To most common folk, September 23rd was just another Friday, but for us haunt lovers it was Christmas come early! Last night CreepyLA was on hand to kick off the biggest haunt party known to man and to mark the first official operating night of Knott’s 39th Annual Halloween Haunt in Buena Park.
The evening began as most common horrifying Friday evenings begin in L.A.- LOTS AND LOTS OF TRAFFIC! But being the cautious kind that we are we made sure to say ‘sayonara to the 101 and hello to the O.C.
Arriving early, but not too early- the media and pre-scare dinner patrons entered the park roughly at 6pm and were treated to unlimited rides on the classic SoCal wooden coaster Ghostrider.
As we finished our front row (NO LINE) rides we began to line up with the other eager hauntgoers behind the yellow rope leading into the fog filled streets of Ghost Town, where dozens of haunt monsters were standing quietly in the fog awaiting our screams. An eerie sight indeed. The anticipation grew into a frenzy as famous haunt monster-vet’s such as ‘THE BRIDE” and the “WOLFMAN” weaved in and out of the crowd catching us with our gaurds down.
I can’t give enough props to some of these monsters, some of them have been working this event for over 10 years and have grown to become small icons for Haunt fans. Knott’s marketing team recognized this, and as a treat for the fans have begun to release limited edition collectible monster cards throughout the park, each paying homage to a different haunt monster!
So come 6.45pm, the ropes dropped and the madness ensued. People young and old once quietly awaiting behind the ropes now scattered in a sea of fog and monsters, an incredibly awesome sight to see.
Being opening night we were invited to join the media buffet dinner located in the Boardwalk Ballroom underneath the Boomerang coaster, which I must tell you was the ultimate Haunt dinner party. We rubbed elbows with some rather odd, yet totally awesome people you’d never expect to attend this buffet including Tony Baxter (the Disney legend best known for envisioning and executing attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain, etc.) and Paul and Betty Pink (founders of the famous Pinks Hot Dogs, which also has a location at Knott’s).
It was so fantastic to see all these park insiders (including all the haunt designers) socializing and taking a momentary pause from the madness outside. I can’t relay to you just how amazing the desserts were at this dinner. We had everything from entirely edible Skull and Frankenstein Head’s stuffed with mint and rasberry mousse to chocolate crypts filled with white chocolate skeletons.
After stuffing our faces to the max (and did I mention OPEN BAR??) we finally made our way back into the park roughly at 9pm.
With 13 mazes (2 of which are rides and 3 of them being all new for 2011), shows, a plethora of humongous thrill rides and coasters and an entire theme park to span we definitly had alot to see! But luckily for us it was opening weekend, and like most insiders know its a relatively slow night for the crowds.
As for how the new mazes are…
Delirium (New maze for 2011) This maze was designed by Daniel Miller who created other successful mazes such as Lockdown and Fallout shelter. You enter through a rather impressive facade of giant lit up eyeballs that form together to create a huge creature that swallows you into the depths of its madness. This maze didn’t make much sense but was totally awesome. This maze sort of felt like it was paying homage to mazes of Haunt past. The flow of eyeballs (which gave me flashbacks to the grudge maze) , the plexiglass floors ( Alien Attack),and the bug garden (the now defunct Labrynth). This maze was just a long delerious catacomb of madness. Highlights include the closterphibic black air hall, the cockeroach room that merges into some disturbing giant bug dinner scene which looks like something out of a Tim Burton film, to the demonic grand finale. Out of the new mazes for 2011 this was probably the best.
NOTE: This maze can be quite hard to find as its located in the backstage area behind Ghostrider. The only way to get to Delirium is to wait in line for Lockdown which exits guests directly to the entrance of Delerium. So think of it as a 2 for 1 kinda deal.
END GAMES ( New Maze for 2011) Designed by Brooke Walters ( respobsible for Doll Factory, Virus Z, etc.) This maze had alot to live up to considering this maze designers strong past efforts. Even though Ive yet to read any book’s in the popular Hunger Games series, from what Ive overheard this maze was roughly inspired by the popular books. This maze truly made you feel like a rat in a maze. It was a maze filled with apocalyptic monsters and demons who caputure and exicute it’s victims ( battle arena and all) . Highlights include a woman running towards you for help and being dragged off into the dark by a huge dark shadow. Theres something incredibly disturbing about seeing people in dispair in a maze that really sticks. Something that Universal commonly overdoes in their mazes. Another cool effect was the amount of flatscreens placed throughout the mazes that show other people somewhere else in the maze being scared silly, a great moment for you to get distracted and an even better one for the monster who are about to get you good. This maze is a must see and another solid house at the farm that’s destined to stick around for a while.
INVASION BENEATH ( New Theme for the Calico Mine Ride) This new theme takes over the calico mine ride as gun toting monsters shoot you with lazer riffles in the dark canyons of the calico mine. This is the only attraction in the entire farm that felt rather weak. Nobody understood the theme ( army men shooting you with guns and random tall demon figures)??? That was basically it and all I could think about the enitre time was how much I missed the spider theme they once had. It was just such an amazingly perfect fit for it.
The rest of the night included trips through all of the other mazes such as Uncle Bobo’s, Doll Factory, Slaughterhouse, Virus Z, Sleepy Hollow Mountain, and Cornstalkers.
I can’t stress how strong some of the oldies still are, especially Terror of London, Dia De Los Muertos (basically Knott’s glow in the dark version of what you’d imagine La Llarona to be) and Lockdown. All 3 incredibly long in length and high in detail (I swear it felt like they were never ending – A GOOD THING!!!!). It was also fun guessing some of the props being re-used, such as the ‘Quarantine Maze’ robotic zombie dog now found in Lockdown.
One other thing I noticed was how incredibly staffed this event was! A scarezone once filled with maybe 10 clowns was now filled with at least 30, spanning a much larger area. It was probably because it was the first night and the energy was electric, but these guys were all on their A-game! Knott’s management really encouraged the monsters to overdo it on the scares and not once was anyone in the park disappointed !
Lauren Coogan, visiting from Orlando Florida said, “I was walking out of the Virus Z maze thinking I was once again safe and BAM!!! This one monster got me so good outside of the exit I found myself collapsing to the ground! You can never let your gaurd down!”
Overall, the thing that separates Knott’s from Universal is that it’s an incredibly nostalgic event.
Everyone is always asking which is scarier? Which is more fun? Which is better overall???? When it comes down to it it’s all a biased opinion and there’s no real winner. You’re going to have fun based on the mindset you’re entering the park with. If you go thinking this isn’t as scary as Universal your going to have a bad time, but if you walk in thinking this is gonna be so much fun I can’t wait to be startled your going to have an absolutely fantastic time! Being a huge fan of both, I found myself constantly dropping my guard and being startled at every corner! Knott’s, while being further away from L.A., is significantly cheaper and offers an overall package that Universal does not.The super ‘kitchy’ pre-scare dinner that allows you early entry to the park (for only $15 I may add) and the overall theme of halloween that the park boasts is completley unique and genuine. Knott’s is not to be missed and a true kick off to the Haunt Season that it so effortlessly branded.
Also if you happen to find yourself overwhelmed by the crowds, Knott’s is now offering front of the line passes for an additional $50 (great deal), which offers a one time front of the line pass on all the rides and an unlimited front of the line pass to all mazes.