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.

I was a kid who grew up in Southern California loving everything about Halloween and horror in general; I was never scared, and was forever begging my grandfather to take me to any and all haunted house attractions we could find in the ’70s. I came up watching the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th, and was enamored with such magazines as Famous Monsters of Filmland and then Fangoria. On a fateful night in the early ’80s, I ventured to Buena Park with a church youth group I was part of from Irvine, not knowing what “Halloween Haunt” was, although I had already become a frequent visitor of Knott’s Berry Farm by then. That first trip into the fog and darkness of Ghost Town… it started a relationship that has lasted decades; one that is very personal to me.

Over time, my relationship with Knott’s Scary Farm has grown and evolved – first as a wide-eyed young fan, then as an employee one season (shout out to Line Control), and finally as the owner of Theme Park Adventure, which has worked closely with Knott’s for the past 23 years. That’s a lot of Haunt, and a lot of really incredible memories that I cherish. TPA originated the maze flow-throughs from Knott’s, and we were the first media source to actively pursue covering “build” – which is installation of the annual event. Theme Park Adventure was the first fan site to introduce other haunt enthusiasts around the world to Scary Farm via YouTube, and our coverage has continued to grow and change as the years go by. As the Creative Director of Midsummer Scream, my own relationship with Knott’s and the amazing people behind Haunt as taken on a new dimension that is very satisfying and extremely exciting to me. Knott’s Scary Farm – or Halloween Haunt – has been a huge part of my life personally and professionally for a long time. Understanding the history of the Scary Farm only increases my appreciation for it. It was the original. It sparked an entire industry. It’s more than just an event or a place; it’s part of our DNA. It’s the foundation of the haunt community in Southern California and beyond.

Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 was a big milestone for the event – its 45th season. Let that sink in for a moment. 45 years. Many Theme Park Adventure fans weren’t even alive when monsters began stalking their victims on Ghost Town’s streets. I consider myself a seasoned Haunt fan – and I was only three years-old when it began in 1973. Back in the day, Knott’s Scary Farm was in its infancy – the originators of the event had no idea or intention of setting off a chain reaction that would lead to theme parks all over the world following in their footsteps. Yet, that is exactly what transpired, and for 45 years, Knott’s has been a shining example of a simple idea that turned into something absolutely incredible.

One of the biggest components of Knott’s Scary Farm is its entertainment offerings. From small stage performances to large-scale, complex productions, fans have seen it all at Knott’s for the past 45 years. For 21 of those years, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has taken up residence in the big venue – currently known as the Charles M. Schulz Theatre – where she’s sung, danced, made one or two boob jokes, and generally became synonymous with Knott’s Scary Farm. Seeing Elvira perform at Knott’s has basically become a rite of passage for generations of Haunt fans; during the course of her performances at Knott’s, there is no question that Elvira became an institution (that’s “institution”, of course) in her own right. This year marked her final performances at Knott’s, drawing huge crowds to see her one last time as Haunt’s headliner, and the show – titled “Elvira – Mistress of the Dark” – completely played the nostalgia card without being sappy or overdone.

Elvira’s show was by far, the best we have seen in a long time. The set design was on point (shout out to Daniel Miller), it sounded great (shout out to Rob Perez), the writing was solid and funny, and the dancers were fantastic. In recent years, fans have noted that Elvira seemed to have less and less stage time – whether it be for costume changes, or simply to rest. This year, the Mistress of the Dark had a lot of stage presence, which was greatly appreciated. There was a lot of lip syncing taking place during her songs – more so than in the past; but honestly, no one cared – it’s obvious that she and Knott’s simply wanted the show to look and sound flawless, which it did. Cassandra Peterson is 66 years old; she is stunning, and absolutely works it on stage – she really is timeless, and has been apparently blessed with good health. The “respectful” cat calls from her audiences say it all – after all these years, Elvira is still hot, and people love her!

During the show, Elvira took to her famous couch and presented a video chronicling her “rise to mediocrity”, which was both amusing and definitely a heartfelt nostalgic nod for her fans. ’80s-style songs made up the various musical numbers, and the finale incorporated the theatre’s long-defunct water curtain, which was repaired specifically for Elvira’s final run at Knott’s Scary Farm. The Macabre-Mobile from her movie even made an appearance this year on stage! It was a tremendous production, and everyone involved should feel especially proud; Elvira’s send-off was perfect.

We were there at Knott’s Scary Farm for Elvira’s final performance of the season; it was the first time we have spent Halloween at the Scary Farm in a long time. We specifically came to see Elvira’s last show – it was an important moment in the history of Haunt that we weren’t about to miss. There were many other hard core Elvira and Haunt fans in attendance as well – the theatre was just about packed, which is pretty rare for an 11:30pm show on Halloween night in the middle of the week. She drove out onto the stage to thunderous applause and performed her first number. Following the routine, Elvira went off-script for a bit, taking the time to thank her team, as well as Knott’s Scary Farm. It was the farewell dialogue we all hoped would happen, and it was completely sincere and emotional. As her acknowledgements wrapped up, she almost got choked up – but being a true pro, Cassandra laughed it off, and snapped right back into character, moving the show along back on track. At the conclusion, she was given a bouquet of roses, and once again, everyone in the theatre cheered while giving her a standing ovation. It was a powerful moment – one that I will always remember fondly; the closing of an incredible chapter in the Scary Farm story.

Our good friends at Parks and Cons were with us for the occasion, and recorded Elvira’s final performance at Knott’s in its entirety. Click here to check it out!

The other major show at Knott’s that fans flock to by the thousands is The Hanging, an annual send-up of everyone and everything in pop culture (for better or worse). Much like the Scary Farm itself, The Hanging began as something very small – a midnight witch hanging that evolved and exploded into a large-scale production on Calico Stage in the middle of the park that includes a complex soundtrack, incredibly fast-paced script, stunt work, and live pyro that usually leaves crowds cheering. I say “usually”, because some years have arguably been better than others. In the case of Scary Farm 2017, it was a solid hit; the show had some of the funniest moments I have seen in The Hanging in years, including a Beauty and the Beast spoof between Putin and Trump that was nothing shy of amazing (sung by Hillary Clinton, naturally). Considering the circus that is our current White House administration, there were no shortage of jokes written for this year’s show, which was titled, “The Hanging: Fake Noose”. There were Trump tweets, Russian love jokes, and in the end, everything was Obama’s fault – thanks, Obama! What Knott’s doesn’t do, is insinuate the President or any government official actually gets harmed or hung during the show. In the early 2000s, The Hanging featured a skit in which Hillary Clinton “beat up” President Bill Clinton; while audiences found it amusing, Washington did not. Knott’s was contacted by the Secret Service, and that… was that. The show was immediately altered, and ever since, Knott’s has avoided going there regardless how politically-charged the climate may be any given year. So no… Trump wasn’t hung this year; instead, it was the teen that makes everyone’s blood boil – Danielle Bregoli, the “Catch Me Outside” brat whose outrageous antics and disrespectful ghettotude have earned her a following on YouTube and beyond.

Again as our time to cover Knott’s Scary Farm was very tight this year, we did not personally shoot The Hanging. However, our friends at Parks and Cons did, and you can view The Hanging: Fake Noose in its entirety by clicking here.

There were four major talking points at Haunt this year: Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater, Trick or Treat: Lights Out, and Halloween Hootenanny. I want to get into those in a bit more detail shortly as the focus of this story, as discussion is definitely warranted.

Additionally, Red Barn returned this year with some more tweaks, and was really solid. In fact, all of the mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 were on point, and none of them felt lacking, really. Dated, perhaps – but lacking, no. Voodoo was given a little dose of newness, as the guest flow was reversed, making the exit its entrance; it worked very well, and added a whole new dimension to one of the older offerings now at Haunt. Tooth Fairy received a live character at the end – which seemed well-received by fans and guests. Shadow Lands was touched-up and the front end of it extended through the forest a bit more, adding to the experience. Paranormal, Inc. remained virtually the same as last year’s incarnation – the same as Infected; however, those two attractions are so hugely popular and good as-is, that the Farm was wise not to spend any extra time or resources changing those things out for the 2017 run.

So, let’s talk Dark Ride, which seems to be just about everyone’s favorite new maze at Haunt. As the design lead on Dark Ride, Jon Cooke has rapidly established himself as a key asset to Knott’s, and a fan favorite, for sure. After bringing such attractions to life at Haunt as Infected, Paranormal, Inc., Shadow Lands, and now Dark Ride, Jon has proven that he’s not a one hit wonder; he has a vision of what he wants to see at Knott’s and he goes after it with focus and ambition that has to be admired. Dark Ride didn’t disappoint at all – and was easily one of the best overall attractions we encountered anywhere this past Halloween season. The concept is simple – guests enter a decrepit old dark ride on the outskirts of the Boardwalk area of Knott’s. Over the years, vagrants – and much more sinister individuals – have taken up residence in the ride’s various rooms, including maintenance and back of house spaces. The only way out is to push on through the ride’s bowels, where you come face-to-face with the inhabitants of the ruins.

Dark Ride is complex, and its attention to detail is pretty stunning. Not only is there a very realistic ride path throughout (which was a pain in the ass to manufacture to the point of looking legitimate), the entire soundscape is complex, with power surges affecting the sound effects and even the tempo/flow of the music. I’d be remiss not to take a moment and call out Dan Bieranowski for his fantastic work on Dark Ride’s soundscape; it’s one thing to mix a maze to sound good – it’s another thing entirely to mix sound to be degraded and failing. Dan did an exemplary job, and should be incredibly proud of his handiwork in this case.

The level of design detail throughout Dark Ride really is what we’ve come to expect from all new Haunt mazes, regardless of who the lead creative is at Knott’s. As with all things in themed entertainment, guests expect a high-definition experience these days when it comes to attractions anywhere. I firmly believe this is why fans laud haunt mazes that are incredibly well-detailed, and are critical of those that are lacking. The theme park audience has become incredibly sophisticated. More than ever, haunted attractions at the major theme parks are under a microscope, and it’s no longer okay to say, “Well, it’s just the hard cores that are being critical.” It’s everyone, and it should be expected. High praise from fans these days is substantial – and in the case of Dark Ride, Knott’s should understand that this is an endorsement of the creative team behind this particular maze. And those responsible for it should be appreciated by the company for what they’ve accomplished.

For me, the greatest “wow” aspect of Dark Ride is its last scene. By the time you wander through the different show sets, “backstage areas”, and maintenance bays, the final scene opens up and is expansive – much bigger than any finale I have ever seen at Knott’s (or elsewhere, for that matter). The finale of Dark Ride is filled with ride vehicles, props, and menacing characters all around you and above you, coming at you from all directions; it’s awesome and definitely one of the most memorable, “Holy crap!” moments of Halloween 2017.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Dark Ride will be around for years to come. The maze is fantastic, and already a fan favorite in the way we’ve seen other mazes in the past at Knott’s adored. In just its first year, Dark Ride has taken its place with such beloved and revered mazes as Doll Factory, Dominion of the Dead, and 13 Axe Murder Manor. There’s no doubt about it – Knott’s has a winner here, and I add my name to the list of fans who say Dark Ride is their favorite Scary Farm maze of 2017. Kudos to Jon and the team on a job very well done.

Trick or Treat; Lights Out this year was a new twist on a maze that is loved by fans, but has been losing steam at Haunt over the past couple of years. Rather than alter major scenes or portions of the maze to give it a refresher, Cooke and the team engaged Gantom to use the company’s popular Torch technology. For those who missed it, the Gantom Torch is a lighting tool that has been embraced by the haunt community – it is a handheld flashlight of sorts, that is pre-programmed to react at certain spots in any number of ways – vibrating, changing color, switching to blacklight, or simply flickering and turning off for seconds at a time. The tech is there, and haunts all over have been playing with this new “toy”. When used correctly, the Gantom Torch is actually pretty effective (trying not to sound like a commercial here, because this isn’t). But Knott’s did far more than turn out the lights and put flashlights in guests’ hands. The whole vibe and aesthetic of Trick or Treat has been altered. What was once a very stylized, vintage Halloween maze (with modern horror and gore mixed in as a counterbalance) is now a dark, ominous incarnation of its past. The exterior façade of Trick or Treat was once a bright, almost cartoonish Victorian-style home. Now, it’s a dark, decrepit manor, with only flashes of lightning illuminating it. Inside, there have been some scene changes, but it features a new soundtrack that also alters the entire mood of the experience beautifully.

I have to say that Trick or Treat has been way up there on my personal favorites list at Knott’s. Altering it so much has lost that vibe I really fell in love with when the maze first debuted in 2012. That said, I see Trick or Treat now as a logical “sequel” to its predecessor. It feels like 20-30 years have gone by, and this is how the house is now – dark, run-down, with its corrupt inhabitants still inside, serving under the Green Witch’s spell. It’s very familiar (that was a witch joke), but different enough to feel newish in the Scary Farm lineup. I don’t think this new twist will give Trick or Treat years of longevity at Haunt, but I do think it’ll extend the maze another year or so; I wouldn’t be surprised to see it return in 2018. It was well-received, and so I think the demand is still there to keep it around another season or two.

The other new maze that also was a heavy hitter this year, was Pumpkin Eater. With veteran designer Daniel Miller calling the shots on this one, it is no surprise that Pumpkin Eater is a brutal, twisted visual trek through the world of a serial killer who carves womens’ faces up like Jack O’Lanterns, while doing other ghastly things to them. There is also a bit of abstract artistic license with the maze, as guests find themselves walking through a huge pumpkin, with giant seeds and stringy wet “guts” hanging down. There is also a larger-than-life thorny vine section of the maze that guests must pass through as the story of the Pumpkin Eater plays out. Daniel’s design is fantastic, from the really impressive façades lining the queue area, to the implementation of dripping water inside the massive pumpkin.

One of the things I really love about Pumpkin Eater is its dimensionality. As you pass through the maze, you can see through certain scenes into others – the same way we could with Endgames years ago. I really like that in a design, and Pumpkin Eater pulls that off nicely. The maze also features an outdoor area that is extremely reminiscent of the old Cornstalkers attraction; that’s not a bad thing, as both of those old mazes hold fond memories for me. So while Pumpkin Eater is new this year – it feels somewhat familiar. Also, anything Daniel does is always good – he’s long been one of my favorite designers in the industry, and his contributions to Knott’s Scary Farm are legendary.

Like Dark Ride and CarnEVIL, Pumpkin Eater goes hand-in-hand with The Hollow, Scary Farm’s after dark alter ego of Camp Snoopy. I love that cohesion and integration much more than the Haunt mazes that are all clustered together behind GhostRider; I get why they’re there – but I am not a fan – never have been. I prefer the surrounding area to serve as a foundation/build-up to a maze, assisting with the storytelling aspect of the overall experience. That’s exactly what Dan’s done here with this design, and I love the hell out of it. There’s no way this maze won’t be returning for a few more seasons of Haunt, and I welcome that. I’d say it’s one of Daniel’s most powerful maze designs ever. Considering he’s the creative that brought us nightmarish attractions such as The Asylum, Delirium, and Tooth Fairy, that says a lot. Miller is a master of his craft, and has knocked it out of the park with Pumpkin Eater. This is definitely a next-level maze the same as we have been seeing coming online in recent years at Knott’s, upping the overall quality – and value – of Scary Farm as a whole. Kudos to Daniel and the team on another gritty, seriously twisted addition to the Haunt lineup that we get to enjoy for years to come!

One of the biggest surprises of Scary Farm 2017 was the reinstatement of the Timber Mountain Log Ride back into the Halloween lineup of haunted attractions at the Farm. Throughout the season the classic Log Ride featured a major overlay, which was called the Halloween Hootenanny. While the change was made mainly for the park’s Knott’s Spooky Farm daytime operations, the ride remained in operation at night when Haunt started, with the addition of live talent once again on the mountain scaring riders as they passed in their logs. This is substantial, and guests absolutely loved it. And as far as overlays go, the Halloween Hootenanny was absolutely stunning. Within the ride, Knott’s added special projection effects and significant props, along with set decorations and a Green Witch animatronic figure on the lift hill before the thrilling splash-down drop at the end.

Soundscape is important in any experience, and the Halloween Hootenanny featured a fantastic one, complete with newly-recorded music and an underlying song, featuring the wildly-popular Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies performance group. The soundtrack for the attraction is carried throughout the ride in different incarnations, exactly like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion at Disney. Huge props to Knott’s for doing this, and doing it extremely well.

It’s been years since there was any significant Halloween overlay to the attraction following its major renovation in spring of 2013. I’ll straight-up say that Theme Park Adventure has gone on record over the years, taking the unpopular stance that the Log Ride and Mine Ride attractions should be left out of the Halloween lineup due to the extreme wear and tear Haunt installation causes to these classic attractions. And I mean that – if these two important attractions are damaged due to being dressed for Scary Farm, or careless talent in the mountains doing harm, then they absolutely should be protected and left off-limits to Haunt overlays. However, what we saw this year proves that management not only gets it and wants to do it right – they exercised extreme care and caution in the creation of Halloween Hootenanny. The result is a new experience for guests of all ages to enjoy at Halloween during the day and during Scary Farm. It’s not “scary” as typical Haunt attractions go – but that didn’t disappoint or deter anyone from riding. This is a brilliant addition to Knott’s, and I am sure it will become a family tradition each October. Bravo!

The lifeblood of Knott’s Scary Farm are its scare zones, or “streets” as fans and employees call them. Three distinct areas of the park – Ghost Town, CarnEVIL (Boardwalk), Fiesta de los Muertos (Fiesta Village), and The Hollow (Camp Snoopy) served as the massive scare zones at Knott’s this Halloween season.

Ghost Town is special due to its historical ties to the event, and the overall ambience of Calico at Knott’s. There is nothing better than making your way through the fog-choked streets of Ghost Town as fog billows and monsters lurk in the shadows of the age-old buildings. GTS is classic Knott’s; it’s ground zero for Haunt. By default, it is hallowed ground to long-time fans of the event, and rightfully so. There is no scare zone anywhere else in the world that has so much history and importance behind it. When we walk the streets of Ghost Town at Halloween, we aren’t just part of the moment – we are part of historical evolution that matters and is important. The men and women who make up Ghost Town’s monstrous inhabitants are both veterans as well as fairly new talent; but they all realize the heft of their representation on behalf of those who came before – and who will come after. There is a very definite sense of pride that comes with being a Ghost Town monster; and for good reason. It’s a proud tradition that was executed beautifully this year at Knott’s. Ghost Town looked great, had amazing energy, and really upheld decades of incredible memories and legend.

CarnEVIL continues to be the hardest scare zone to work in, due to its massive size, and the fact that there are literally no hiding spots and the park’s lighting is bright and colorful along the Boardwalk. I’ve said it for years, and I will say it again – if you’re a clown on CarnEVIL, you have one of the toughest jobs at Knott’s, hands-down. You’re always on, there is nowhere to duck out of sight and take a breather, and guests see you coming a mile away, so the element of surprise is extremely hard to accomplish there as a monster. There was some disruption this year in the overall feel of CarnEVIL, due to the ongoing construction effort for the park’s new roller coaster, HangTime. Construction walls almost always suck – but in this case, they really did have an impact on a good portion of CarnEVIL that was hard to ignore. The talent did the best the could with what they had to work with – as they always have in this area. Our hats are off to them, because it’s got to be extremely difficult to maintain that level of “being on” all night every night. We still would like to see widespread entertainment throughout the zone – sideshow freaks, strange acts, magicians, hypnotists – to make it feel more like an inclusive, sinister experience. As it is, CarnEVIL is simply too big and bright to be scary. So rather than rely on a team of monsters to carry the weight of the entire area, it would be great to see the experience enhanced by mini stages and multiple performers throughout the night entertaining guests, while bringing an entirely new dimension to CarnEVIL.

Fiesta de los Muertos has been a work-in-progress for a couple years now, and we were really hopeful that this year, we’d finally get the dark and terrifying version it definitely could  and should be. Especially when Knott’s announced they were removing the live DJ from the area – we felt that Fiesta was going to feel much different for Scary Farm 2017. Sadly, it was decided that the live DJ would be replaced by radio stations or whatever – so once again, the ambience of the area was shattered by loud, modern music that took us right out of the moment. What kills me, is that Fiesta de los Muertos has so much potential – yet it’s all destroyed the minute a DJ or radio station sets up and music starts blaring. It’s a damn shame, because Fiesta has some great talent that we really enjoy. Sadly, it’s an uphill battle, because rather than “scare zone”, Fiesta continues to feel like “party zone” – and that is not at all what serious fans of Haunt want, or the Mexican culture the area is based on deserves. I’d give anything to have the zone populated by incredible Mexican and Latin folklore figures and creatures, with the lights dimmed and fog billowing. Imagine the soundscape of classic guitar music accented with blood-curdling wails in the darkness… the unmistakable hallmark of La Llorona. Fiesta de los Muertos could be so much better. And it’s just not. It’s disappointing every Halloween, no matter how much we hope that this year, it’ll finally be realized. So… maybe next year, right?

The Hollow has really come into its own since debuting in 2016. The scare zone takes up all of Camp Snoopy, and follows in the footsteps of The Gauntlet and Necropolis, two long-time scare zones that developed their own following of fans; especially for the Gauntlet (a.k.a. CS Streets). Featuring a heavy-duty soundscape, The Hollow totally immerses Scary Farm guests into another time and place, as Colonial-era monsters and witches lurk in the shadows just beyond the flickering light of Jack O’Lantern-type effigies with smoldering bonfires glowing within. The creatures that lurk in The Hollow are quite spooky – and the fans seem to really love it, especially this year, which saw the area truly come into its own, the way I wish Fiesta de los Muertos finally would. A super-cool aspect of The Hollow, was that there were live “show moments” throughout the night, progressing a story of local witches and witch hunters, culminating in a midnight “wicker man” type of burning; all just “pop-up” events, not scheduled on the map as shows. This is exactly what we want to see happen across the board at Knott’s Scary Farm, very much in line with the park’s award-winning Ghost Town Alive! event each summer.

Back in the day, part of the mystery and fun of Halloween Haunt was “stumbling” across little shows or dramas being played out throughout the night. Guests love intimate experiences, and so when we get small-scale “just for you” show moments, it is nothing but pure magic. Guests eat it up, the talent enjoys the break in their routine each night, and it really adds another dimension to Knott’s Scary Farm. We love The Hollow, and feel it is going to be around for a long time. Next to Ghost Town, Camp Snoopy is the perfect spot for a really badass scare zone; that’s exactly what The Hollow is, and we are absolutely stoked with it. We cannot wait to see how it continues to evolve in 2018 and beyond!

I don’t want to close out the streets discussion on a bummer, but I do need to say that we continue to really not like the “no photos” policy that Knott’s has adopted in recent years for its monsters. For decades, guests knew they could come to Haunt and be terrorized by monsters everywhere they went. They also knew that if asked nicely, those monsters would pause and take fun photos with fans – which in later years, meant nothing but great social media advertisement for Knott’s. Sadly, it seems those days are gone, and guests are left standing there feeling stupid if they happen to ask their favorite street monster for a selfie. I hate that. I hate that so bad. I understand why Knott’s has gone down this road (although the initial excuse of “It’s what Universal does” really chapped my ass), but I still disagree and hate it with every fiber of my Haunt-loving being. People who come to Knott’s Scary Farm know the scare actors aren’t really monsters. There’s no illusion to break by taking photos for a moment. There’s no suspension of disbelief ruined. However, there is a fine line between taking pictures with guests, and slacking off and socializing with guests – especially when so many of those guests are now passholders and friends of the talent. So I get it. Begrudgingly, I get it. What Knott’s did do this year to alleviate some of that, was to put “show monsters” at various locations across the park, such as a ghostly conductor next to a steam engine in Calico Square; not only did it make for a fantastic photo op – it was just one of those “extras” that makes Haunt so damn cool and special.

This story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning what I thought was the absolute weakest component of this milestone year for Knott’s. The merchandise sucked. I can’t be anything but blunt about something so glaringly bad at an event that was otherwise, just about perfect this year. This was Scary Farm 45, and you’d never have known it by looking at their horrible merch offerings. For whatever reason, and I have my own theories, Knott’s completely shied away from the fact that this was 45 for them – something I would have pounded my war drum loud and constantly about. Having been an industry originator and leader for 45 freakin’ years – you have to be proud as hell of that accomplishment. You have to play that up with everything you’ve got. Instead, Knott’s decided not to so much as whisper that it was year 45. A really, really regrettable mistake in my opinion. Someone did order some retro merch – and most of that disappeared opening week and was never replenished. That boggles the mind. If Knott’s doesn’t understand the power of their history and long-time fan base, I’ve seriously got to question those in charge of something as important as merchandising. How could they not know fans would buy retro stuff the minute it hit the shelves? More so, how could they not be prepared to restock and replenish said retro merch immediately? It’s maddening. Instead, we got bland, run-of-the-mill merchandise options that were about as creative as the crap people make on Oh, and there was a tie-dyed Haunt shirt available. WHO IN THE HELL WANTS TYE-DYED ANYTHING IN 2017!? Ugh! Hello! Is this thing on!?

Knott’s has amazing designers. Knott’s has incredible creative talent working for them in many capacities. Why they wouldn’t let those folks go to town creating and submitting shirt ideas or mug designs is beyond me. Instead, it appears that an outside firm is hired to create the merch – and what we got this year was the worst assortment of crap we’ve seen in quite a while. I was hard-pressed to cough up $20 for a shirt I really didn’t care for, when I originally went opening night preparing to spend a ton of money on really badass Scary Farm 45 merch. There should have been anniversary artwork, old maze props, limited edition merch – the works! For an event where everything else was so right and so good this year, I cannot even rant hard enough about how disappointing and amateur the merchandising of the event was; it was pathetic and something really should be done to ensure that never happens again. Pro tip: Haunt 50 is coming in 2022… plan ahead. No excuses. None. The legacy of Haunt deserves better. Fans want better. Please get it right in the years to come. These milestone years only happen once – they are too precious for someone to fumble like this.

So that’s it! It was a long time coming (too long, frankly), but there are my thoughts on Knott’s Scary Farm 2017. Rather than “review” I like to think of this as a reflection on the event through the eyes of someone who’s grown up with it and loves it on a personal and professional level. Huge love and congratulations to all who had a part in bringing Haunt 45 to fruition. And you know what? Huge love and unending gratitude to everyone who has ever worked Knott’s Scary Farm in any capacity because you are part of this moment 45 years in the making. Without each and every person who’s worked in some capacity on Haunt, it wouldn’t be what it is today – every single person has had an impact great or small on shaping this event into what it’s become.

This year, Knott’s Scary Farm was special. We remembered fallen friends as we walked the streets of Ghost Town, and we consoled one another as others unexpectedly passed this season. Haunt was about 45 years of family – a special, bonded community of employees, creators, and fans. Unique and beautiful, complicated and storied. We love Knott’s passionately, and found this year to be very emotional. Scary Farm 2017 is in the books and was a grand-slam of an event that drew the attention 0f fans near and far. We are all so very lucky to have Knott’s in our own backyards. It is a living, thriving entity that evolves and advances through the years, delighting people of all ages and walks. It’s inspirational. It’s unique. It’s Halloween.

It’s simply… Haunt.

  • Rick West

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Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 TPA 4K POV Flow-Through Videos:

Knott’s Scary Farm 2017 Image Gallery:

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