*I just want to thank the people of Knott’s Berry Farm for inviting the Single Dad’s Guide to Life to be a part of the fun and mayhem of Knott’s Scary Farm 2017. I was provided free tickets to the event as well as front of the line passes to the entertainment. Nevertheless, all of the views expressed herein are my own.
For those who have been following me for a little while, especially since last August, you know that Halloween is one of my favorite times during the year. There are always fun festivals and places to go to that you never thought of before. And for me, among the best things to happen on Halloween is haunt season. Every year between haunted zoos, crazy train rides, ghost shacks and amusement parks, people are out there trying to frighten the death out of us. (If that even makes sense. Maybe it’s frighten us to death, but whatever.) And one of the preeminent frequented frights for the season happens At Knott’s Scary Farm.
Really, Knott’s Scary Farm is the Mac Daddy of all of the amusement horror nights. Before Disney got into the act, and way before Universal went all in on the terror, Knott’s Berry Farm believed that scaring its guests would drive business to the park in a way that no one could possibly have imagined. Beginning on October 26th, 1973, for three fabulous nights, the crew at Knott’s Berry Farm decided that tricking was far more fun than treating and they brought out costumes to scare riders on the calico Mine ride and the log ride as well as other places through the park. It was an instant hit, more than they could have possibly imagined.
By the time the 80’s came around, the decided that they would add big stars to their bevy of scarers who ran around the park in more gruesome costumes each and every year. Weird Al and Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) were added to the tantalizing talent as they upped the ante on this new event. And year after year they would pack out the place. It was so popular that Universal Studios decided in 1991 to follow suit with their own affair, soon after Six Flags and even Disney would get in on the act. Amusement park Horror and Villain nights were here to stay. But it all started in the minds of a few ride operators and the denizens of the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.
My Past Experience With Knott’s Scary Farm
My very first time with the park came when I was 16 years old, with a bunch of friends from church and our fearless leader, who I was told had been one of the scarers in years past. We would go through a couple of the mazes throughout the park which took forever to get through. But what I really remember throughout the park was the dense fog. And then people jumping out after you with blades and those things you can wear on your hands and as you scrape it across the ground it leaves sparks. Even if I didn’t scream I can tell you someone leaping out of the fog and flying past you leaving sparks in their wake caused me to jump.
And then I remember being sure to make it to the hanging out in the middle of the Town Square of Calico. They were going to try to hang Beetlejuice for his offense to humanity. (Of which I have to admit there were many. Who isn’t offended by Shake Senora? Really?) But he escaped with his magical power to make everyone dance to crazy show tunes. So when they played Day O with a bunch of bananas floating over head to the center stage, it only made sense. Thankfully, Freddy Kruger slashed his way out of the bananas and ended Beetlejuice’s reign of terror. With deft precision he sliced his way into my heart and into Knott’s Scary Farm History.
I would end up going several more times over the years. But with the birth of my daughter it was difficult to make it out to Knott’s Scary Farm. And trying to convince a five year old the pleasures of being terrified by people jumping out at you in scary masks was a non-starter. She did not listen to my pleas. And I didn’t exactly blame her. So when the Guide was invited to visit the Farm for Halloween Haunt 2017, I was very happy to accept the invitation. I was more than ready to quake in fear at the things they would throw at me.
What happened next . . . well . . . you are on your own from now on. Hahahahahaha!
Ode To Scary Farm
Big scary creatures, fearsome frights,
A touch of humor, darkened nights,
I lost my way with friends held tight
Out in Knott’s gruesome Halloween.
Before we entered through the gate
The guards told us not to be late
But crowds of people hesitate,
To ghosts marching in Halloween.
The evil witch, she has a house
With darkened shades, and not a mouse,
No liquid can you find to douse
This green witch who loves Halloween.
Another place has ghostly taunts,
She claims that it’s your death she wants,
And every step you take she haunts
This paranormal Halloween.
A fairy dark with chair he likes
To pull your teeth with bloody spikes
So you ask, “why these wicked hikes
Through mazes on Knott’s Halloween?”
But more infected people pine
For brains they will wait in a line
Thanks to lasers I feel so fine
Blasting Zombies on Halloween.
If mazes do not rock your boat,
You can go watch some people float,
On noose, midair, without a coat,
Hang the crazies on Halloween.
Yet one thing more we have you ask,
Elvira will take you to task
On witches pyre she has a flask
Cursing fun on this Halloween.
So should you go to Knott’s dear friends,
And after dark your journey bends,
Watch for shadows as story ends,
This October on Halloween.
I suppose I should just say mic dropped after all of this crazy poetry, but I figured that I should give you a review of my favorite things from the night at Knott’s Scary farm plus make some recommendations to you about the whole journey. I will break it down by categories: Mazes; Scare Areas; Elvira; and the Hanging.
The Mazes –
Let me take a moment to explain my reasons for rating things and why certain things went in certain order. First, I take some extra consideration if the maze was interactive or not. Yes people jumping out at you can be fun, but I think it’s more fun if there is some involvement by the people there. Second, I am rating things based on the sets and their ability to scare people while they are there. I know different people scare for different reasons. Some people don’t like grating noises. Other people hate pitch black darkness. And still other people are terrified of clowns or zombies. Each item I think affects each individuals rating system. I will rate the mazes, and then explain afterward why one maze might have rated better than another. So without further ado, I rate the mazes in the following order:
1) Infected –
It would have been easy to downgrade this ride. Even with the fast lane passes for the mazes it took me nearly thirty minutes to get into the maze. I was a bit upset. And I would say that at least 30 people left the line in front of me, for whatever purpose I do not know. But knowing why it would take so long to get through the line peaked my curiousity. And then I realized it. A zombie game through a maze, only we would be given laser guns as weapons. I had to admit that I really enjoyed the experience through the zombies, shooting my way through their evil cohort. And they added a few additional scares so that everyone coming at you was not zombies. I loved a maze that I was fully invested in.
2) Paranormal INC. –
I loved two things specifically about this maze that I just felt like was missing with some of the other mazes. It’s not that the other mazes didn’t have stories or themes. Some most certainly did. But they had a cool intro with a ghost who was brought into our world threatening our destruction. And it did the unexpected. The ghost broke through the wall and out into our present as we rushed out of there. In between twists and turns and frightening ghosts as well as collapsing walls, we eventually escaped the threat. I loved the unexpected twists.
3) Shadowlands –
Claustrophobia reared it’s ugly head in the back of the park at the Shadowlands maze. An Oriental themed maze with geishas and samurais coming at you around every bend, I loved the interesting story development here. It might have been my number two except I felt like the maze was a little too well lit and I could see the geishas with their fans coming at me a little too easily. Noises in the dark work much better to bring my scare quotient up. But the beginning had such definite promise. It definitely left me chilled to the bone.
4) Dark Ride –
I did really enjoy the special effects of this maze. Carnival workers and clowns are coming out you faster than you can say Pennywise. Clowns have “It” right now. Which makes me the king of puns right now. Ok I had to get in that last one. I love the feel and effects of the maze. And they do such a good job of keeping you on your toes. You can’t always tell whether it’s a doll or a human coming after you. Find out for yourself.
5) Trick Or Treat –
The green witches haunted home has a fright or two in store for you. I do like the participation with this maze. And I love the fact they control your flashlight. It goes out on you just at the right time. I think they know giving you something they think you can control makes the moment your light goes out more frightening than things just leaping out at you. Of course it’s not as fun as shooting zombies, no matter how cool the flashlight is. But it’s a haunted house perfectly unlit for inspection.
6) Tooth Fairy –
If you hate the dentist, then I might avoid this at all costs. And if you do go, you might put off that visit just a little bit longer. They do use a lot of noise distortion at this one, and I know the couple behind me felt like they were dying around every turn. But for me the noise was more disturbing than scary. It didn’t heighten the fear like I would have wanted. Sometimes silence works better than grating noise. But I will say that the ripped open jaw of the kid on the chair and the video of bloody dental work done effected me. Deliciously nauseating.
7) Pumpkin Eater –
For the traditionalist in all of us, come to the not quite so great pumpkin . . . eater that is. It’s Knott’s Scary Farms new Maze they have out in the Camp Spooky area. They have a seven foot creature that haunts the villagers, who come at you fast and furious, warning you of what’s ahead. And what’s ahead? A bevy of bugs and other creatures attacking you from every direction. Definitely a bug hater’s nightmare.
8) Voodoo – Order Of The Serpent –
Swamps and fog come at your fast and furious in Voodoo – Order of the Serpent. What it really made me feel was like I had been sucked into the screen of the classic film Ghost Breakers with Bob Hope. Swamps and zombie like creatures are behind every turn. And plants and animals are all after you as you weave your way through the marshes.
9) Red Barn –
Blood on aisle one. Blood on aisle one. I do enjoy the bloody good enjoyment of the Wilderness barn as it becomes the red barn. Lots of blood and guts on display. If you are disgusted by blood and internal organs that you might want to stay away. Hicks and hayseeds make you wonder whether you have entered into the movie Deliverance. Be careful. They may end up making you squeal like a pig.
The Scare Areas –
I know it’s been a while since I have been there. When I used to go there wasn’t specific areas out in the open that were listed. Scarers just roamed around all over the park, and you never knew what you were going to find and where. Now they have taken to list the major scare zones. They themed each scare zone. So depending where you are, you find a specific kind of scare though. The following are the scare zones listed from my favorite to the not as good. I do think since they assign specific ghosts to specific areas that the scaring can be somewhat limited. But I do kind of like the themed idea. I just thing there are some execution failures, which I will explain.
1) Ghost Town Streets –
My favorite of the ghost areas and it only makes sense as it occurs in Knott’s actual ghost town. But there is just something that makes the fog they pump into this area settle in a way that it doesn’t other places in the park. It gets dark and you can barely see your hand in front of your face. And things can come from out of nowhere. Even eating can become an adventure as you can barely see your food before you put it in your mouth. Nothing can be ghosts in a ghost town.
2) The Hallow –
Our near where the Pumpkin Eater maze is and where Spooky Farm exisits during the mornings, they have The Hallow Scare Zone. Something out of Washington Irving’s wet dreams, the hallow has nooks and crannies that you just cannot prepare for. And the fog settles in much like it does in the Ghost Town. If you want to take a stroll and get scared, make sure you pass by the Hollow. Just make sure you don’t lose your head.
3) Fiesta De Los Muertos –
I just like the idea of adding a little of Day of the Dead to the creepy festivities, and they do a pretty good job of it here. I really love the makeup and costumes of these “dead” people. If I had a complaint it would be that all of these costumed people are all out in the open. There is very little shadow and almost no fog there. Maybe they want you to see how ornate their costumes are but it does kind of take away from the fear factor of them roaming around.
4) CarnEVIL –
I love creepy clowns. And honestly I was just hoping for so much more in this area. They can do so many amazing things with creepy clowns and creepy clown makeup. The problem with an open area with lots of space and no fog means you can easily stay away from the spooks and they really don’t creep up on anyone unless you are not paying attention. And even then the clowns were just too sparse for my preference. While I love the idea, I just think they could have done so much more.
The Shows –
Elvira (Mistress of the Dark) – 2 Times Nightly
I have to admit I have never seen the Elvira show in all my years of going. I know it’s sad but its true. This year I knew I had to go. And so should you. Definitely a PG-13 show, Elvira gives as good as she gets as she struts her stuff from her Dark Thunderbird to her velvet chase to a blazing pyre. Loaded with puns and double entendre, she still amazes in her sixties. And she doesn’t look like she aged a day. Yes it’s silly but it’s all in good horrific fun. And you gotta love her, as I definitely do now. So sorry I missed out on all those years.
The Hanging – 3 Times Nightly
Coming back to Scary Farm I excitedly anticipated what the new Hanging was going to be like post Freddy Kruger Days. And while the performances were fun and deliciously campy, I do feel like I missed out on a bit of the mayhem of the past. Yes they may have hanged someone who deserved it, and there might have been plenty of “deaths.” But it just didn’t have the slash and burn fun of the haunter of dreams of Halloweens past. It’s definitely worth a watch. And I wouldn’t have missed “Puti and the Beast” for anything.
My Overall Review –
So what did I think of the Farm in general, coming back after all of those years? I loved it. It’s definitely more fun when you are with someone who frightens. And I have to thank my friend for coming out as my frightened guinnea pig. She was such a good sport about it all. You have to go to Elivra for sure. And then pick your poison with the mazes. I would just suggest if you can afford it at all you have to get those fast lane passes. I don’t think it would be possible to get through all of those mazes without such a pass. And you definitely want to try out them all if at all possible. Check out the Scary Farm website for all the details.
Fear Factor: 4 out of 4 skulls
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of Knott’s Scary Farm? If you have been, what was your favorite thing this year? And if you have only gone in years past, what are your favorite memories of Scary Farm? Or if you live in another area, what are some of your favorite scare places in your area?
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Until next time, my name’s not Elvira, “but you can call me tonight.”
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life