October is upon us. The nights are getting longer, the evening air now has a slight chill, and the supernaturally inclined speak of the thinning of the veil between the physical world and the spiritual one. Yes, of course we know the drill. Halloween is big business in the United States. We’ve gone from celebrating for a day or two, to partying the whole month. Oh, but what a month. The haunting has definitely begun and there is no rest for the wicked, or even for those with godly intentions.
With Halloween haunts, you can’t really go wrong. There is magic even in hokey carnival corn mazes, beauty in ghost-filled church bazaars and happy screams wherever costumed demons congregate, but then there is another level, where history, creativity and storytelling meet and that is where we introduce Dark Harbor. Now in its 10th year in Long Beach, it emerged victoriously from the ashes of a prior Queen Mary haunt, Shipwreck, which first started in 1994. What Dark Harbor has that much of its competition is lacking, is honest-to-goodness spiritual credentials. Ghost sightings are common all year long on this massive ocean liner, retired from service more than 50 years ago.
Out of the six total mazes spanning the grounds of the Queen Mary, the most goose bump provoking might be the three located aboard the ship. You can feel the little hairs on your arms rise to attention, sensing danger, picking up on the unknown, waiting for that little ghost girl who drowned in the pool back in the ’30s to surprise you round the next corner. But even if she doesn’t materialize, real costumed human spooks do, deliciously in character, taking their fright jobs very, very seriously. And the fact that you are walking through metal hallways, tucked in the humid bowels of the ship, past portholes and strange, authentic navigation equipment, makes the exploration that much more intense, surreal and exciting.
This year has something different with several secret, unmapped bars built into the mazes themselves. Stumbling upon one might just sooth your throat, raw from screaming, or give you some liquid courage to make it through to the next maze. Circus, the thrilling carnival-themed haunt is back again this year, changed up, but always exciting, with its ringmaster, freaks, geeks and fearsome carnies. In fact, over 200 costumed ghosts, monsters, and frightening characters pop out wherever you might be, inside a maze, or waiting to order a big bag of caramel corn.
Dark Harbor runs until November 2, 2019, Thursdays through Sundays, each night starting at 7pm, until the clock strikes midnight or 1:00am. Check this calendar for prices and tickets. Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA, 90802. (877) 342-0738.