As the truck neared the abandoned zoo at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA, I had a flashback to my youth. I remember going to Disneyland as a child and two thoughts popped into my mind; first was “I seriously hate lines.” And second, “I wish there was a HORROR version of this place.”
Pop back to June 6th 2015 as my friends and I walked toward a long line filled with other campers with our gear in hand. This was it. I was finally going to experience the event that I discovered about a couple years ago on an episode of Shark Tank; a show where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their products in hope of an investment. I was already hooked before the pitch even began; the demon/zombie creature walking behind the owner of the company making the pitch was creepy enough to get me hooked and I knew I was in for a treat.
The Great Horror Campout (GHC) is an event from 1031 Productions; infamous for their live, interactive HORROR attractions. It’s 12 hours of scares, games, riddles, humiliation trivia and of course, FUN that takes the elements of entertaining horror and macabre to the masses.
A day before the GHC, all participants were sent electronic waivers to electronically sign before you can download and print out your official GHC Dossier. It was made VERY clear throughout the email that you will need this Horror Bible if you will throughout the night during the GHC. Once I printed mine out, I understood immediately why this was necessary; inside were all the tools you need to make your night at the GHC more efficient. There were descriptions of the various events that you may attend, a map of the camp layout, different kinds of SCAG (more on that later) and descriptions of the different creatures that you will encounter throughout the night and more importantly how to deal with them when the time comes.
As my friends and I stood in line with our tickets in hand, a quick glance at the people around us confirmed what I was suspecting about the clientele of the GHC; these were all people that were ready to have some rowdy fun. Some of the groups came with a theme such as military gear, ballerina tutus or goths (I’m pretty sure last one was more natural than a theme but oh well). Once the line started to move the crowd’s rowdiness was starting to grow. Lots of hooting and hollering came from various people as we were directed to our designated colors that were chosen beforehand when purchasing our tickets. Each of the colors represented a different fear; Red for Team Hemo (blood), Green for Team Xylo (woods), Orange for Team Terato (monsters), Black for Team Thanato (death) and Yellow for Team Phobo (fear itself). My comrades and I were on team HEMO and were given our official GHC T-shirts and our SCAG bag (again, more on that later) which were then told to NOT OPEN until instructed.
We were then directed to look for our tents. All tents were separated by zones based on your team color and the tent number is given to you when you buy your tickets. We had purchased a four – person tent for the night and as were walking through the sea of tents in the Red Zone, I noticed how everyone was getting pumped as the sun came down. You’re encouraged to bring sleeping bags and coolers for food and drinks so after we settled in we took some tips from the group across our tent. One gentleman in particular warned us about how the rules can change on us at any time; he was a veteran of the GHC having gone in previous years. He also warned us about sleeping in our tents was NOT going to be an option as the ghouls and monsters roam the zones looking for fresh victims to terrorize.
The Loudspeaker went in FULL ROAR as we were instructed to meet at the Main Stage. Droves of folks in different colored shirts made their way to the Main Stage and we got to meet our host for the night, The Head Master. Right out of the gate, we knew we were in for a great raunchy night as the foul-mouthed Head Master pumped up the crowd with enough shits and fucks to get this kind of crowd going. He did a great job however in pointing out the rules of the camp site. It was stressed that we cannot, in under any circumstance, touch any of the monsters but oh yes, THE MONSTERS CAN TOUCH YOU. He went over that the GHC is an evolving event and that this year they were trying out earning the Shit-All-Campers-Get (SCAG) at the various attractions as opposed to merely looking for them throughout the campsite as they had done in previous years.
Collecting SCAG is vital if you plan to be a HELL MASTER, the grandest honor one can get at the GHC. As a matter of fact, the Head Master called up previous Hell Masters from last year’s GHC and they were showered with craft beers and pizzas. The Head Master instructed everyone that he’ll be summoning different teams throughout the night to play certain games and instructed everyone to look in their SCAG bags. Each SCAG bag contained a different colored bandana that represented a different Horror Movie archetype; the Nerd, Jock, Cheerleader and Virgin. The Head Master explained that each archetype had certain advantages depending on the game/event played and with that, the GHC 2015 was ON!
The different events at the GHC presented different kinds of SCAG that you will need if you are attempting to be a Hell Master. If not, each event was fun in itself if not physically challenging and sometimes humiliating. In the Dossier I mentioned earlier, it mentions the amount of the different levels of SCAG you would need to become Hell Master. Below, I break down some of my favorite events/games/awkward situations that went down that night:
- A ghoulish creature poking around the tents requires a group with one of each archetype to confront it in order to get his SCAG. Since we didn’t have one of each archetype, we spent a good chunk of time going around camp asking to switch headbands and once we did have all the archetypes, we then had to hunt the monster down!
- The Head Master called our group to play BLOOD TAG. We proceeded deeper into the woods with our white shirts that we were instructed to bring prior to the event. The game is in three rounds; the first round has everyone hiding in a dark wooded area (one of my friends actually got a good sized bump on his head from running into a branch) as Bigfoot goes around spraying those that he locates with blood. Once that round was over, the second round begins where those who weren’t found in the first round hides again as the people that were tagged in the first round were now part of Bigfoot’s army equipped with their own blood sprayers to look and spray those who are in hiding. The third round mixes it up since most folks were now tagged so the roles reverse, those few who survived were now hunting everyone else, this time each person was equipped with different colored spray guns so that a tally can be made at the end of which survivor found the most folks. The winner earns the neatest SCAG in my opinion, a SEVERED HEAD!
- Ram Ball is a game where a group of four stuffs one of its members into a giant ball as the other three are blind folded. The poor schmuck stuck inside the ball yells out orders to other blinded three in order to pick up various pieces of flesh distributed throughout the Ram Ball course. To add some chaos, various monsters can Ram the balls out of course whenever they please…because their monsters.
- In sort of dancing event where scary natives call upon the Wendigo, one of the natives overheard me saying that she was mean (which was humorous…to me…at the time) so she proceeded to picking me out from the crowd and shouting out how much I liked it in the ASS. Several times. In front of everyone of course. Still, I danced my butt off and earned me some SCAG!
- There was a Nazi Werewolf challenge in which each level had different tiles with a picture that you must memorize because by the time you reach the top level you are challenged to a puzzle in where you place the tiles in consecutive order but here’s the catch; each tile is double sided, with two similar images, only one being correct. The other catch is the levels are filled with Nazi Werewolves just ACHING to send you back to the very back of the line! Once you complete the puzzle however, you let out a howl and one of the Nazi Werewolves either presents you with SCAG or send you to the back of the line! Funniest part of the night, I was sent back for the first time when I saw one of my buddies, frustrated asking me how far I got. I mentioned to him it was my first time going to the back of the line as I made it to the last level. He then told me that he hadn’t even made it to the puzzle because the Nazi werewolves kept sending him back. Of course I was skeptical and decided to walk with him to the first level of the event and within two minutes, a Nazi Werewolf sent him in the back of the line! HILARIOUS.
In the midst of all the fun, the Head Master called everyone to the Main Stage to present Camp Skits. This was a fun activity in which chosen members from each team would go up against one another to recreate scenes from famous horror flicks as the audience votes on which person did the scene justice. Scenes from flicks such as Troll 2, Night of the Living Dead and Dead Alive were shown and chosen folks from different teams would play them out to the best of their ability. The BEST moment however came in the form of a buxom lady who although did not wow us with her skills, when the voting finally came about, she decided to show her “personalities” to the crowd and naturally, they went WILD. Needless to say she won the round…and possibly the night for some.
Dawn was rearing its head right above the mountains and my chums and I decided to wind down the night/bring on the morning by playing some SCARE-agories with some of the other campers. The game was pretty simple as the ghoulish counselors picked a letter and teams write down as many horror flicks they can with starting with the chosen letter. I’m proud to say that this FearTASTIC reserve Agent of Guard held his own especially when the letter “P” was chosen (OH my love for all Puppet Masters shined through)!
The only constructive criticism if any was that the “earning SCAG” format as opposed to searching for them might have deterred some of the fear that was intended for the campsite. Basically, it breaks down to this; you’re not going to be as scared of anything that would be beneficial to you. Instead of monsters hunting us down, we were hunting them down in the hopes of earning some SCAG.
Morning was now up and about and alas I did not have enough of the right kinds of SCAG in order to be crowned a Hell Master. It didn’t matter much though; sure the patch was pretty bitchin’ and it would have been nice to be treated like royalty next year but for one night I lived my childhood dream of living an event dedicated solely to the love of the HORROR genre. I implore any and all of you that enjoy a good physical challenge, teamwork and of course HORROR flicks to sign up next year for this monster fueled adrenaline rush.
My inner child sincerely thanks you, Great Horror Campout and I’ll see you next year!