To the Dungeons

Erin, Dylan, Christina, and I ventured to the suburbs one weekend for a variety of interesting events. The last of which, a Harry Potter haunted house, death-eater defying laser tag experience, had us very uncertain. Turns out that uncertainty was warranted.

We arrived at the event, held in a patio area between two buildings, to a crowd wandering through the space and exploring the Harry Potter-themed fare. Our VIP tickets (yeah, we’re hot shit) entitled us to five events/offerings.

First, we each got a picture with a snake. This would’ve been a highlight, but some creepy dude in a red and black snake mask photobombed every picture. I can deal with the non-canon yellow snake, but this dude couldn’t even pass for Voldemort.


Next, we hopped in line for archery. Four balls, held aloft by small streams of air, served as targets. To win a prize, participants had to hit three of the four directly with the tip of the padded arrow. We were approximately 10 places back in the line, and we saw ONE person hit ONE ball. We approached the range with high hopes and left with dashed dreams. No balls were hit that day. The most thrilling part of the archery experience was the random people dressed as generically creepy characters singing haunting hymns and invading our personal space. Surprisingly, my huge belly (pictured below) didn’t scare them away.

I didn’t think of this until later, but there’s no fucking archery in Harry Potter! The only time I remember a bow and arrow having ANY significance whatsoever is the centaur tribute at Dumbledore’s funeral.

The third ‘event’ was a free butterbeer. I alone redeemed this offer and enjoyed my cream soda beverage in line for a later event, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Our penultimate excursion, a wizard duel, proved the most intriguing event of the evening. Erin and I faced off. We stood on identical platforms that leaned in different directions randomly throughout the short match and sent up steam on a few occasions. During all of this, we cast spells at the other platform, aiming for sensors that lit up randomly. I defeated Erin 13-9 because that’s how wizarding duels work.

Finally, we joined the line for the main event, which nobody could really describe–and trust me, we asked plenty of people to explain. The hosting venue, usually an interactive haunted house featuring laser guns, advertised the event as a haunted house laser tag Harry Potter experience.

While we waited, more generic costumed characters meandered around the venue. One walked on stilts, making him 10-ish feet tall. Another had curly hair that covered her face, ragged clothes, and rather repugnant perfume; she was the most accurate character knock-off at the event, but that could’ve just been the pungent scent messing with my brain.

Our turn came, and we cautiously entered the building armed with our laser wands. We descended a staircase that led us into a room lined with mirrors and occupied with knight’s armor. It oozed the aura of a medieval haunt or evil wizard’s foyer, and the anticipation of horror to come had me on-edge. Two random girls who were slapped onto our group instinctively gripped the back of my shirt out of fear. We were amped for a scary Harry Potter dark wizard confrontation set in this creepy locale.


Instead, we encountered a regular old haunted house. We explored an abandoned medical ward, an undead lair, a werewolf’s den (I think?) and a number of other horrific settings. The elements of the haunted house were actually quite amazing. Animatronic humanoids, decorated to fit whatever room we were in, popped up realistically from their resting places. Real people in black robes burst from hiding spots within the labyrinth. We waved our wands at the enemies as they approached and weaved through the myriad rooms that made up the whole endeavor. But throughout the entire 20-minute journey, I found only two references to Harry Potter: a Platform 9 3/4 sign, printed and laminated and taped to the wall, and a set of Hogwarts house banners hanging from the ceiling in one room.

We emerged from the basement room laughing, because why the hell not? It wasn’t the Harry Potter excellence that we expected, but the semi-scary romp through a creepy maze of rooms still entertained.

For a more canon-based Harry Potter experience, check out our Jack of All Takes episode and Quick Takes installment celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday.

Epilogue: enjoy two pictures of Dylan with a big bug.