Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
Well, we’ve done it. We’ve made it to the end of our massive Knott’s Scary Farm coverage for the 2018 season. Knott’s is always our largest haunted attraction update series, because it offers a huge array of attractions and has always been very welcome to Westcoaster. We’re not sure why they invite us back either, but we definitely appreciate it!
Today, we look at the various scare zones at Knott’s Scary Farm this year. There are four, as usual, but one of them is completely brand new, debuting in replacement of another. How did they fare? Well, I think that overall, this is the strongest scare zone line-up in my memory of attending the park. There are no actual weak zones, and even newcomer Forsaken Lake—though definitely lacking in some areas—had a very strong debut performance. Of course, mainstays, Ghost Town and Carnevil killed it as usual. And The Hollow has really come into its own in its third year, crafting an aura of mysterious and supernatural wilderness.
Venture into Scary Farm, and there’s really no where that’s safe—so the marketing team says. In reality, Fiesta Village and the western end of the Bigfoot Rapids area are general safe zones, as is the front gate during the middle of the night. But beyond that, the park is crawling with street monsters!
I spent over an hour an a half last Saturday just admiring the fine work that the clowns were wrecking in Carnevil. After last season’s crippled scare zone (due to HangTime’s construction walls), it felt as though the monsters finally had room to blow off all the tension and stress from being so constricted and limited. And boy, did they ever unleash their pent up energy! Up and down the Boardwalk, there were countless clowns terrorizing innocent guests, sliding from seemingly nowhere (despite Carnevil being wide open), scaring / entertaining with props and instruments, and being generally abrasive, as clowns are apt to do.
The scare zone also looked beautiful. Over in Charleston Square, an elaborate jack-o-lantern structure provided a spooky landmark. And over the main Boardwalk area, the elaborate and gorgeous Halloween-themed lighting package of HangTime provided some great, eerie glow punctuated by elaborate light shows matching a select song every certain number of minutes.
Based on my visits last weekend, it was Carnevil that topped my scare zone rankings, not my usual favorite, Ghost Town. It’s not a knock on the latter. I just saw so many good scares (including a monster bowling over a group of teenage boys when he blasted them with a sound box scare… and lets not forget Needles the clown scaring countless guests with balloon animal balloons) that the experience was indelibly imprinted in my memory. Kudos to the clowns for really bringing it right out of Scary Farm opening gate!
Also of adorable note was the continuation of something I first witnessed last season. Visitors of Carnevil may spot a little girl, dressed up in clown paint and a tutu, prowling along with the monsters and even helping scare at times. She’s actually an autistic child whose interactions with the monsters at Haunt is one of the ways she’s been able to actually connect with others. Not surprisingly, she has been adopted by the monsters as one of their own, and it’s absolutely adorable to watch her scare or help or generally be a part of the monster family. It’s a side of haunts that most don’t consider—the human side that demonstrates a passion and compassion within the community.
Ghost Town Streets
The original scare zone once again brought out the ghouls and fiends and beasts of Knott’s Scary Farm. Boasting arguably the most talented overall cast of monsters, Ghost Town remained its usual eerie, terrifying self. From the nearly impossible visibility of Fog Alley to the spread space near Bird Cage Theatre to the shadows of the Ghostrider walkway area, Ghost Town had more than its fair share of hiding places for monsters to strike from. But even when they were approaching in the open, a feint one way followed by a sudden snapback startle scare was sure to catch many a guest off guard—and elicit a deliciously satisfying scream.
Of course, as far as ambiance goes, you can’t beat an actual Ghost Town, shrouded behind the veil of the fog and moonlight. The atmospheric lighting, spiderwebs, balcony skeletons, and other bits of theming really enhanced the spook factor of this legendary scare zone, and the familiar, haunting soundtrack added to the tension throughout. In Carnevil, monsters ambush in the open. But in Ghost Town, they could be lurking anywhere—even right beside—and not be noticed… until it was too late.
That doesn’t even mention some of the less advertised enhancements to the ambiance. “Mad Eye” Joe has returned this season, hurling insults and vulgar language to guests with even more reckless abandon. And the atmospheric characters wander around too. Find the Conductor over by the Calico Railroad, for example. He might have some stories to tell…
Oddly enough, The Hollow was one of the easier areas to photograph this year, with its warm glow of illumination and high contrast scenes. This year brought a greater variety and density of characters, from faceless soldiers to the three witches to scarecrows, tree creatures, and other beasts. Much like Ghost Town, monsters of The Hollow had the advantage of shadows and fog in which to hide, and they often utilized this to great effect—even tag teaming scares to double the frights. In just two years, The Hollow has progressed quite far from its original, lackluster debut. It’s great to have Camp Snoopy Streets brimming with sinister energy on autumn nights again!
Before we move to our final scare zone, lets stop by what it replaced. Fiesta Village is just that this year, not Fiesta de los Muertos. Although there was a little bit of theming located almost at the border with The Hollow…
Opening year of a new scare zone has often been a tricky affair, with not enough resources or amenities thrown at monsters who must then make the best with what they had. With Forsaken Lake, though, this was somewhat minimized. Located under the footprint of Silver Bullet, around the old Reflection Lake, this scare zone featured a hauntingly and beautifully wardrobed cast of Victorian-themed monsters with an Orleans gothic aesthetic. These souls—long buried in the graveyard that marks the bottom of Forsaken Lake—have come back to claim more souls for their own, and they have helped Forsaken Lake get out to a great opening weekend start.
Granted, the area isn’t perfect. Theming-wise, the only real content occurs via the beautiful sign and facade greeting guests ducking from Calico Square through the tunnel over which the stagecoach runs, plus a corridor underneath Silver Bullet’s lift hill with a series of crypt walls and facades. Although the pathway from the Silver Bullet station to its cobra roll is also part of Forsaken Lake (monsters roam all the way out to that edge), it lacks any set elements on this part—save a mural backdrop designed for Instagram-inspired photo ops.
It would be nice to fill out the space and provide something more encompassing, but what’s already provided at the other leg of Forsaken Lake’s rough “L” layout is pretty atmospheric. Though the scare zone is pretty dim, making photos more challenging, the green and blue and purple-ish lighting do set a wonderfully macabre vibe to the area, helping enhance its ambiance of death.
And with that, we’ve wrapped up Knott’s Scary Farm for this season! Barring any bonus updates, we’ve now covered the scare zones, mazes, and entertainment. And as you can literally see, the quality is absolutely stunning. Knott’s has once again proven how far ahead of everyone else in the area it is when it comes to the theme park haunted attraction game. With quality and excellent craftsmanship and integration of technology everywhere, the original Halloween Haunt has come a very long way from even just five to ten years ago.
All of this has just been from opening weekend. As the season progresses, the talent will most certainly improve, and Knott’s should be patching up and finishing up incomplete items from opening weekend to better complete the production. This means now is a great time to visit, before the crowds start getting bad on Fridays and Saturdays of October. If you do plan on attending next month, Thursdays and Sundays are best for lines, because the time saved during these much quieter nights offsets attending on a school night. Guests will still get things done faster.
Discounted tickets and additional information are available at the Knott’s Scary Farm web site. Get yours today! What are you waiting for? The fog’s beckoning you…
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.