Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
There is so much haunt content to go through, and not enough time, and we’re running behind our own schedule of keeping up with certain updates, so that’s why today, you’re getting something from Knott’s Scary Farm’s scare zones, instead of two days ago like I originally planned. This year, Knott’s Scary Farm once again unleashed four different scare zones upon its ticket-buying patrons. The venerable and original Ghost Town played a significant role in tying into the feature maze attraction, Origins: The Curse of Calico. Over on the Boardwalk, Carnevil terrorized guests with its demented clowns. In Camp Snoopy, The Hollow once again returned with its witches and trolls and scarecrows and faceless men. And Forsaken Lake entered its second year with a little bit more extensive theming and scenery, and some veteran faces new to the area.
Unlike most other large scale haunts, Knott’s scare zones are thematically the same most years. Ghost Town has been around since the beginning, and Carnevil has been around for decades now. The Hollow is relatively new as a theme, but Camp Snoopy Streets was the second scare zone to open once upon a time. And though Forsaken Lake only debuted last year, it’s also been the scare zone given the most amenities to start its run, and the foggy, waterside atmosphere has proven to be a creeptacular replacement for the departed Fiesta de los Muertos.
Today’s update will function more like a photo gallery than a review, because there isn’t much unique in this year’s scare zones compared to past years’. From opening weekend, we’ve noticed that the street monsters have been on fire, quickly getting into the grove of haunt season and hitting guests with energy and sadistic glee.
Around the park, there are also several photo ops for guests to use, from new iterations of “wings” style murals to a really neat retro set to celebrate Knott’s Scary Farm’s classic status. These are perfect for sharing onto social media—which is exactly what they were designed for!
We’ll start at the beginning, which is also the end. Every year, Knott’s Scary Farm puts together some set decorations to serve as a backdrop for photo ops at the end of the night. During their shift, monsters are not supposed to actually stop and pose for photos with guests while they’re roaming around scare zones. If you’ve ever tried to take a photo of a monster, only for it to rudely walk away, this isn’t poor customer service. It’s park policy, and the talent can actually be terminated for breaking the rule.
As a result, during the last half hour of every evening, a small selection of monsters from each scare zone will congregate in front of the park and actively pose for photos if asked. Just go up to them and ask. It’s the only way you can get a good photo with a monster.
This year, ththeat backdrop right at the front gate is positively stunning. Cobwebs cover the windmill, while a trio of towering skeletons create a macabre background. To the right, a pair of creepy crypts seem to reference Forsaken Lake. A massive and eerie tree looms behind the monumentse, while another craggy tree spreads it branches to the left. Put together, this is a sensational scene that keeps many guests waiting at the end of the night to nab a photo with this behind them.
Ghost Town Streets
The original scare zone still rules the roost in my opinion. Out of all the scare zones, Ghost Town has easily the best theming and ambiance, benefiting from the actual ghost town that Walter Knott built early on while looking for something to provide entertainment for the guests waiting for Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
Here, fog wafts through the blue-lit Fog Alley, blanketing the entire lane in low visibility from which the monsters will absolutely pounce. Keep going and one will eventually meet the Catawampous—no, not the monster version in the Origins maze—the real thing!
Ghost Town Streets has a rich roster of diverse monsters, including many animal-based types that have proven to be striking and remarkable. The scareactors have a lot territory to roam, from the backstage area accessing the Wax Works, The Depths, Paranormal Inc., and Dark Entities all the way to the far end of Calico River Rapids, by the train tracks, as well as Calico Park and Square.
The result for Ghost Town entails talent who have the superpower of seeing in the dark, or the fog, and timing their scares perfectly. Be it via sliding tactics, thunderjubs, traditional startle scares, or through teamwork, the monsters are a joy to watch, and their character design as cursed beasts makes much more sense when the heritage of Calico is revealed in the Origns maze. The people who roam Ghost Town have been transformed once upon a time by a curse that gives them the appearance of beasts but the consciousness of human beings. But do this for enough years, and one can be driven past sanity. And so they terrorize the guests who roam through modern Calico—or at least more recent than the day of Sarah Marshall.
The area by Boot Hill provides a cool scene tying into the Orgins-established mythology. Eerie green lighting and the Origins log are broadcast onto the side of a show building wall, and a projection of the Green Witch herself can be seen from time to time. It’s a great sight and a fun Easter Egg to discover, and it’s not even that frequently accessed, since the queue for Origins winds its way through the area and kind of blocks access into Knott’s Ghost Town cemetery.
Theming also extends backstage, with various wagsons and western themed props lit up in spooky colors around the exit alley of Dark Entities and Paranormal Inc. It’s pretty cool that the park didn’t overlook this area. Where theming and environment can be strengthened, it shows up strongly in Ghost Town.
Finally, Mad Eye Joe is back in the jail cell behind Goldie’s and the Sheriff’s Office. He’s just as foul and inappropriate than ever, but he’s highly entertaining—which he has to be if he’s become such a hit among guests with a twisted sense of humor!
Carnevil is the most challenging of scare zones for talent, because they have to rely completely on their own devices. No shadows or fog to hide within. Minimal theming and sets to set a tone for the land. It’s just the Boardwalk, but crawling with clowns and at night.
The clowns of Carnevil are also among the best bantering folks and are spastically random and hilarious. It makes sense, as each clown’s character has some sort of unhinged aspect to him or her. And that means that some clowns will be abrasive and tease some aspect of a guest, or they might mock overly scared visitors.
The clowns are also prone to randomness, especially on the slower nights. Last Friday, the clowns passed around one of those loud, squawking plastic chickens, and the whole thing felt like a big joke—until one of the clowns got tired and literally smashed it to malfunction.
Carnevil also features a little light show on HangTime every so often, as the roller coaster lights up in a series of colors, synchronized to a soundtrack played over the scare zone theaters. It’s a spectacular effect, and great to just sit back, watch, and enjoy.
There is also a VR game at the Boardewalk game area wrapping around the Sky Tower. For a small upcharge, guests can go into a pod and engage in a battle with zombies and survival. It’s a fun game, but you’re not missing much if you don’t do it.
The Orleans-inspired quagmire of Forsaken Lake kind of feels like a mix between The Hollow and Ghost Town—just add a bit of water! The spirits who roam this land dance a delicate weave through the pathways while still maintaining scares and energy and action. A very aquatic soundtrack reinforces the watery vibe. Awaken from their slumber for Halloween season, the monsters do an excellent job making use of their more limited real state. Even the theming pieces, though obviously portable to allow for removal during the daytime, look amazing. The crypt that has become the icon of the scare zone—always in high demand!
Throughout the night in Foresaken Lake, there are also unscheduled shows. In this case, it’s the Funeral Procession, and it’s a callback to the funeral march that Camp Snoopy monsters traditionally made years ago. The spirits bring an unlucky victim to sacrifice to the crypt altar after singing a song, and she ultimately disappears into the crypt itself. It’s a cool bit of entertainment matching what was developed for Forsaken Lake last year. Catch a march around 8:30, 10:00, and 11:45 each evening.
Finally, Camp Snoopy brings a dashing mix of mystery and shadow and great scares to Knott’s Scary Farm. Brought back as a scare zone just several years ago, The Hollow is home to the three hags, who are pursued by a witch hunger and his assistant, and who have enchanted the other creatures who roam around—from scarecrows to trolls to faceless men to fairies.
The Hollow doesn’t actually have a ton of built-int theming—mostly just those jack-o-lantern cone displays that make for a great photo op. But the wilderness feel of Camp Snoopy establishes a creepy vibe to begin with (not unlike Exile Hill at Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest), and the monsters—many of them veterans—are absolutely terrific in all their strange and sometimes animalistic forms.
The Hollow is also home to some unscheduled shows, similar to the past two years. They tell of the story of the arrival of the Witch Hunter, the struggles with the three hangs of The Hollow and the damage they’ve caused, and the resulting effects on the remaining monsters. The shows run only a few minutes each and are located at various sites across Camp Snoopy. But the events of the evening come to a head at midnight, when power is reclaimed, and the Wicker Man is burned to great drama.
The scare zones are what I end up spending most of my Knott’s Scary Farm time after initially working through the mazes. Watching the monsters work their craft is a joy to behold, and many veteran monsters with recurring roles create a connection of recognition, creating fans who enjoy their style of scaring. Add to that some incredible ambiance in each of the scare zones (least overtly at Carnevil, but at least the Boardwalk already has a fair-style feel to it).
It’s the talent that ultimate makes or breaks a haunt, and Knott’s has a plethora of great monsters to just watch. This update has been filled with gallery photos of a lot of those scareactors, and who knows… maybe you’ll run into them too!
In any case, if you haven’t already, go check out Knott’s Scary Farm this weekend, its third of operations. If you’re not quite convinced, check our our general overview and our maze update—with plenty more eye candy. Knott’s Scary Farm is the best pro haunt going on in Southern California this year, and it should definitely not be missed!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.