Coffin Creek: 2017 Review

Coffin Creek, Corona, CA

Happy Thursday, kids!  Our spooky adventures today take us to a truly terrifying land of natural horror and bizarre creatures and haunting actions and lingering dread... the frightfully chilling Riverside County!  Okay, so that was a joke (kind of?), but we are looking at a Riverside haunt in the city of Corona by the name of Coffin Creek.

If that name sounds familiar, it's because Coffin Creek has been around for a good number of years.  Two years ago, the site shut down due to the transfer of the property from the previous owner, who had passed away, to his children.  Last year, the haunt returned, to the knowledge of... not that many people.  But this year, with new managers hired on to refurbish and restore some of the fabled mazes that have occupied the property full time for years, Coffin Creek is back to try to reclaim some of its past glory.

A full harvest moon provided a nice setting for opening night last Friday at Coffin Creek.

A full harvest moon provided a nice setting for opening night last Friday at Coffin Creek.

Made up of several haunted attractions spread across three sites on a single property, Coffin Creek carries a traditional haunt feel and offers diversity in its line-up.  There are three mazes overall, plus a haunted trail and a haunted hayride.  Guests can purchase tickets to each attraction individually or a wristband that allows access to all five attraction.  A front-of-line upcharge is also available for those on the go, and there's even a bonus, separate admission escape room on the grounds.  Clearly, there is enough to accommodate a sustained visit.  I'd budget a couple of hours for a trip, plus or minus an hour depending on popularity.  Still curious?  Read on to see what's a part of Coffin Creek this year!

Guests can purchase tickets on site near the exit of The Asylum maze, located on the north side of the property close to where guests enter.

Guests can purchase tickets on site near the exit of The Asylum maze, located on the north side of the property close to where guests enter.

Prado Witch Trail

This haunted trail is roughly in the middle of the Coffin Creek grounds, in between the Ayslum and Catacomb mazes to the north and the Dark Shadow Marketplace to the south.  Guests enter in search of a lost boy named Riley, armed only with a single, dim flashlight, and quickly find themselves sucked into the backwoods world of murderous countryfolk, spooky shrubbery, and a cult that worships the occult. 

My trek through Prado Witch Trail found that it was surprisingly effective just on its own, providing an eerie wilderness setting that made guests feel vulnerable just trying to get through the correct path in the dark.  The inclusion of a few sets here and there created "mini-maze" moments that allowed for some nice startles, and the talent had a great knack of keeping themselves hidden until the last moment and even switching positions for different scares on repeat visits.  There were some nifty Easter eggs along this attraction for haunt fans, as certain nods to the Decayed Brigade have been included in the form of missing child posters and a ranger station numbered to pay tribute to a Knott's slider who passed away earlier this year. 

The combination made for a nice, visceral experience, and though visually, there isn't as much to witness, the journey through the trail was quite exhilarating.  This haunted trail has traditionally been one of Coffin Creek's highlights, and the result was no different this year!

On the south side of the property lies the Dark Shadow Marketplace, home of The Dark Realm Maze and the Shady Hollow Hayride.  This area is operated by different management than the haunted trail or other two mazes.  Home to the Koroneburg Renaissance Festival during May - June, the Marketplace features a few vendors selling Halloween crafts and creations and provides a bit of a fantasy setting for its two attractions.  There's a distinct role playing vibe here, which makes sense, given the background of the site. 

There is also a 30 minute escape room put on by L.A.R.P. City Project.  I didn't have a chance to actually check this out, and this attraction is not included in the cost of the five-haunt pass guests can purchase on site, but it seemed intriguing.

Shady Hollow Hayride

The Shady Hollow Hayride is a fixture at Coffin Creek.  I remember riding it during my only other visit to Coffin Creek five or six years ago.  Unfortunately, during my run through, it was completely uneventful and only entertaining for ironic reasons rather than for actual terrifying theatrics.  The slow drive through the darkened renaissance faire grounds didn't really have many dedicated sets (which explains why there are hardly any photos below), and those few that were set up were rather crude and amateur looking.  Even the talent tended to take their jobs half seriously.  Though some seemed to make some effort to be scary, others treated the hayride as a moving audience for medieval battling.  The highlight of the ride was a character who slowly and deliberately stalked up to the wagon, only to hold out his hands and glumly offer a sarcastically monotone, "Boo."  We cracked up, but not because of a positive experience. 

Although the five-attraction wristband offers savings, I would not recommend this attraction to anyone in a hurry.  It was by far the most lackluster part of Coffin Creek.

The Dark Realm

More promising was Dark Realm maze, which featured a more unique, fantasy and immersive theater based approach to the traditional haunted house experience.  Also operated by the live action role playing group associated with the Koroneburg faire grounds, The Dark Realm actually started out as a guided maze, with a wizard taking guests into the dark mines before being ambushed by evil orcs.  After an additional encounter with dark forces, guests were left to fend for their own. 

I found the first half of this maze to actually be both very photogenic and interestingly enjoyable.  The storyline may have had more to do with fantasy than horror, but it provided some entertaining moments of suspense and startles.  Indeed, the L.A.R.P. group has put in some impressively theatrical improvements to this maze.  Unfortunately, the back half appeared to have received almost no work and also no staffing, detracting from a strong and very engaging start.  This was a bit of a shame, but it did seem like there were some unexpected difficulties full executing the full design vision. 

Next year's goal for the operators is to actually complete the improvements and recruit more players to bring this immersion more fully into frame.  Solid effort here, but this maze gets an incomplete grade.

The Catacombs

Moving back north across Coffin Creek, closer to where visitors first enter the property, one finds The Catacombs of Guasti Cemetery--one of two mazes in this area.  Formerly Chambers of the Mausoleum, this maze has been slightly tweaked and repackaged with a bit of a medieval theme.  The general layout seems to wind its way around in the same manner, and the sets certainly have some visually impressive moments.

The talent here was on point during my two visits through this maze.  Fully stocked throughout the maze, they utilized the pass-through's and switchback nature to engage in multiple scare opportunities, including a few chase down types coming from behind.  The timing and variety of scares were notable too, with some using more psychological creep out tactics while others relying on standard pop-out startle scares.  There were a couple of moments that don't quite make sense, such as a walk through a sewer (which certainly looked very cool but didn't seem to fit within the story), but overall, this was a pleasantly surprising, strong performing haunted house.

The Asylum

Our last maze (though the first maze I actually went through) is The Haunted Asylum, a pretty lengthy maze that runs as your pretty generic psychiatric ward haunted house experience.  This maze suffered a lot of disrepair during the time Coffin Creek was closed, and the team here has spent a significant amount of time trying to repair and refurbish the set back to respectable condition.  The result is something that looks run-down enough to actually provide a bit of apprehension about one's well being--and not just because there are a lot of crazy people running around!  Obviously, the maze is safe, but in the moment, it's not hard to walk through a section with a bit of give in the floor boards and wonder if everything truly is fully together.  But this also enhances the trepidation going through this maze, which was a plus for me when I went through.

Regardless of my uncertainty the actual conditions of the physical maze, I have nothing but high praise for the talent in The Asylum.  From the moment Coffin Creek opened, they were in top form, shrieking and babbling and raging, and doing their very finest to make guests feel very, very uncomfortable.  My initial run through this maze saw the first quarter or so relatively light with talent--the result of a concentration of scare actors on the back half.  This this was relatively uneventful starting out, that distribution provided a non-stop conclusion that was exceptionally enjoyable.  Every individual was fully dedicated in character as a demented doctor or tortured patient.  A second run through was even better, as the scares were better distributed and the talent in an even better groove.  Ultimately, this ended up being my favorite maze of the night.

Overall, I was very impressed from my visit to Coffin Creek this year.  Despite lower production values compared to big name haunts, it managed to perform just as effectively or even more so than many of the other haunted attractions I've visited this season thusfar.  I was actually able to receive as many startles on my one visit here as I have the rest of my haunts combined, and whether this owed to my unfamiliarity with the layouts and what to expect or to the dedication and enthusiasm of the talent, I was nevertheless pleased. 

The talent and management behind Coffin Creek deserve tremendous kudos for their commitment and enhancement of the various haunted attractions.  With the exception of the hayride, I found each haunt to be very enjoyable and fun.  The scares felt pure--free from the razzle dazzle of high technology of the Knott's and Universals of the world and more about that old-fashioned love of creating immersive horror environments.  The whole area felt creepy--everything feeling like being in the outskirts of civilization. 

Altogether, this made for quite a terrific time.  It's nice to have Coffin Creek back and operating at a nice, respectable quality.  And given that my visit was on its opening night, through the first two hours, coming of the typical crush of the last second mad dash of preparations prior to a debut, the experience should only improve as the season winds through. 

I definitely recommend visiting Coffin Creek.  This Corona haunt definitely brings the thrills!  For more information about Coffin Creek, visit the official web site here.

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