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Author Archives: Rick West
The Los Angeles Zoo is a great place to visit with your family (or with friends, a date, etc.) this month as they celebrate Boo at the L.A. Zoo every day this month through Halloween! On weekends, there are added activities to enhance the event, but any day is a great day to check out one of Los Angeles’ only truly family-friendly haunts!
We recently visited Boo at the L.A. Zoo 2015 to check it out first-hand, and had a wonderful time! The weather was cooler here in Southern California than it’s been the past few weeks, and arriving before the zoo opened, we found relatively light crowds (which I would assume, will grow larger each day/weekend as we get closer to Halloween). Making the rounds takes no more than a couple hours – but obviously, there is a day’s-worth of sights to see at the L.A. Zoo!
Let me tell you about one of the most unique and surreal experiences I’ve ever had. When there is a new haunt or some sort of “experience” in Los Angeles, word travels fast. I started getting messages from multiple friends asking if I’ve heard of this new immersive experience called Fear is What We Learned Here, and was told that multiple Blackout fans (also known as Blackout survivors) were suddenly being followed by a mysterious account that had been created on Instagram.
I hadn’t heard about this experience and began to look through their Instagram photos and ponder, who’s behind this attraction/event/whatever it is? Do we know them? They seem to know who their target audience is by following Blackout fans – I guess it was safe to assume it’d be a similar experience? Looking through their photos, I found primarily black and white images of random objects or environments – most of them with quotes about the feeling of fear and dreams.
If you live on the East Coast, and attend Halloween events there such as Six Flags Fright Fest at Great Adventure, chances are, you have heard of the unique performer known only as the Ghoulmaster. Here in Los Angeles, I admit that we’d never heard of him until he was cast as part of the entertainment lineup for ScareLA 2015, which we co-produce each summer. That said, we’re glad we did get to know more about this guy – because his new production in Hollywood this Halloween season is absolutely a fantastic night out on the town with friends!
Known among the living as Pete Carter, his Ghoulmaster persona is a mash-up of Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, and Elvira. With piercing white-iris eyes, garish costumes, and dance moves evocative of the King of Pop, Ghoulmaster takes to the stage wherever he plays and entertains fans of all ages, through music and off-color humor. For fans of Fright Fest at Great Adventure in New Jersey, the Ghoulmaster has become a local pop culture icon during the park’s annual Halloween event; rightfully so – he’s truly entertaining!
The Great Wolf lodge is a brand that is new to California, but one that is well-known and loved throughout the United States and Canada. It’s a sprawling family resort, complete with a huge array of in-house amenities, from shopping and dining, to games and activities – as well as a massive indoor water park, exclusively for guest use! These inclusive resorts are big for their communities – they create jobs, they accommodate tourism, and they help stimulate the local economy. The newest member of the Great Wolf family is about to open its doors just 5 minutes south of Disneyland Resort, on Harbor Boulevard in the city of Garden Grove; it’s a big deal that we think is fantastic for everyone!
True, Anaheim and its surrounding communities already have a ton of hotels and motels. However, the Great Wolf Lodge is the only other large-scale family “resort” option other than those owned by Disney – which will allow it to go head-to-head price-wise with Mickey and company, and take its own share of the tourism dollars being spent in Orange County by visiting guests. Granted, this may not have much of an impact on Disney’s bottom line, but it’s definitely got to be on their radar, the same way similar family-oriented mega-resorts are in Central Florida. In the end, it does affect the market, pricing, and amps up the competitive side of things between companies such as Great Wolf and Disney; the good news is, visitors are the ones that win, as prices remain in flux and each entity ratchets up their value/offerings to lure families to stay and play under their roofs.
It’s a tradition going back to 1973 here in Southern California; the sun flickers and drowns over the horizon, nightfall creeps across the land, and fog billows from Ghost Town and other areas of the theme park as it writhes in pain, transforming from Knott’s Berry Farm into the world-famous Knott’s Scary Farm!
Okay – perhaps it’s not so dramatic; and to be honest, fans get just as excited reading that makeup and wardrobe operations have commenced in the early afternoon hours backstage in the fabled Warehouse P at Knott’s, and techs are making last-minute checks on fog machine juice and lighting inside the mazes and scare zones as media assembles for the opening night of Knott’s Scary Farm in Buena Park! That’s exactly what transpired on the evening of September 24th; for Theme Park Adventure, it continued our 21st year covering the granddaddy of all Halloween events (the first event being the 2015 Scary Farm preview in August).
Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhinoceros who has been under medical care since early September for a recurring abscess on her right hip, underwent a second medical procedure earlier this month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The elderly animal has been on antibiotics and keepers have been flushing the abscess site daily, but it is still an area of concern. In an effort to get to the source of the infection, veterinarians lanced deep into the abscess, but they weren’t immediately able to provide a definitive answer as to what is causing the ailment. During the procedure, the team opened the abscess site, allowing it to drain better and also alleviating any pressure buildup that can cause pain for the animal. A fine needle aspiration, skin samples and blood tests also were taken.
This weekend marks the opening of Orange County’s newest – and most anticipated – haunted attraction, The 17th Door. Located in the Tustin Marketplace, just about 10 minutes south of Disneyland off the 5 Freeway in Tustin, this new haunt has been the topic of much discussion – and speculation – among fans for the past several months.
The amount of enthusiasm and curiosity within and outside of the Southern California haunt community has been unprecedented in the past months, as word spread of a husband and wife team who aren’t established haunters, creating a stunning, high-quality attraction in Orange County, unlike any other. When we first learned about Robbie and Heather Luther, we were equally intrigued as everyone else; the couple went to TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show in St. Louis earlier in the year and walked the floor, visited local haunted houses, and discussed the business with professional haunters. Back here on the West Coast, rumors were flying that this mystery couple was preparing to launch themselves head-first into the SoCal haunt community and make a resounding impact with their first endeavor, The 17th Door.
It’s always a weird thing when the opening of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights comes and goes. There’s so much hype leading up to the event – from Creative Director/Executive Producer John Murdy’s cryptic messages and hints on social media, to the major announcement he and Art Director Chris Williams make each summer at ScareLA in Los Angeles, and the sneak preview of some of the mazes that Theme Park Adventure has been privileged to attend for the past several years. It’s strange, because before we know it, we’re there, walking through the mazes, shooting video in the scare zones, taking it all in, and then – just like that, we find ourselves driving home at 3 a.m. discussing what we liked and didn’t like about the event – and how crazy it is that HHN has already come and gone for us.
2014 was a great year for our friends at The Empty Grave, one of Orange County’s longest-running haunted attractions. For the past couple of years, The Empty Grave was located at the Anaheim GardenWalk, just across the street from the Disneyland Resort. One might think that such close proximity to hundreds of hotel rooms and an endless supply of tourists would make for an incredible source of business for a haunt at Halloween. Unfortunately, the GardenWalk just isn’t that great of a magnet – rarely does it attract locals, and when the Disney parks are open late – guests are in them, not wandering around a half-dead shopping mall.
Mike Talarico, who owns The Empty Grave, gave it one hell of a shot – and while there were decent crowds during the seasonal run, they just weren’t steady. Quite honestly, we felt that if Mike and his team stayed there at the GardenWalk, that The Empty Grave might just end up dying on the vine. We certainly didn’t want that to happen, because this is a great group of haunters.
Paranormal, Inc. is one of those mazes that somehow rises above the rest when it comes to fan hype; it’s never usually something that is planned from the very beginning – it just kind of jives with what people are excited about and through word of mouth (and a little bit of marketing magic), becomes the sight unseen fan favorite before Scary Farm even begins. We’ve seen this in the past, most recently with last year’s Voodoo attraction in 2014. There’s no really solid reason as to why this happens – it just is one of those things that we’ve seen time and again play out at Knott’s, as well as other major theme park haunts.