The biggest laugh I can recall offhand at a haunted attraction was at Busch Gardens Tampa’s “Howl-O-Scream” event a few years back. One of their haunted houses was called “The Mortuary.” It was fairly popular, and the entry queue had its own little performance elements to entertain the folks waiting in line-- there was a spooky Poltergeist 2-style preacher on a microphone, an old-fashioned hearse parked out front, etc. However, one of the elements was just weird beyond description.
The main entranceway was designed to look like an overgrown cemetery garden, with monuments and trellises all shrouded by gnarled ivy. There were performers in the garden, dressed in form-fitting grey bodystockings complete with pantyhose-style masks concealing their features. These costumes were studded all over at random with large, soft cones-- they were supposed to blend in with the ivy, I guess. The performers would flit silently from one monument to the other, wrap their arms around it for a while and hold still, then flit over to another spot. What the hell this had to do with the mortuary theme, I have no idea. I don’t know if anyone found it frightening at all, but to me it looked like some kind of fey sex toy-themed Mummenschanz routine. The bodystockings’ highly visible bulges left no doubt which performers were male, and the puffy cones all over their bodies didn’t help. So I was giggling pretty hard before I even got inside. That wasn’t the funniest bit though.
The Mortuary itself was actually a pretty well put together attraction. They had all the traditional spooky bits that you’d expect: ghoulish funeral scene, gruesome embalming room, malevolent gravediggers, and such. Then, at one point, in the mortuary parlor amid all the caskets, there was a cat in a box. Apropos of absolutely nothing, there was this stuffed black cat sitting inside this aquarium-like transparent viewing box on a sort of pedestal, with a looped recording of cat noises to suggest that it was alive. The cat was rigged on a pneumatic piston, so that every few minutes it would suddenly shoot forward and slam its head against the glass. I presume the intended effect was to spook groups of visitors as they walked by. But in the middle of all these morbid trappings, the incongruous sight of this raggedy fake cat abusing itself was the most hilarious thing imaginable. “Mrrreeeowww… mrreeoooww… THUMP Mrreeooouww…”
I stood and watched it meow plaintively and slam its head against that glass for what seemed like minutes, laughing uncontrollably all the while, tears of pure mirth pouring down my face. In retrospect I probably seemed pretty frightening myself to other people. The rest of my group was pretty peeved at me, but I made them all go through the attraction again later that night. I loved that cat.
Next year they had the Mortuary attraction again, and I made sure we hit that haunted house first. Dammit, neither the gay vine people nor the cat were included a second time. I guess some killjoy probably complained that having a display of a fake cat beating itself up was cruel or something.
A year or so later I had another big laugh at Howl-O-Scream. I have to give them credit for being experimental and trying out new and unusual varieties of haunted house on occasion. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This one was the worst idea I have ever seen.
The name of the attraction was… “Corporate Nightmare.” Yes, it was a white-collar haunted house. On the way in, I said sarcastically to the rest of the group: “So, what are they going to have inside, evil staplers?” The first thing we saw upon entry was a shelf of evil staplers. You knew they were evil because they were all chattering away by themselves, not actually stapling anything, which is just a pointless waste of staples.
The rest of the attraction looked suspiciously like the designers had a warehouse of used office furniture on hand and just decided to call it a “haunted house.” Apparently its poor quality also enraged the forces of nature, because within a week a big tropical storm came through and blew the whole thing away. “Evil staplers” became sort of a running joke among our group after that.
The Busch Gardens people seemed a little off their game that year; among other things, the mascot of that year’s event was an “evil cabdriver” character who was patently indistinguishable from any other cabdriver. This year’s effort seems a lot more promising: deformed evil twins. Which, I submit, is both scarier and less objectionable than deformed non-evil twin mascots.