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TOP GHOST TOURS IN CALIFORNIA

Find the scariest REAL HAUNTED HOUSES in California including haunts in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield, California. Hauntworld helps you find supernatural happenings across the state of California especially attractions that allow people to find ghosts, investigate, and go on ghost hunts. Ohio features some of the scariest real haunted houses, graveyards, hotels, prisons, abandoned buildings, and scary attractions.
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The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor California Best Scariest Haunted House
homepage article Haunted House Review The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor is Los Angles California's biggest, scariest and most haunted real haunted house.  Read the full review of this haunted attraction click here. 
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Haunted House in San Diego California - Best and Scariest Haunted Hotel
homepage article Find the best and scariest haunted house in San Diego California the Haunted Hotel a real haunted attraction rated one of the best in America.  Hauntworld.com rates and reviews this legendary CA haunted House.
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California Haunted House - Universal Studios Horror Nights House of Horrors
homepage article California Haunted House - Universal Studios Horror Nights House of Horrors is a year around haunted house located inside of Universal Studios, Hollywood.  Hauntworld Magazine will take you deep inside one of the best year around haunted houses in America.
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California Haunted House, Los Angeles Disney Haunted Mansion Live Experience
homepage article California Haunted House, Disney's Live Haunte Mansion experiece reviewed by Hauntworld Magazine.  Disney's Haunted Mansion is an iconic ride but now take a trip through the live experience.  
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Knotts Scary Farm Haunted House in Los Angeles California
homepage article California Haunted House Knotts Scary Farm is one of if not the biggest haunted attraction in America.  Knotts Scary Farm features over 15 haunted attractions, hundreds of monsters and much more.  Read a complete article by HauntWorld Magazine.
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CALIFORNIA GHOST TOURS

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Linda Vista Community Hospital, originally called the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital and Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital, is a former hospital at 610-30 South St. Louis Street in Los Angeles, California, Un... [Read more]

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Located about 1.5 miles from the shores of San Francisco, California lays "The Rock" as it was often referred to as. The official-name is, of course, Alcatraz. Alcatraz had served a few different ... [Read more]

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Located in San Diego California. The United States Chamber of Commerce has declared the Whaley House as being genuinely haunted. The house has all of the signs of being haunted. Apparitions,... [Read more]

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The San Diego Ghost Tours are based on some of the paranormal things Michael has found here in Old Town San Diego. Please join him for San Diego's most haunted and ONLY Ghost Tour!

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In the heart of historic Benicia, the gracious 1882 Union Hotel is reminiscent of California's colorful past. During the late 1800’s, a young woman allegedly hanged herself in one of the rooms of this... [Read more]

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The Sunset Strip has long been known as the playground of the stars. The brightest stars, the biggest moguls and most Oscar-winning artists dined, danced and romanced in clubs along the Strip. The m... [Read more]

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The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco drips with atmosphere. You might even call it a little creepy, particularly if you are here to look for ghosts. Dating back a century, the building resembles a lo... [Read more]

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The Horton Grand Hotel started as two seperate buildings on two seperate plots of land in New San Diego (Now downtown San Diego). When the Grand Horton and the Brooklyn Hotels were slated for destruct... [Read more]

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The Hotel del Coronado, lovingly called The Del, is a beachfront hotel located in the city of Coronado. Its unique wooden Victorian architecture sets it apart from the other hotels in the country. It ... [Read more]

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Madrona Manor is located in Healdsburg California in the heart of wine country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1879 by John Alexander Paxton. It has been ope... [Read more]

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Haunted Haight is a must see Walking Ghost Tour located in San Francisco, CA! You will see notorious murderers houses, cool ghost stories, & lots of amazing history. Please call or email today to ma... [Read more]

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The Nightmare Run 5K is not a typical race, not just another party it’s a thrilling experience that Halloween lovers have been waiting for. Run for your lives in your favorite Halloween costume and af... [Read more]

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Ghost Tours and Paranormal Investigations of the Haunted Davis-Horton House in the Historic Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego

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The Nightmare Run 5K is not a typical race, not just another party it’s a thrilling experience that Halloween lovers have been waiting for. Run for your lives in your favorite Halloween costume and af... [Read more]

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The Nightmare Run 5K is not a typical race, not just another party it’s a thrilling experience that Halloween lovers have been waiting for. Run for your lives in your favorite Halloween costume and af... [Read more]

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The Nightmare Run 5K is not a typical race, not just another party it’s a thrilling experience that Halloween lovers have been waiting for. Run for your lives in your favorite Halloween costume and af... [Read more]

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This one-of-a-kind interactive tour covers infamous San Francisco haunts: North Beach “Little Italy”, Chinatown and the Barbary Coast. Travel back in time with your slightly deranged expedition lea... [Read more]

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The Nightmare Run 5K is not a typical race, not just another party it’s a thrilling experience that Halloween lovers have been waiting for. Run for your lives in your favorite Halloween costume and af... [Read more]

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Doctor Zomba's Ghost Show of Terror! is a revival of the classic 1950's spooky, funny, scary magic show featuring hypnotism, mind reading, monsters, ghosts, a sance, and an immersive "blackout sequ... [Read more]

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Haunted Hiking is not your average ghost tour. This off-road paranormal investigation provides you with real ghost hunting gear and leads you into the most infamous haunted woods of Southern Californi... [Read more]

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Find Real Haunted Houses in California

There are so many haunted places in California from the major cities like Los Angeles and San Diego to more rural towns like Fresno, Bakersfield San Francisco and Redding, California.  Are you looking for ghost tours, haunted hotels, haunted prisons, cemetery, paranormal investigations, ghost hunts, or to find the scariest real haunted houses in California.  If you own and operate one of these types of attractions please create a profile for free.  Check back on our ghost tour page often to find the best supernatural attractions to the best ghost stories from California.  Don't forget Hauntworld.com also helps you find haunted house attractions, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, to every type of Halloween attraction in the state of California.  Please join our FACEBOOK PAGE CLICK HERE to JOIN and discuss the everything haunt related.  We also encourage you to join our WORLD FAMOUS Haunt Forums CLICK HERE


If You want to find HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS in California
 

The Most Haunted Places in California

 

Find the best and scariest haunted houses, real haunts, Halloween attractions, Hayrides and more near or in the Sacremento California area.  Probably the most well known and scariest real story to ever happen in Sacramento is The Vampire of Sacrmento - Richard Chase.  Chase grew up in a very disfuntional family.  He had a trouble childlife that was filled with anger.  By the time he was 10 he had already started setting fires, and he loved to torment animals.  He had a weird obsession for blood and the death of animals.  As a teenager his obsession and ager grew even more intensive.  He got into drungs and also started to have girlfirends.  He had problems with dating and this made his anger and violence towards animals even worse.  As an adult his behavior became even more bizarre.  He would walk into the emergency room and ask who took his atery.  He was soon diagnosed with as paranoid schizophrenic.  He had been committed several times and releases for good behavior.  As soon as Chase was out the odd behavior began again.  He was drinking rabbits, dogs and cats blood.  He would torture and kill these poor animals for fun. 

Soon Chases began torturing and kiiling human beings.  He would first shoot and kill his victims and then drain the victims body of blood and drink the blood and then eat their internal organs.  Chase killed 6 victims over one horrifying month for the city of Sacramento.  He was sentenced to death and died in December of 1980.  It was said that the inmates he spent time with hated him and could not stand being around him. 

Disneyland: Anaheim, California
The thought of ghosts residing at Disneyland sounds like a fantasy, but there have been many reports of paranormal behavior at the happiest place on earth. Many of the ghosts who haunt the theme park are guests who died on rides and continue to haunt the area. Specifically, a ghost of a man who died on Space Mountain haunts the ride and occasionally employees hear his screams after park hours. It is also said that the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is haunted by evil spirits. In the ride, you’ll see dozens of fake ghosts, but some are real. Guests and workers have complained about having their hair pulled, being shoved or pinched or feeling watched.

Alcatraz: San Francisco, California
There have been thousands of reports of paranormal behavior on Alcatraz Island for many, many years. Visitors, former guards and former prisoners have reported clanging, screaming and sobbing within the old prison. Cell blocks C and D specifically show a lot of activity. Cell block D was home to Al Capone and some have even reported hearing banjo music playing there. Millions of visitors from all over the world visit Alcatraz each year to feel the cold spots, hear the screams and witness the paranormal activity of trapped souls in the walls.

Winchester Mystery House: San Jose, California
This place became known as the Winchester Mystery House because of all the odd activities that have taken place inside the mansion. There was hardly a building plan, so there are also many odd features in the mansion, such as a staircase that leads directly to the ceiling. The house is said to be haunted by ghosts who were killed by Winchester rifles. It is known that only continuous construction on the house will appease the ghosts who haunt visitors and workers.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach California
After the ship was docked in California in the 1930s, testimonies of ghost activity were immediately reported. The entire ship is reported to be haunted according to people who have heard little children crying in the nursery room and splash noises in the swimming pool area. There have been many professional paranormal investigations on this ship and it has been concluded time and time again that the ship is haunted. Today, it is possible to take a paranormal tour of the ship.

 

 

Rise Haunted House Hammond, Louisiana

The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor – Long Beach, California

By Brian Luallen

TO FIND MORE HAUNTED HOUSES IN CALIFORNIA CLICK HERE ... https://www.hauntworld.com/california-haunted-houses
 
California's Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America!  Hauntworld.com rates and reviews the best and Scariest haunted houses, haunted attractions, and Halloween events in America!  The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor is located in Long Beach, California. Please share this page and leave your reviews of one of America's best and scariest Haunted Houses.  When you find yourself in Long Beach go to The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor.  Queen Mary Dark Harbor is the single biggest Halloween event in the entire Los Angles California area.  Queen Mary Dark Harbor is also the scariest event hosted on the single most haunted ship in the World. 

To learn more about Calfornia's Queen Mary's Dark Harbor visit their websit below:
The Legendary RMS QUEEN MARY hosts ghosts and ghouls, inspired by the ship’s own haunted history, at one of the largest and most extreme Halloween events in the world!
 


Dare to spend an evening in Southern California’s most terrifyingly authentic haunt?  Look no further! The Queen Mary’s world famous Dark Harbor features 7 ghoulish mazes, nonstop entertainment on multiple stages, electrifying drinks, secret bars, festival food, private tours and more all based on the ship’s own legendary, ghostly tales.


Where it all began…

The RMS Queen Mary is the last ocean liner from the Golden Age of transatlantic travel.  Rising from the fogs of Long Beach California, near Los Angeles, in stark black and white with “Cunard Red” smokestacks, she instantly brings to mind her “older sister,” the ill-fated Titanic, though she’s twice the size of that other famous liner.

Retired in the late 1960s, the massive ship was brought to Long Beach when inexpensive air travel replaced steamships as the most economical way to travel the globe.  The original wooden finishes and art deco details of the Queen Mary’s First Class areas have been largely preserved in this floating 24-hour hotel, event  centre, and museum.  Over 50 million guests have visited the ship since it reopened to the public in 1970; many in search of things that go bump in the night.

Time Magazine calls the ship one of the most haunted places in the world, and many would agree. Among the ghosts reportedly still hanging around are a crew member who died in the ship's engine room, a "lady in white” that haunts some of the ship’s opulent ballrooms, and perhaps most famously, a spirit of an alleged “little girl” who drowned in the ship's pool.  Even today crew members still report mysterious activity, and some of the house keeping staff won’t even visit the ship’s lower decks.

During WW2, an escort vessel collided with the ship causing a massive loss of life.  During her sailing years, another 51 deaths occurred aboard.  Illness, two cases of passengers falling downstairs and breaking their necks, and in one gruesome example, an officer named William Stark drank carbon tetrachloride (mistaking it for gin) and died from the poisoning the next day.  Supposedly, people have seen the image of an officer walking around on Sun Deck and the Bridge early in the mornings and they believe it is his ghost.   

The ship was facing hard times when it began turning to its darker history to generate revenue.  It’s a common joke that a boat is a hole you throw money in, and at over 81,000 tons, several operators have struggled to generate a profit with the massive ship.  Ghost tours proved a fairly low cost, high demand offering for guests.

But in time, the Queen Mary launched its first Halloween event (then called Shipwreck) in 1995.  Originally only one haunted maze took guests through the ship’s labyrinthine Engine Room, and into its three-story Exhibit Hall for a massive rave dance party.  That event would grow to include a variety of mazes, both on the ship and in the surrounding buildings before dwindling in size.

In 2010, a new creative team was brought together to reimagine the event, taking inspiration from the legends of reported ghostly activity.  A decision was made to also embrace the surrounding port, with much of the new event being constructed with massive assemblies of shipping containers, and a decidedly industrial aesthetic.  In time, this would grow into a full-scale festival of fear, combining the look and feel of a carnival, sprawling around the Queen Mary every fall.

And that was the beginning of Dark Harbor.




The Captain’s Crew…

Since its inception, the event has grown to become the ship’s most profitable, annual special event, hosting over 150,000 souls over the 2017 season.
Upon entry, guests are funneled through a security screening before reaching the event gates, where the ships ghostly Captain cheers the crowd, while massive 40 feet jets of propane fire ignite the night. DJ’s spin exciting music, and frightfully sexy attendants mill around the crowd offering sinister potion shots.

And just behind the gates, our talent director, David Wally, drives the cast into frenzy.  Watching the monsters dance, and psyche themselves up for a night of fright is an awesome sight.  The energy is palpable, and the crowd on the other side of the gates thrills to the chants, howls and screams of the cast, thirsty for blood.

At the Captain’s command, the gates are flung wide, and guests enter the event through a massive gauntlet of monsters, sliders, and our icon characters in an opening ceremony unlike any in the industry. The nightmares start with this monster run, but guests quickly spread to their favorite mazes, and to discover tequila tastings, cocktails, and unique food as the frightful park opens.
Dark Harbor attendees will never see Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees terrorizing our guests.  All of the fearsome spirits of Dark Harbor are inspired by stories from the ship’s past, brought to life in spectacular fashion.

The street cast is comprised of frightful spirits of every kind.  Sailors, sliders, clowns, and artful circus sideshow performers entertain and scare guests at every turn.  The most popular ghouls are the icon characters: The Captain, Graceful Gale, The Ring Master, Samuel The Savage, Half Hatchet Henry, Scary Mary, The Voodoo Priestess, The Iron Master and Chef.

Beyond the normal scare zones, Dark Harbor boasts a huge roster of entertainment.  Wandering acts and stage shows delight the guests, creating a unique party and festival atmos-fear that is truly unique. A nightly fire show with multiple dancers thrills audiences, and circus aerialists delight crowds while flying through the air on hoops and silks.  The nonstop entertainment creates a sense that the event is much larger than one might initially think, an important benefit when competing with massive events like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm.

 


 
 
The Haunts…

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor features 7 frightful mazes, each inspired by those original stories of the ship’s famous authentic hauntings.

In 2017, Dark Harbor debuted an ALL NEW maze on the ship called FEAST! The new maze is based on a new icon character, Chef, who originated from a popular legend about an army cook that was killed in his own ovens.

During WWII, the Queen Mary served as a troop transport ship, carrying hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers to Europe for the D-Day invasion.  According to legend, an enlisted cook rose to become a highly decorated Chef.  Depending on the story, in either a reaction to notoriously bad food or as an act of revenge, the Chef was forced into one of his own ovens and cooked alive.  In the new maze, our ghostly kitchen crew is found still at work, trapping new victims for some of Chef’s diabolical recipes.  In one pivotal scene, guests are forced to crawl through a hot oven tunnel, before coming face-to-face with the Chef.

In fan-favorite maze, Deadrise, guests are assaulted by the ghostly crew of a sunken escort ship that helped guide the Grey Ghost through WWII.  Inspired by the true story of a fatal crash during war time voyages, Deadrise is home to the vengeful Half Hatch Henry.  Half Hatch Henry and the sailors of Deadrise have been called up form the briny depths by The Captain to terrorize the living.
With Dark Harbor being known for its larger-than-life pyrotechnics, Deadrise takes guests frightfully close to jets of propane fire and massive water effects.  The signs don’t lie, you WILL get wet in this attraction!  As guests exit, a team of energetic ghouls engage in parkour-like stunts off the exit containers, creating loud crashes and a show that guests love to watch.

In recent years, the industrial maritime horror has also been mixed with a unique turn-of-the-century circus aesthetic, inspired by a famous painting in the ship’s original First Class restaurant, the Veranda Grille.  In the painting, a Halloween-like masquerade complete with clowns, witches, and acrobats dance in a massive party scene.  In this deep theme, the Captain has conjured the Ringmaster (the spirit that inspired this painting) to create a carnival of chaos in our popular Circus maze.

In addition to clowns, the Circus maze features classic fun house illusions, carnival acts, and a section where guests have to crawl through a giant ball pit crawling with creatures (and ADA bypass is offered).  Last season, the crew also launched a new hidden bar concept inside the maze that proved hugely popular among fans and on social media.  Fans found clues online that led them to speak to a fortune teller arcade game that revealed the secret entry if the riddles were answered correctly.


 



 

The intrepid maze was inspired by the Scottish shipyards that built the ship over 80 years ago.  Drawing from a vintage industrial design and Scottish folklore, this maze located off the ship is hosted by the evil Iron Master, the mastermind behind the ship, and a ghostly train that takes guests from Dark Harbor deep into the dark crypts beneath Scotland.

Utilizing a portion of the footprint of a former maze called Voodoo Village; the maze is haunted by fearsome kilted warriors and mysterious plague doctors.  Fading from shipyard, to train, to dark crypts and snowy Northern Scotland, this is a surreal experience unlike any of the other more linear mazes found on the ship, and has been a big hit with fans. The massive set pieces and the detail of the catacombs make it unlike any other maze in the event.

Another more traditional icon, the alluring Graceful Gale, haunts Soulmate located on the aft or rear portion of the Queen Mary.  In her signature maze, Gale has been haunting the ship looking for a perfect dance partner since her mysterious disappearance.  As guests explore the maze, they realize the spirit (styled as a beautiful blonde in a flowing white gown, soaked in blood) has taken to assembling her perfect partner from the pieces of less suitable partners.  The creative team behind Dark Harbor has big plans for this maze, expected to be announced at Midsummer Scream convention in July.

Legend has it that the ship’s most haunted room is B-340.  In the maze of the same name, guests explore the background of our icon, Samuel the Savage, and what drove him to madness.  Guests see the number 340 throughout the maze, in cryptic messages, clocks, numbers on endless doors, etc.  The maze explores a popular myth that a man went mad on a voyage and murdered his family in the room.

This maze is an extreme experience, from padded walls to classrooms, where stern and terrifying nuns brutalized a young Samuel.  The path carries back to the fateful night that Samuel went insane, joined by surreal hallways with bizarre sculptures, representing the twisted recesses of Samuel’s brain.  The maze also contains Dark Harbor’s most jarring and effective gag.  Guests explore a terrifying bridge over a 50 feet fall into the ships cavernous boiler rooms, when with a crack of electricity and a cackle of massive 3.4 million volt tesla coil lights the space,  the bridge suddenly drops. While the pneumatics only drop the platform a short distance, the effect is sure to shake even the most hardened guest!

Finally, the last on ship maze, Lullaby, is hosted by Scary Mary.  Inspired by perhaps the most famous ghost of the Queen Mary, a little girl who allegedly lost her life in the First Class swimming pool, this icon is both scary and playful!

Indeed, Scary Mary seems to appear from every corner, in surprising ways.  In the most popular sequence, guests walk by the pool that is said to have a “vortex” in it.  This gateway to another place is believed to be one of the most haunted in the world.  Naturally, the art deco pool is also an extremely effective distraction, setting our cast up for amazing scares.

While the Queen Mary has been able to grow its Halloween event by embracing its unique haunted history, it’s the extreme party atmos-fear that makes it truly unique.  Most haunts and scream parks in Southern California have either stayed away from serving alcohol, or only begun to explore bars in limited ways.  At Dark Harbor, the crew has embraced it, creating an event like an EDM music festival more than a traditional haunt.



 

 
The Voyage Ahead…

Dark Harbor has been a monstrous success, inspiring a host of other popular events for the ship.
During her sailing years, the ship hosted literal and figurative royalty on voyages.  Hollywood and entertainment has always embraced the ship.  As such, it’s fitting that the ship has embraced entertainment in its future strategy.

Elaborate plans are being developed for an entertainment zone with multiple restaurants and themed attractions on the waterfront surrounding the ship.  Dark Harbor is a prime example that the right program can excite crowds and draw a new audience to visit the legendary liner.  The producers of the Coachella music festival have also just announced a partnership with the ship to create a series of massive concerts in the shadow of the ship each year.

None of this would have been possible without the dark delights of Dark Harbor, and this haunt will continue to grow for many years to come.


 


 
 
 
For more information, visit www.queenmary.com

 
TO FIND MORE HAUNTED HOUSES IN CALIFORNIA CLICK HERE ... https://www.hauntworld.com/california-haunted-houses
 
 

 

 

Why Knotts
By Michael J. Chaille

Since 1973, Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California has been conjuring up it's own Halloween tradition. That was the first year the Southern California theme park cloaked itself under the moniker Knott's Scary Farms Halloween Haunt and launched its Halloween Haunt, the First Halloween Theme Park Event. Building slowly over the years, the event now covers 160 acres, lasts 25 nights and boasts over 1000 live monsters roaming the park.

How did Knotts Scary Farm achieve the grand reputation they have today? What is this Haunt doing right? More importantly, what can smaller Dark Attractions across the country learn from the Knott's Scary Farms Halloween Haunt?

There is no magic room design or any one scheme that makes a destination this popular. Instead, it has been a slow build and cultivation on many levels that make the Knott's Haunt such a success. Key factors include Innovation, Tradition and Design which all contribute to making the Knott's Haunt 'to die for'.

Thirty years ago, Halloween was the season to dress up and Trick or Treat. For a multitude of reasons, the years to follow witnessed a decline in these traditional Halloween activities. In retrospect, whether intentional or not, the Knott's Haunt concept marked the beginning of a turning point in our culture; the decline of Trick or Treating and the rise in popularity of centralized Halloween events. Knott's took an innovative approach at the right time, and created a new reason to visit the Berry Farm. Merely a 'seedling' in 1973, the past 31 years have allowed for consistent promotion, implementation and execution of this event.

Neither glamorous nor earth-shattering, tradition plays a large role in the event's widespread and longstanding success. Consider the latest Census statistics that conclude 50% of the population will live their entire life within 50 miles of their birthplace. This could very well explain the park attendance that jumps from one age demographic to the next. While kids under 18 were the dominant age group, guests in their 30s and 40s and up were well represented. Los Angeles and Orange County has a combined population of 3.5 million kids under 18. No wonder Knott's Scary Farm offers 25 nights, (many Sold Out during that last weeks of October). Starting them young, Knott's also has a non-scare celebration designed for the family crowd. Throughout the Camp Snoopy section of the park, the Annual Camp Spooky is held during the day (now in it's 13th year). This daytime event permits kids 3-11 to Trick or Treat through the park as part of the regular admission price. Start a tradition early with this group and the potential number of return guests multiplies. For many young grandparents, moms and dads, young adults, teens and 'tweens living in Southern California, Knott's Scary Farm IS their Halloween.

The overall design of the Knott's event is really a critical factor to its success. For starters, Knott's IS haunting for the masses. The attraction line-up for the 2004 season included 11 Mazes, 4 Scare Zones and 6 Themed Shows all for $46 bucks. (Of which you could get up to $23 off with sponsor coupons). While individual Haunted Attractions can be quite popular in North America, Southern California is quite devoid of these stand-alone venues. And it's no wonder! Crowds or not, this is a great price for an entire night of scares. At $23 it would be difficult to get into any two separate events elsewhere. An entire night of entertainment and amusement, with more special haunted attractions than one could see in an evening, is a tremendous value for the Haunt-goer, and puts Knott's in the 'untouchable' category for anyone even thinking of competing. Knott's also has the ability to open up non-Halloween themed rides too. It is beyond me why anyone would attend this Halloween event to wait in a 2 hour line for a ride when you can attend the park in the day and have no wait at all? Either way, Knott's is accommodating to those riders and is a great strategy to alleviate the crowd pressure amongst the street. They really are operating at full capacity in the middle of the night.

Success Tip: Have other types of attractions available to guests that don't want the full Halloween Experience.

The economics and crowd logistics' are just the beginning of the Knott's design. The mazes themselves are methodical in layout and design as well. For the most part the mazes lead the guest along with a particular theme already set. The events that unfold are not unlike a roller coaster with planned anticipation, quick actions, high impact scares followed by sections of coast or escape. This analogy exemplifies the emotional ups and downs as they journey through the mazes. These short bursts of high energy scares, followed by black wall sections of non-descript scenic allows guest to reflect what they have just experienced and calms them down for the next set of scares. Startles along the way are used to build the anticipation. Every room does not have a huge scare and that's good design.

Success Tip: Pace out your scares to allow the guest to experience highs and lows of the story you are telling.

To paint a picture of the maze design, I'll describe two new attractions that were so clever; they no doubt left indelible guest impressions (after all, Tradition is all about creating memories!)

Red Beards Revenge was a twisting, cavernous tour below decks of a cursed ship. Haunts really didn't pick up the pirate theme just after the movie release of Pirates of the Caribbean. Knott's did and this maze had a grand entry façade with animations and overflowing sets filled with scenic detail and lots of pirates. The journey below the ships decks and the "rocking" of the floorboards were details I admired and remembered. This maze possessed a strong story line that was easy to follow due to the recent movie and was augmented with "full of life" characters. I thought they pulled this off well. There was a sense of dank confinement and the overhead space left you thinking you were below the decks. Twisting and winding around the sets, this story line was filled in by your own interpretation of what a pirate's life would be.

Success Tip: Use current day entertainment to keep the show fresh and your guests interested.

Another well-done maze (and my favorite) was Terror Vision in 3-D. Leading you down a hall of white noise, this maze was based on the kitschy 50's, 60's and 70's TV shows that we all grew up watching. Immediately recognizable show logos were doctored up with creepy themes like Sesameat Street, UnHappy Days, I Loathe Lucy and Wheel of MisFortune. After the simple 'cue card' intro, guests toured a replica set for each show while twisted theme music played in the background. The spoofed scenes were enhanced with a horror twist. This design really worked as recognizable characters and familiar scenes led guests into a false sense of security, only to set them up for the scare. A manic mix of animations, static props and clever actors, this maze was scaring everybody just about every four feet. Because the layout was designed in such a way that each room was introduced with a brand, guests focused on what they expected to see, and were easily distracted.

Success Tip: Use the viewer's memory to distract or take them back to a moment that they can reflect on.

Suffice to say this is not a maze revue, but most of the 11 mazes I journeyed through were well done and at the very least had clever aspects of design and show value. Both Red Beards Revenge and Terror Vision in 3-D, like all Knott's mazes, were short, twisting paths of high impact and energy. No real pulse of the guest throughput was evidenced, and most times it really didn't matter. Another key to their design is the application of actors that did not attempt to scare every guest that passed. This restrained shock technique employs the concept of quality and not quantity scares. A balanced smattering of shaker cans, canastas and metal finger tipped gloves allowed the actors to control their use of sounds to startle and elicit the imagination, as opposed to a heavy hand slapping on plywood walls.

Success Tip: Subtly can be just as effected as in your face.

Continuity was seen throughout the Haunt. Designs and themes are introduced by the Marquee or façade treatment and carried throughout the mazes. This is important to set the plot in the guests mind and initiate a mood. While many Haunted Attractions elsewhere comprise a "Haunt Stew" approach (where each room or scene is comprised, based on the props/actors on hand rather than an actual story line), sticking with a theme allows for designers to fall back on continuity and permits the guest to be set up more easily. A typical Haunt Stew Scenario would be a circus scene followed by a dungeon set followed by an Alien spacecraft, etc. Knott's sticks to a storyline.

These mazes also tend to scare forward and actors are smart enough not to block a guests egress path. This is key to getting guests into and out of the maze. With so much to do, who wants to get stuck in a bottleneck for 5 minutes?

Success Tip: Always permit guests to 'escape' from a room as quickly as possible to make way for more guests. Scare Forward whenever possible.

With this said, I hope Knotts can learn from a mistake. Billed as a "Scare Experience" the Jaguar - Temple of Sacrifice appeared to be another haunted maze. After entering the interior attraction, our group was immediately stopped by what appeared to be a temporary bottleneck. It's wasn't. This "scare experience" was actually just a Queue line for a less then mediocre kiddy coaster with a couple of sadly concealed scare actors trying to remain motionless while guests stood within punching distance. The real tragedy was by the time I could see what I had gotten myself into, there was no way out and the guests demise was to shuffle along a never ending switch back queue until boarding the coaster.

Success Tip: Don't try to scare waiting guests unless there is a way for the actor to escape and reset elsewhere.

While I may never get those 30 minutes back, the "scare zones" somehow made up for it. These concepts really work and most haunted events attempt these in some form, but typically not at the scale of Knotts. Whether nestled underneath the forested walkways of Camp Snoopy, (the Gauntlet), below the twisting steel of massive coasters, (The Swamp), or ambling down the dusty western boardwalk, (Ghost Town), a total of 4 zones offered up ample opportunity for scares. These 'zones' are all about the guests freely roaming around the open common areas or sets of the theme park. While taking in the sites, shopping or goofing off with friends, the guests are actually being stalked. These areas are where a lot of the roaming monsters lurk, waiting for the unsuspecting and distracted.

One of the best features of this event is watching other guests being hunted by the monsters. This is a front row seat to witness a hideous creature prowling for an unsuspecting group of teenage girls. Or a pair of thirty-something's juggling sodas and churros as an onrush of sliders rush out of the fog-choked corners of the street. This side show entertainment occurs independent of the mazes, has every guest on edge and is great fun.

Success Tip: Haunt common areas outside of the attraction for added value.

Sliders, a subset of the roaming monsters, are another great innovation that converts passive areas of the park into a separate attraction. Sliders are roaming monsters of all types that are suited up with leg, knee and elbow pads. Their heavy work gloves are fitted with steel fingertips and plates to protect them as they take a running leap towards guests and slide - stopping short right at the feet of the targeted victims. This type of fast action scare leaves nobody safe from attack.

Success Tip: Employ Hit and Run scare tactics that leaves guests wondering what will happen next.

These scare zones have earned their own right to entertainment and guests now pony up to pose and buy a staged photo (after the scare of course!) with their favorite monster. While the purest of haunters would cringe as monsters chat with guests while in costume, remember, this is haunting for the masses, (and really with crowds like these, anything goes.) Kiosks are set up with cash registers and lighting, ready to capture you and your favorite creature, for a price.

Another revenue source for the park is the "Seasons of Screams" series that is now out on DVD. This Hauntumentry reveals the history of the Knott's Scary Farms Halloween Haunt and how it evolved into the most successful Halloween attraction in the World.

Success Tip: Offer DVD's or photos so guests can take home the experience while providing additional revenue.

The latest innovation is the Maze Interior Photo Opportunity. While this may be the single worst place to have guests dig around for a flash camera, it may be visionary with regard to the current popularity of camera phones. This concept allows the guest to stop inside the maze, whip out a camera and pose with the characters as they are in the set. Typically one would think that photos would be taboo, but the vampire brides overtly encouraged shutterbugs within their reach. How this would work on a busy night, I have no idea, but if you're stuck in a backed up line, it may just prove to be entertaining and encourage more interaction among guests and actors. This strategy may also accommodate a slow maze section or allow time for guests to slow themselves down so they don't trample lagging groups within the maze.

There is much more to the Knott's Haunt then I have space to cover. This event really is a great place to research the art of haunting. Several rides at Knott's are also transformed into haunted attractions that are unique and fun. Between attractions you could also take in any of the 6 "Sinister Shows" that are produced just for this season. Ranging from the traditional 'Hanging' to the newest offspring "Dr. Cleaver's Psycho Circus", these attractions are peppered with current events, comedy and gore. Dr. Cleaver's was evidence of Knott's leaning to a more adult theme show that had big stage effects and Vegas style dance numbers.

Success Tip: Take a chance on new concepts and ideas and be quick to learn from your mistakes.

Innovation, Design and Tradition have all lead to the success of the Knott's Haunt over the years. A lot can be said of being first to market with new scares and maze concepts, but there is more to it then that. The designing of an event that permits guests to experience fear in fast paced, energetic environment gets them in and out of the mazes and on to the next thing. Knott's keeps people moving from event to event. Offering more then any one guest can experience in an evening leaves the audience wanting more and that is a golden rule in entertaining, which Knott's easily accomplishes. Most importantly, Knott's Scary Farms Halloween Haunt is building traditions with its audience, young and old, and that will keep this new era Halloween around for years to come.

Michael J. Chaille is the president of Ghost Ride Productions, INC., a Halloween and Dark Attractions manufacturer based in Hollywood, California. Professionally in the Halloween Props and Effects business for 10 years, Ghost Ride develops a multitude of new products for the industry annually. Part of the business is seeing what is out there and what is needed within the industry. Ghost Ride puts this research to use in developing new and custom products for theme parks across the nation and around the world. Michael can be reached at info@ghostride.com.

 

Six Flags Magic Mountains’ Fright Fest

            Six Flags, known worldwide now, as a leader in Amusement Park companies, presented a respectable attempt in a Haunted Event. This event was the smallest of the four, only offering four haunted mazes and one haunted ride. This park differed from the other three in that the park does not shut down between its’ normal park operation and its’ Haunted Event. Therefore, only one days’ admission got you into all of the rides, and after a certain time during the night, into the Haunted Attractions. But this also proved to be a bit of a downfall. At the other events, when the parks would re-open, there would be a noticeable change in atmosphere: a change in lighting, a change in sound, etc. Here, the attractions and entertainment would just sort of happen, at a certain time. Well, that was the plan. On the day that we visited, NONE of the mazes opened anywhere near the scheduled times. We were told there were “technical difficulties” with ALL of the mazes…what’s going on here? I can see if one or two of the mazes had “technical difficulties” but all of them? About an hour later, the mazes slowly started to open. Six Flags did something a little different with two of the four mazes that you usually don’t see in a theme park haunt. They would shuffle a group of people into the first room of the haunt, proceed with some special effects, a scare, and then shuffle the group through some themed hallways where we would be shuffled into another room, stop, watch some more effects, and a scare, then shuffle to the next room.   This was an interesting idea, and it works well if you are trying your best to tell a story, but when your story is lacking, and so are your scares, all you are left with is choppy pacing, and horrendous throughput. This also squashes any feeling that you are alone in the haunt, or that you don’t know where you are going.

 

Now, the other two mazes were your typical walk thru attractions. This helped a bit in the realism department, but having event staff manage every single room and every single actor ruins it. I’m all for the safety of the cast and of the patrons, but there has to be a way to hide these people a little better. In fact, while leading our group through one of the mazes, I could go no further when an event staff member was standing in the middle of the room right in my way. I asked her if we were supposed to stop here, and she replied, “No, I can’t go in that room ahead, they’re trying to scare me”. So she grabbed my arm and I had to lead her through the next room, which consisted of nothing more than a dropping spider.

 

The one ride they did haunt, was their Log Flume, which they renamed, “Blood Falls.” This ride saved their event. Not only because it had decent throughput, but also because the scares were good, the lighting was good, the sound was good. It really felt like an entire experience from start to finish. You had the thrill of being on the ride itself, along with plenty of scareactors along the way. If only the mazes had this type of intensity, and mystery, Six Flags would have been a bit higher on the list.

 

            Each maze did have some preshow entertainment, thanks to TV monitors in the queue lines. But the entertainment grew annoying, as it was the same setup to each maze. Basically, a news station is “broadcasting live” at each place where something horrible has happened. Inevitably, we see the camera guy drop the camera and start running, which is supposed to leave us with the question, “Oh my gosh, what happened to him? Is that going to happen to me?” but really leaves us with the question, “Oh my gosh, why couldn’t they think up something a little different for each queue line to entertain us with while we wait here forever?”

 

            As for the park decorations, everything looked good, as the park itself did transform nicely at night. It’s just a shame that nothing happened in the park. The Scare Zones weren’t that scary, as there was not as many scareactors in there as there should have been.

 

Do I think that it was a success for the park?  There was plenty of screaming (12-16 year old) girls running throughout the park, which seemed to be the primary demographic. Most seemed to have a good time however for the ‘Haunt Fanatics’ like us, Six Flags has a ways to go.  Six Flags needs to keep the park open a bit later, improve the mazes and the pacing, and hopefully, they will become a true contender in the Theme Park Haunt battle.

 

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