Monster For A Day At Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt
Every October since 1973 Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California transforms into the granddaddy of all haunted events, Knotts Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt. From its humble beginnings of one show and small scale scares in Ghost Town to its current incarnation of 13 mazes/re-themed rides and seven shows, Haunt continues to be an industry leader when it comes to large scale haunted attractions.
Terror of London Maze
Jack the Ripper awaits visitors
The London Marketplace
A Church Graveyard
But Haunt doesn’t just happen, it is born out of the creativity, passion and twisted minds of well over 1,000 people; mazes designers, sound and lighting gurus, and monsters that creep in the night.
A victim of Jack the Ripper
Elaborate set pieces inside the Terror of London
Will you be Jack's next victim?
This year, we were invited to go behind the screams to see what makes Knotts Scary Farm's cold dead heart beat with excitement. It all starts with an idea. Haunt Designer, Brooke Walters (The Doll Factory, Labyrinth and one of this this year’s new mazes, Terror of London.), explained that she and her fellow mazes designers began the process of planning for this year’s Haunt the minute last years event ended.
Brooke Walters, Maze designer
Once the creative minds have hammered out their ideas, they meet with special effects, lighting, paint and props crews along with costuming and makeup to craft immersive environments designed to scare the life out of you.
The London Sewers
Frankenstein is the finale in the Terror of London Maze
Creating the perfect scare is no easy task. Brooke took us on a tour of the brand new Terror of London maze in the daylight so we could see all the details and discuss its development with her.
The Marketplace scene in the daylight
The Tavern scene
The cathedral in the day still impresses
Elly just has to inspect every detail.
Brooke took inspiration from Sweeny Todd, From Hell, and the ageless terror of Jack the Ripper. Attention was paid to historical accuracy in Terror of London maze. “Ghastly Murder” posters adorn the maze walls, which were reproduced based upon actual posters posted in London during the Jack the Ripper’s murders. The murders depicted are based upon actual accounts such as the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Mary Kelly, which is one of the big scenes in the maze. Throughout, the sets are decorated with antique photos based on the actual murder site to make the scene as historically accurate as possible. Terror of London is one of the “don’t miss” mazes of this year's Haunt.
No matter how well a maze is designed, it is the monsters who inhabit it that make it come alive (or should we say dead). And to help us really understand the effort involved, Knotts took us back stage and turned me into an hideous beast!
Elly enters Warehouse P
First, I met with costuming and was given a thematically correct outfit for the maze I was to be working in that night, "Lockdown:The Asylum." The costuming area is filled with rack upon rack of clothing separated by maze.
Suiting up is hard to do
They dressed me in a tan button down shirt and a black flap jacket and vest. My role in the maze would be as a guard in a prison where the inmates have gone crazy and are rioting.
Elly likes her costume
After putting on my costume I was taken over to make-up and met with Denice Paxton, the makeup artist would would work the magic necessary to turn me into a believable and scary monster for the night.
Make-up room 1 (aka the Crypt)
Denice Paxton, Make up genius, begins work on Elly
A combination of tissue paper and latex are applied to create torn flesh
Another Monster comes by to wish Elly luck
The other monsters at the other chairs admire the work
Airbrush is used to spray shading onto Elly's face
Denice tears the latex and tissue to give it an organic look.
Using a jar of red gel, the make up becomes more grotesque
Teeth are painted to look not-so-pretty
It's now time for a wig from wardrobe
After the application of all sorts of products I took a quick glance at myself in the mirror and . . . WHOA! Instant Monster.
Elly poses with Denice Paxton
Wardrobe and makeup is quite an involved process. So much so that I find it amazing that these two departments are able to prepare 1000 monsters every single night Haunt operates.
I was then walked over to my maze for the evening, LockDown:The Asylum.
Backstage at Lockdown:The Asylum
We entered the maze backstage.
I had the basic idea of what to do. Still, as I saw the first guests making their way down the hallway to the jail cell in which I stood, I got a bit nervous.
It didn’t take long before I was the one making the guests scream and run.
There is a certain rush when you make someone jump away from you in fear. They’ve paid to be taken out of reality and I was giving them a safe, but frightening, escape.
Best scare ever!
I was allowed to work the maze as long as I'd like and was shocked that several hours had flown by in a heartbeat. At the end, I left the maze covered in sweat but feeling energized. It was one of the most enjoyable nights of my life.
Then it was time to return to Warehouse P, home of costuming and makeup, to return my wig , costume and to have my latex makeup removed. I stood side by side with my fellow monsters at a very large sink removing the rest of my makeup, exhausted but fully satisfied that I had scared the daylights out of many guests.
There. All clean.
My 3 hour stint as a monster truly gave me a deep admiration for the professionals around me. They would be returning to work on Wednesday and I had a deeper appreciation for their art and the exertion of energy required to put on such a physical show.
Why do the monsters passionately return year after year? What keeps a Haunt employee coming back for more? Jon Stephens, who has worked at Haunt since 2000 in mazes and in the scare zones in the walkways, commented: “There's no greater feeling out there than watching people scurry to get out of your way when they see you coming. It is an immense rush.” And isn't that what the crowds are paying for? It’s safe, escapist entertainment. It’s about giving people an interactive show and leaving them wanting more. Knott’s has been doing just that every Halloween season for 37 years.
We were told that Knott’s was the first and is the largest haunted event in the world. They are justifiably proud of their product. When asked what sets Knott’s apart from other haunted theme park events, Brooke replied “We give our monsters freedom, yet direction”. And it is that delicate mix of freedom and direction that helps make Knott’s Halloween Haunt the premiere haunted event in Southern California and one of the top scares anywhere.
This monster gives Knott's Halloween Haunt two scary claws up.For tickets and additional information about Knott's Halloween Haunt, visit: Knott's Berry Farm
More information HERE about this and other haunted attractions for October 2009
Story By Elaina Thomas