When you reach adulthood, Halloween is only cool for one of two reasons. Either you enjoy handing out candy to grubby-fingered kids (who would like nothing better than to destroy your lawn ornaments) or you like dressing up (like when you were a kid) and hitting the club scene's various costume parties.
But a few years ago, two events emerged that redefined grown-up participation in Halloween. One of them, the Haunted Basement, is an adults-only, must-sign-a-waiver screamfest. The other is the Twin Cities' largest pub crawl for the undead.
This year, both attractions have committed themselves to the old adage "bigger is better."
The Haunted Basement, opening Friday under the Soap Factory art gallery in Minneapolis, is promising a psychological mind-destroyer unlike any before. Meanwhile, the Zombie Pub Crawl VI, which attracted about 5,000 participants last year, is simply expanding (just as a flesh-eating horde should). ZPC's Facebook page has upwards of 9,000 attendees confirmed for the Oct. 9 lurch.
Both of these events are typically red hot, so get your spot while you can. To help you navigate the ghoulish debauchery, I created survival guides to one of the scariest haunted houses around and a drunken-zombie apocalypse.Haunted Basement survival guide
This haunted house always has been expertly crafted to prey on our most basic fears: psychological phobias, realistic horror and distorted reality. In its fourth year, the 18-plus attraction has heightened the terror in a major way. For starters, its creators have lent a narrative theme to the whole thing, fashioning the Basement as some sort of post-apocalyptic underworld where cannibals rule. In the Basement, you'll traverse various pitch-dark rooms, inch through claustrophoic corridors and come face to face with disfigured clowns. Hopefully, this list will help you get through the experience unscathed.
1. Protect your nostrils. Guests will encounter a full range of smells, from bubble gum to rotting corpse. "And there are three types of corpses, if you didn't know," said co-organizer Gabe Shapiro. The smells come from St. Croix Sensory, a company that specializes in testing odors.
2. Prepare for a long, frightening journey. A trip through the Basement lasted about 25 to 35 minutes last year. They're estimating a 45-minute jaunt this time through the totally rebuilt basement. "The maze is diabolical this year," Shapiro said. "We want it to break your will."
3. Dress appropriately. People often come to the Basement on dates. "If they show up in heels, we won't let them down," said artist Will Grant. "We'll have some old dirty shoes for them."
4. Watch out for real ghosts. The Soap Factory has been prodded by plenty of ghost hunters. "National and local groups have said it's one of the most haunted buildings in the country," Grant said.
5. Pay attention to "the art." The project is designed by 10 artists and five guest curators (chosen by submission process). Proceeds help fund the gallery's more traditional programming. "Fraidy Cat Tours" (Oct. 24 and 31) will be offered to people who want to appreciate the haunt's craftsmanship during the day.
6. Buy your tickets in advance. The first night (Friday) is already sold out. Last year's run hit 98 percent capacity. Tickets ended up on Craigslist, with some going for as high as $300 on Halloween night.
7. You can always say "uncle." Too scary? Utter this safe word and you'll be escorted out. "There's something unique about making a 40-year-old man cry," said co-organizer Lillian Egner.Zombie Pub Crawl VI survival guide
If estimates are correct, this year's crawl should smash the Guinness record for the "largest gathering of zombies." But getting credentials to record such a feat is apparently a lot of work. "It's impossible to get zombies to do anything," said co-organizer Chuck Terhark. Even so, participating zombies can expect the biggest bash yet, with more bars and bands than before. The following will help you have fun without losing a limb.
1. Try to stand out (be more original than Zombie Jesus). Terhark was impressed with a "zombie jogger" last year who "just ran around in place the whole time, checking to see if he had a pulse." Co-organizer Taylor Carik said he's less impressed with zombie gimmicks. He likes zombie realism: "Last year, a guy made a [fake] arm out of Rice Krispies bars and just walked around eating it," he said.
2. Don't show up as a human. Humans, especially zombie hunters (with their weapons and armor), tend to get mobbed by zombies. "If you wear your nice zombie-hunter outfit," Carik said, "you're probably going to have people throw up blood on you. [Zombie hunters] don't last very long."
3. Which brings us to: Dress accordingly. "I would really stress how messy it gets," Carik said. "I got fake blood spit on me 10 times last year."
4. Behave yourself. "[Zombies] are always lurching into traffic and peeing on themselves," Terhark said. "Hopefully, the Porta-Potties will help this year." The cold weather kept the horde indoors last year, which is what organizers want. "We don't want people running around and stopping traffic," Carik said.
5. Buy a wristband. For the first time, organizers will require participants to buy a wristband, which will get them into each bar. The horde's growing numbers demand it, Carik said. Wristbands might also help organizers get an official count to break the Guinness record.
6. Bring cash. The West Bank's bars will be jam-packed. Paying for drinks with cash helps the flow of traffic. One more cautionary note: "Pace yourself," Carik said. "If you have three beers at the first bar, you're screwed." No one likes a totally drunk zombie.
7. Stop horde-ing and listen to the music. There will be live bands at several of the bars, plus a block party at Acadia, Impaler at the 501 Club and Har Mar Superstar at the Cabooze. "It's almost like a full-on festival," Carik said.
Tom Horgen • 612-673-7909 • Follow him on Twitter: @tomhorgen