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2016 has been a very interesting year for Knott’s Scary Farm. The grandfather of all theme park Halloween events, Knott’s presents a wide variety of attractions this season, giving the Scary Farm some interesting new tech, along with very familiar old-school vibes and experiences.
In all honesty, we were braced for a very tumultuous year for Knott’s. In the months leading up with the theme park’s biggest annual event, there were major changes internally that could have really disrupted (and did in some regards) the execution of this year’s Scary Farm. Several long-time Knott’s employees left the company during the critical ramp-up period before Haunt, including Lara Hanneman, who had served as Director of Entertainment Production at the park for many years. As summer began, Raffi Kaprelyan was promoted to Regional Vice President at Cedar Fair, and Jon Storbeck was announced as the park’s new Vice President and General Manager. Adding chaos to the mix, two long-time Marketing representatives departed just as the publicity machine for Scary Farm 2016 was getting fired up. In short, we were braced for a mess this season, figuring the infrastructure of Knott’s Berry Farm had reached the operational breaking point.
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In 2015, The 17th Door took no prisoners as Southern California’s hottest Halloween ticket. After literally coming out of nowhere to create this massive haunted attraction, husband and wife team Robbie and Heather Luther assembled a master cast and crew, and created their hellish October home – the fictitious Gluttire University – in an up-scale outdoor shopping complex in Tustin, just minutes south of the Disneyland Resort in Orange County.
Almost immediately after opening, social media lit up with accounts of the extreme haunt featuring live cockroaches, real animal carcasses, characters shocking guests with hand-held devices and more; the effect it all had was amazing – people flocked to The 17th Door in droves, curious and excited to experience the attraction for themselves.
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Most people on the West Coast know that Six Flags Magic Mountain is the place to be when it comes to world-class thrill rides and the best roller coasters. What Southern California fans are finding out more and more each year, is that Magic Mountain is also home to one of the biggest and best Halloween events in the country as well – Fright Fest!
Fright Fest isn’t new; it’s been taking place for more than two decades at the Valencia thrill park just a short distance from Los Angeles. Not only does the event encompass the entire park, Fright Fest features some of the most amazing character makeup we’ve ever seen at any Halloween event, courtesy of Scott Ramp and his ridiculously talented crew at The Scream Team.
This year, Fright Fest at Magic Mountain features 7 mazes, 7 scare zones with their own unique themes, and a high-energy stage show that features multiple performers and a DJ throughout the night in Full Throttle Plaza near the entrance of the park. With a lineup of this scale, Fright Fest finds itself on the same playing field as Knott’s Scary Farm, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, and Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. That said, Fright Fest simply doesn’t throw the same budget at its mazes that Knott’s and Universal do – very few parks to, honestly. Design-wise, I would say that the level of Fright Fest’s mazes are about on par with Dark Harbor – which is definitely nothing to dismiss.
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Wicked Lit is extremely challenging to describe to those who haven’t experienced it before. You throw out adjectives such as “beautiful”, “haunting”, “immersive”… and then chase it with, “And they do it in a cemetery and mausoleum.” That’s usually where the record needle scratch comes in the conversation.
But it’s true. Wicked Lit (short for “literature”) is a stunning theatrical presentation that takes place each Halloween season at the Mountain View Mortuary, Cemetery and Crematory in Altadena, California. If you’re unfamiliar – and I would imagine most people would be – Mountain View’s mausoleum is stunning – ornate and gorgeous. The surrounding cemetery grounds are also very serene and well-maintained. Not to sound morbid, it’s the type of place you walk through and think, “Ending up here wouldn’t be half bad, I suppose.” That said, at some point, that’s exactly what members of Unbound Productions thought, too. And so, Wicked Lit found a home in the hills above Pasadena.
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You know it’s Halloween in North Hollywood when the sounds of wailing, screaming, and the carnal slapping of flesh fills the air along Lankershim Boulevard; it’s time once again for Urban Death Tour of Terror, presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre!
As with most of the seasonal reviews/stories here on Theme Park Adventure, we are not going to get into specifics of this year’s Tour of Terror production; to know what lurks in the dark – you must go to the show yourself.
What I will say, is that we had a tremendous time checking out this avant-garde group’s horrific show. The gang at Zombie Joe’s never ceases to amaze and deliver. Tour of Terror is the annual pinnacle of the team’s most F’ed-up visions that manifest to sold-out audiences throughout the year in their modest Los Angeles theater.
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Delusion: His Crimson Queen just may be the hottest ticket to any event this Halloween season here in Southern California. Ironically, Delusion isn’t a haunt – it’s immersive theater set within a spooky environment, dressed up in frightening tales, and performed flawlessly by very talented actors. While Delusion isn’t a haunted attraction, it does run during the fall season, and has become synonymous with Halloween here in Los Angeles, making it a must-see on everyone’s spooky To-Do list.
Finding a ticket for the 2016 season of Delusion: His Crimson Queen is nearly impossible at this point. The production sold out extremely fast as soon as tickets went on sale. This year, the ticket demand is beyond crazy, since Delusion was on hiatus in 2015; fans ravenous for the show’s return snatched up tickets very quickly once they went on sale in August. In fact Delusion: His Crimson Queen was completely sold-out before the show’s cast was even locked.
The story and theme of Delusion changes drastically each season. Creator Jon Braver and some of his team unveiled the title of this year’s show – His Crimson Queen – at Midsummer Scream in July, which was met by whistles and thunderous applause from more than 300 fans sitting on the edges of their seats in anticipation of the announcement. Immediately, speculation spread as to the exact theme of Delusion 2016; the popular consensus all along was that Braver was bringing the show back as a vampire tale. That consensus proved to be correct; Delusion has brought bloodthirsty children of the night to Los Angeles!
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Without a doubt, 2016 is the strongest intellectual property lineup that Universal Studios Hollywood has ever assembled for Halloween Horror Nights. Fronted by the long-awaited maze The Exorcist, HHN features a powerhouse ensemble that includes mazes based on American Horror Story, Halloween 2, Krampus and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s more – so let’s dive right in and pick apart Halloween Horror Nights 2016 piece by fleshy piece…
SPOILER ALERT: This in-depth review contains spoilers regarding the mazes and scare zones found at Halloween Horror Nights 2016. It also features images and video that contain spoilers as well.
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In the wake of our September 17 story regarding the closure of the Los Angeles Live Steamers’ annual Ghost Train event, fans of all walks have expressed their sadness and disappointment online and on social media. Certainly, the disappointment is widespread, as the LALS board of directors surely must have been anticipating when they voted to cancel the Halloween event.
Jay Carsman, a member of the club who originally reached out to Theme Park Adventure, asking us to remove all Ghost Train content on our site, instead voluntarily offered us a very detailed explanation into the club’s decision to do away with this 15 year-old event in Griffith Park here in Los Angeles.
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Without a doubt, the single most-anticipated new attraction to come online here in Southern California last Halloween was The 17th Door Haunt Experience. Located in Tustin, just minutes away from Disneyland in Orange County, The 17th Door hit the scene hard, taking everyone by surprise by its sheer size, detail and controversial content.
The 17th Door took no prisoners as it thrust thousands of curious guests into the nightmarish world of Paula, a college freshman with lots of emotional baggage. Embarking on her terror trip of bulimia, alcohol and drug abuse, we joined Paula as she made one bad decision after another – and paid for it dearly. Guests fought their way with Paula through solitary confinement, a room filled with live cockroaches, demons in the form of swine-human hybrids, and a myriad of gut-wrenching moments that pushed many to the brink. More than 3,000 visitors at The 17th Door last season tapped out – they cried mercy, because the intensity was simply too much for them to bear.
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Creep LA burst onto the Southern California Halloween attraction scene last year and wowed fans of all types with its powerful blend of haunted house terror and intense theatrical style. Created by Justin Fix, Creep was a huge success and amassed quite a loyal following in a very short amount of time, from curious horror fans to an impressive list of Hollywood celebrities. The question on our mind was, following a great debut year, what would come next for Justin and his team?
In Southern California, new haunts not only need to succeed well in their first year – they need to follow that success with bigger, bolder events to retain their foothold and gain traction for the future. The second year is a huge hurdle to clear – some haunts get so beat up their first year, they don’t even bother returning; others go completely over-the-top and try to be something they’re not, completely ruining the momentum they did have.
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