Knott's Scary Farm 2016: Scare Zones

Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA

We're back to the spooky stuff after a one-day detour a few cities over.  Today, we take a look at the scare zones of this year's Knott's Scary Farm event.  There are four scare zones at Knott's this year, and as far as I know, none have yet gotten shut down by someone living across the country who was offended by a misinterpretation of their content.

Start of the Night

Anyway, we'll start at the beginning of the evening.  This year, Knott's is not having any sort of opening ceremony as they have the past years.  Instead, guests mingle before the 7:00pm rope drop.  On Thursday, monsters were on the prowl, scaring up unsuspecting guests and providing entertaining frights.  For whatever reason, this was absent at the start of Friday evening, with what few monsters around instead generally posing for photos.  I assume this was temporary, though.

The Hollow

The new scare zone this year features the return of Camp Snoopy.  The Hollow takes on the loose theme of the Headless Horseman mythology and features witches, scarecrows, gnones, and creatures brought back to life by The Green Witch (the current Scary Farm icon one) and set to wreck havoc on unsuspecting guests.

As I mentioned in Friday's quick thoughts post, The Hollow's talent has great enthusiasm, and the monsters there were working their butts off going after guests and working up whatever scares they could during my two evenings at the park.  Unfortunately, the land itself seems to be an afterthought--almost as though someone thought that the return of Camp Snoopy Streets by itself would be sufficient to make for a quality scare zone.  Atmospherically, aside from a few dimunitive strings of hanging glowing pumpkin lanterns and the old Grizzly Creek Lodge play area being colorfully lit, there is really no theming present.  Fog is minimal, and the walkways are very dimly lit.  Though this may make it easier for the monsters to pounce upon inattentive pedestrians, it really drags down any sense of scene and show.  Even some family-friendly spooky theming in the form of glowing pumpkin patches, scarecrows, or shadowy silhouettes backlit in the trees would improve the atmosphere.  In lieu of that, dramatic lighting filtering through the trees or strategically cast in certain areas to create contrast could also work.  Think of Ghost Town's Fog Alley and that blinding blue light cast into the eyes of guests that enter.  Something like that in The Hollow would very easily create scare opportunities without visually impacting daytime operations.

Fiesta de los Muertos

Fiesta Village picked back up from where it left of last year--making the best out of very little given. 

Like The Hollow, there isn't really much in the way of theming here.  A few props here and there and the dance floor are all that qualify.  Fortunately, the talent has taken to basically being crass and sarcastic and absurd to make up for this lack of ambiance, sometimes even tightrope-walking the politically correct line with self-mocking jokes.  I didn't get to spend as much time here as I would have liked, so by that default, Fiesta Streets didn't strike me quite as strongly as Ghost Town or Carnevil, but as I've mentioned before, this area has come a long way from the completely disregarded scare zone it first appeared as.


Brightly lit, without any fog, Carnevil might seem like a lackluster area.  And indeed, in its first few years, it was generally not that lively.  But as with every scare zone Knott's introduces but doesn't theme immersively, the talent took their disadvantages and turned them upside down.  Today, Carnevil is probably the scare zone that provides the greatest chance of overt entertainment--be it from terrified guests sprinting away from fearsome clowns, to belligerent clowns being mouthy toward guests in hilarious fashion, to the unique and sometimes absurd characters-for-the-night the clowns themselves adopt either out of boredom or to just entertain themselves. 

It helps that many people have an unnatural fear of clowns, period.  So the very sight is enough to send some people 180'ing the other direction.  But even for those who are not terrified of those circus performers, Carnevil offers entertainment from silliness and c'est la vie type behavior. 

Ghost Town Streets

The scare zone that started them all, Ghost Town has always benefited from a naturally creepy atmosphere, with creeping fog, mysterious shadows, and the weight of actual history.  The monsters in this area play to its strengths, and the diversity of characters and scares is pretty impressive.  Walking through Fog Alley is always a joy just from overhearing screams and slides and thunder jugs without any clear idea from where they're coming.  And though the fog was light on opening night, it was definitely back up to regular thickness the following night--enough to even cause me to trip over a planter box by the blacksmith while briskly walking in the direction of the Birdcage Theater! 

It in this ambiance that the GTS monsters thrive and deliver all sorts of scares, from pop-out startles to distraction scares to blinded-pedestrian scares to those ever-so-popular sliding scares out of nowhere. 

End of the Night

Knott's has a no-photo policy for the monsters during most of the night.  They are not supposed to pause and pose for pictures with guests, since this interrupts their activity and make take away scares that they would otherwise be obtaining on others.  I understand the point of the rule, but I don't agree with its blanket application, since there are instances where a monster could very quickly pose for a quick photo, then seamlessly sneak up on another unsuspecting guest.  It's only a problem when monsters take a significant time stopping for photos or generally acting like a TMZ celebrity.  Alas, it seems that minority instances of this are what have inspired the photography rule, which is a bummer (yes, I am definitely biased, since I enjoy taking photos at haunts).

Fortunately, for guests who stick around, during the last half hour of each evening, select monsters from each scare zone are on hand in the front of the park to mingle and take pictures with guests who desire them.  This is the park's halfway meeting point to still allow guests the opportunity of a photographic souvenir, and while it doesn't benefit much people who have already left for the evening, it is better than nothing at all.

Here's a gist of what that end-of-night photo meet-and-greet is like.

And Finally...

As I've been reminded by several people, we cannot have a Knott's update without the patron saint of Knott's Berry Farm, the Catawampus.

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.