Knott's Scary Farm's 40th anniversary full of tricks and treats (VIDEO)


Trick ‘R Treat maze facade

This past weekend we were privileged enough to be on hand for Knott’s Scary Farm’s 40th Anniversary opening weekend! As always – the sun was still hot, the traffic still crazy, and anticipation remained high. We had a lot of expectations after all the build up for this year’s event. Knotts promised us more scares, more detail, more everything! But did they deliver?

Some high notes: something we were really excited to see was Halloween decor!!!!

Haunt usually strays away from the spirit of Halloween and tends to go more with the horror themes such as vampires, zombies, and fantasy themes. While all still in the realm of Halloween they lack a sense of continuity.

After years of rehashing tired mascots and themes they finally decided to bring back Haunt icons for the 40th Anniversary, such as the legendary Green Witch. The Green Witch was an icon decades ago for Haunt, a small cartoon looking green witch with a long pickled nose and a giant cackle that could be heard round the park. Not only did Knott’s bring back the witch (but this time as a towering drag queen, at least I think?)  they decided to give the witch her own maze called ‘Trick Or Treat’.

The thing with Knott’s and any rival parks is you can tell almost immediately when money is being spent- this year’s Trick Or Treat maze showed park funds going to good use. The Maze (which can easily be missed by secretly being located under the rattling Ghostrider roller coaster) was a giant haunted house facade dimly lit by a huge tree decorated in pumpkin lanterns.

You walk up to this adorable after school looking haunted house while playful trick-r-treaters hop and skip around the line asking you for candy and telling you your going to die. The best was this little boy pirate crouched in a fetal position on the porch of the house rocking back and forth as if already tormented by the green witch inside. After ringing the doorbell the creaking door opens and you enter one of the most detailed mazes at Haunt.

Passing a full staircase adorned in flickering pumpkins you are ushered past several intense scares into the library where a towering witch is casting some demonic spell. Let me tell you this: Green Witch was the most disturbing monster of the night. All the Green witches are exact replicas of each other, each bigger and scarier then the prior. She was probably my favorite encounter the entire night.

The rest of the maze is a series of stop and go moments all leading up to a really cool finale where opening night guests were asked to take a seat at the witches dinner table alongside damaged and disturbed trick-r-treaters.

(Note: when we attended again saturday night the maze cut out the stop and go of the guests in the house to allow a shorter line outside which I understand due to the pile up of guests outside but severely diminished the effects of the scares and theme of the maze. So I highly recommend going through this maze first for the best experience possible.)

Also we were told there would be actual Trick R Treating outside this maze but we couldn’t find any, perhaps this was a bug they were working out or maybe the Haunt Trick ‘R Treaters took it all?

After exiting this maze you are immediately spit out into a newly extended backstage section of the park where you can jump right into the newly located Endgames, Dominion of the Dead, and Delirium mazes all connected together by  a hypnotizing new stage show featuring  amazing belly dancers performing to a Dub-step influenced gypsy track. Yes, dub-step. I prefer to skip the shows but this one brought a lot of atmosphere to this seemingly dry section of the park.

Dub-Step Gypsy Belly Dancer

The other standout in this backstage area was the new Dominion of the Dead. For years Knott’s tried a vampire maze in the Camp Snoopy section of the park and to be honest was very underwhelming. A bunch of Vampires playfully enticing you with few scares. This year the revamped Dominion of the Dead killed it! Vampires everywhere! The theming felt completely fresh and new and the talent was awesome. I also loved the use of tag team scares in this maze

Other new offerings this year included Pinocchio Unstrung. Located inside Wilderness Dance Hall, replacing the Doll Factory. This maze I thought would just be a rehashing of the tired out Doll Factory maze and I was so happy to be wrong. It had a lot of similarities to Doll Factory but this time on crack!!!! This was a huge surprise, I was so caught up in Haunt that I didn’t even realize till writing this how random and bizarre this maze theme was.

“Pinocchio embarks on a wild killing spree after the Blue Fairy denies him his final wish. An army of murderous marionettes seeks the flesh of maze visitors to cover Pinocchio’s twisted, wooden body.”

Seriously what the hell?! But the more random the better! This maze was a long one filled with high energy talent and tons of supercool animatronics. Can someone please tell me how big this Wilderness Dance Hall is during normal operation because this maze went on forever – in a good way of course! My two standout moments in this maze wwere when Pinnochio pulls out the floor from you almost sending you to the ground ( think funhouses with moving floors) and then the disturbing finale where a giant maniacal robotic…. never mind, we’ll save that one for your visit.

The decor inside the Trick ‘R Treat maze is one of the highlights of this year’s Knott’s Halloween Haunt.

Now onto the not so good…

Growing up, one of my favorite  moments of Halloween Haunt were the two ride-through attractions featuring Haunt overlays, The Calico Mine Ride and the Timber Mountain Log Ride. While longtime Haunt fans know these two attractions are always underwhelming in scare factor they’re still a tradition and provide atmosphere.

This year Knotts removed all decor and monsters from the Calico Mine Ride entirely, leaving it just a normal mine ride. No cobwebs, giant animatronic spiders, zombies, ghosts, demons, or waterfall scares, NADA! This seemed super lame and it being located directly across from The Hanging stage show seemed to remove a ton of atmosphere from this section of the park. It definitely was a bummer to see a haunt staple completely removed.

Another confusing  blow was the newly billed Evil Dead overlay on the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I remember as a kid this maze would have monsters grinding up against passing log flumes, heavy fog, amazing lighting, and jam packed scares.  Maybe we hit it on a bad night but for the 40th this was a severe let down. This maze consisted of maybe 5 scare actors, a strobe light, and a fake chainsaw – that’s it. (You would imagine at least the studio would provide access to the film’s props, promotional budget, anything!)

Knott’s Scary farm is a staple and a tradition. Scary or not is up to your discretion-But one thing is clear that it is FUN. It’s like a big chaotic Halloween party. It’s not very expensive to get in, you can go on nights WAY less crowded (Thursdays & Sundays) and it’s still early enough you can afford to save up to go to Horror Nights at Universal as well in case your debating.

People always ask me which is better to go to and I tell them they’re entirely different events. Knott’s is fun, nostalgic, and an all around party.

Tips: I suggest if you go attend the $20 early entry buffet dinner, go as early as possible to avoid traffic. Hit up the the park counter clockwise as soon as they open early entry at 6.30PM (Ghostrider, Trick R Treat maze area, then Pinnochio and Terror of London, making your way around to Xcelerator) for the best overall Haunt experience. Also note, sometimes a maze can suck and be revisited for an entirely opposite visit. These mazes are consistently changing scares, monsters, crowds, and energy levels. So if a maze wasn’t as good as you hoped check back again later for what I guarantee an entirely different walk through. I also suggest bringing smaller groups so you guys can move quicker and get to do everything you want. It’s possible for you to do every rollercoaster and maze if you plan accordingly (and if you don’t care about spending extra cash you always throw down for front of the line passes for both mazes and rides).

Overall, Knott’s Scary Farm’s 2012 40th anniversary could still use a bit of improvement (this coming from a longtime attendee) but still is as strong as ever. We will definitely be bringing our friends back again for this event this year.