I am an old amusement park addict, and there ain’t much I ain’t seen, by cracky. From crumbling seaside pier rides to the expensive and cheery work of Disney, I’ve seen ’em all. I went to my first Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt in what I believe was its third year, when Wolfman Jack was hosting the show in The Charles M. Schulz Theater. It was like mainlining all of the B horror flicks I’d ever seen on Chiller Theater in the sixties and seventies. The woman I was seeing had a son who was writing for Wolfman Jack, so her son and I went every weekend for free. I still had endorphin rushes on the very last night after seeing everything twenty times.
It’s strange how long it took for the other parks to notice. I suspect the competition finally read in the amusement trades about how the family-owned park that had been limping along suddenly had bookings all night in October, and at slightly hair raising extra charge. After that, look out. Of course, you have to be a rich person or a porn star to afford mouse land these days. I have attended every haunt at Knott’s since my first, and I’ll say this — whether it’s a very hot year, or a so-so year, Knott’s never fails to be fun or a value.
The eighties and early nineties were their goriest and spookiest years. I vividly remember a maze in the Camp Snoopy area that made use of the suspension bridge and the Peanuts Gang Fun House. It was bathed in very low amber and red lights, and Gregorian Chants accompanied scenes of torture. Executioners would pop out and demand your head. I’m not sure they could do that anymore.
Rumors over the last four or five years were that Knotts was now going after the family dollar. It was no longer just a place to drop off the older kids. The company made some great decisions, like building the wooden coaster “Ghost Rider” and some disastrous decisions like the “Wind Seeker” swing ride. In my opinion, this all led to a quandary when it came to The Haunt. If it’s really scary, would Knott’s still be seen as a family park? Whatever the case, the monsters were less and less aggressive for about four years, although the complexity of the mazes themselves had gone way up in quality. Lights were not as dim as before, in order to compensate for the large crowds.
Usually, the earlier you go in the month, the shorter the lines will be. Not so this year. All of the kids have caught on and the place was jammed. I was also none too pleased with the fact that Knott’s over-booked their VIP front-of-the-line passes. So even though we had front-of-the-line passes ourselves, some lines were still and hour and fifteen minutes long, so we didn’t get to see everything. But what we did see was very pleasing
It was obvious that the management had loosened the reins on their slider monsters in the shadows and mazes. Sliders, which were invented at Knott’s, wear knee pads and special gloves so they can run and literally slide on the ground in front of park visitors, which is always a shock and a fright.
The lights are still a bit on the bright side, but the scenic design this year is top-notch, and the monsters are back in their finest form. I’ve never seen sliders this good, and the energy all over the park is very high. Although I desperately wanted to see everything, the few mazes I did see were very, very good. “Gunslingers Grave” has been retooled to include bounty hunters and werewolves, and “Black Magic” has some great aerial stunts and bungee jumping set in a dilapidated vaudeville hall. My favorite new maze of the evening is based on ghost hunting shows. It’s called “Paranormal Inc.” and it has some clever effects involving CGI. So head on down to the Halloween haunt at Knott’s Scary Farm. It’s cheaper than Universal, and spirits are high this year.
Image courtesy of Knott’s Scary farm website