MENANDS – Your post-apocalyptic nightmares have come true at the Albany Apocalypse Laser Tag Center and Zombie Evasion Course.
For $15 visitors to Albany Apocalypse at 21 Simmons Lane are outfitted with high-tech laser guns, split into groups of four and set with the simple task of saving the world from the encroaching zombie apocalypse.
Twenty actors in full zombie garb prowl the facility’s large 1,000 square-foot maze, enacting scenes and chasing patrons who are outfitted with laser guns to stop them.
The zombies do not touch humans, and humans do not have to quit if they are “bitten.” Being bitten means falling too close to the actors. But, co-owner Jeremy Hammond said the experience has been scary enough to make grown men scream.
Hammond and fellow owner Ron Young, alongside financial partner Mark Angora, owner of Wizard Works Product Development Company, rented a formerly abandoned single-story office building for the purposes of this conversion. The building’s close proximity to similar interactive attractions like Sky Zone Trampoline Park, and the industrial feel of the building made for a “perfect setting,” said Hammond.
The design features created Young underscore the worn-down look of the building. Existing office cubicles were used, with additional effects like caved in ceilings, pipe bursts, and of course lots of prop blood, add for an eerie, dilapidated atmosphere.
The story goes that you have entered the biochemical plant where the zombie virus started. The military has been trying to keep the virus mitigated, but their forces are low now and they need your help to stop it.
Both Hammond and Young are self-described huge fans of horror, and have been working in and designing various local haunted houses for decades, most notably at the Great Escape’s Fright Fest.
The project finds Young finally at the creative helm of a project, after spending 20 years in the amusement park industry, and over 15 years as a children’s book illustrator previous to that.
Yet while the haunts the pair has worked on have mostly been short-run operations, employing actors and leasing venues for only about a month at a time, this is the first long-term “haunted house” of sorts they have worked on.
While attending a horror conference in March, Hammond and Young stumbled upon a company out of Arizona, which offered all of the equipment needed for the zombie/laser experience. The pair was enamored with the interactivity of the idea, which seemed such a far cry from the static experience of walking a normal haunted house.
Albany Apocalypse soft-opened the first weekend in August, then opened for the season at the start of September. The facility will remain open Thursday to Sunday through Halloween, closing after Friday, Nov. 7.
Tickets are available for each hourly run from 6 to 10 p.m. and can be purchased either online or at the door. Children under the age of 12 are not recommended to participate, as the experience can be very frightening.
A V.I.P. package is also available, which includes increased ammo, a t-shirt and photo with the zombies. Photos are otherwise not permitted in the facility.
According to Hammond, the site sees about 150 to 300 people visit per night. A waiting line to run the course often contains patrons very diverse in nature. “A doctor could be standing next to a lawyer, a car salesman or a couple of janitors,” said Hammond. The one similarity they all have: A love for Halloween.
As the closest similar zombie evasion course is located on Long Island, patrons come from as far south as Bolton and Lake George, as far north as Massachusetts, as far west as New Paltz to see Albany Apocolypse.
The entire zombie experience lasts about 15 minutes on average. The easily scared may go through the course more quickly, but patrons are given as long as they need to explore, with some taking up to 25 minutes to complete it. A second run can also be purchased for an additional $10.
As patrons are given a limited 150 rounds of ammo, they are cautioned to use their laser bullets wisely.
The space in which the zombie course is held is now leased by Young and Hammond. According to the owners, more laser tags themes are planned for the future. A horror-filled Christmas theme, using zombie elves, is in the works, set to open in early December.
Any future plans will include the same hi-tech equipment already housed at the facility. Unlike the laser tag facilities you may be used to, which use toy-like guns and chest plates to give youngsters a fun experience, the equipment at this facility are much more serious.
Weaponry at the Albany Apocalypse includes full-weight, metal body replicas of real-world M4 Rifles used to train military and SWAT personnel. Real recoil kickback is felt when shots are fired, a realistic bang is heard and the muzzle flashes.
As well, the zombies themselves are meticulously crafted by Hammond and Young. The creators were not biased to any of the many zombie portrayals seen in various fictional zombie universes. As such, all types of zombies – slow moving, fast moving, slow to die, quick to die, zombies of all levels of decomposition – can be encountered in their course.
The actors decide what kind of zombie they would like to be, with Hammond and Young spending about an hour each night applying latex and makeup to realistic effects.
Most employees are local actors or comedians, yet one “zombie” is a chemist with a master’s degree, whose only motivation for working at the facility is a love of zombies. According to Hammond, “he’s playing better than some of the actors.”
The most surprising revelation of the experience for Hammond so far has been the ability of his customers to suspend their disbelief.
“They come out of there and they’re out of breath… Just terrified! That’s amazed me,” said Hammond, also adding that some customers have even chosen to come to the facility in costumes depicting their favorite characters from zombie-themed TV shows and movies.
After their success with the Halloween run, and plans for another Christmas- themed zombie run, Young and Hammonds plans go beyond even that to include future expansions into more neighboring vacant office buildings.
Soon, the pair plans to create an even larger venue for team-on-team-on-zombie laser gun battles – one that, with their highly complicated course design, they hope will be the most difficult to maneuver in the region. “People are going to have to work to find their opponents,” said Young.
To make a reservation for the Halloween season, visit albanyapocolypse.com or call 362-8486.