Haunted Attractions

One area of themed entertainment that is near and dear to our hearts as fans has always been haunted attractions. Since 1994, Theme Park Adventure has devoted much of its time and energy on showcasing haunts, from yard displays to major theme park productions; we love it all, and always tell our readers that Halloween isn’t just a holiday for us – it’s a lifestyle…

Opechee Haunt Preparing Elaborate Pirates of the Caribbean Halloween Attraction!

Avast there! Halloween will be here before we know it, so it comes as no surprise that haunts here in Southern California are ramping up their plans for the 2018 season. One such attraction is Glendale-based Opechee Haunt, which is created each year by Sam Kellman, an avid fan and extremely talented designer. What makes the Opechee situation unique, is that Sam is 15 years-old, and already comes across as an old pro when it comes to creating haunted attractions for friends, family, and the public at large. If you’ve followed our Halloween coverage of events over the past few years, you will recall that we think very highly of Sam – he’s definitely the face of the next generation of haunters here in Southern California, and his work is really good; on par with many adult creatives that we know, quite honestly.

This year’s theme for Opechee Haunt is something that is near and dear to our hearts – Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean! This brand-new, family-friendly Halloween attraction will be called Pirates of the Caribbean: Sail with the Tide.

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Jon Cooke Steps Down from Knott’s Berry Farm, Launching Brand-New Horror Attraction

The interwebs are buzzing, and the word is quickly spreading like wildfire through Southern California’s haunt community. After 13 years at Knott’s Berry Farm, Jon Cooke has stepped down from his daily position there as a designer, and has been working quietly on a brand-new horror experience in a nondescript industrial building in Upland, California, which will open its doors to the curious public in the weeks ahead.

Recently, we paid a visit to Jon’s new venture and stepped into his world – a highly-immersive escape experience/haunted attraction he’s named MurderCo: An R-Rated Horror Experience. MurderCo is an ambitious haunt-escape room hybrid that is going to thrill the hell out of SoCal fans looking for the next big deal.

Before we look ahead at what Jon Cooke is about to unleash on the Southland, it’s important to acknowledge his departure from Knott’s, and what it means to events such as Scary Farm; it’s the elephant in the room that everyone is buzzing about, so we would be remiss not to discuss that a bit. The good news is, it’s not a bleak as some are assuming.

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The Cauldron Casts a Spell on Buena Park

Southern California is dense with bars, gastropubs, speakeasies, lounges and taverns. However, no one has quite seen anything like The Cauldron Spirits & Brews, which has officially opened in Buena Park, directly across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm.

A long-time dream of owner Lara Hanneman, The Cauldron is unique in that it’s an upscale bar setting wrapped up in an environment one would expect to find in a haunted house maze at Knott’s Scary Farm. That’s no surprise, as Lara worked at Knott’s for over two decades, ultimately becoming the park’s Creative Director, overseeing all aspects of Halloween Haunt and the property in general throughout the years. For Haunt fans, it is a familiar environment – like stepping inside the event’s now-famous Trick or Treat maze for the evening to enjoy cocktails and food. For guests not familiar with Lara’s past or Knott’s Scary Farm, it’s a walk on the slightly spooky side – without any gore or anyone jumping out of the shadows; it’s a moody, dimly-lit immersive experience that speaks to all ages.

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Backwoods Maze 2017 Home Haunt a Non-Stop Powerhouse of Impressive Sets and Lurking Monsters

Backwoods Maze 2017 home haunt was definitely one of the highlights of the Halloween season. Theme Park Adventure has long-supported this talented family of haunters, and their creation simply gets better and better each year.

This particular home haunt can be found at 1912 North Pepper Street in Burbank, not terribly far from the local airport or world-famous movie and television studios. What helps Backwoods remain so low-profile, is that the majority of the haunt – a densely-propped maze of twisting, turning, tight corridors – takes up the family’s entire backyard, allowing them to tweak and work on the attraction throughout the year. The front yard during Halloween serves only as a showcase for some of the props that Jeff and Taylor Gustafson have added to their amazing collection of horror memorabilia over the years, from tombstones bearing famous monster/slasher names, to a life-sized Freddy Krueger figurine and more. The front yard display merely serves as a distraction while guests wait in line – a line that often stretches down the sidewalk, due to the home haunt’s popularity.

The maze itself is what we refer to as “haunt stew” – a series of themes and ideas all kind of thrown together to create one crazy experience. Typically, we’re not huge fans of this formula – especially now, when storytelling has become such a rich facet of haunting. In the case of Backwoods, we’ve actually fallen in love with its eclectic aesthetics and general “WTF” style. It’s kind of like a junkyard nightmare – massive cyborg warriors, alien creatures, plague doctors, and animal-human hybrids all coexisting in something that resembles a Sanford and Son hell of sorts. And in this case… it works. Guests have absolutely no idea what terrors they’re going to come face-to-face with around each corner; nothing makes sense, nor is anything predictable within the Backwoods Maze.

While the Gustafsons have the luxury of tinkering with their Backwoods Maze all year long, it’s still a tremendous labor of love that takes a lot of time to maintain – and resources. By resources, we mean cash; haunts take a lot of money to create and keep alive, yet this family has done so for years now – giving joy to the community here in Los Angeles each Halloween season. There is no entry fee to Backwoods Maze, but donations are always welcome and accepted – which we highly condone in this case. If you missed Backwoods Maze 2017, there is always the 2018 season to look forward to; it may seem like a long way off, but I assure you, it will come sooner than you know it, and the Backwoods team will be waiting for you with new props, creeping monsters, and more outrageous stuff to terrorize you with!

Huge kudos and love to this family and their extended team for giving the Los Angeles community the gift of a truly unique and outrageous haunt. We’re big fans, and cannot wait to see the continued evolution and success of this amazing home haunt!

  • Rick West

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Backwoods Maze 2017 POV Flow-Through Video:

Backwoods Maze 2017 Image Gallery:

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Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 – A Spectacle 45 Years in the Making

The screams and thrills of Halloween may have faded into the fog, but the memories of Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 linger here, as we continue to reflect on the amazing experiences we had this past season. Our videos from Haunt 2017 have been up on our YouTube channel for weeks – but we definitely have photos and thoughts to share, as fellow fans.

I’ll start by saying what everyone already knows and what we’ve been saying since September – Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 was absolutely stunning on all fronts. This “review” is going to be a love letter to the Haunt and the folks behind it, past and present.

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