Knott’s Scary Farm Preview 2015 – Thoughts and Discussion

Trick 1This week, Knott’s Berry Farm revealed all that fans can expect when they pass through the gates and into the fog-filled scare zones of Knott’s Scary Farm 2015. Tons of media outlets were in attendance, Theme Park Adventure included, and reports of the new attractions are abundant online.

What I would like to do here is simply jot down in post format, what I’ve been discussing with fans on our Periscope broadcasts of late – some personal opinions, thoughts and ponderings regarding Scary Farm 2015’s lineup. In no way is this a definitive break-down of all that in store at Knott’s this Halloween; I am simply going to comment on a few of the most talked-about additions, and then wait patiently like the rest of you for opening night, September 24th.

Halloween Haunt vs. Scary Farm

You may or may have not noticed that Knott’s has begun a concerted effort to completely drop the name “Halloween Haunt” from its annual Halloween event. This has been set in motion, and only “Scary Farm” will be used in marketing, on merchandise and anywhere in between when it comes to the world-famous event in Buena Park, California. Granted, changing the psychology and terminology that has been used for 43 years is not going to happen overnight (I’ve been doing my best, but “Haunt” sometimes still slips out when I am talking about the event with people), but I get it. Some may scream “sacrilege!” but this is what’s going on: Cedar Fair uses the term “Halloween Haunt” at several of its other amusement parks around the country.

hauntscaryfarmlogo

In an effort to allow Knott’s to stand out, the Scary Farm name is the one that has been placed in the spotlight, since it is unique to that park, and rightfully so, that park should stand alone when it comes to the Halloween season. Both “Halloween Haunt” and “Scary Farm” have been used for decades – they are names that fans dual-wield, so with Cedar Fair landing on “Scary Farm” when it comes to Knott’s, I totally am on board with that line of thought, and think the company absolutely has made the right decision. I do think that it’ll take years for most people/fans to catch on that “Haunt” isn’t being used anymore – and possibly longer for long-time employees to switch tracks completely. Either way – Knott’s Scary Farm remains the gem in the Cedar Fair Halloween lineup no matter what you call it.

Green Witch with 7 Deadly

The Deadly 7

One of the new additions to Scary Farm for 2015 is the introduction of the Green Witch’s new minion – The Deadly 7. For the past several years, old-school trick-or-treaters known as “Tricksters” have roamed the event at will, terrorizing guests, playing pranks on them, invading mazes (I never liked that – way too confusing to guests and very distracting to the themes/show) and whatever else the Green Witch instructed. It was all tied to the Trick Or Treat maze (which returns this year, with some modifications), which is something fans likely got for the most part – but was probably lost on casual guests. Now, the Tricksters will be confined to the Trick Or Treat maze only, and a new group will be roaming the park at will, at the bidding of the Green Witch; The Deadly 7.

Based on the Seven Deadly Sins, this new group of demons/monsters will roam the scare zones of Knott’s randomly, menacing guests and bringing a new level of terror to the event. Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony will manifest and lurk in the fog throughout the event this year. It’s an interesting addition to the street characters, although based on fan reaction, perhaps a new maze based on this theme may have been a better direction to take this idea.

I think adding The Deadly 7 to the Scary Farm is fun, and it’ll be interesting to see just how many people get that these are “special” street monsters. The event has attempted special street characters over the past years, including the Green Witch (the new one – not the Ghost Town Green Witch that is a Knott’s icon herself; that’s a whole other confusing discussion) and before that, the Overlord. Tricksters have roamed the streets these past couple of years, but guests who don’t understand who or what they are often wonder why their costumes are so different (and generic) compared to the other creatures lurking in the darkness; it’s been an issue, for sure. The Deadly 7 will definitely be elaborate and will be frightening to encounter. Whether they will simply fade and become “just another Knott’s monster” to people remains to be seen; that depends solely on how Knott’s showcases and spotlights each character. Time will tell!

Gunslinger's Grave Blood Moon Knott's

Gunslinger’s Grave: A Blood Moon Rises

This isn’t actually a new maze – but there is a substantial change that I think is worth noting. Gunslinger’s Grave has always been met with mixed reaction – it’s more of an elaborate walk-through than a traditional maze at Knott’s, with heavy emphasis on acting and interacting, rather than simple jump scares.

Gunslinger’s Grave will feature werewolves this season, which was met with huge applause from fans during the park’s announcement event earlier this week. Tossing werewolves into the mix will bring an element of fear that Gunslinger’s may have been missing until now. Designer Gus Krueger says it’s part of the story’s evolution, and I think it’s a good move; I am very curious and excited, since I have always loved werewolves being showcased at Knott’s Scary Farm.

The only setback that I can see here, is the return of masks to a maze that was just about void of them – something we have been really excited about and strong advocates of in recent years. Unless Knott’s is creating custom prosthetics and all of the monsters in Gunslinger’s are going to have the ability to interact with guests in mid-transformation, my gut says that we’re going to have plenty of werewolf/wolf masks back into the mix. We can’t wait to find out!

Dead of Winter Knott's Scary Farm

The Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter takes place in the Ballroom at the park, and will feature high-contrast scenes (very dark, very bright), and a brand-new super-cold air conditioner for the building that will keep the environment chilly during the event, which will be awesome if we get stuck with a nasty Indian Summer. If I were a Knott’s maze monster, I’d be begging to work Dead of Winter simply because of the AC, regardless of the execution of the maze itself!

There have been a few mazes over the years at Knott’s that feature bright show lighting, but never one that is mostly white. I think it’ll be really interesting, and reminds me of a stand-alone haunted house I went to as a child where one of  the rooms featured an abominable snowman that was brightly-lit and even had a strobe light going. It’s very disorienting to be in a maze that has bright lighting – almost scarier than being in the dark I think, because you can see what’s lurking nearby! There is nowhere to hide – for the monsters, or the guests! I have high expectations for Dead of Winter and look forward to seeing what the team has done with it!

My Bloody Clementine Knott's Scary Farm

My Bloody Clementine

Of all the announcements, My Bloody Clementine makes me the most nervous. Not because of the theme or content, but because Knott’s is going to install a Scary Farm overlay – as well as live talent – in the Calico Mine Ride for the first time since its amazing refurbishment last year. Fans cheered the news, and in all fairness, have been asking for Scary Farm overlays for both Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride since both attractions received multi-million dollar refurbishments, and have never looked better.

The idea of putting Scary Farm props, equipment, and most of all, live talent in the Mine Ride makes me very uncomfortable. Whenever these types of overlays are used on attractions, wear and tear is inevitable. Each season when Disneyland changes The Haunted Mansion over to Haunted Mansion Holiday and back again, there is always damage or other issues. No matter how careful Knott’s is, I worry that the Mine Ride or one of its new figures might be damaged in the process; usually, whenever that occurs anywhere, the damage is not fixed or corrected completely. Throw live talent in there with those delicate new figures – and you add yet another high level of damage risk into the equation. One would like to think that people would have enough respect and common sense regarding the ride’s interior components – but you can never be certain someone won’t unintentionally – or worse, intentionally – do harm to the ride, especially when they are temporary seasonal workers rather than steady full-time Knott’s employees within extremely close proximity to the ride’s figures and props.

Perhaps I am being alarmist about this; or maybe this is a very legitimate concern. It’s been echoed by Knott’s management in recent years that the two beloved mountain attractions at the park would be left alone regarding Scary Farm, due to the back-to-back renovations to each in 2013 and 2014 respectively. If this year’s Mine Ride overlay is successful (and how could it not be?), I would venture to guess that one of the big announcements we’ll be hearing for 2016 will be that Timber Mountain Log Ride has returned to the Scary Farm mix as well, as the two attractions have always played a major role in the Halloween event.

Here’s hoping that Clementine and her fellow spooks wreak havoc on Scary Farm guests – and not their surroundings this year!

Knott's Scary Farm_Special Ops Infected-Patient Zero

Special Ops: Infected – Patient Zero

One of the major concerns I had last year was Infected, which  takes up a full quadrant of Knott’s Scary Farm, takes a lot of people to operate, and returned a relatively low nightly capacity (guest throughput). This was problematic, and compounding that issue were the Scary Farm passholders that literally, abused the time-slotted attraction’s system by loading up on multiple slots at the beginning of each night, effectively shutting out casual one-time guests coming to Scary Farm; general admission folks would work their way over to Infected after walking through Ghost Town or whatever else and find that they were out of luck when it came to the year’s most-touted attraction at Scary Farm. That’s a problem; that’s a big problem.

This year, Infected returns, and is double in size. This is to accommodate higher capacity and a much more rapid dispatch rate (I’m not assuming – I asked), so the team is aware of the challenges that last year presented. I was really interested by the changes that Jon and the team have made for 2015. And some of them sound really cool – the weapon/gun this year is more advanced (and a lot sexier-looking, honestly), and creates more of a gaming feel for Infected. The better you perform along the way, the more powerful your weapon becomes. That’re pretty nifty; there are other gaming-like components this year too, which absolutely keep our interest piqued.

The one thing I was hoping would be resolved this year, was that the time slot aspect of Infected would simply go away, and those wanting to do it, would simply queue up, and be separated into squads/groups and sent into the attraction without the inherent headaches that come along with scheduled experiences that aren’t up-charge in nature. There’s plenty of room for a massive switchback queue for Infected; I say line ’em up, and let ’em get to it; if the wait is too long, come back later, just like anything else at Scary Farm. Time slots are something that usually looks doable on paper, but I can’t recall a single haunted attraction that we’ve attended that is time-slotted and operating on time, ever. It’s something I’d stay away from, especially when the attraction in question isn’t an up-charge or VIP experience.

It’ll be fun (and exhausting) to check this out, and I look forward to all of the cool enhancements that have been worked into Infected this year.

Paranormal Inc. Knott's Scary Farm

PARANORMAL, INC. – Case #1 – The Haunting of Hayden Hill

While the full name may not roll off the tongue very easily, rest assured that it’s on the lips of Knott’s fans big time now with great anticipation.

Paranormal appears to be an “interactive” maze experience. This part show/part maze hybrid will likely take typical Knott’s Scary Farm attractions to a new level; the concern here is that it will also take wait times there, as well. This isn’t a negative ding at designer Jon Cooke; his heart is in the right place, and I know that fans love what he does (last year, Jon introduced Infected to the Scary Farm, and has been busy working on upgrading that attraction for 2015 as well). It’s just an observation that every maze at Knott’s in the past with show elements or lower-capacity design – from Lair of the Vampyre (1992) and Tales From the Inquisition Starring the Crypt Keeper (1999), to Curse of the Spiderwoods (2001) and more recently, Mirror Mirror (2013) – has suffered horrible wait times without fail. The only way to have a show-based/pulsed/interactive maze or experience is to duplicate each room several times so that the hourly throughput isn’t affected by the show. I’m not sure that has been designed into Paranormal. Whether that has or not, my feeling is that this is going to be a very long line on most Scary Farm nights. My strongest advice of the season thus far, is to get to the event early, do the Pre-Scare meal option, and whether let in early or with the general crowd, make a beeline to Paranormal before you do anything else. Otherwise, it may be a long wait to experience this new maze.

I’ll tell you what I do immediately like regarding Scary Farm operations this year; there will be no more daisy-chained mazes at Knott’s! No longer will you have to wait in line and go through “Maze A” to get to “Maze B” – that’s something I have always hated, and have been very vocal about for years, since the bulk of Knott’s Scary Farm has been moved backstage at the park into warehouse buildings. So, I am really stoked about that, and I imagine other fans are, too – now you can head to whichever maze you want without being forced to do anything else; bravo to Knott’s for making that decision!

And that’s it! The conversations will continue up until opening night – and then beyond, as we all experience Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 and all it promises to be! I’m excited by the lineup, and while I have some operational worries, I am always very pleased to see Knott’s trying new things as they continue to make history as the granddaddy of all haunts!

– Rick West

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5 Responses to Knott’s Scary Farm Preview 2015 – Thoughts and Discussion

  1. baforrest929 says:

    I still have an issue with “INFECTED…” which now, apparently, will take up even MORE room than it did before. It’s not my thing, to be running around, shooting at zombies. I don’t come to the park to do any work. THAT is what the hired hands are getting paid to do. Maybe it is just because I am older than the average park guest (52), I don’t know. That aside, it simply isn’t my cup of tea-but that, in itself, is not my issue with it. It’s just, in my opinion, Knott’s has somewhat “cheapened” itself, by creating a “Shoot ’em Up” attraction, that does not fit in with the typical maze theme that Knott’s originated. It is, instead, more in the neighborhood of playing PaintBall. You scrap this whole concept, and then the park can put in 2 other mazes–and mazes is what 100% of the guests want, isn’t it? I may be in the minority here, but to me, this is not that far removed from Knott’s taking the once brilliant Witch Hanging, and making it into something that now appeals to the average high schooler. In other words, “stuff” has been dumbified. I hate the idea that because Knott’s cares more about appealing to the kids, that many park guests are being robbed of more mazes and, possibly, an additional show. You can’t keep everyone 100% happy, but it seems Knott’s is now more concerned with the $$$ these high schoolers bring to the park, who were not even born the first time I went to Knott’s Haunt (sorry, it’s still HAUNT to me), than the more loyal diehards that have been coming to the park, faithfully, for the past 15, 20, 25-plus years.

  2. Rick West Rick West says:

    Thanks for the passionate response! I love seeing folks get emotionally invested in our stories – and it’s gratifying when people respond, whether they agree with what’s been said or not. So thank you first and foremost, for adding such value to this discussion on TPA!

    I am 45; not too much younger than you. We are definitely NOT the target audience for Knott’s Scary Farm or any of the other haunted attractions here in SoCal, including Halloween Horror Nights, Dark Harbor or even something stand-alone like The 17th Door. I began going to Knott’s Scary Farm in the early ’80s, so I am in the same boat as you on most counts.

    The Witch Hanging evolved out of necessity – Knott’s got into hot water with honest-to-goodness local witch covens in Orange County back in the ’70s; this prompted them to try hanging a “gypsy”, instead. You can imagine how well that went over with local gypsy groups (ironic – “local” gypsy groups). It morphed into the spectacle it is today, and had its own icons, including Freddy Krueger – a character that would eventually get the company in hot water with New Line, the owner of that particular IP. The crowds got bigger, the material got edgier, and that has turned into what we have today as The Hanging. I for one, don’t mind the route The Hanging has taken. It’s more often than not humorous (to me, at least), and I do enjoy the jabs the show makes at famous and infamous characters in the news throughout the year. It’s definitely NOT for everyone – but I would much rather have the spectacle that The Hanging has become today, than the simple Witch Hanging it was all those years ago. During the 40th year of Scary Farm, they brought back the old-school Witch Hanging at midnight, and onlookers were underwhelmed for the most part, and folks were confused, asking when the REAL Hanging was going to happen. It wasn’t a crazy huge success, although it was neat to see; once.

    Infected is definitely not targeted at you or me. It’s a high-energy, real-life video game where your only mission is to kill or be killed. We did it last year and I was absolutely exhausted after one go; I can only venture to guess what it’s going to be like this year, with the experience doubling in length and missions expanded. I will admit, I am not a huge fan of 1/4 of the park vanishing to accommodate this one attraction. That aspect bugs me, too – simply because Camp Snoopy makes a great scare zone. The good news for folks that want CS back – Infected can’t sustain itself much longer; it’ll run its course (no pun intended) and Knott’s will look to what comes next for that section of the park. Like anything at Scary Farm, these attractions have definite shelf life and Infected’s clock is ticking. I was however, at the Knott’s Scary Farm announcement event this past week, and when Infected was announced, about 2,000 people went nuts in the big theatre at the park. So – while it’s not necessarily OUR thing in the big scheme of the Haunt (there – I said it – a rebel!), it has become a key aspect that is going to play out again a bit more this Halloween season.

    The big haunts like Knott’s and Universal have to continuously evolve and change to keep appealing like you said, to their target audience of teens and young adults; like it or not, that is usually the key Halloween target audience; you and I are pretty much just along for the ride at this point!

    Thank you again for your passion and being a long-time fan, wanting to speak up and be heard! You have been, and I thank you! Have a tremendous Halloween season!

  3. Joshua Youngs says:

    If there’s one thing I do sorely miss in regards with the departure of Necropolis/Gauntlet Is the lacking in mazes themed for each scare zone. Like when Gauntlet still existed, each of the mazes that found Camp Snoopy home fit into the theme of the zone. Lore of the Vampire/Gothic Graveyard, Inquisition, and even Labyrinth. And when Necropolis took over, it had Mirror Mirror and even Endgames which sorta fit the Steampunk theme. I know that Ghost Town is slowly moving into that trend with GunSlinger, and I guess Black Magic fits into CarnEvil with the magician theme, but am I the only one who feels that this sorta thing is missing throughout the rest of the Farm? It’s nothing drastic or a devastating blow but it is slightly noticeable.

  4. Cody says:

    Just a few random things;

    I liked the midnight witch hanging, however, it was very short and could not have had an ending that was more abrupt, probably causing some of the confusion.

    I usually enjoy the humor of The Hanging, but last year, something just felt different. I like humor, but not necessarily poop jokes. The Hanging is better than that.

    I begrudgingly pay for the buffet every year (I go opening night as a tradition) the food always sucks, it also gets to me that I know the “media” people get an amazing buffet with awesome desserts and higher quality food.

    I like that when the mazes start to get a little long in the tooth, they are slightly redesigned, I first noticed this with Slaughter House a few years back. In really shined in its last year.

    Lack of Scare-Zones–Carnevil and Ghost towns are always a given, so bringing back Fiesta is just depressing.

    Because I go opening night, I feel everything should be ready, yet there are always a few things that aren’t and the quality suffers. i.e. Last year in Forevermore there was just an empty hole under the…hanging blade thing.

    I blog post on the current Green Witch and the new one would be interesting. I believe the woman playing the original had been going it for 20+ years, is she still at the park in another capacity? As they have males, playing the witch now, I believe.

  5. Rick West Rick West says:

    Hi Cody!

    Thanks for the great comment! I wanted to take a moment and respond to some of your points!

    I’d say that The Hanging definitely has some years that are better than others; I certainly have my favorite moments. In the end, it’s usually pretty much the same type of humor and formula, so I just stand back, watch, and enjoy. The Hanging has evolved – and continues to do so – for decades at Scary Farm. I am not a huge fan of theme park entertainment in general, but I do admit that the crude humor and outrageous writing found in The Hanging appeals to me and allows me to giggle and even belly-laugh at times. It’s totally NOT for everyone though, and I get that.

    We haven’t done the Pre-Scare Dinner in years; considering how much the food has improved in the past few years at Knott’s overall, I am surprised and disappointed to hear that the food is not great at the buffet. It should be, because the food around the rest of the park is phenomenal most of the time. As I always said regarding the Pre-Scare, what you’re really paying for is early entry to the event; the food and drink before is almost secondary, in my opinion. But I do think that the food should at least be on par with the rest of the offerings around Knott’s.

    Knott’s giving older mazes revamps is something that has happened for years. It’s not new, although in recent years it perhaps has become more evident, considering the budgets for these mazes gets bigger – so the changes are more apparent show-wise. I like that they do this as well; a smart move, knowing that most Scary Farm mazes last about 3-5 years in their run. I am all for mixing things up and re-imagining mazes after the first or second year; keeps them fresh, and keeps fans happy!

    I think that the scare zones at Knott’s are large enough and have been pretty good the past several years. Fiesta is the one that has needed work, as they simply have NOT had enough talent as street monsters there the last two years. Here’s hoping that Knott’s boosts that number this year. With Camp Snoopy being taken out of the mix because of Infected, we obviously are down a major scare zone in that area of the park. So perhaps that’s why it feels on the light side last year. I’m sure that once Knott’s concludes its Infected run, Camp Snoopy will return as an all-new scare zone and theme; just WHEN that will happen – is anyone’s guess.

    I don’t know of any haunt that is 100% ready opening night, and I have been covering haunts for 21 years now with TPA. As silly as it seems (and I agree with you 100% – don’t get me wrong), there are always fixes, tweaks and things to finish well after opening night. It’s more glaring when it’s the theme parks that are doing this, considering the price point to get in most of the time; we give a pass to less expensive stand-alone haunts or even home haunts. However, as Halloween doesn’t really shift around year to year, I agree that it’s never great when any haunt isn’t 100% ready for show time when the gates open and their first customers come through. It’s just always been that way – and likely will continue to be that way forever.

    Charlene Parker IS the Green Witch at Knott’s as far as I am concerned; I believe she has been there more than 30 years now, and is absolutely an icon of the event. The marketing version of the Green Witch is a passing thing that will not last more than a few years. When the fog settles, as long as Charlene is still there, the true Green Witch will continue to haunt Ghost Town for years to come. We love her, and have nothing but the utmost respect for her. She is still with Knott’s; we often see her working in Ghost Town and chatting with guests as one of the Farm’s “old-time” personalities.

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