Knott’s Haunt 2013 Scare School

Scare School is something that has become a right of passage at Knott’s Berry Farm as the park is transformed each September into the Scary Farm. As elaborate mazes and shows are erected, hundreds of seasonal employees are hired to become terrifying creatures of the night. However, to truly be monsters, all of the employees that Knott’s hires for its Halloween Haunt event must be trained by a veteran team of managers that know exactly what it takes to be a denizen of the mazes and scare zones.

actor2Theme Park Adventure was invited to go behind the scenes with Brooke Walters, Supervisor of Design at Knott’s Berry Farm, and Daniel Miller, senior Halloween Haunt designer, along with fellow crew members and the incoming teams for two of the event’s brand new mazes for the 2013 season – Dominion of the Damned, and Black Magic. For several hours, TPA was able to capture several pep talks, walk through these two new mazes and witness men and women being transformed into Scary Farm monsters right before our eyes!

Every haunted attraction has some form of formal training for its team; in the case of Knott’s Berry Farm, this is called “Scare School” and it’s something that the company takes very seriously. Veteran Haunt representatives welcome incoming talent and show them the ropes, giving them some very useful pointers along the way. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to come up with a persona for his or her monster – after they are placed by the Haunt team in their maze positions and have received some basic Scare School training.

It’s not as easy at you might think; to simply become a “monster” without a mask or make-up, costume, or even show lighting – is a challenge. For some, it comes easy; they can switch on their wild side and become whatever horrible creature they wish. For others, it is a real challenge – which the Halloween Haunt team recognizes, and immediately focuses on so that every member of a maze crew is successful in whatever spot he or she is given.

While Scare School is a crash course in becoming a Scary Farm monster, it’s definitely a very interesting and effective way that Knott’s prepares its massive Haunt team to hit the ground running come opening night. Brooke Walters typically is the instructor during Scare School, drawing on her own experience as a veteran street monster from years past. Her ability to get each group fired up and into their roles quickly and successful is something really unique to witness in person – something that TPA has captured as best we can on video for our two Scare School 2013 videos.

A summary of the night, so that you may better understand the content we have for you from Scare School:

dominion1Dominion of the Damned is the newly-redone vampire maze, replacing Dominion of the Dead from 2012 behind Ghost Town. Once media arrived at the maze, Scare School was well underway; we literally only had one chance to walk through Dominion. I was solo during the event, so I had to make the tough decision between video and still photos. I opted to shoot video and pull still images from the HD video; not ever my first choice, but with only one chance at a walk-through, I knew video is really important to demonstrate what Scare School is and capture the moment perfectly. To make matters even more tricky, the media was only able to shoot a portion of Dominion of the Damned, which is why the actual maze footage is so brief. In short, Dominion is a really well-done maze, definitely not the same as last year’s similar attraction, and definitely more sinister than most of Haunt’s more recent vampire mazes. Once the soundtrack comes on and the show lighting takes effect, it’s going to be a really great maze this year.

Black Magic is the latest entry into the Haunt lineup from veteran designer Daniel Miller (Delirium, Asylum) and it replaces Uncle Bobo’s Big Top of the Bizarre, located behind Xcelerator in the Carnevil zone of Halloween Haunt. Based on the legend of Houdini, Black Magic is stunning – gorgeous design and awesome soundtrack combine to make what is surely one of Haunt’s most powerful experiences of 2013! We had much longer to walk through and shoot this maze, which was also very close to being completely finished, so we got to enjoy it with show lighting and soundtrack on. Guests are going to love this maze – and our Scare School video gives you a sweet taste of what to expect once Halloween Haunt opens for business!

IMG_5750The enthusiasm of the talent hired to work these mazes is infectious, and it was fantastic witnessing them coming face to face with their mazes for the first time (one of the coolest things we caught on video in Black Magic). Men and women alike got into the groove almost instantly; many TPAers were in the mix – something that I got a huge kick out of (keep your eyes peeled for some of them in the videos) and was really proud of; they did great! I cannot wait to see both of these teams in full swing once Halloween Haunt begins; it’s looking to be a really strong year in Buena Park.

These images and videos were shot fairly guerilla style, not at all as polished as our official maze flow-throughs or still images we shoot once Haunt has started. The purpose of inviting the media to Scare School is to let the public see the behind the scenes wheels in motion behind one of the greatest Halloween events in the world – Knott’s Scary Farm!

– Rick West

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