Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt debuted on October 26, 1973, as a three-night event in the Ghost Town section. Now celebrating its 41st year, the month-long Haunt is the largest Halloween event of any theme park and has expanded throughout the entire park. Mary Jo Mellado Willey and I attended the Knott’s Haunt 2013 on separate nights and shared our experiences on a recent episode of The DIS Unplugged Podcast: Disneyland Edition.
This was my first visit to Knott’s Berry Farm in twenty years and my first time experiencing a Haunt. I was with a group of five people, three of whom attend the Haunt yearly and one other who was also attending for their first time. As a result, I was able to have a fresh perspective on the Haunt whilst still getting the reaction of seasoned Haunt goers.
The Haunt begins with a rope drop where you are welcomed by the Green Witch, reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz, who warns you of the horrors awaiting. She beckons her “tricksters” to come out and welcome guests to the Haunt. The tricksters are a motley crew of ghouls, zombies, witches and scary clowns who wander the park tormenting guests with their antics. When the rope is dropped, guests run into the fog, as if the devil is chasing them, towards the various mazes and attractions.
A trickster beckons Haunt guests to come into the fog.
For Haunt 2013 there are six new mazes and five returning mazes. I wandered through ten of them. One of the reasons I was able to get through so many is because I purchased the Fright Lane with Skeleton Key, which is new for 2013. The Fright Lane allows you unlimited access to the front of the line for all eleven of the mazes. The Skeleton Key grants you access to a special bonus room for five of the mazes, which is an interactive experience setting the story for the maze.
As the lines grew, I was very happy our group purchased the Fright Lane or we would have seen only a few of the mazes. The Key Rooms, for the most part, provided much-needed clarity to the maze stories and I hope more are added in the coming years.
Black Magic – The veil between the living and the dead is severed when Houdini’s ghost materializes during a séance and ushers a host of demonic illusions to play tricks on anyone who intrudes on his theatre. From the prop room to the main stage this dilapidated theatre will make visitors skin crawl. Will you be part of the disappearing act?
This was one of my favorite mazes. The Key Room was one of the best in which you attend a seance and the spirit of Houdini is brought back from the dead with disturbing consequences. As you wander through the haunted theatre, you encounter a magician and victims of the conjuring before you encounter Houdini’s unhappy ghost.
Mirror Mirror – Enter a world where madness is just a looking glass away. What is real and what is an illusion? A cursed mirror absorbs everyone into a mechanical wasteland of despair. Hideous creatures of beauty and horror stalk the mirror world, hoping to draw another victim into a nightmarish labyrinth.
A simple fun-house mirror maze, but perfectly executed. This disconcerting maze was one of the best. The silent masked residents added a nice touch of creepiness and confusion as we attempted to find our way to the exit.
The Gunslinger’s Grave – Return to the Old West and walk in the bloody footsteps of a betrayed and left for dead gunslinger on his path to retribution against a corrupt township. This journey back in time takes guests on a trail of terror through abandoned gold mines, a treacherous corral, a seedy saloon and a final showdown at town hall.
The Key Room for this maze does an very good job explaining why the gunslinger has slaughtered the residents of this hapless town. This maze is both indoors and outdoors as you walk through the buildings this town, including a stable, bar, grocery store, brothel, and court house. Had there not been a roller coaster with screaming riders overhead, this would have been the perfect environment.
Forevermore – The twisted mind of Edgar Allen Poe comes alive as the “Forevermore Killer” works his way through one haunting tale after another. All the victims, driven mad by a combination of drugs and torture, unwittingly find themselves a part of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” The Masque of Red Death” among others. Guests will want to catch up on their reading to stay a chapter ahead of their demise.
You would think a maze with an Edgar Allen Poe theme would be thrilling, but this is a maze with missed potential. When my friend and I walked out, we both turned to each other and said in unison, “What was that?” I have heard others claim this maze is “too cerebral.” I believe it suffers from an underdeveloped storyline leaving guests wondering what it is about. If this maze is offered next year, it would benefit from a good Key Room.
Tricksters getting into the spirit backstage.
Dominion of the Damned – The Blood Queen’s reign has ended as she goes to regenerate after her long reign. In the new cycle ancient vampire lore decrees there shall always be one to rule the damned… Long live the King!
This is the only maze I did not experience. It was 1:00 am and I was exhausted. When I saw the lengthy line, I decided it was time to make my way through the fog and tricksters and to my bed. As they say, always leave something for next time. This is what I left.
Trapped – The New Experiment – This maze is a separately-ticketed experience at $60 for up to 6 people. Online reservations are required. First introduced in 2012, this year’s Trapped has a new theme. The basic premise is you are trapped in a medical facility and you must find your way out by going through a series of rooms and finding clues that will allow you to escape each room and pass into another. There are occupants in each room who may or may not offer assistance. Be prepared to crawl, slide, get wet and have a phobia or two challenged.
Despite the price, I really enjoyed this maze. I liked the challenging puzzles and that it was not a passive experience as the other mazes are. It is my understanding from others in my group who experienced last year’s Trapped that this one is smaller and less gross. Nonetheless, all of us enjoyed it immensely. I highly recommend it.
Delirium – In the deep recesses of the mind, on the clouded brink of insanity, lies the hellish wasteland of delirium; a place so gruesome that your imagination fails to comprehend the horrors. Illusion and paranoia are your only anchors to reality. Welcome to your worst nightmare!
I must have been in a delirium when I walked through this one because there was nothing memorable about it for me. Corpses, characters jumping out at you, the usual stuff. To enter this maze, you are supposed to first walk through Dominion of the Damned. We didn’t.
Endgames – The world as we know it has ended. The survivors in this barren desert have scavenged to rebuild society. The rich and the powerful have turned all others into slaves for sport. Enter the post apocalyptic arena where gladiators are forced to battle to their deaths for entertainment. Are you game?
Typical apocalyptic maze I have seen at other amusement parks. All the fellow did in the Key Room was yell at us crazily. Some of the sets were mildly interesting, but there was nothing special about this maze.
Pinocchio Unstrung – Years have passed since the blue fairy denied him his final wish, but Pinocchio has returned with an army of murderous marionettes intent on killing his former masters. The purpose of his killing spree – human flesh to cover his twisted wooden body. Revenge comes with no strings attached.
Jiminy Cricket! What happened to poor Pinocchio? The story for this maze was carried through each room very well starting with a butchered Geppetto in the first room to an encounter with the murderous puppet made of pine in the last. A lot of fun.
Uncle Willy’s BBQ Slaughterhouse – Folks near and far come a-runnin’ for Farmer Willy’s world famous BBQ! Guests are welcome to venture through the Slaughterhouse where Uncle Willy will feed them full of BBQ, slather them with special sauce, tenderize them with his chainsaw and grind them into a tasty treat. Bone appetite!
What is a Haunt with a slaughterhouse maze? This has everything you would expect. The Key Room was entertaining, and I may think twice before ordering secret sauce.
Trick or Treat – Trick or treat, which will it be? Step forward and ring the witch’s doorbell. Oh, she is home, but where? You are not quite sure. Don’t be afraid, her minions will guide you. I am sure that the tales of the many Hallows Eve victims are just that. You can come away with a treat, but is it worth it?
A traditional haunted house that is superbly done! The elaborate sets are a visual treat as you wander through the house where the Green Witch and her minions lead you to a trick. This was one of my favorites and would have liked to have gone through it again.
Another attraction is The Witch’s Keep, the Halloween overlay for the Calico Mine Train. The narration explains that the Green Witch uncovered a wicked source of power in the Calico Mine and uses the mine’s energy to capture and corrupt all who enter the The Witch’s Keep. This attraction is perfect for a Halloween overlay. The effects are simple, but well done, and reminiscent of the effects used in the early years of the Haunt. Unlike earlier years, live characters no longer populate The Witch’s Keep.
Besides mazes, Knott’s Haunt offers live shows, music and dance parties. I attended three shows.
The Hanging – It Stinks! – The traditional “Hanging” goes Hollywood as Hollywood executives realizing that they have run out of super heroes to base new blockbusters upon turn to classic fairy tales.
From what I understand, this western-themed show is supposed to satirize pop icons from the past year and “hang” the one most offensive. Whilst I have no argument with who was ultimately hanged, I did not find this show to be at all clever with the exception of the very funny tribute to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. Be warned the humor is adult-themed. To enhance your viewing and olifactory experience, you may obtain a scratch-and sniff card to use when prompted. I did not need to use mine as the stench from the other guests using theirs was quite sufficient. This show is a perenial favorite and, from the laughter, much enjoyed. For a superior show that satirizes pop culture and icons, visit San Francisco and see Beach Blanket Babylon. It even has a Disney theme.
Possessed – “Possessed” where guests experience a new kind of terror as ghosts of the past are released and possession is their goal. “Possessed” is filled with evil spirits and ghastly special effects that will bring a new dimension to your nightmares.
Why do so many killing sprees take place in mental institutions? I would really think twice before visiting one. Go to the zoo instead. They must be safer as I never see one depicted in Haunts.
Elvira’s Sinema Seance – In the Ghoul Time Theatre, a Knott’s Scary Farm legend returns – Elvira Mistress of the Dark! starring in “Elvira’s Sinema Séance.” Elvira is back in all her ghoulish glory as she dabbles in telekinesis, plays the lead in film parodies, and bringing her own mixture of sassy and sexy. Elvira will be joined by the Academy of Villains, this unique dance team was featured on America’s Got Talent and merge hip hop choreography with freestyle dance.
She-e-e-e-e’s back – much to the delight of Knott’s Scary Farm and Southern California residents. Elvira, who gained fame as a late-night television hostess of horror films, returns in all her campy, ditzy glory in this show. There really isn’t much to it. A fairly lengthy portion relies on video and pre-recorded musical numbers. The Academy of Villains dancers are quite good. If you are a fan of Elvira, you should enjoy this show. Elvira bounces on the stage through October 31.
Academy of Villains – After Elvira ends her run and returns to her coffin on October 31 , the Academy of Villains performs in their own show on November 1 and 2.
Blood Drums – This high energy drumming quartet is known for their unique blend of amazing percussion skills.
Carny Trash – “Carny Trash” offers up Aye Jaye a comedy sideshow and magic act with impeccable comedic timing and a master of the unexpected.
Cursed! – The Gypsy Camp area will present “Cursed” featuring the magical and hypnotic powers of the beautiful Gypsy dancers.
Prior to the Haunt, my group ate at the Knott’s Scary Farm Boo-fet. For $24.99, with advance on-line reservations, you dine at an all-you-care-to-eat buffet of carved prime rib, turkey breast, pasta station, Mrs. Knott’s fried chicken with all the fixin’s and an extensive salad and dessert bar. We also received refillable mugs that allowed free refills of soda and Knott’s Boysenberry Drink that night with 99 cent refills for the rest of the year. Tricksters are in attendance for your dining enjoyment. You may make Boo-fet reservations on the Knott’s Scary Farm website and you must have a Haunt ticket. The Boo-fet also takes walk-up guests at $29.99 per person. The food was quite tasty and a good value. I was not hungry for the rest of the evening.
During the Haunt most rides, attractions and food venues are open. Large fog machines provide an eery ambiance to several areas of the park. The fog was so thick in the Ghost Town that I could not see and had stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my friend to use him as a guide.
Overall, I enjoyed my first Haunt experience. Would I attend another? Much depends on the mazes offered and if I find the right group of friends to go with. The Haunt is definitely a shared experience. To be enjoyable, you have to go with people who will get into the spirit of it. Also, I was grateful to go with folks who were familiar with the park. The Haunt map is not detailed enough for a first-timer, and I would have gotten myself hopelessly turned around in the darkness and thick fog. The Haunt is not recommended for children under 13 years old.
The Haunt runs on select nights from September 26 through November 2. The Haunt begins at 7 p.m. and closes at 1 a.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ticket prices can vary by the options you select.
Online Pre-Sale: $38-$54 Adult
Day of Event Gate Price: $62 Adult
Trapped Maze: $60 (up to 6 in party)
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt or call the Haunt Line at (714) 220-5200.
For more about Haunt 2013, please listen to Mary Jo and I talk about it on The DIS Unplugged Podcast: Disneyland Edition. See you in the fog!
Images courtesy of Mary Jo Mellado Willey.