If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a stroll down the Wildwood boardwalk at night in late October, let me warn you that it’s pretty spooky all by itself. Imagine the complete opposite of a typical summer night: eerily silent except for gusts of wind, a few scattered lights here and there, no walkers, all of the businesses shuttered and closed for the winter. A little fog rolling in off the beach. I think the word “abandoned” pretty much sums it up. That’s the ominous prelude that greets you as you walk up the ramp to face “Morey’s Fears” – which stands out as a fog-shrouded, orange-glowing nocturnal playground in the middle of the dark, empty boardwalk.
Earlier this season, when the Moreys announced plans to debut a Halloween event for six nights in October, I knew I had to get down there and experience it firsthand. So I talked my daughter (who absolutely hates anything remotely close to a dark walk-through attraction) into coming with me to lend her perpective to my “Terror on the Boardwalk” report.
Morey’s staff can be very proud of the extreme makeover. They pulled off a historic transformation of Mariner’s Landing pier and made the whole place appear as “non-summery” as the rest of the boardwalk. It’s an oceanside Halloween party with a dark side. From the games (where you could win a plush witch) to the food stands (it’s the only time of the year when you can enjoy a pumpkin funnel cake) to the rides and the pier itself, virtually everything – and everyone – was totally decked out for Halloween. The effective use of lighting, fog, music, sounds, and roving characters with outstanding makeup (I hope) added to the fun fall atmosphere. Even the few attractions that weren’t being used were covered in giant spiders and webs. It was obvious that the staff took great pride in making sure no (tomb) stone was left unturned.
If you or your family came just for the rides, games and food, I’m sure you will agree that the event was well worth the price. Most of the rides on the pier were operating and Halloween-themed. The three big Halloween attractions – CarnEvil, CornStalkers and the Ghost Ship were icing on the cake – or frost on the pumpkin, as the case might be. We walked through all three – “witch” I enjoyed very much, but my 17-year old daughter was happy just to make it to the exits. The inhabitants of the Ghost Ship (“Ignitions”?) were appropriately amped up for the occasion and provided a fitting welcome for our tour. My daughter held onto my sleeve so tight throughout the ship that one arm of my jacket is now about a foot longer than the other.
The big surprise was the CornStalkers maze. Even before you go in, the distant location is a little unsettling. Positioned on the beach (!) between the end of the pier and the ocean, this sandy walk-through-the-stalks was a totally new experience for both of us. Scarecrows strategically placed throughout the maze made it almost impossible to tell when we were being stalked or not (we often were, but my daughter refused to turn around. “Just keep walking, dad,” she kept saying). Very well done and a lot of fun, at least for me.
So overall, we ate a little food, rode many of our favorite rides and survived all the walk-throughs. Yes, a ghouled time was had by all. If you missed it, next year I recommend that you stop by Jumbo’s and enjoy some food and drink before you call it a night. For me, it had the feeling of a warm, friendly cabin after a cold day outside.
There was a little bit of everything at Terror on the Boardwalk… I’m already looking forward to next Halloween. I’m dead sure the event will be even bigger and better for 2012.
Now that the piers – like the rest of the boardwalk attractions – are officially closed for the season, the countdown begins for opening in the spring.