Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
Happy Monday, kiddos! It's the first autumn update of the year, and we kick it off with our favorite place to be during fall: Knott's Scary Farm. Today's update starts a week-long series focusing on all aspects of the venerable Halloween Haunt, and the new mazes and attractions this year have top billing. This year, Knott's trotted out three new mazes (or two and a half, if you want to be technical) and brought back the Log Ride as a Halloween-themed attraction. All three mazes provided fantastic, unique, high quality experiences, and the Log Ride was also a fanciful and adorable overlay. With that said, lets jump right into things!
Trick or Treat: Lights Out
During the Scary Farm Announcement Event, this re-imagining of the now-longest tenured Haunt maze was billed as a brand new attraction, implying a new new layout and design. As it turned out, the design (with the exception of one room in the middle of the maze and an extended corridor at the end) is pretty much the same as last year's version of Trick or Treat. However, the changeover to using infrared controlled flashlights has totally changed the vibe and experience of this trip inside the Green Witch's abode. What was spooky and charming is now creepy and tense. The pacing has become more meticulous. The flashlights change from regular lighting to infrared and ultraviolet, revealing different details depending on the room. Giving each guest a relatively dim flashlight makes the experience much more psychological, and the navigation is unique per person. The scares come differently too, as monsters can pace and wait for the perfect opportunity to pop into the field of both vision and illumination. No longer does the first scare operate most effectively. The whole experience is cerebral.
Trick or Treat: Lights Out built up a pretty long line opening weekend, in part because of the required spacing to properly execute the maze concept and because it was maze number one for guests headed backstage behind Ghostrider. I would recommend doing this first, but it will still be daylight the first few weeks of Scary Farm's run, so the experience is somewhat cheapened by ambient light--which plays a huge difference. However, close to the end of the night was a great time to go through during all three evenings of opening weekend, since the lines by then had dwindled to relatively small sizes. Regardless of when you visit, this is a can't-miss maze.
Speaking of mazes that must be experienced, Dark Ride, the second of two Jon Cooke creations (Trick or Treat being the other), is an homage to all things haunted maze related. This trip through an abandoned carnival tracked dark ride that is now filled with murderous clowns and carnies is an epic, never-ending, slowly building tribute and testament to all things haunted house related. The space starts off small and constricted but broadens and climaxes with a large finale scene that is purportedly the largest Scary Farm maze room ever constructed. It's all incredibly dark (fitting, of course), but also very fun. And though it lacks the visceral wow factor and unprecedented technological advancements of, say, Paranormal Inc., it's still a wondrous and rich design. And it's a maze one appreciates more and more with each trip through!
This is because one journey is most certainly not enough for haunt fans. There are easter eggs and details galore, and the maze builds in a variety of scare types that demonstrate a variety that a repetitive maze locale like Halloween Horror Nights could only dream of. There are blind corners and concealed nooks for pop-out scares, a drop portrait, animatronics, distraction scares, fake statue scares, and more. All the while, guests wander on and off the tracks and see backstage areas of the "ride" that have become infested. Plus, if guests are lucky, they'll encounter quite a surprise at the end of the route--an aggressive elevated monster with deigns for bad intentions.
Dark Ride really showcases Cooke's enthusiasm and vision for haunted attractions and thematic design. It is truly comprehensive, and it has the type of heart that Haunt fans can really appreciate. It's also filled with a variety of veteran Scary Farm talent that really make the experience pop. This maze left almost everyone raving, and it's not hard to understand why!
With all the attention deservedly lavished upon Jon Cooke these days, it may be easy to forget that Daniel Miller is a pretty talented and twisted maze designer himself. And in Pumpkin Eater, he has produced a lengthy, disturbing, and frightfully unique maze that well exceeded my expectations and proved to be one of the top mazes of the weekend.
Based on the backstory behind the nursery rhyme of the same name, Pumpkin Eater takes guests on a journey through the murderous appetite of the Peter. Guests go through giant pumpkin guts, through an infested insect lair, and out to a cornstalk maze. Pumpkin Eater is also surprisingly long, and in typical Daniel Miller fashion, there is plenty of gore and disturbing imagery of suffering and torture. The scares are also varied as well. There are plenty of hiding places for startles, but my favorite scare ended up being a tactile sensation off a prop that was surprisingly simple but deviously effective. Everyone who passed through this point let out a visceral groan of surprise and disgust, and I was delighted by how simple but effective it was.
The maze can be found near the entrance of the park, next to the waterfalls that mark the entrance into Camp Snoopy--or as it's known at night, The Hollow.
This was the only maze bright enough for me to get decent phone video throughout the entire maze, so here's a walk-through of Pumpkin Eater:
Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny
Finally, the Log Ride has a Halloween overlay that runs during the day and night! At night, however, the Halloween Hootenanny is accented with live monsters scattered sporadically throughout the flume course.
This is far from the first time the Log Ride has been a part of Haunt, and while the live monsters yield the typical issues of mistimed startle scares and limited scare opportunities, the theming is absolutely lovely and cute. Inside, the Calico Log Ride residents engage in a series of spooky and spooky-celebratory scenes, all singing to music from Krazy Kirk, and the Hillbillies. I wouldn't board this ride expecting to be terrified. The subject matter, though potentially unsettling to very young children, is all pretty much family friendly. And with the exception of the live monsters, the daytime version is identical.
If you're curious about what the ride is like, here is an on-ride video I took from my phone:
That does it for new mazes and attractions. Next up this week comes the returning mazes, and we'll also look at the scare zones and shows at Knott's Scary Farm this year. Plus, we have some more surprises in store.
Knott's Scary Farm is open from Thursdays through Sundays for the rest of the season, plus Monday and Tuesday, October 30-31. They've put together another great event, and I definitely encourage people to take a visit, at least once! This year seems as strong as any, with a variety of high quality mazes that should attract plenty of crowds. Thursdays and Sundays are definitely better days to go to escape long lines, unless you're willing to splurge on the Fright Lane pass (which also includes front of line access to multiple rides). This 45th anniversary Scary Farm demonstrates why Haunt is the "granddaddy of them all," and it's a must-do for any Halloween enthusiast!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.