Paranormal, Inc. is one of those mazes that somehow rises above the rest when it comes to fan hype; it’s never usually something that is planned from the very beginning – it just kind of jives with what people are excited about and through word of mouth (and a little bit of marketing magic), becomes the sight unseen fan favorite before Scary Farm even begins. We’ve seen this in the past, most recently with last year’s Voodoo attraction in 2014. There’s no really solid reason as to why this happens – it just is one of those things that we’ve seen time and again play out at Knott’s, as well as other major theme park haunts.
The attraction is the brainchild of Jon Cooke, one of the newer full-time designers at Knott’s; he is known mostly to fans as the guns (literally) behind last year’s very popular Infected experience, and to fans of deathcore music, Cooke is affectionately known as Johnny Plague from Winds of Plague. He’s quite the busy chap!
Always personable and sincere in his approach to work, Jon finds himself in the Scary Farm spotlight yet again this season, as fans grow more eager by the hour to venture into his latest nightmare, which he’s been brewing on since at least last October.
As with other maze previews here on TPA, this story is merely presented to whet your appetite; if you want major spoilers or an in-depth description of what you can expect in Paranormal, Inc. this year – you’ll need to find it elsewhere online, because we want you to go to Knott’s and experience this attraction for yourself. That said, I will discuss some aspects of the maze here – and we will offer one picture from the inside of the attraction; if you want your Paranormal, Inc. experience 100% spoiler-free, then I recommend you bookmark this page and return to read it after you’ve done the maze at Knott’s this year.
Paranormal, Inc. is a hybrid maze that combines theatrical show moments and elements with the more traditional walk-through experience that Knott’s Scary Farm created in Buena Park more than 40 years ago. Along the way, guests will be tormented and frightened by ghastly monsters, while being surrounded by high-tech apparitions and special effects.
The story of Paranormal, Inc. is quite simple a ghost-hunting experience, where you follow a team of paranormal investigators into an abandoned insane asylum – the Hayden Hill Sanitarium – in search of active spirits. You can imagine what transpires after crossing the threshold and entering the building.
Here’s a Scary Farm fun fact, kids: While researching the possible back story of Hayden Hill, I found that there was actually is a town of Hayden Hill in Northern California that was also known as Providence City in the Gold Rush era, in reference to a nearby mine that fueled the local boom and economy; a very nice tie-in to the overall theme of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town. However… the truth of the matter in this case is actually more interesting and fun, in my opinion. “Hayden” is Jon Cooke’s fiancee’s current last name; a fun bit of trivia and a nice touch that designers sometimes have the opportunity to add when creating attractions. In fact, Paranormal, Inc. has a ton of “personal touch” graffiti on its walls – from nicknames of Scary Farm fans and veterans, to a nod to Mark “Sumo” Sagato, a long-time Scary Farm monster and friend to all who passed away unexpectedly in 2013. These “Easter eggs” are always really neat to find in mazes at Knott’s – see how many you can spot this year!
There are a lot of special effects used to tell the story within Paranormal, Inc. Several of them are theatrical in nature – which is exciting and also gives me a bit of anxiety, as there has never been a maze at Knott’s (or any major haunt) which incorporates “show moments” that doesn’t result in a monstrous wait time in the queue. I can clearly remember several attractions at Knott’s Scary Farm, including Lair of the Vampyre (’92), Tales From the Inquisition (’99), and Curse of the Spiderwoods (2001) to name a few; they all had show elements, and they all had incredibly long wait times. This is a concern, but with concern comes a simple recommendation: Get to Knott’s Scary Farm before it opens, and once the event begins, make a beeline to Paranormal, Inc. so that you hit it first and have a very short queue. Later in the night, we fully expect the queue for this particular maze to be completely nuts. If you also plan on doing Special Ops: Infected – Patient Zero (located in Camp Snoopy) during your visit, you need to rush there first to secure a time slot for the evening, and then hustle your butt over to Paranormal, Inc., which is located behind Ghost Town, near the cluster of other Scary Farm mazes behind the GhostRider roller coaster.
Guests are going to be wowed and freaked out by the effects employed by Paranormal, Inc. – from hospital props that move on their own, to the use of projection effects within the maze’s already-creepy interior. Special effects aside, it should be noted that the production team – those who fabricated, painted and put their hearts and souls into creating the aged interior of Hayden Hill Sanitarium should be commended; the maze is gorgeous, from its facade to final scene. This is a deserved nod to the entire design team as well; other reviewers have said that Paranormal, Inc. is the greatest thing since sliced bread aesthetically at Knott’s. I feel that it’s on par with most of the mazes we’ve seen in recent years, including Forevermore, Tooth Fairy, and Voodoo. Collectively, the mazes featured at Knott’s Scary Farm all have been stepping up the game over the past several years – Paranormal, Inc. continues in that direction, and is indicative of an internal push for higher standards and design excellence in everything created now for the event.
Like Voodoo, there are multiple paths to take through Hayden Hill Sanitarium. This is something new we’re seeing in Scary Farm mazes lately. Not only is it done to enhance the story and increase repeatability of the attractions, it’s done to raise capacity/throughput. The down side to this, is that folks wanting to see everything Paranormal has to offer will need to go through at least twice – and that may be a challenge on nights when the wait time is huge for this maze. In the case of Paranormal, Inc., if you don’t have a Knott’s Scary Farm Pass, or aren’t planning more than one visit, I say take whatever route you have and enjoy it. Everyone gets the same basic experience; even when split up, the paths come together about 85% of the way through the maze and everyone enjoys the same ending.
We think that fans are going to be really impressed by Paranormal, Inc. and that it will continue to evolve and adapt as necessary once the 2015 Scary Farm begins next week. This is a learning experience for Jon and the rest of the team, and we’re excited to see how it all pans out over the next several weeks! If anything, the creative team at Knott’s is really pushing their limits and upping the ante as they continue to roll out new and interesting experiences such as Special Ops and Paranormal, Inc. For that, we give them tremendous props and respect – it’s a very exciting time to be a Knott’s Scary Farm fan!
Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 is open select nights from September 24 to October 31. Tickets are on sale now at Knotts.com!
– Rick West