I can’t believe that haunt season is already winding down. It’s truly the best time of year when we get to go out and have the pants scared off of us in various ways. As a Kansas City native, I have always known that we some of the best haunted houses in the country, but there was one haunt that I hadn’t had the chance to go to but really wanted to experience. Imagine a Blair Witch-like experience underneath the chilly October moon and you have EXILED KC.
EXILED isn’t your run of the mill haunted house in an abandoned building. Granted the buildings that house The Beast and The Edge of Hell are pretty cool (they are set up in the forgotten remains of where Kansas City used to be before a flood wiped out the entire city, causing it to move to higher ground) but I wanted a haunt with something extra. EXILED sets up a mile long hike through the woods with very little light and a lot of obstacles.
There isn’t a disclaimer on the website but this must be said, if you have problems bending your knees, climbing or going up and down steep locations, do not do this haunt. It is extremely physical and the cold only exacerbates joint issues. If you can’t handle climbing over fallen trees, finding your way up and down very steep “steps”, or practically crawling, this haunt isn’t for you. BUT, if you like haunts that aren’t your average “walk through the park” then I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it.
As you enter, you are given a teeny, tiny red key-chain light to try and find your way. I have to say, that light didn’t do shit. Parts of the haunt are lit but the majority isn’t lit well, so you will find yourself begging for a full moon to find your way. While it does add some insanely cool atmosphere, it was muddy from rain when I went and my poor boots took the brunt of my inability to see.
That said, there were some really awesome parts such as a crashed bus that seemed to defy gravity as well as an entire Blair Witch style area. I am a giant fan of The Blair Witch Project, so walking under a sea of stick figures and running into an abandoned campground was like Christmas to me. It was my favorite part. Give me an entire Blair Witch themed haunt and I’d give them my money so fast that they’d get road rash on their hands.
There was a moment where I literally had to crawl through a ghillie tent which was terrifying because I couldn’t see my hands in front of me. Quick tip to anyone who has given birth, don’t get scared in a squatting position – just trust me, okay? After escaping the haunt, I had the chance to speak with Jeff Nuss, one of the guys who keeps EXILED running.
How did EXILED start?
Jeff Nuss: I was in the woods working on some zipline things and lost all of our light from the generator. There I stood in the middle of the woods, woods that I know well, and I found myself very uncomfortable and vulnerable. Then, being the sadists we are, we thought: WE SHOULD MAKE A HAUNTED FOREST! A couple weeks later we were building props.
How do you decide on your themes every year?
Jeff Nuss: It’s a collaboration of what works well, what didn’t, and always finding a way to keep it fresh so that every year there are new and better things. Overall, Jen Scott is the twisted mastermind of almost everything.
What is your favorite part of the trail?
Jeff Nuss: The staff. It’s amazing to see these guys in action and loving it. This makes the scenes come to life and makes you feel like you are in a movie. Props are one thing, actors are everything.
How long does it take to set up/break down every year?
Jeff Nuss: We build basically all year round but the bulk takes place 2-3 months leading up to October, then break down takes a few weeks.
What do you hope for next year’s trail?
Jeff Nuss: More people wanting to be pulled out of the trail because they simply can’t handle the intensity of it. I keep track of #1s, #2s (it really happens) and how many quit each year. I like to see those numbers go up every year.
A huge thank you to EXILED KC for letting me come and finally experience the haunt. I have wanted to go for so many years and it was well worth the wait! Was it scary? Not really, because you are so concentrated on finding your way through the darkness. The environment they set up and the woods themselves swallow you up with their eeriness. That isn’t to say there weren’t scary moments, (to the actor that could run full speed through the trail in no light and not fall on their face, I salute you) as a teddy bear prop fell out of a tree and I about died.
Due to possibly being so desensitized by all my work in horror, this wasn’t the scariest haunt I have been to but this was the funnest one I have ever experienced. Being out in the woods (and I mean the woods) on a cold October night under the full moon with only a tiny red LED light in my hands, I felt like I was in a movie. I had so much fun making my way through that trail that I didn’t care if there were any scares at all. Except for the dentist test, it can fuck right off.
You have three more dates to catch EXILED in action before it closes down until the 2020 season: October 31, November 1, and November 2nd over in Bonner Springs, KC, about 30 minutes west of downtown Kansas City. If you are looking for extreme scares, this probably won’t get your ghost, but if you are looking for an interactive experience with an extremely eerie atmosphere and a ton of fun with your friends, then I would recommend checking them out. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.exiledkc.com.