Some wild tales have come out of Phobia House's first 11 Halloweens: tours grinding to a halt because guests are too frightened to move, real tarantulas prowling the grounds, people fleeing to the parking lot to escape the house's murderous lunatics, only to find that the chainsaw-wielding madmen were willing to follow them there. The house takes on a new theme every year, but it's a safe bet that if the maniacal clowns and hanging murder victims aren't back this year, something equally disturbing will be, though it likely won't be Candyman causing a rip in the fabric of space-time by saying his own name three times in front of a mirror.
Engines start to roar, propellers spin, and a large parachute expands into the sky, carrying a light aircraft and its passengers toward the clouds. Silver Lining Aviation's certified instructors create adventures like this every day as they teach visitors to soar behind the controls of sport aircrafts such as powered parachutes, weight-shift trikes, and gyroplanes. Led by licensed FAA flight instructor Craig Ewing, Silver Lining's team takes prospective pilots on introductory flights that allow them to experience aircrafts such as the Airwolf 912 and nibble on different flavors of clouds. The aviation experts also sell sport aircrafts, which patiently wait onsite as customers work through custom ground- and flight-training programs. In most cases, the flight instructors prepare their pupils for aerial navigation in as little as two weeks. They also assist new pilots with replacement parts, provide 24/7 support, and cook oil soup to feed hungry aircraft.
For proof of how frightening Psycho Ward & Nightmares Haunted House truly is, you need only look at the chicken list. It keeps track of the number of people who couldn't make it through the two eerie indoor/outdoor attractions without high-tailing it to the nearest exit. There were 265 fraidy cats in 2012 alone, although that should come as no surprise, given the property's assortment of ghouls and maniacs.
Inside Psycho Ward, the experiments of the mad Dr. Floyd Cranston are eager to reconnect with other humans after years of unspeakable treatments and surgeries. Meanwhile, in the nearby Nightmares Haunted House, fears come to life in all forms, from demonic clowns to a radio that only plays John Tesh songs. Naturally, it's recommended that only guests 12 and older venture onto the haunted grounds.
For more than 10 years, Forest of Fear has been luring thrill-seekers into the woods to face 5 acres of nerve-testing frights. As they traverse the twisting, moonlit path, visitors encounter the forest's ghoulish inhabitants, including a devilish doctor, cannibalistic circus clowns, and a hallway filled with tragic brides stuck wearing off-white dresses, even though they'd ordered ivory. Guests set their own pace on the self-guided path, allowing them to stop along the way to get a better view of what’s lurking in the creepy cemetery or inside a school bus inhabited by forces more sinister than scholastic.
Though the haunted forest may scare, its overarching intent is help the community. All of the profits go to the Kentwood Jaycees, who use the money to sponsor community projects and help purchase food for families in need during the holidays. The staff is composed entirely of volunteers, and local Boy Scout troop 344 provides monster-themed concessions to warm chilled patrons as they await their turn to be terrorized.
Jaden James Brewery isn't the Bonga family's first foray into the world of sippable fermentation. In the same space where they now create specialty beers, they've spent years crafting wines from the fruits of Michigan's bountiful vineyards and orchards.
"So many people come for the wine, but we often get one half of a couple who says, 'I like beer,'" says Bob Bonga. The brewery's current selection includes a creamy ale to be savored between bites of pretzels, a Russian Imperial Stout, and an oatmeal porter that Bob characterizes as "wonderfully dark, with roasted tones of chocolate and coffee hops." The juice of apples harvested in northwest Grand Rapids goes into hard ciders.
The family also prepares a short list of snacks for visitors. In the future, the Bongas may grow their menu further by distilling their own liquors.
In 1939, Everett Cook purchased what would become the Cook family farm and was told it was the worst investment he had ever made. But in the spirit of tenacious American homesteaders, three generations of Cooks turned that bad investment into a thriving bison ranch. After years of research, Peter Cook—Everett’s grandson—became a member of the National Bison Association, and ordered the ranch's first 30 bison in 1998. The hulking, majestic curiosities began drawing in groups from area schools, cross-country motor-coach tours, and time-traveling harmonica players to the 83-acre farm in northern Indiana's Amish country.
During the ranch’s signature one-hour tour, guests board a wagon and venture out to interact with and feed the animals as guides regale them with facts about North American bison. After the tour, groups can also sit down for a meal of bison burgers or bison brats. The animals receive no growth hormones or stimulants and graze on the ranch's own hay and grain, which produces tender and healthy meat, unlike animals fed with growth hormones, which produces meat that won’t stop quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Bison burgers, brats, and steaks are available for purchase online or inside the ranch's gift shop. In addition to the tours, the ranch also allows guests to hunt their own game during guided hunts, taking home bison, deer, and wild turkey.
Intrepid guests descend upon the four eerie haunted houses at Nights of Fear, voted the area's scariest venue by the Grand Rapids Press, boldly making their way through 80,000 square feet of terrifying spirits, lunatics, and extraterrestrials. Groups grasping through the Brainfield Sanitarium navigate decrepit hallways inhabited by deranged maniacs, and Rusty's Revenge traps patrons in a warehouse lab of sinister experiments, testing innocent subjects on the periodic table of elements. For terror with added depth, customers can tiptoe throughout the 3-D Maniac Mansion, where countless spirits patrol Victorian furnishings, or brave otherworldly fiends in Contact: Alien Encounter in 3-D, which is the site of a mysterious aircraft crash.