DARK HARBOR – FEAR LIVES HERE is the latest thrilling event at the majestic Queen Mary in Long Beach. As I approached the entrance, I felt a blast of heat hit my face as flames sliced through the night sky. Walking inside, I could see the old lady rising up through the fog. It’s an event unlike any other in SoCal because it takes place in part on the ship which is genuinely haunted. If you believe in ghosts, this adds an extra chill to the October air.
INTREPID is a new maze, built inside the permanent Dome structure. Guests walk through a train car and exit in “Iron Hell”. I had to crawl, walk, and climb through an old shipyard filled with sinister Scottish iron workers. I could clearly see why it was important to break up the maze into small groups because, unlike theme park mazes, this one has dead ends and wrong turns. Keeping the groups small allows you to pass by other guests looking for a way out without creating a huge log jam inside the narrow passages. I like the idea that I can actually get lost in a maze even if it is just for a few moments. It makes the experience fun and the multi-levels of this one with partial chain-link walls also added to the dramatic effect.
CIRCUS is the second maze inside the Dome and features some freaky fun house effects. It’s a returning maze, but even if you have seen this one before, there’s a new opening room and elements inside have been moved around. It feels like a totally new experience. If the creepy clown sightings around the country haven given you a bad case of Coulrophobia, you’ll be trembling in terror when you see what’s hiding inside!
LULLABY is a returning maze, but every year they switch up the maze path. On the ship, a little girl known as Scary Mary lures you to cross over to the other side. This maze felt a lot longer than previous years, so I appreciated the added rooms and there were a lot more little Marys hiding in the dark. At one point a ghoulish woman whispered to me in a low growl, “Have you seen Mary? She’s everywhere!” And she was!
B340‘s name represents a cabin number on the ship where a psychopath, Samuel the Savage, has taken refuge. The loud jarring soundtrack played throughout this one added a lot of impact, making the maze feel more claustrophobic and hot. There’s just something special about running your hand along the cold steel walls, racing up and down stairs, and finding yourself alone in a pitch dark interior hallway. At one point I nearly placed my hand on a monster’s face as I tried to find my way through a very dark section. She (or he) let out a loud hiss and made me jump nearly out of my skin. It was great!
SOULMATE returns with the gorgeous Graceful Gale looking for her tormented lover. Demons have taken apart men to try to reconstruct a sweetheart for her. Skin and flayed bodies hang along the walls and a huge heart beats on the cold floor. Located on the ship, there is a masquerade ball and Graceful Gale asks you to dance. Don’t be tempted. She really wants to keep your soul.
DEADRISE is an open air maze located off the ship by the Monster Midway. Another returning favorite, drowned sailors haunt this sunken battleship begging for mercy and release. This one has fire and water effects, so guard your electronics because you might get splashed! My favorite part of this maze is the open ceiling. I love stopping to look at the Queen Mary or gazing up at a full moon in the night sky. It really adds a lot of atmosphere without detracting from the horrors within.
Side note – I did miss the VOODOO VILLAGE maze which is absent this year. It has been a standard at the Queen Mary for a number of years, so I understand why they decided to skip it, but as the only classic indoor maze at this location, I missed the variety.
For 2016, Dark Harbor offers the most extensive entertainment schedule ever. There is a MAIN STAGE with peculiar acts alternating with a DJ all night. The Soulmate Stage has music acts like Panic Piano, Bloody Banjo, and Vicious Violin playing maniacal melodies. SLIDER ALLEY features acrobatic sliding monsters in twice-nightly shows that are not to be missed. These guys wander the grounds all night throwing sparks and scaring guests, but the choreographed show is spine-chilling.
Some entertainment has an additional charge. Tickets for these are available at Guest Services while supplies last. THE SIDESHOW has a mini maze which ends in a bar area. Here, performers like belly dancers and fire artists entertain. HEX is a paintball shooting range. Last year, it was $10 and there were live performers to shoot at. This year, it’s $5 and no live performers. I would say, skip it. RIP LOUNGE is the VIP section located on a walkway high above the event. It’s included with VIP tickets and gives a fantastic view of the ship and surrounding area. Also included is a delicious taco bar! Yum. CREEPY CABANAS are tents located in the middle of the action. For $99 a night you can book freaky experiences, a private maze tour, and order table service. HOOKAH LOUNGE is located next to the Creepy Cabanas and is a popular stop. PANIC is a short 4D movie with bubbles, smoke, scents and more. The animation is typical of a video game and was a fun little attraction for $5. VOODOO HOUSE is a 21+ tasting room bar featuring Tequila flights for $18. NEVERLAND SWINGS which used to belong to Michael Jackson offer guests the chance to fly high above the action.
Overall, my visit to DARK HARBOR was a thrilling night. I love the feel of walking onto the ship. This year, one of the on ship mazes includes the propeller room and it’s incredible to look down into the water and see the immense power of this 1930’s vessel. The new ambient sounds piped into the mazes added atmospherics and the mazes seemed packed with monsters. Sheer unpredictability and brilliant performances by the maze actors leads to more fun frights than at any other location. Fast Fright Passes with priority maze access are recommended as lines can get very long as we approach Halloween.
Dark Harbor is open now through October 31.
Purchase tickets at DARK HARBOR.