On the evening of August 31st, thousands of fans flocked to Knott’s Berry Farm for its annual Scary Farm reveal event, where the veil is lifted and every aspect of Halloween Haunt is discussed in detail by the designers and park management. The Scary Farm 2017 lineup was met with great enthusiasm and genuine excitement; as well it should be, because what Knott’s has planned for this year is very impressive.
Theme Park Adventure was there, and we have all of it right here for you – the event in its entirety as it appeared on our Periscope live stream, a media-only Q&A discussion following the presentation, and our own exclusive discussions with many of the key creators of Knott’s Scary Farm in a 40-minute one-on-one video that no fan is going to want to miss!
Let’s get right into it as we reiterate what Knott’s announced and share our own thoughts along the way!
Special Ops: Infected – Last year, Knott’s took this experience to a whole new level… by scaling it down! One of the most unique and impressive evolutions in the entirety of Knott’s Scary Farm, Infected began years ago as an area-wide attraction that consumed all of Camp Snoopy each evening, turning it into a military battle zone where Special Ops forces and terrifying zombies clashed regularly, putting Haunt guests in the middle of the action. It was a juggernaut of an addition to Scary Farm, but it was plagued with challenges that never seemed quite resolved, resulting in huge wait times and literally 1/4 of the theme park being taken out of the equation when it came to guest circulation. In 2016, Special Ops: Infected debuted as an interactive maze, and was re-worked into the footprint that has housed some of Scary Farm’s most impressive attractions, including 13 Axe Murder Manor, Terror of London, and Forevermore. Armed with high-power assault weapons (high-tech laser guns), guests are thrown into a hellish cityscape where zombies lurk and lunge from every shadow. Reducing the size of this particular experience and fitting it all into a large maze footprint was one of the most genius things we’ve ever encountered at Haunt. We loved Special Ops: Infected 2016; we know that we’re going to enjoy the hell out of it this year, too! Head shots only!
Shadow Lands – An incredibly interesting and detailed maze, Shadow Lands was the new 2016 offering from Scary Farm’s principal designer, Jon Cooke. The hype behind this Japanese-themed attraction was extremely intense, mostly due to Jon’s strong track record of bringing Haunt mazes to the next level at Knott’s in recent years; rightfully so, in this case. Shadow Lands 2016 was a haunting journey through the Japanese spirit world, and was both terrifying and beautiful, design-wise. With a pulsed show moment at the beginning, Shadow Lands felt more like an event in its own right – with a huge queue most of the time as a result. However, everyone wanted to see “the next big thing” at Scary Farm, and they weren’t left disappointed! This year, Shadow Lands has been refreshed with some new show components that Jon promises will be extremely satisfying to fans. We can’t wait to see for ourselves!
Paranormal, Inc. – Yet another Jon Cooke maze, Paranormal, Inc. melted everyone’s minds when it debuted in 2015. Stunning environments, a strong backstory, frightening show moments – Paranormal, Inc. has it all, and has remained one of the most popular attractions at Knott’s Scary Farm. While not much changed in Paranormal, Inc. 2016, the maze was still a crowd-pleaser and drew thousands into the Hayden Hill Sanitarium each night. This year, the paranormal investigations into strange goings on continue, as Paranormal, Inc. returns to the Scary Farm for its third season. While we’re not expecting any major changes to the sets and scenes guests traverse on this dark journey, it has been confirmed that the demon creatures from last year’s Zozo Skeleton Key attraction will be joining the denizens of darkness deep within the nightmarish world of Paranormal, Inc. Monster upgrades are always welcome, and while most casual Haunt guests won’t pick up on this, it’s a nice touch that the hard core fans will totally appreciate and enjoy!
The Red Barn – The ghastly creation of both Gus Krueger and Daniel Miller, The Red Barn made its debut last year at Knott’s Scary Farm, and we had a blast experiencing it each time we went through! A throwback to the more “simple” mazes that Knott’s fans fell in love with in the ’80s and ’90s, The Red Barn is a bloody mix of extremely disturbing vignettes of torture and violence, and a badass in-your-face haunt experience that had people screaming, cowering in corners, and stumbling forward in the darkness in an attempt to find their way out of this particular nightmare. Some folks felt that it felt cheap – not on par with the new mazes that Knott’s has been churning out these days. I can see where they’re coming from in that regard. I would counter that not every maze needs to be on the level of Shadow Lands or Paranormal, Inc. Sometimes, just like with horror movies, you just want something nasty, violent, and fun. To me, that’s exactly what The Red Barn is, while also feeling somewhat nostalgic in a way; a flashback to the way Haunt used to be. Personally, I dig that. This year, The Red Barn will feature more story, along with pulsed groups for a more terrifying “Holy shit, we’re alone!” feeling, and much to the approval of Scary Farm fans, judging by the applause received, the maze will feature real chainsaws to heighten the intensity in 2017!
The Tooth Fairy – One of the gnarliest mazes ever at Knott’s Scary Farm, The Tooth Fairy is dark in every way, as guests venture into the shocking realm of the fabled creature, to see what happens to boys and girls who try to break the rules and catch a glimpse of the vengeful little sprite. This is a Daniel Miller maze through and through; by that, I mean it is really dark in content and show lighting, over-the-top violent, and incredibly graphic when it comes to gore and “taboo” subject matter. Daniel really is the “gore master” when it comes to Knott’s Scary Farm. The Tooth Fairy has aged nicely at Haunt, with minor tweaks coming each year. 2017 will be no different, as the Tooth Fairy itself is going to appear in the harrowing finale scene not as a large animatronic, but this time as a living character! No doubt, The Tooth Fairy will continue to be a huge draw to Scary Farm 2017.
Voodoo – Order of the Serpent – One of the longest-running mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm, Voodoo is a crowd-pleaser, for certain. It’s sheer scope and scale continue to impress guests each Halloween, with little-to-no change being done physically to the show since its debut in 2014. That changes this year, with a complete reversal of guest flow through the entire maze. Visitors will enter the realm of Papa Legba through an Louisiana graveyard crypt, where they will see the swamp and several bayou shacks beyond the foliage. That will take guests past ancient Voodoo rituals being performed, and then to the back alleys of New Orleans, where the sinister feeling remains to hang heavy in the air. Mardi Gras revelry surrounds guests as ominous figures lurk in the shadows. Friend, foe, or something else? That is going to be the beauty and mystery of Voodoo this year at Knott’s Scary Farm. The idea of reversing the flow of the maze – and in turn, its story – is fascinating; I don’t believe this has ever been done in the history of Haunt. It’s going to be really interesting to see how much this actually changes the entire experience.
NEW MAZES FOR 2017
Dark Ride – This one has lit up the Internet and social media since it was announced. Jon Cooke’s latest endeavor for Scary Farm, Dark Ride will take up residence in the Boardwalk Ballroom, which has been the home of Dead of Winter for the past two seasons of Haunt (yeah, only two seasons – poor Dead of Winter). Tied directly into the CarnEVIL scare zone, we think this is a really exciting choice and direction. As you can imagine, the name spells it out – guests will venture into a long-abandoned dark ride that was once the home of happy clowns and goofy gags. Now, after being forgotten and neglected, the Dark Ride is the home of tortured freaks and humorless clowns; it’s their place – and they deal with anyone who intrudes in their own way.
The theme is simple but badass, and the idea of venturing into a dilapidated old ride where evildoers lurk in the shadows – what’s not to love!? The only concern I have here, is that people are going to be expecting a ride – simply because of the name of the maze. We’ve already seen the confusion online, despite the fact that the design team and all of the documentation for it clearly states that this is a new maze. However, people will be people, and they’ll find out soon enough. Personally, we can’t wait – and if Jon’s previous Haunt mazes are any indicator… Dark Ride is going to be the one to beat for 2017!
Pumpkin Eater – This is the other biggie this year, and it’s a brand-new Daniel Miller design! Pumpkin Eater takes guests into the nightmarish darkness of The Hollow scare zone, and into the world of a legendary creature that thirsts for human blood. We are promised a harrowing journey through a silent town of victims, a cave crawling with insects, and a labyrinth lined with thorns; sounds like an amazing night at the Scary Farm, doesn’t it? This very well could be the dark horse of this year’s Haunt; Daniel’s last several mazes have been very strong, including the fan favorite, Black Magic.
The Knott’s design team has intentionally worked both Pumpkin Eater and Dark Ride into the themes of the scare zones that they reside in, which is a really positive move. It signals that the company is really stepping back and asking themselves how they can plus the Scary Farm, while at the same time completely reinforcing the stories being told. We’re all for that, and are really excited to see Pumpkin Eater come to fruition. We’ve been big fans of Daniel’s for years; this maze is the next step in his undeniable legacy at Knott’s Scary Farm.
Trick or Treat: Lights Out – Something “old” has been made new again at Knott’s, and everyone is really excited about it. Trick or Treat has gotten a complete makeover, and while it retains some of the feeling and charm that guests have fallen in love with since its stellar debut in 2012 during the 40th Haunt season. Since then, fans have looked forward each Halloween to ringing the doorbell of the Green Witch’s house, and venturing in as the door swings open. The vintage style and design of Trick or Treat really appeal with fans; of any of the Scary Farm attractions, this is the one that screams “Halloween”.
Now, whether or not much of the vintage look remains this year is yet to be seen; we won’t know until we know. The preview trailer and artwork seem to indicate that the overall feel of Trick or Treat may have been drastically changed to make it more terrifying and contemporary in style. The true focus is the fact that guests will be going through Trick or Treat this year with only small flashlights to light their way; and of course, those flashlights, featuring Gantom Torch technology, will be programmed to fail at the worst possible times for maximum terror. We’ve seen this tech used elsewhere, and when it’s done correctly, it can be pretty effective. There are some capacity concerns we have – but we’ll wait and see how throughput is affected at Haunt by depending on this technology, rather than traditional mazes where guests are pulsed through every few moments. Trick or Treat may not be the maze we’ve come to love anymore – but having this new iteration of it is certainly something we are very excited and curious about.
Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny – Perhaps one of the biggest surprises coming out of Knott’s this year, is that the Timber Mountain Log Ride is once again going to be utilized as a Scary Farm attraction. The last time the classic attraction was used, it appeared as Sleepy Hollow Mountain for Haunt 2011. Due to critical maintenance needs, Knott’s just about gutted the attraction and returned it to its full working glory in 2013. In the years to follow, the Timber Mountain Log Ride was purposely kept out of the Haunt matrix of attractions. That all changes this year, as the Log Ride returns to the Scary Farm lineup for both daytime and nighttime operations as the Halloween Hootenanny! During the day, the attraction will feature spooky fun vignettes fairly safe for the whole family. When darkness falls and the fog flows through Calico, the mountain takes on a more sinister persona with live talent waiting along the flume in the shadows! One of the coolest aspects of the Hootenanny is an original soundtrack and song, featuring Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies, which have become a Knott’s staple. We’re definitely excited about this new attraction, and look forward to seeing – and hearing it this Halloween season!
This year, Knott’s Scary Farm will feature four distinct scare zones – large portions of the theme park that are inhabited by unspeakable creatures and nightmarish characters.
In the early ’70s, Knott’s inadvertently invented the first “scare zone” when they unleashed live talent dressed in costumes on Ghost Town streets to terrorize and torment guests coming to Halloween Haunt. That proud tradition continues in 2017 with the return of Ghost Town Streets, where some of the Scary Farm’s most veteran monsters can be found, lurking in the shadows. Personally, this has always been my favorite scare zone at Haunt; nothing beats the show lighting on the Ghost Town building façades, the dense fog, the sound of wind howling through the streets, and the nearly-tangible history that hangs heavy in the air. In the past 23 years of Theme Park Adventure’s existence, we’ve seen some truly iconic monsters roaming GTS. We look forward to seeing old friends and exciting new faces this year in Calico!
Fiesta De Los Muertos returns to the Fiesta Village area of the park for 2017, with the promise of it being more terrifying than ever before. Until now, Fiesta de los Muertos has been more of a cultural “party” than anything else, despite roaming monsters away from the dance floor space. Knott’s has apparently done away with the nightly DJ and dancing, and instead, is going balls-out scary, which we applaud. The talent that they have had in Fiesta the past couple of years has been really good – just completely underwhelming due to the number of monsters roaming the area versus dancing and mingling with people in front of the DJ stage. It’s going to be really cool to see what Fiesta feels and looks like, now that the dance party is gone. We’re all for more scaring and less dancing at Haunt. Mexican and Latin American cultures have some amazing spooky lore, which Knott’s has tapped into in the past – it would be great to see that really explored more if they’re bent on making Fiesta de los Muertos noticeably more terrifying this year. Maybe then for 2018, we can see a properly-themed maze like the amazing Dia de los Muertos return to Scary Farm and be worked into that area. We can only hope!
CarnEVIL returns to the Boardwalk section of Knott’s once again, with clowns and oddities galore! This is a huge area of the park, and can be really hit-or-miss, depending on when you visit and what time of night you pass through the zone. The talent in this particular zone have a really difficult job, since it’s usually well-lit, and there are few places to hide; you can generally see the killer clowns coming from a long way off. We’re always impressed by their energy and innovative scare tactics in CarnEVIL. Be sure to pass through several times throughout the evening – you’ll see some pretty amazing things!
After a somewhat lackluster debut last year, The Hollow returns to Camp Snoopy for 2017. This year, however, it sounds like Knott’s has really focused its attention on this spooky, “Halloween” zone. Guests will be caught in the middle of several embattled witch covens, with a story that evolves throughout the night – a story with what sounds like will be different outcomes. This will speak directly to the hard core fans who have Haunt passes, and will be attending multiple nights during the 2017 run. For all intents and purposes, it sounds like The Hollow just might be a scaled-down, spooked-up version of what Knott’s has perfected with Ghost Town Alive!, which would be utterly incredible. Fans should expect new props, more area development, and much more there there when they visit The Hollow this year. We’re really looking forward to seeing this zone and how Knott’s has plussed it for Haunt.
The Hanging: Fake Noose! – Once again, the good citizens of Calico will have a question to answer: ARE YOU READY FOR A HANGING!? We certainly are, and can’t imagine what the team behind the pop culture mega-spectacle will ever draw inspiration from this year!
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – During Knott’s Scary Farm’s presentation at this year’s Midsummer Scream convention in Long Beach, it was announced that 2017 would be Elvira’s final year performing on stage at Haunt. This is a big deal, considering Elvira has been Scary Farm’s headliner for years – since many of us were kids and some of us weren’t even born yet! While her run at Knott’s has not been continuous, she is very definitely forever a solid component of the Scary Farm story. Expect a different type of show this year at Knott’s; more nostalgia than costume changes and lengthy dance numbers. For fans of Elvira, this is likely going to be rather emotional. It will also be surreal to attend the very last show on Halloween night; TPA will be there to see her reign at Knott’s come to a close, marking the first time we have actually spent October 31st at the Scary Farm in a long time. We’re looking forward to it, and are very curious to see how Elvira’s final curtain call will play out.
And that’s the whole bloody thing! There will be some more surprises waiting for guests once the gates to the 45th Haunt open on September 21, 2017, but you’ll just need to wait until then to find out!
Tickets are on sale now at Knotts.com. We highly recommend visiting Knott’s Scary Farm at least twice to be able to appreciate all this Southern California Halloween cornerstone event has to offer.
For deep-diving Haunt fans, we are thrilled to bring you three more videos as part of this story. The first is the 2017 Knott’s Scary Farm announcement event in its entirety as I streamed it live from Knott’s on August 31st.
The second video is the full Q&A Periscope broadcast we streamed of the design and management press Q&A session that followed the event after the general public had left the theater.
The third video is exclusively TPA’s and is a 37-minute deep-dive interview series with key designers regarding this year’s Scary Farm and its attractions. There is a lot of information discussed in this video, which is absolutely for the hard core Haunt fans out there – we talk about every aspect of design, from technology to the audio aspects of this year’s mazes, etc. Grab a cold one and enjoy – it’s a Haunt download, TPA-style!
We’ll see you in the fog, as we head into TPA’s 23rd year covering Knott’s Scary Farm!
- Rick West
Be sure to bookmark and reference our 2017 SoCal Haunt Directory for all your Halloween haunt planning!