Huntington Beach, CA
Welcome to another #FlashbackFrightday! Today marks the start of the scary part of Halloween Season with the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, but for today, we're going to take another look at a haunted attraction that we visited last year. Current feature: The Huntington Haunt, a first-year attraction put together by the Huntington Beach Rotary Club and several Knott's Scary Farm monster veterans to benefit the Club and fundraise for a new playground in the city that would be accessible for disabled children. Set in and around the historic Newland House--the oldest residence in Huntington Beach, this spooky offering proved to be a highly entertaining hit with great reviews of the energy of the talent, unique storyline, immersive theatricality, mix of history, interactivity with puzzle-solving elements, and overall fun.
The haunt was laid out around the Newland House, commencing in the garden after guests received a regular, candlelit tour of the home interior (with no scares due to the obvious concern of the historical condition of the house). Guests then moved onto a sprawling maze layout sprawled over the entire lawn before moving into the barn for the climactic, matrimonial finale.
Outside the haunt, there were booths of vendors set up to sell their Halloween-related wares. A few carnival games, a beer garden, and a live band were also on hand to provide additional entertainment. This made for a festive Halloween carnival atmosphere that proved to be a charming showing for this rookie event.
Guests admire the wares on display.
People could purchase tickets online or on site.
A live band also provided some entertainment.
Going backstage... the Huntington Haunt made use of a lot of current and former Knott's Scary Farm monster and make-up talent.
These individuals were on hand to donate their time to the good cause.
Some included their family in the fray.
Sinister sister is sinister.
Roving street monsters helped bring the frights outside the haunt as well.
The four-night event proved to be pretty popular, with regular waits.
The combined media and publicity influence of the supervising members of the haunt helped get great word out in the months leading up to the event!
Set over a hundred years ago, the story of the Huntington Haunt revolved around the wedding between two members of the Hauntingtons and Oldfields--two rival families with lifelong distaste for each other (think Hatfields and McCoys). The Oldfields represented the agricultural history of the area and established wealth, while the Hauntingtons were the nouveau riche with their involvement in the burgeoning and booming oil history. Each side featured an assortment of interesting characters--an curious uncle with an interest in skeletons and cadavers, a moody young nephew with a penchant for collecting dead animals, a vain sister envious of the attention being lavished at the bride... And when the wedding day came to pass, deep and dark secrets were unearthed, along with horror!
At the beginning of the tour, guests were welcomed into the Newland House.
The tour inside the house was about 10-15 minutes or so. It was a nice, spooky vibe at night!
Then guests went into the garden.
Guests were immediately encountered by the caretaker.
He did not take kindly to them intruding upon his sanctuary.
Guests had to look around the garden to find a set of keys to unlock the gate to proceed.
These keys, to be specific.
Of course, there were other creatures lurking in the darkness, providing some startles to guests hunting for the keys.
Proceeding onto the gazebo...
...this was the first encounter with the bride.
She beseeched them to find her groom, who had gone missing on their wedding day!
And so, onward guests marched, past this spooky shrubbery. #SpookyShrubbery
Here, they came upon the Hauntington Cemetery.
Resting place of the townspeople.
Here, guests encountered the peculiar members of the Hauntington and Oldfield families.
Guests were split up and sent into four different rooms.
Each provided an intimate close encounter with a family member.
In this enclosed and somewhat claustrophobic maze, they received parts of the story.
The second room, with the sister.
Another room, with a psychotic mother-in-law.
The welcomes weren't exactly the warmest.
The children were the creepiest.
They played their roles of mentally unhinged kid sociopaths to unflinching perfection.
After this was done, guests were reunited but had to solve a puzzle to reach the next space, a sheet maze.
This was kind of fun, with "ghosts" flying around and startling guests.
The scares weren't intense, but they were tricky!
Just as long as you didn't run into this guy...
The next part was the oil drum maze.
Here, shrouded in fog, guests had to navigate a field of oil drums.
Of course, there might be ghouls hiding behind or in them.
And the startle of a drum being struck certainly resonated.
There were some great scares in this area.
And it was fun to have a zone that was both open and winding at once.
Rounding the corner might net you a near miss with another set of family members.
Then, guests had to duck their way under a network of chains--with a monster possibly sliding after them!
There were a host of spirits lurking behind each corner--nearly five dozen cast members staffed the actor positions!
Into a ward.
Guests entering in the background might get a scare from a mattress!
Or they might get a fright from down low.
Reactions like this were pretty typical and fun to observe.
Lounging around between groups.
The restroom breaks were not merciful.
Cut-through's allowed actors to cover different grounds.
And as they eased into their roles, they really seemed to grow comfortable very quickly.
Some had previous haunting experience, and some did not.
But all of them, many of them high schoolers or children, took to their roles impressively well!
Moving one... this hallway provided a cool scene...
...as guests would pass by, and then an actor would close in on them, literally shrinking the hallway in a claustrophobic effect.
Guests would eventually come face to face with the bride again.
She had been trapped and was hoping for rescue. But as it turns out, this was a ruse, and a trap pivot gate allowed her to turn the tables and entrap the guests instead!
After guests escaped, they went through the final portion of the maze, a blackout segment, lit only by a dim lantern.
Finally, they came upon the wedding.
Ghostly attendees dotted the pews.
The altar was set up for this macabre moment of marriage.
Guests would filter through, relaxed as the maze came to an end.
This was a photo op area for those who wanted to take pictures.
And many took advantage.
Nothing like a creepy bride to end the evening!
And sometimes loony.
And just when they thought it was all over, guests would be ambused at the exit tunnel, with metal rapped against corrugated metal to perform a howling shriek and send people scurrying out in panic!
So that's the Huntington Haunt in a nutshell! An excellent event with great reviews, put together by multiple members of Knott's Scary Farm veterans. Over its four day run, the haunt raised thousands of dollars for the Rotary Club, and word of mouth was quite high!
Unfortunately, due to logistical issues, the Huntington Haunt will not be able to return in 2016. But the creative team is still on the project and hopes to present something next year. Having attended this as both a guest and been involved behind the scenes with photographic and media services for use within and supporting the haunt, I certainly hope so as well. The first year was a smash success, and it would be great to see that vision continue in the future!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.