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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!
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).
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.
Frightfully good fun adds to the excitement of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration this autumn, as the Halloween season arrived at the resort Sept. 11 and runs through Nov. 1. The annual, family-friendly Halloween experience includes spooky transformations of Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, plus special décor, themed foods and merchandise. In addition, the separate-ticket Mickey’s Halloween Party offers guests an opportunity to visit in costume and trick-or-treat throughout Disneyland Park, on 17 selected nights.
Haunted Mansion Holiday in New Orleans Square has become a thrilling Disneyland Halloween tradition, with Jack Skellington from the Walt Disney Pictures classic Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas moving into the Mansion to spark a collision between Halloween and Christmas. As in past years, some eerie new touches have been added to the Haunted Mansion Holiday experience. The Hatbox Ghost, who recently rejoined the Mansion’s happy haunts, is staying to celebrate Halloween and Christmas with Jack Skellington and his friends.
Hailed by Fangoria Magazine as “the #1 scariest haunted attraction in the U.S.,” the 13th Floor haunted house takes guests through a frightening tour of horror. Brave guests will learn just why the 13th floor is so often omitted from building plans – if they make it through to tell the tale.
The Asylum haunted house is Denver’s #1 rated haunted attraction. Back again, this 1800’s era themed “hospital for the mentally insane” has been taken over by the patients and prisoners. Tapping into some of our greatest fears, the haunted experience is a head trip that screams of its tortured souls inside the once orderly insane asylum.
Sneak Peek of Insidious: Return to The Further at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights 2015
One of the hottest mazes at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights in 2013 was Insidious: Into The Further, based on the popular Insidious film franchise. While I am personally not a huge fan of the movies, I felt the 2013 maze was really well done; it certainly was a fan favorite. When this year’s Insidious: Return to The Further was announced for Halloween Horror Nights, fans reacted very positively to the news.
Recently, Theme Park Adventure was invited along with a handful of other media outlets to get a sneak preview tour of Insidious: Return to The Further by John Murdy, Creative Director and Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Total transparency here – on that same day, we toured Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home. Being a huge fan of Halloween, that was the one maze I was absolutely interested in checking out; Return to The Further was a “whatever” for me, since I am not really into the film franchise itself.
That said, after walking through Insidious: Return to The Further, I have to say that I was beyond impressed – and if the maze looks half as creepy and incredibly well-designed in the dark as it does in the daylight, this could very well be the maze of the season at Halloween Horror Nights. Without doubt, if you are a fan of the films, Return to The Further is going to make your mind melt.
Sneak Peek of Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights 2015
One of the most highly-anticipated maze of 2015 at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home. Announced to cheering fans during ScareLA this summer, this marks the second time Myers has been featured as part of the HHN lineup here in Southern California, the first being in 2009.
Creative Director/Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights and Art Director of HHN here in California, John Murdy and Chris Williams, both have a long-standing love of John Carpenter’s Halloween, and have been waiting for the perfect time to bring The Shape back to terrorize the inhabitants of Haddonfield, and the thousands of guests who flock to Universal Studios Hollywood each night during the world-famous Halloween event.
After 6 years, Michael Myers has come home.