In 1973, a group of Knott’s Berry Farm managers met in a conference room and agreed that they wanted to put on a formal Halloween party for guests to enjoy; nothing terribly fancy – some decorations, live entertainment and a few spooked-out rides. Employees were encouraged to make up their work spaces – food and beverage locations, shops and restaurants. For an extra thrill, a handful of monsters roamed through the crowds, creating a total package of spooky fun. The event was named “Halloween Haunt”. Never did anyone back then know that they were the spark that would ignite an industry-wide explosion of similar events around the world. Knott’s Halloween Haunt has become synonymous with Southern California and Halloween. Over the decades, the reach of the Scary Farm has extended far beyond Orange County; it is not uncommon for international haunted attraction fans to make the long trek every few years to experience all that Halloween Haunt has become.
And what has Knott’s Halloween Haunt become over the past 40 years? It’s become iconic. It’s become for many people, the “gateway” to the Halloween season. As soon as the first fog machine sputters then belches its first glorious burst of fog into the Ghost Town evening sky, it sets off a chain reaction that many enthusiasts share – Halloween has finally arrived!
That moment came this year on the evening of Friday, September 21st. As usual, Theme Park Adventure was there shooting video and stills, capturing the night in imagery to share with fans world-wide. Our travels always begin backstage at Warehouse P, the home of Wardrobe and Make-up operations for Halloween Haunt. There, hundreds of employees transform each afternoon into the terrors that roam the Scary Farm each night. The first night of Haunt is always very special – there is an almost tangible feeling of electricity in the air; it hangs thick with pent up anticipation and it is wonderful!
Watching the Haunt staff begin their march from Warehouse P to their locations throughout the park is always really special as well. The moment is almost there – after all the hiring process, dress rehearsals and waiting, these men and women are more than ready to get on with the show!
Our final destination before opening is always the “rope drop” (it’s a plastic chain these days, but the term endures) area in Ghost Town, next to the GhostRider entrance. There, guests line up having attended the Pre-Scare Dinner and get to be the first into the Haunt, prior to the general public being let in at the Main Entrance. Watching guests get their first glimpse of Ghost Town monsters and the GTS crew getting to size up their first victims is always a brilliant moment to capture – it’s the perfect storm of guest and talent on the verge of what each have been waiting all year for! When the chain is lowered and the flood of fans spills into Ghost Town’s streets, the clash between man and monster is epic – screams, laughter and cheers fill the air. The Haunt has begun and it is freakin’ awesome!
This year, things are a bit different at Haunt for the 40th Anniversary. The Ghost Town monsters stay at bay, not approaching guests; that has been pretty much reserved for a group of roaming characters known as “Tricksters” – trick or treating minion doing the mischievous bidding of the Green Witch, who has returned to wreak havoc on the people of Calico! Once the Tricksters arrive on the scene, the Green Witch isn’t far behind; guests at the Pre-Scare rope drop get a special little show that kicks off their evening of ghoulish fun! Additionally, guests in General Admission lines at the Main Entrance also get a Green Witch intro – a nice little show moment that is nicely done and well-received by the masses waiting to get in!
For the rest of the night, Theme Park Adventure explored the fog-filled streets and spooky mazes to get a firm grasp on how this year’s Halloween Haunt stacks up. There were plenty of things we liked as well as things we don’t agree with; but those will come with our reviews soon enough!
Throughout the night, we shot video and stills of the scare zones and mazes, with the exception of Trapped, the up-charge maze that has come to Haunt this year. Knott’s has decided that there will be no documenting of Trapped, and that includes Theme Park Adventure. We feel that’s a mistake, but it is what it is. We did experience the maze and will review it like all of the others at Haunt in the weeks to come, just without pictures or video. Trapped aside, we shot tons of footage and hundreds of stills of First Night 2012, which we are excited to share with you all now!
Congratulations to the men and women of the Halloween Haunt 40th Anniversary crew! Have a truly successful run this season – and we’ll see you again soon in the fog!
– Rick West
For more information, visit http://www.knotts.com