It’s that time of year again. The leaves are starting to fall, the air is getting colder and everyone is complaining about how stores are already advertising their Christmas merchandise. Those of us that consider ourselves brave seek out thrills and scares in the spirit of Halloween. Amusement parks, such as Darien Lake, offer thrills all summer long in the form of roller coasters. But when a theme park tries to be spooky, just how well does it pull it off?

Darien Lake’s Outbreak event comes with the story that a chemical spill back in the 1960s caused the dead to rise from their graves. The story goes that these brain-munchers have been kept in check… until now. In the spirit of this event, Darien Lake has decorated three of its rides and put together a haunted house in its Galaxy Theater.

The three rides that have been transformed for the season are the Tin Lizzies,the antique cars; the Twister,a ride that swings and tips riders, sometimes holding them upside-down; and the bumper cars. The “Twister Possessed” was not given much attention, receiving little more than a few colored spotlights and some “scary” sound effects. The “Grim Lizzies” were done a bit better, allowing riders to tour a graveyard filled with the undead and toxic chemical spills. This is fine for the younger riders for which the ride is designed, but rather dull in the eyes of your typical college student. The “Road Rage Cage” was the most well-done out of the three decorated rides. Bumper cars are fun no matter your age, but when the lights are turned off and the room is filled with fog, it becomes an experience to remember.

The real attraction of the event, however, was the haunted house: a tour of the zombie-infested Department of Epidemic Analysis and Defense, or DEAD, facility. The line, while long, was not a total bore. One zombified woman slowly walked up and down the line, giving a shock to anyone who happened to look up from their phone at the wrong moment. Additionally, an odd man by the name of “Garf” could be seen rummaging through a couple of wrecked DEAD vehicles outside of the boundaries of the line, eventually slinging the re-deceased corpse of a zombie over his shoulder. At one point, I heard him talking to a few girls behind me about how he had killed the zombie he was carrying. I have to give him points for mastering the art of the creepy laugh.

The facility itself offered a bit more entertainment. Once inside the actual haunted house, we were greeted with a long, dark, foggy hallway. Our group could barely see each other in the blackness. It did a good job creating paranoia, but Darien Lake missed out on the opportunity to have something leap at us out of the darkness. We had been instructed to turn left at the end of the hallway, but the left side appeared to be blocked off by a wall – except it wasn’t a wall at all, but two large airbags pressed against each other. Forming a line, we pushed through the claustrophobic passageway. It was the favorite part of the house for several people in our group. The rest of the house was mostly what one would expect of a top-secret government facility that had been overrun by the undead. There were zombies locked up in jail cells and strapped into strange machines for testing, a cafeteria serving some very odd entrees and a bathroom that had probably seen much better days, to name a few features. One unexpected addition was a bedroom belonging to the daughter of one of the higher-ups who had run the outpost. Inside was a variety of creepy Victorian-style dolls, which left me quietly begging for them to remain inanimate. Without spoiling too much, while I was focused on the dolls, something else managed to catch me off-guard.

Overall, the haunted house was more humorous than scary. I really only felt scared once throughout the entire house, while I laughed several times at things like the mild jump-scares and “graffiti”-covered bathroom. The haunted house was clearly designed with the park’s younger patrons in mind, so as to be entertaining for everyone without scaring the smaller children too much. While better scares can probably be found elsewhere, Darien Lake offers all of its haunted attractions for free with admission. However, if you’re interested in seeing the dead walk, you’d better act fast. The event is only on Fridays and Saturdays, and Darien Lake closes its doors for the year on October 11th.