Surviving Great Horror Campout 2014

Horror_Campout2014_4214A pitch-black campsite, creepy counselors, scary movies playing as people chew on s’mores, and a dark wilderness teeming with terrifying monsters of every kind, peering from the bushes and trees, waiting to strike. Let’s not leave out killer clowns on motorcycles, a menacing white van with its lights off prowling the site with its door slightly ajar, a wild Voodoo ritual, a demonic birth ceremony, or a massive spider’s web that people must climb in total darkness before milking the teats of a Pope Lick Mama… yeah, you read that correctly. This could only be one event – and it’s a biggie – the Great Horror Campout, a large-scale scare event that immerses guests in an all-night “living horror movie” that plays out from dark until dawn in a secluded campsite where chaos and dark humor reign supreme!

A creation of Ten Thirty One Productions (Los Angeles Haunted Hayride), the Great Horror Campout made its debut last summer in downtown Los Angeles. Click here to check out Theme Park Adventure’s exclusive story, “Experiencing The Great Horror Campout” from 2013. The event itself was very large in scale, featuring a huge cast of talent, a wide area of themed obstacle courses/maze-like environments, and a very aggressive program of events that lasted from dusk until dawn including camp-themed games and creature attacks in the wee hours of the morning, all themed as a horror experience.

Great Horror Campout was not without its flaws; we don’t know of any haunted attraction or themed attraction that is perfect. Given it was a first-year experience and the sheer scale of the event, TPA was very impressed by what Ten Thirty One Productions accomplished in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.

We knew fairly early on that Melissa Carbone and her creative team would continue to refine and intensify the Great Horror Campout model and give it another go in 2014. However, we didn’t know the extent of their plans, and were surprised along with everyone else when Melissa appeared on an episode of Shark Tank, where she ultimately landed a $2 million investment from Mark Cuban, who is also a fan of what she and her creative team produce on a regular basis (see video below).

Earlier this year, Ten Thirty One Productions announced that it would be re-launching the Great Horror Campout not only in Los Angeles, but in multiple cities, which really piqued our interest. As tour dates were announced for 2014, excitement throughout the horror and haunt community grew. Obviously fueled with Cuban’s infusion of cash into the company, Ten Thirty One Productions kicked their production into high gear and raised their own bar very high. Being long-time supporters of Melissa and her crew, Theme Park Adventure was thrilled to see them embark on such a logistically-grueling endeavor!

Horror_Campout2014_4354One of the biggest complaints about last year’s inaugural event was its location. Located in the Chinatown area of downtown Los Angeles, the event was surrounded by buildings, a neighborhood (with curious onlookers sitting on their porches watching the activity below), and a Metro Rail line running the length of one side of the venue. We were concerned about that, but during the event, were able to kind of shut that out and focus on the frantic fun at hand; however, not everyone shared that opinion and voiced their opinions on social media following the event. Melissa and her team also wanted a more secluded environment, and so for the 2014 Campout, they returned to a very familiar site – the old zoo in Griffith Park, which is also where their annual LA Haunted Hayride event is held each Halloween. This was really exciting news, and totally eliminated the concern of having to suspend disbelief while surrounded by the buildings of downtown Los Angeles. The old zoo is secluded, and when the sun goes down, is just about pitch black, save for the light of the moon.

In fact, all of the locations for this year’s Great Horror Campout were well-scouted by the Ten Thirty One team and carefully selected to deliver the most impactful environment possible. From San Francisco, California, to Seattle, Washington, Melissa’s team has found some truly amazing spots for the event that are sure to send chills up and down campers’ spines as they attempt to survive the night!

On the evening of June 7th, Theme Park Adventure paid a visit to the Great Horror Campout here in Los Angeles, and spent the night shooting footage and pictures of this year’s event. We arrived along with everyone else as the sun was setting on Griffith Park. Campers by the carload hauled their overnight gear to the check-in area, where they were immediately greeted by (okay, more like harassed) by playful monsters, giving a strong indication of things to come once inside the venue!

Horror_Campout2014_4412The Great Horror Campout is not for children, nor is it delicate on the ears. Guests are subjected to adult content and very dark humor, including language not appropriate for young folks. Fortunately, no one brought any children that we could see, and it appeared that everyone was more than receptive to harsh language and gnarly humor; after all, that does go hand-in-hand with horror.

Speaking of which, it should be noted that while Ten Thirty One Productions is best known for developing and executing Halloween attractions, the Great Horror Campout is not a “haunt”, nor is it considered one. It is a fully-immersive scare event with haunt-like elements including very aggressive monsters, maze-like environments and gruesome surprises waiting in the dark. There are several similar events that take place around the world these days, but nothing quite the scale of Great Horror Campout. Plus, no one does it quite like Los Angeles when it comes to these types of attractions, so we root extra hard for our home teams!

While the event is very similar to last year’s, the layout/footprint was much different here in Los Angeles. The elongated, multi-level terrain really added to the overall ambience of the Campout. Guests had to lug their gear uphill to reach the campground itself, and once the Hell Hunt portion of the event began, folks found themselves exploring areas of the old zoo area that are both remote and downright spooky, let alone with only a flashlight to light your path. We hiked up dusty trails to areas we’d never visited before (not used during LA Haunted Hayride), so much of the experience was new to us as well this year. Hidden in the darkness were monsters of every type – and really great moments of interactivity such as a Voodoo ritual way up in the hills, only the distant sound of drums alerting participants that something was waiting at the top of a narrow, foreboding trail!

Horror_Campout2014_4425The main portion of Great Horror Campout is the Hell Hunt, a massive, multi-hour scavenger hunt throughout the entire campsite that has participants getting down and dirty as they collect various pieces of S.C.A.G. (Shit Campers All Get) by hunting through bushes, digging into corpses, performing rituals with monsters, or even jumping into the camp’s murky Swimming Hole! Yes, Swimming Hole. And yes, some campers bared all (save for a well-placed sock, according to one Camp Counselor manning the location) to dive in to the freezing water in the middle of the night! It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and fans really get into it. Tip: Don’t wear nice clothes or shoes, because the hardcore and ultimately, victorious folks are going to be a mess by dawn. Those who have found or earned the most S.C.A.G. rewards are crowned “Hellmasters” at the conclusion of the event, and will receive perks of the highest order the next time Great Horror Campout comes to town (suggesting that there is no end in sight for this horror experience as it grows and expands across the United States).

There are many other twists and turns throughout the night – referred to as “Speed Bumps” – that we don’t want to spoil. Suffice it to say, you should expect to be challenged, caged, chased, and tormented by monsters and other campers during your 12-hour ordeal. And let’s not forget the ever-present van prowling the campsite, its muffler rumbling gutturally in the darkness…

Horror_Campout2014_4166Food is served to campers at the beginning and end of the event. Those very familiar with Ten Thirty One Productions may already know that they promote a vegan lifestyle, and so, all of their food and beverage offerings are vegan. Campers are invited however, to bring their own food and snacks to munch on all night in their tents; options that are non-vegan are not provided at Great Horror Campout. While TPA has always stated that it would be nice to see all types of food and beverage made available at this company’s events, we understand that it’s their sandbox, and they feel strongly about their lifestyle values. Participants are not forbidden to bring their own food to GHC, so guests that simply do not want to try the vegan offerings do have a choice that is in their control. This year, campers have been posting that the food isn’t bad at all, and that they love the gourmet s’mores that are served up in the Mess Hall!

Another aspect of Great Horror Campout is something that everyone discusses; we would be remiss in not touching on it: the price. This event is not a cheap evening out, at about $160 per person. However, while that may surprise some and cause others to balk at, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a 12-hour event. It’s not a haunted house or haunted attraction that you attend for a few hours. It’s an all-night scare production that requires a huge team each night to execute. All of Ten Thirty One’s talent are paid for their participation, and transport of the event itself in several trucks as well as city permits and rental fees are very expensive. It’s a huge undertaking for the entire team. If you do the quick math, you’re paying about $13 per hour to be engaged and entertained for 12 straight hours during this event; here in Los Angeles, $13 is the cost of a cocktail. In Vegas, people drop that amount (usually much more) on bottle service or club fees alone for a couple hours each night at clubs. Ten Thirty One Productions offers very generous discounts via social media and online promotions, often bringing that amount way down. At the end of the day, it is our opinion that the price breakdown is fair when thought through. Some will not agree with that; and that is their prerogative as fans. However, knowing what goes into this production and seeing the scale of it first-hand, there is no doubt in our minds how large in scale (that translates to “expensive”) this effort is, and we end up totally fine with the price point.

Horror_Campout2014_4125In closing, we want to say how impressed we were by the talent at this event. If you’ve ever worked a haunted attraction as a monster or have been part of a behind-the-scenes crew of a live production, you know how absolutely exhausting it is after a few hours. For these men and women to be on their game more than 12 hours each day – that is nothing short of mind-blowing, and we have the utmost respect for them. Huge kudos and props to the monsters of the Great Horror Campout; when all is said and done – they are the ones responsible for making this event so interactive, frightening and fun. We cannot thank or appreciate them enough here – they’re an incredible team that Ten Thirty One should be very, very proud of.

And, that’s our story for this year’s Great Horror Campout. This event has returned more polished and more interactive than last year, and fans seem to be really enjoying it! We were on site for approximately five hours and returned home totally exhausted and sore – we think of the hundreds of excited campers and the multitude of menacing creatures that continued to participate throughout the night, and can’t even imagine how drained they must have all been the following day. Hell… the following week.

Great Horror Campout is a unique, thrilling experience that is frightening, hilarious, shocking and above all, highly interactive. It’s a “choose-your-own-adventure” for adults with a thick skin and lust for crazy adrenaline rushes! It’s definitely unlike anything we have ever experienced in our travels, and feel that horror/haunted attraction fans everywhere should definitely check it out when it comes to their neck of the woods!

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TPAers, have you attended the Great Horror Campout this year? Do you plan to as it tours the West Coast? Share your thoughts with other fans here below!

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