (because you really should see both).

There's a $2 surcharge for parking, one of the HOD!!!'s pet peeves-we'd just as soon have it factored into the ticket price rather than have hauntgoers have to reach for their wallet twice. With a large group, this wouldn't be that big a concern and the event remains a solid value at the combo ticket price of $18 for both events. The only regret we have concerning the Springboro Haunted Hayride & Black Bog is that we missed the first 20+ years of it-a mistake that won't happen again. The haunt has two top quality events that complement rather than duplicate each other with impressive large sets, lots of actors, and moments that will stick in your mind for days on end. The Bog provides the scares and the Hayride the thrills-with the vehicles supplying that run-down feeling.