For the past several years, one of the more polished maze experiences at Knott’s Halloween Haunt has been Terror of London, a Brooke Walters (Virus Z, Endgames, Trick Or Treat) design that took Scary Farm visitors back to the seedy underbelly of London circa 1888. During that time, a serial killer dubbed “Jack the Ripper” slaughtered at least five victims in the Whitechapel district of London, typically prostitutes.
Drawing on historical photos and in formation, Halloween Haunt designer Brooke Walters recreated the scenes for Terror of London from actual accounts and photo references – something most guests don’t know (or would likely care about) – but definitely something that sets Brooke apart from most designers at Knott’s; the fact that she’d go to such lengths speak volumes about her creative and professional drive, and we totally love that.
Located behind Mystery Lodge in a back of house area of Knott’s Berry Farm, Terror of London was one of the largest mazes in the history of Halloween Haunt; a massive footprint that has housed such attractions as 13 Axe Murder Manor and Blood Bayou. Forever a challenge to balance scenery and talent placement throughout this spot, Brooke met those issues head-on and created a very even-paced and cohesive experience, from beginning to end. As the years passed, Terror of London evolved a bit and the ending changed the most to make better use of the space at the end of the maze – a bizarre lair of sorts, presumably the home of the Ripper, although it was never 100% clear what the true intent was. Strange ending aside, Terror of London was a tremendous step forward for Knott’s, in both design level and professional quality when it debuted in 2009; it definitely was a huge accomplishment for Brooke as well – one that she should be very proud of for the rest of her career.
The talent throughout Terror of London in 2012 was very decent; it was one of those maze experiences that really lends itself to having more face characters in make-up as opposed to a bunch of masks. Many of the talent throughout this maze would speak to guests – from playful ladies of the night attempting to lure callers, or chilling taunts by a knife-wielding Jack the Ripper. And most of the time, the interaction was fantastic! Unfortunately, due to the sheer casting size of Knott’s Halloween Haunt, the use of masks in these mazes is a reality, and London was no exception. The result was a mix of really great guest engagement and interaction from face characters and a bunch of garbled, muffled attempts from mask-wearing folks. A real drag, but we get it and understand that not everyone in these mazes can be face characters (or need to be, necessarily). In mazes such as London however, where the entire talent team are human characters, we’d really love to see Knott’s push in coming years for mask-free crews; if talent in these mazes isn’t comfortable or good at vocal interaction, that’s fine; move them elsewhere and cast the right people for this type of experience. We honestly think that is going to be a direction that Knott’s should move in, as we are seeing it more and more with many pro haunts around the country. Granted, other haunts don’t have as large of a cast as Knott’s; on the flip side of that, they don’t rake in the same amount of revenue, either. It’s a two-way street that Knott’s definitely needs to start heading down, in our opinion.
Theme Park Adventure has always loved the soundtrack used for Terror of London. Many ambient tracks mixed with haunting music and the desperate cries of police and other terrified Londoners. Huge props to the sound team on this one – the soundscape created for Terror of London made it that much more immersive and believable as a far-off location in a different time, far from Buena Park, California.
In fact, huge kudos to everyone involved with Terror of London over the years; it was a gorgeous maze spread out over one really large and challenging footprint; not at all an easy task! The entire team should be very proud, regardless of what year they contributed to London’s success.
In recent weeks, we’ve received first-hand reports that Terror of London has in fact, been torn down at Knott’s, presumably to make way for an all new Halloween Haunt maze for 2013. Four years isn’t all that long in Haunt terms for a large maze, so we are a bit surprised that it’s been removed this soon. Change is good however, and we look forward to seeing what the Haunt design team has in store for that location this fall!
– Rick West