Travel

Haunted Houses: GWK Rounds up the Best Scares This Halloween Season

“Nobody comes up and goes ‘Grr!’” Michael Jubie tells GWK. “People expect Hollywood quality, and that’s what we give ‘em.”


And how, because incoming terror-junkies from Germany, Australia, and the Chinese Travel Channel have their standards. Tapping the “alone in the woods” nightmare nerve, Jubie runs Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, a world-renowned gore fest for the ages set across 65 acres of whispering Hudson Valley forest in Ulster Park, two hours north of New York City.

“We are not in a warehouse or a strip mall,” he says proudly, noting how a darkened timberland is the perfect co-star to 10 ghoulish attractions including Glutton's Diner & Slaughter House, Dark Harvest Corn Maze, and Dahlia Blood's Manor. He is quick to highlight a Tiny Taste of Terror, a bona fide children’s day where all the monsters that tried to fricassee you the night before show off their anger-management skills with games, magic, and wildlife demos.

Shoving the thrills of Halloween all up in your face, haunted houses are for neither little kids nor big babies. Rather, a good ghost-fest is for kids too old for trick-or-treating and desiring more mature festivities, and at the same time still be something that can be done as a family without the dreaded tween eye-roll (or sticker-shock). Here are a few other top-of-the-line monster-mashes that are sure to give you a few gray hairs that have nothing to do with the “dating years.”

Headless Horseman, courtesy of Michael Jubie

Salem, Massachusetts: Night of the Witch

True story: the Salem witches were not burned at the stake. Rather, hanging was the go-to, or, if you were having a particularly bad day, you were “pressed,” where stones were piled on your chest until you could no longer breathe. Either way, you died.

If there is a city with a hammerlock on Halloween, my bet is on the one with the most notorious witch trials in history. So synonymous is Salem with the spirit world that ghost tours run all summer into fall, but for the month of October, the claws really come out. Sometimes literally.

But of them all, the accolades heap at the putrified feet of Chambers of Terror, an old-school scare-house that most definitely keeps with the times. Split into a short, daytime Terror Tour (eight minutes, tops), and the much longer nighttime Halloween Horror Show, visitors are subjected to “demons, ghouls, psychos, creatures of the dark … and one very evil clown.” Suffice it to say, whatever was hiding in your closet or under your bed, Chambers of Terror has it somewhere. Adding to the fun is your very own Ghoulish Guide, a maître d’horreur who may or may not be so trustworthy a chaperon.

Chamber of Terror, Salem: courtesy of Chambers of Terror

Philadelphia: Behind Bars

With its solid stone ramparts and watch towers, the Eastern State Penitentiary looks more like a medieval fortress fell out of the sky into modern Philadelphia. Opened in 1829, “ESP” had by 1971 become so dilapidated that city officials simply closed it down and threw away the key. Frozen in time, the wards and cellblocks sat quietly neglected while an intrepid band of preservationists fought to save to save the complex. In 1991, a haunted tour idea was floated.

And took off like a rocket: Terror Behind the Walls has gone from a local soiree to one of the best and biggest Halloween fright-nights in the country, with an array of actors and special effects to scare the pants off you. Crazed mutants? Sure! Mad scientists? Why not? Tortured prisoners? Duh! Six attractions lurk in the old wards, and with names like Lock Down and Quarantine, it is safe to say the lunatics have taken over the asylum; when you have a crumbling prison as a stage — the penitentiary is kept in a state of “maintained disrepair” — the world is your cannibalistic oyster.

Running to November 7, the theme of the event changes yearly and includes six separate sections of scares, suspense, and suited-up actors who are not above grabbing you from the dark for maximum jolt. For those faint of heart, the ravenous hordes will retreat back whence they came if you yell “Monsters be good!” Don’t worry; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Quarantine, Philadelphia: courtesy of the Eastern State Penitentiary/Terror Behind the Walls

Austin: Texas Torment

When the movie that started the whole crazy-psycho-chainsaw-mass-murderer phenomenon has your state’s name in it, you are branded for life.

Happily, Texans can rest easy that the pasty-faced zombies of Austin’s House of Torment never leave the grounds. Actually a trio of scares, BuzzFeed heralds this freak show as one of the most “terrifying haunted houses you should experience before you die,” and visitors can choose their fate with the three “houses” they wish to experience and in what order: Dead End District (mutated undead apocalypse), Hex of the Harvest (witches and pagan blood sacrifice), and Laughterhouse (killer clowns).

House of Torment lasts until November 7, but for the ultimate post-season cold sweat, check out the “Blackout” nights on November 13 and 14. Patrons must brave the creepy-crawlies with a single glow stick per group as the sole source of light. And if you loose it, or it is pilfered — because these things happen — well, good luck. Mwa-ha-ha…

Cursed Hex of the Harvest and Laughterhouse Clown, Austin: courtesy of House of Torment

Long Beach, California: Queen of the Damned

Twice the size of Titanic, the Queen Mary was the premier ocean liner of her Art Deco day. Having hosted glitterati including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Clark Gable, the grande dame of the seas now cozies up harborside in Long Beach, California, as a hotel-cum-window to the past … and to another world, come Halloween.

In the luxurious yet slightly claustrophobic confines of the ship once called nicknamed the “Grey Ghost” – how’s that for prescience? – visitors take on the hungry specters of Dark Harbor — the baleful Captain, lovelorn Graceful Gale, impish Scary Mary among them – as they tease, cajole, and outright terrify visitors through a wicked wonderland of mazes, an Egyptian-themed paintball gallery, and a genuine sideshow. Sailor lore is fraught with restless dead, and a good chunk of them show their necrotic faces even as they try to eat off yours.

But thrill seekers beware! Dark Harbor continues until November 1, but the Queen Mary ups the phantasmal ante by already being haunted: from the Lady in White in the engine room to the shades of children lingering around the pool, Halloween is a 24/7/365 experience. Time Magazine heralded the old broad as one of the top 10 sites for paranormal activity in the USA.

Dark Harbor, Long Beach: courtesy of the Queen Mary/Dark Harbor

New York City: House of the Dead

Just so you know: “Blood Manor is not recommended for people with heart or back problems, pregnant women, people prone to seizures or anyone who has an affliction that is made worse by fear, anxiety or flashing lights.”

And if that doesn’t clue you in to what awaits in the premier freak fest of the Big Apple, I don’t know what will.

Pick your poison — monsters, morgues, clowns, charnel houses, a maze made out of bodies suspended from the ceiling, demonic strippers, re-animated brides, and how about an undead dominatrix? Finding themselves in a free-for-all of phobias, visitors leap from one deep-seated fear to the next in a series of themed rooms and corridors. Along the way, actors dressed in a rainbow of freak show leap out from unlit corners (and there are plenty) to keep the crowds moving. Designed more for a good ole’ fashioned suspenseful jolt than something to send you running to the therapist, Blood Manor can also lean a tad risqué, so parents should plan accordingly.

Jolt-seeking crowds can get their hit of gore until October 31, but can screw their courage to the sticking place November 6 and 7; all the lights are turned off and you are left alone in the dark…

Blood Manor, New York: courtesy of Blood Manor

Dead Reckoning

A perfect example of “anybody you can scare, we can scare MORE” one-upmanship, haunted houses both modest and extravagant are big business across the country; if the ones mentioned involve a commute as scary as the revenants they shelter, have no fear that one is near you (maybe too near you). HauntWorld is an excellent resource to make this Halloween one for the ages.

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Travel

5 Fabulous Tips From Gay Dads for Vacationing with Kids

A family vacation with young kids is harder a vacation at all... unless you head this advice from our seasoned gay dads travelers!

It's the summer holidays, and that means family vacation! Now, vacations with kids under 8 might make you break out in a cold sweat, but we've got some tips for you from fellow gay dads to help make family trips easier. From road travel to flying, to helpful planning hints while away, these dads have got you covered.

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Travel

The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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A Disney vacation is, for many, a once or twice in a lifetime experience. There's a gazillion articles full of Disneyland tips out there but our fresh take comes off of our first trip to Disneyland as a family of four. And gosh did we learn a lot.

Where to stay at Disneyland

The biggest cost for a family when visiting Disneyland what is of course either the transportation to Southern California or the actual Park tickets depending on how many days you are going. Lodging at Disneyland is also expensive, but there are ways to make sure that you are spending your money wisely.

I'm sure this is obvious to most people booking a Disneyland trip but staying in one of the three Disney properties is going to run you the highest hotel bill. There are lots of Good Neighbor Hotels very close to the park from which you can either walk or take the Anaheim Resort Transit. Book a good neighbor hotel and it doesn't even have to be one of the nicest ones, because seriously, how much time are you actually going to spend in your hotel? You are there to be either in Disneyland or California Adventure so just be sure that you pick a property that has great ratings for cleanliness and is close enough for how your family will spend their days.

When to go to Disneyland

One of the most common Disneyland tips we see is when to go to Anaheim with your family. There are a few different ways to determine what is going to be the right time when the parks aren't too crowded. Here are three tips to help you pick your dates for a Disneyland family trip.

Here in the United States we don't have a lot of holiday weeks. But we do have common periods when schools let out for mid-year breaks. This is the prime time for many families to make the journey to Disneyland. This is also when you will find the largest crowds and longest wait times for your favorite rides. If you're cool with pulling your kids out of school, pick a time when most schools, particularly in Southern California, hour in session. This might not coincide with your own kids' spring or winter break, but it'll be a great opportunity to have smaller crowds and win loads of awesome parent points for pulling your kids out of school.

Annual pass blackout days

If you are not familiar with Disneyland and its annual pass situations this might sound strange. There are different types of passes that Southern California residents and Beyond can purchase. Each pass has a different set of blackout dates during which they cannot use their passes for the parks. If you research the dates when the most number of passes are blacked out you may hit the jackpot for being at the park with a smaller crowd than usual.

True, blackout dates exist because that's when more people want to be at Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure, but keeping in mind vacationers philosophies about missing crowds and knowing it's busy paired with restrictions on passes and you will find the perfect balance of small crowds and swift lines.

Seasonal transitions

One of our favorite times to be in Disneyland is during holiday time. This is that special moment between Halloween and New Year's (or slightly after) that the park is decked out in lights, wreaths, and trees. Not only is it more festive than you can imagine but also plays off of the first tip we gave: a lot of kids are in school so not a lot of families traveling to Disneyland.

Saving money in the parks

You'd be surprised at all the different ways you'll spend money when you visit Disneyland. It's a lot more than just Park admission and accommodations. From dining in the Parks and random souvenirs, to necessities you didn't plan on that you have to purchase once inside, you can save.

Saving on dining

If you read a lot of family travel articles you'll find people praising and criticizing the families who always have their own snacks with them. Well, this is a necessary step to take both for saving money in Disneyland and for making sure the kids are happy. I don't know about you but our kids get hangry in a heartbeat. There's nothing quite like a hungry, angry child to ruin your magical memories. Be prepared with snacks in your pack at all times. It saves money and heartache.

For mealtime Disneyland tips, we'll tell you that the best options are the ones that are easy and a little out of the way. Does that not make sense? Basically, where the menus have simple options and ample seating you will find the swiftest and most cost-effective dining options. Example: The Hungry Bear Cafe in critter country keeps it simple with burgers or wraps. The menu is small and the cast members are efficient. There is a ton of seating and you can be in and out in a heartbeat for less than dining in one of the full service restaurants. Our favorite quick service dining option is Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land (Disney's California Adventure).

Saving on unplanned purchases

Does anybody ever plan to be stuck in Disneyland in the rain? No. But after one experience you'll know that you need to have an umbrella or a rain poncho at the ready. As silly as they are ponchos are the greatest invention ever for a rainy day in Disneyland. This is one of the Disneyland tips that we didn't listen to on our first trip there during a February long ago... and we were drenched.

Another way to save is by traveling with a backup battery/power bank to recharge your devices while you're in the Parks. Disneyland does have portable chargers that you can rent for a certain fee over the course of your visit, but do you want to spend $30 at a charging station when you could just bring your own power pack? No.

Souvenirs are their own thing. Of course there are loads of cute nick-nacks and t-shirts you could buy when you travel, to Disneyland or anywhere else, but do you need them? The best way to save money on souvenirs is to not go souvenir shopping. So simple. You could be doing many other fun things instead of browsing shelves of stuff. The exception to the souvenir thing is a good pair of Mickey Mouse ears. They're a must.

How to plan your days

Before we arrived in Disneyland with the kids we decided that there were a few key experiences we wanted them to have. We researched what times certain shows or parades were happening and then weighed that out against how much time we new they could last within the parks. For us the big-ticket experiences were:

Meeting certain characters

Download the Disneyland app to see where characters are in real time within the parks. There is also a paper guide that you can get when you enter either Park, but the app helped us land our two Disneyland unicorns: boom.

Experiencing Disney Entertainment

Again, the Disneyland app lets you know the times for everything as does the schedule. If you are going to be in the parks for several days don't stress about hitting three different parades in one day and also watching the fireworks. Plan on doing rides or dinner nearby a parade route so that when you are done with whatever you're doing you can just park yourself for a few minutes before the show starts.

Other experiences that might be high on your parent list of what you want your family to do in Disneyland could be different attractions or meeting every single character, so do what you have to do to make the experience as magical for everyone as possible. Don't add stress to it, use the tools that Disney has given you to make it easier.

Best way to capture memories

We wrote an article about tips for taking your best family travel photos, and I think the strongest suggestion we have from our list is to just be comfortable taking a family selfie. A family selfie means that everybody is in the photo so there's not one person missing from every single picture. A family selfie means that the kids will probably cooperate with you better than waiting for a stranger to take their picture. Family selfies bring you into the moment or into the action and you usually get some pretty hilarious faces.

Other ways to ensure you're getting great pictures in the Disney parks is to leverage character hosts (cast members who are hanging out with your favorite characters) and PhotoPass staff. The PhotoPass photographers that you find floating around the Disney parks won't just do their own pictures with the Disney cameras but they'll also help you with your own pics.

With a little planning and prep work, you'll no doubt have an awesome Disney vacation with your family. The biggest key to having fun once you're there is to keep a good attitude and don't get stressed. That's where the prep work comes in and believe me, keeping a relaxed state of mind throughout your whole Disney Experience is going to make it more fun and memorable for everybody.

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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