It was a long time in the making but this past Saturday, the 28th of September, was MiceChat's big Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt event. This year we really tried to pull out all of the stops and make this something remarkable. What's more, Knott's did everything they could to make sure this was an amazing event by giving us exclusive access to things that you otherwise wouldn't be able to see.
Let's start at the beginning.
The registration team was ready to go at 3pm (thank you to all the friendly folks who helped staff this event!)
At exactly 3pm check-in began and groups began to filter into the Knott's Chicken dinner restaurant Banquet Hall. There were two lines; one for those who chose to experience Trapped, and those who chose to skip the up-charge maze.
Maze designer Gus Kreuger got in a big ol' light saber fight with Fishbulb
over who had first dibs at the buffet.
Once the first batch of attendees was all checked in Eric Lynxwiler, co-author of Knott's Preserved and now a Knott's employee, led folks on a backstage tour of the brand new maze, Gunslinger's Grave. Tours were broken down into groups of 50 to try and keep it as intimate as possible and allow folks to really take time in the maze.
By 4:30 half of the tour groups had returned and the doors to the buffet were opened. It was here that Knott's threw another wonderful surprise at us by offering every attendee a souvenir Knott's cup with free refills for the entire night! WOW.
The spread put on by Knott's was pretty amazing and was better than anything we have ever had at the event before. There was a carving station for roast beef and for turkey, a pasta station where you could ask the chef to prepare any combination of pasta and flavors that you liked, Knott's world famous chicken was served along with mashed potatoes, ribs, corn, mac and cheese, salad, a huge pumpkin ice sculpture, fountain drinks, and desserts. It was heaven. Food and beverage staff, including manager Russ Nibbs, really outdid themselves here and the food was simply divine. THANKS TO THE WHOLE CREW, this was an exceptional buffet!
As everyone finally began to get their third and fourth helpings from the buffet, Dusty welcomed Eric Lynxwiler took to the stage along with Gunslinger's Grave designer Gus Krueger and Haunt Legend John Waite. Eric interviewed the both of them regarding the major differences between producing haunt when it first opened in 1973 and today. In 1973 they had 6 weeks to put together the first haunt. Nowadays, they plan a year in advance. Quite the difference from its humble beginnings.
Dusty welcomes the guests to the stage.
Eric Lynxwiler on the left, John Waite in the middle and Gus Krueger on the right
After the dinner we all filtered through security and waited for early entry into the Haunt. The anticipation was high as the fog enveloped Ghost Town and the monsters began to crawl from the dark recesses of the wooden structures.
At 6:30, half an hour before the official start of the event, we were off and running.
We hit the Witch's Keep first. This was the redressing of the Calico Mine Train. It was wonderfully done as an homage to the early days of Haunt, complete with ghosts reminiscent of what John Waite had produced for those very first Haunts 40 years ago.
Next up was the beautiful new maze, Black Magic.
We next headed to Black Magic, a new maze which uses some great technology and special effects. Digital mapping projectors are used on the facade of the building to great effect! This maze was one of the standouts of the evening.
Unfortunately, we had to skip Mirror Mirror in Camp Snoopy due to the size of the group and the low capacity of the maze. It's an honest to goodness mirror maze, but only lets about 20 people in every 4 minutes or so. We had to skip this maze and ask folks to go do it on their own later in the night. Kind of a bummer, but it workled out.
Next we went to experience Gunslinger's Grave with full lighting and sound (this was the maze we were walked through by Eric Lynxwiler earlier in the evening), and filled with actors. The maze is a scary, gritty experience that's a must do when you come to Haunt.
Following that we hit Uncle Willy's Slaughterhouse. One word of advice, don't eat the meat. It's made out of people, PEOPLE!
It was now time for those who selected to do Trapped to go off for their reservation time between 8 and 9pm. The staff here had their act together and processed us all with amazing speed. We were all in there and out of there promptly. The maze itself pleased newbies, but for those that experienced the original version last year it was a bit of a let down.
9:30 was time for the Hanging. This year was probably one of the funniest in recent memory. The jokes were rapid fire and razor sharp. It's good to see they are keeping musical numbers alive. They were well written and performed and several of our guests lamented that the music wasn't available for sale!
After the hanging we all regrouped and then headed off to visit the Green Witch at the maze Trick or Treat.
The entrance to Trick or Treat.
This beautiful maze is so good at setting a unique atmosphere and striking a delicate tone. It's nostalgic, yet creepy at the same time.
Following that was the lackluster Endgames maze. This one is about a world of people killing for sport. Not a bad concept, but the execution of the maze doesn't really gel. If you don't have much time in your schedule, you can skip this one.
Regardless, the next mazes, Dominion of the Damned and Delirium, were both AMAZING! Each one of them was so spot on and perfect. Very scary.
It was at this time that we took a potty break and grabbed snack before we ran into Pinocchio Unstrung and Forevermore.
Pinocchio Unstrung is a returning maze and it was really strong again this year. The newer mazes really seem to be a much higher standard that what you may remember from 5 years ago.
Forevermore, though well built, has a messaging problem. It's about a serial killer who is inspired by the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. Perhaps it's just too high concept, because most folks left scratching their heads trying to figure out what it all means. I think they can rescue this maze, if not for this year than in time for next year. But they should probably alter it to be more of the Edgar Allen Poe era and drop the modern references.
After completing the MiceChat Maze Death March we collapsed into the seats at the Charles M. Schultz theatre for Elvira's Sinema Seance. It was nice because Knott's provided us with early entry into the theatre so that we could all make sure to sit together, right up front in the center. Elvira is amazing. She is what, 60? She looks fantastic and is more entertaining than starlets half her age.
If you have to make the choice between trying to do all the mazes or skipping some to do the Hanging and Elvira, see Elvira and the Hanging. They were both AMAZING. You can also potentially meet Elvira between her 9:30 and 12:30 shows by visiting her Boo-tique across from the theater. If you buy $40 or more in Elvira merchandise, they'll put you in a drawing for a chance to get an autograph from her in a special little area they created just for the occasion.
The show marked the conclusion of another wonderful Haunt event. We didn't get to say goodbye to everyone properly since the theater was so full of other guests, but we would really like to thank all of you who attended and added your own unique energy to this event. We have a GREAT time and it was all because of YOU!
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank, Jason Soyster, Leidy Arevelo, Russ Nibbs, Raffi Kaprelyan and the fantastic event staff, monsters and Haunt staff for working so hard to create such a spectacular night of spooky fun for us. Our expectations were far exceeded and if we were able to start selling tickets for next year's event right now, we would! Thank you Knott's Berry Farm for continuing to make the Haunt a truly special event.
Did YOU attend the MiceChat Haunt meet this year? If so, please share your experiences and pictures with us below. Did you have a good time? Let MiceChat and Knott's know!
Thank you to all who attended the event. We have a lot of fun events coming right up for you. Be sure to always read your MiceChat emails so you don't miss out on next year's Haunt. Here's a link to sign up for our weekly Newsletter: MiceChat.Com