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Haunt Review: Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place

In the crowded Southern California haunted attraction industry, many haunts come and go from year to year. Besides the old stand-bys of the big theme park events (like Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm), there’s really only one other name that’s synonymous with Halloween in SoCal : Sinister Pointe. They’ve  earned their well-deserved reputation for haunts that are not only very innovative and original, but also truly scary. They’ve also boldly carried out completely new concepts in the haunt space, such as “Dark Markets,” Christmas-themed events, horror-themed parties, spirit lounges, and even a seance show that we loved.

Unfortunately, things seemed a little bumpy for Sinister Pointe over the past couple of years. In 2016, we were disappointed with their Halloween event, which felt put together at the last minute, and we didn’t feel it was up to their own (admittedly high) standards. With no walk-through attraction in 2017, we worried about their future. So when news surfaced this year that they’d be back, and bigger than ever, we put Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place at the top of our most-anticipated haunts list.

For 2018, Sinister Pointe has taken over three levels in an abandoned Macy’s in the Laguna Hills Mall. The event includes three haunted attractions (two walk-through mazes and one dark ride) as well as two scare zones. There are also vendors selling a wide range of horror-themed products, plus food trucks.

Mazes

Phobias

This interactive maze takes victims through representations of common fears and phobias. Each room is a stand-alone scene of a specific fear, and includes things such as dentist’s office, crematory,  a room full of exposed wires, and clowns. To get through the scene, your group will have to face their fears and push buttons, sit in the dentist chair, crawl through an oven, and so on. Our group was split up during this maze and we ended up going through alone during the second half, although this didn’t seem to be the case for everyone. Overall, this maze harkens back to Sinister Pointe’s previous attractions, such as SAW and Fear, but we felt that the scares were milder in comparison. Overall, this was a fun maze with a few good surprises and some really good actors. A solid return of Sinister Pointe’s trademark interactivity.

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Evil on 2

This maze tells the story of a creepy hotel. It started with us being led through the storage room, where we boarded a freight elevator helmed by a demented bellhop, who warned us about the evils on the hotel’s second floor. This was a great use of Macy’s actual freight lift, which was actually creepy enough that it didn’t even need extra lights or music to set the sinister tone. Upon exiting the elevator, we made our way through an abandoned hotel dining room and then through the halls of the evil hotel itself. The sets here were well designed, and we truly felt like we were snaking our way through hotel hallways and rooms. This maze used a good combination of static props and actors, and the effective lighting was distracting enough that it was sometimes hard to tell whether an actor was real or a prop. However, after a while, the scenes became a bit repetitive. The monotony was broken up by a security guard scene and a “behind the walls” path that made things interesting. Overall, though, we felt that a bit more variety in the maze would’ve livened things up a bit.

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The Boogeyman Express

Boogeyman Express is where Sinister Pointe gets truly interesting this year. Once again shattering expectations of what can be done in a haunt, SP has devised a completely unique haunted attraction they bill as a “dark ride.” The entire ride is hidden on the third floor, and you won’t have any idea what to expect before you actually board the vehicle.

This ride takes groups of 4 in a mine car, which is pulled behind a small golf cart-like vehicle. A tour guide takes you through a small town that has been overtaken by an evil presence. The scenes are highly varied, ranging from an old mansion, to a church, to a mine shaft, but the backstory is well crafted and the settings flow together. There are some good scares in here, and the mine car moves along at a good speed (sometimes even surprisingly fast!). We were actually blown away by the fact that this ride achieved a truly spooky feeling on the third floor of a department store.

Boogeyman Express was the true standout of the night, and the long lines reflected that. If you purchase general admission, you will need to obtain a timed ticket for this attraction and be prepared for a long wait. But it’s definitely worth it, and this attraction is not to be missed.

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Other Attractions

In addition to the mazes and dark ride, Scary Place also includes some really cool vendors and games, including a mini escape room (only $1!). A stage near the back of the space showcases live bands and magic shows. There are also plenty of free photo ops (including a free photo station). Two scare zones are fun to wander through while taking photos and videos. Roaming scareactors entertain the crowds and pose for photos.

Sinister Pointe has done a great job creating an atmosphere that makes you want to hang out. We attended on a Saturday night, and although the lines for the mazes were somewhat long (but not crazy), the overall space itself was large enough that it didn’t feel crowded at all. It had a great laid-back, fun vibe. We can’t help but compare Scary Place with HorrorWorld, which is also located in a mall and includes multiple attractions and vendors. While we loved HorrorWorld’s Into the Black attraction, we think Scary Place has the edge in being the event we wanted to spend more time at. We definitely recommend a visit to Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place this year.

We recommend purchasing the all-night VIP pass if possible. You’ll definitely want to go through the mazes and dark ride more than once. It will also help you avoid the long line for Boogeyman Express.

Sinister Point’s Scary Place Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

 

Overall Rating of Sinister Pointe 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place is open Thursdays through Sundays as well as October 31. Tickets are now on sale 

Be sure to check Groupon for daily deals.

HAUNT REVIEW: Warner Bros.’Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights’

Are You Ready To Face Your Fears?

(PRNewsfoto/Warner Bros. Studio Tour)

For a few years in a row, Warner Bros. Studios has been hosting a smaller scale Halloween event on select nights in October using their archive of classic and modern horror movie properties. This year they’re ripping off the little kid’s arm and throwing their bloody clawed glove into the ring with a bigger multi-night Halloween event.  We love that they’re making the commitment to present a new haunt event in Southern California and from the preview night, it’s clear to us that Universal Studios (HHN) is no longer the only haunted movie studio in Hollywood.

“We’re not just a scare factory or a haunted house – as the creator of legendary horror films, what better way to celebrate Halloween than with a party on the Warner Bros. backlot? We’re thrilled to welcome guests who are ready to brave their deepest nightmares,” said Gary Soloff, Director of Marketing, WBSTH. “Due to the overwhelming demand from last year’s event, we’ve extended our nights and hours and made this year’s festival, night tour, and mazes bigger, better, and scarier, so our guests can expect more pulse-pounding terror than ever before.”

As with any new major haunt event, there definitely is room for improvement. Over this haunt season, they will have to climb the learning curve to smooth out some of the event’s operations, staff training, and scare actor presence. Given that the WB Studios doesn’t have the infrastructure of a major theme park they’ve done an incredible job at converting their studio backlot into an intimate small-town style Halloween festival. You really feel as though you’re walking through the streets of Derry Maine, Springwood Ohio, or Monroe Connecticut. Off to an impressive start, WB has successfully created an adult-focused Halloween event that we feel is best suited for more mature haunt fans who are either tired of the chaotic HHN experience, seek a nostalgic horror movie experience, or just want more haunts to go to.

Mazes & Experiences 

IT Knows What Scares You

Horror Made Here: IT

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Haunt Review: HorrorWorld 2018

Into the Black burst onto the Southern California haunt scene in 2017, and it quickly shattered some of the long-running standards we’ve come to expect from haunts. Gone were the conga lines and large groups of people spoiling the scares, because in this maze, you had to walk through alone. And yet, it wasn’t an extreme haunt but rather one that packed plenty of scares but could still appeal to even casual haunt-goers. We were sure Larry Bones had found the right formula for something really unique, and we gave Into the Black a 666 rating last year.

This year, Into the Black makes up just one of three mazes in the newly expanded, multi-haunt event called HorrorWorld, located in the Puente Hills mall in the City of Industry. We were able to experience all three haunts during a media preview event before the official opening. Read on for our reviews.

Location

First of all, a word on the location. The Puente Hills Mall has certainly seen better days. Many stores stand empty, and if you’re so inclined, it would be easy to act out scenes from Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Comet here. Haunts all over the country seem to be taking advantage of the decline in retail, using abandoned stores as locations. Although this might be convenient and cost-effective, the mall setting does detract somewhat from the atmosphere as you wait in line. Gazing into the window of a Foot Locker while 90s music plays overhead just doesn’t get us into the haunt mood.

 

HorrorWorld occupies three storefronts on the second level near Macy’s. The main store houses the ticket booth; spooky vendors selling everything from t-shirts, to Halloween masks, to home decor; and food vendors, such as Morbid Cupcakes and Rad Coffee (try the Cookies and Scream coffee!). It’s also the location of the asylum-themed maze.

Mazes

Psycho Sanitarium

On the night we visited, this maze had its lights on. This actually might be the normal state of things, since it’s located inside the same room as the vendors and ticket booth, and we’re not sure how they could effectively dim the lights enough to work for both the vendors and the maze. Nevertheless, the actors were going full throttle inside. Demented asylum patients assaulted us around every corner and got right up in our faces. However, the overall set design did lack detail, as the walls were mostly just white with plastered papers and smears of blood. It was also a relatively short maze. But it serves as a good warm-up for the others, so if you get the all-access pass, we definitely recommend you check this one out first.

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The Fleshyard

The Fleshyard was previously located in Anaheim, most recently at a pumpkin patch, and over the years it’s earned a reputation as one of the best stand-alone, independent haunts in Orange County. This year, it’s found a perfect home at HorrorWorld. While we waited in line, we saw many groups run out of the exit looking terrified and/or exhilarated. We could tell from the guest reactions alone that this maze is special.

The beginning of the maze was a dark church scene, where a distraught young girl knelt at the altar while the priest provided the backstory of the doomed Kearny family. After hearing what befell the family, we were soon ushered out and began our journey through the Kearny house of horrors. As we traveled through the dilapidated farmhouse, we encountered various family members. Some of the scenes included the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. The maze also includes some “outdoor” scenes.

We found the sets to be impressively detailed with effective lighting and sound to set the frenzied mood. The maze uses unique scare tactics, and although it was a preview night, these actors had the scares down already.  There’s also a narrow hallway section that might have you turning sideways to get through (although there is an alternative, “easy” path for claustrophobic or larger guests). The finale scene was particularly impressive, and it’s what had some guests actually running out of the maze.

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Into the Black

The main attraction at HorrorWorld is still Into the Black. This maze takes up the largest space in the event and still requires guests to go through alone. However, the timed tickets from last year have been abandoned, and instead guests simply wait in line for their turn.

This maze relies heavily on darkness to set the mood. Although they’ve done a good job blocking out most of the mall’s harsh fluorescent lighting, we did find some light leakage coming through the scenes at the very front of the maze. But instead of being a distraction, it actually allowed us to observe the amazing detail in the sets and masks of the actors. However, this affects only a couple of scenes, and as you travel to the back of the maze, the darkness quickly envelops everything once again.

As we made our way through the crumbling Black family home, we encountered truly scary demons lurking around every corner (as well as in many other unexpected places). And these are no average demons…the amazing quality of the Bone Yard Effects masks gives them an extra unsettling, sinister appearance. Additionally, the maze uses a minimalist soundscape to heighten the suspense. The paths near the back of the maze are so disturbingly quiet, that any shuffling sound raises the hairs on your arm and puts you on full alert. The actors exploit this by moving nearly soundlessly until they are right next to you, or they may build the scare first by quietly scraping walls, finally letting out their terrifying shrieking growls right in your ear.

Into the Black remains one of the best mazes in Southern California right now. If you didn’t catch it last year, this should be near the top of your list for 2018.

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Summary

In its inaugural year, HorrorWorld has entered the Southern California haunt scene as major player, and we highly recommend a visit. Although you can buy tickets individually for each maze, the best value is the $45 all-access pass, which allows you to experience all three mazes. There is also a VR experience (we ran out of time and didn’t experience it this year).

HorrorWorld Overall Fright Value:

All-Access Pass

Overall Rating of HorrorWorld 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

HorrorWorld is open Fridays through Sundays in October, as well as October 29-31. Tickets are now on sale 

Experience a variety of Haunted Attractions at Southern California’s Most Anticipated Halloween Event. Not only do we offer the Scariest Haunted Houses, but Horrorworld has partnered with a team of terrifying vendors to create a Truly Frightening Experience.

HAUNT REVIEW: DARK HARBOR 2018

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor charts a course to scare and delight visitors with 6 mazes,  secret bars, and plenty of sideshows and attractions.

With no new mazes this year, Dark Harbor shifts its focus to revamping previous mazes and highlighting its sideshow offerings such as acrobatic performances, carnival rides, and enhanced bar options. While it may be a little unfair to compare the design and theming to other SoCal attractions like HHN, Dark Harbor continues to be a formidable Halloween Haunt thanks to the extremely dedicated scareactors and the naturally creepy aura of the Queen Mary ship. All the mazes benefit from the location and while some may rely a little too heavily on that, they all have unique elements whether it be climbing up ropes, going down slides, or crawling through some of the ship’s passageways.

We recommend that you consider purchasing the “Fast Fright” ticket, as wait times ranged from 60 – 90 minutes during peak hours. All in all, for its affordable price point, the number of mazes, and unique experiences, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is a fun date/friends night out at a haunt worth cruising through.

 

Mazes

LULLABY

It has been long rumored that Mary, the little girl who drowned in the Queen Mary First Class Swimming Pool in 1952, has haunted the dark corners of the luxury liner since her untimely demise. Many experts theorize the haunting derives from Mary’s spirit attaching itself to the little girl’s stuffed toy bear. Perhaps the bear holds the gloomy secrets behind the wicked ghost of Scary Mary and why she still sings her eternal Lullaby.

Our night began at Lullaby, which I can truly say lived up to its name, as the spirit of Scary Mary put me in an eternal sleep. The first section of the maze gives hope that Lullaby will be creepy, as guests have to crawl through a small corridor, which leads to a room pumped with fog and LED lighting, to mimic a swimming pool. This effect was a great tool for scare actors to crawl and jump up at you while you maneuver around the room. But pretty quickly the maze disappoints as guests end up walking down long narrow hallways with sparse actors and predictable scares. Another reason this maze was a letdown, was because the overall story was hard to grab onto. For example, Mary’s teddy bear was supposed to be a big plot point, but there was never any mention of it, and instead, there is an actor dressed up as a monkey following you during parts of the maze. Eventually, you end up exiting to one of Dark Harbor’s secret bars, which makes you wonder if Scary Mary had a fake ID?

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B340

A series of inhuman crimes tormented the Queen Mary passengers during a routine cross-Atlantic voyage in October of 1948. Follow the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the evil truth behind one of the most notorious criminals to ever invade the luxury liner: Samuel the Savage.

Samuel the Savage continues to haunt the Queen Mary and invites guests to enter a well designed and scary journey to discover the fates of his victims. B340 utilized the various victims, such as distorted demons, nuns, and crewmates to give each room a distinct theme. Similar to the other mazes, B340 also had long narrow hallways but managed to still have unique scares, such as actors hanging from the ceilings. Keep a close eye at the beginning for a trap door that leads to a secret bar with a two-way mirror where you can scare other guests.

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FEAST

Chop-chop! It’s time to report for duty as the new line cook on board the world famous Queen Mary. However, all is not what it seems as the kitchens have gone dark and the smell of rank, rotting meat fills the air. From dinner service to the kitchens, the angry spirit of an evil Chef washes back from a watery grave to serve the high-class Queen Mary passengers of 1948. Face the souls of poisoned travelers, gruesome ship staff and of course, the horrific Chef now serving the living to the dead. Let The Feast begin.

For a maze with an overall fun theme of a haunted kitchen, and a cool central character in The Chef, we were disappointed that Feast didn’t take advantage of its potential. While Queen Mary tried to design the maze to feel like a gruesome kitchen, with hanging meat bags, cooking machinery, and a walk-in oven, it was hard not to notice that the maze was actually located in the engineering section of the ship – not quite the proper setting for a “dinner service gone wrong.” Strangely, there was no foul smell anywhere in the maze – which could have been used to create an unsettling environment. Finally, the maze had an awkward ending, with guests having to climb down 3 different flights of stairs, before going through the last room with a single unthreatening character. This is where The Chef could have been utilized, by including him in a big final scare. Also, why not a secret bar in the kitchen themed maze?

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CIRCUS

It’s the night before a dust-covered, rickety old circus opens to the public. Sneak beyond the curtains to unveil the horrors lurking within the shadows of the big top. Hosting a menagerie of monsters and sinister creatures, the one and only Ringmaster returns with unadulterated and unbelievable horrors for all who step inside Circus!

Circus has a unique twist on a classic theme, by showcasing a grim “behind the scenes” look at Circus life. Guests pass through rooms filled with scare actors that are dressed like drunken and tired carnival workers. This maze housed one of the most effective scares of the night, by utilizing a trapeze artist (so don’t forget to look up). However, despite this, the maze overall was lacking on the number of scares. It felt more like you were walking around and enjoying the fun elements such as the vertigo tunnel and mirror maze instead of being scared. All in all, the colorful setting and costumes make it a fun contrast with the dreary elements of Dark Harbor. PS: When you get to the ball pit room, look for a side door that takes you to the next secret bar.

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INTREPID

All Aboard! The Ghost Train Waits…A phantom coach forces the Queen Mary’s original shipbuilder to relive his wicked wrongdoings to shipyard mates, Scottish brethren and plagued family that led to the Iron Hell his soul rots away in. Follow the spine-chilling path to an evil sea witch where a deadly pact was made spawning the horrific half-metal, half-creature known as the Iron Master.

Upon entering the maze, Intrepid grabs your attention thanks to a frightful train car scare, and an awesome exterior setting of Edinburgh Station with falling snow. However, you quickly forget that this maze is supposed to be about going on a ghost train with the Iron Master and learning about his cursed construction of the Queen Mary. Makes you wonder if you missed the train and got left behind. The rest of the maze is filled with hallways covered in rope and mechanical parts, a room with fog/lighting effects to create a body of water like the Lullaby, and characters dressed in raven beaks. These elements seemed better suited for a shipwreck-themed maze. Overall, while the maze had some good scares, it was hard to follow the story of the Iron Master and felt half-finished.

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DEADRISE

The Grey Ghost rises once again, set out on its annual ghastly voyage damned to its eternal battle on the living. With the fearless captain at the helm, guests will walk among the rusted carcass of the Grey Ghost as its full steam ahead into the flames of war. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the ships warpath may either salute the captain or like an anchor, sink to the depths of the watery tombs.

Deadrise is a needed break from the typical walk the same path maze, thanks to its “choose your own adventure” layout. Be prepared to crawl, climb, and go down slides at different parts of this maze. And don’t be discouraged if you end up getting lost, as this maze relies on confusing guests so they are disoriented and easily scared. Deadrise is simple enough with its setup and backstory but is one of the best mazes at Dark Harbor thanks to a great group of actors, and the physical components of getting through the experience.

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Queen Mary”s Dark Harbor continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General Admission ticket prices start at just $20 online with optional limited upgrades to Fast Fright, Evil Express, VIP, Ultimate Scream, Creepy Cabanas, and Private Patios (available while supplies last). For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

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Overall Rating:

Check our ratings guide for further details

HAUNT REVIEW: Knott’s Scary Farm 2018

Knott’s Scary Farm sincerely carries on traditions for it’s 2018  Halloween Haunt. With two new mazes, returning popular mazes, and shows Knott’s will get (keep) you in the Halloween spirit all night long.

We do our best not to spoil the mazes for those who’ve yet to experience them, so we won’t provide scare-by-scare reviews, but we will share highlights and our overall opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

New Mazes and Attractions

THE DEPTHS

A heavy fog drapes over an abandoned port village where ancient creatures lurk inside the pitch-black underground caves hidden below the seaside shores. The Nightwatch Mining Crew has mysteriously disappeared and village rumors point to the eerie tunnels the town sits upon. Myths of the terrifying horrors that lurk within the cave have often been whispered but never confirmed.  Did the crew meet their demise at the hand of vicious creatures that live within the cave? Journey into the ominous caverns and follow the crew’s path into The Depths, discover if the superstition revolving around the cave is true or not. But be warned! All who have entered have never resurfaced.

The Depths is another visually invigorating maze added to this year’s lineup. Similarly to mazes like Shadowlands and Dark Ride, this maze has a very distinct theme that we’ve never seen anywhere else showcasing some stunning scenes, effects, and set pieces. There are also some distinct scares such as a scene with sea creatures jumping out from below the surface of the water as you’re descending underwater, which is effectively pulled off with low lying fog and laser light effects. There’s also massive Kraken monster that rocks the hull of the ship back and forth as you make your way through. One of the final scares features a giant zombified shark whose sharp teeth and jaws get terrifyingly close as you try to pass. The story is a little hard to follow as you somehow start off in a mineshaft going through the barracks of some ill-fated miners and then end up underwater. Nonetheless, we liked this maze and think it’s a solid new entry to the Scary Farm line-up.

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DARK ENTITIES

Teleport beyond earth and into a realm where the darkness is absolute. In the depths of space, a lone station faces terror beyond all imagination. An extraterrestrial mutation has invaded the station, and it’s on the prowl for new hosts. The unearthly inhabitants’ force increases as it feeds on its unwilling victims. Escape the dark entities before its deathly force eliminates all living form aboard the station. There’s nowhere to escape when time is running out!

This maze has so much potential that it never lives up to. Perhaps we went through at the wrong time but there were hardly any monsters or scares inside. The attempted scares it did have were all the predictable “monster around the corner” type. The settings and props were fun and interesting, reminding us of the old school maze Alien Attack (which was far scarier). This maze would be so much more with better lighting, scare timing, and the monster talent. Dark Entities disappointingly failed to make any significant impact and really needs some reworking to make it something worthwhile. They get a solid ‘B’ for effort but it falls far below average for the execution.

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Returning Mazes

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Hauntcation: Houston, TX

This weekend we’re venturing out to Houston Texas y’all for our 2018 Haunt-cation. Houston has a  pretty impressive number of haunts in and around the city and hopefully, we’ll get to see them all. For most, it’s opening weekend too so we’ll be able to share some all-new Haunt reviews for our Texas Haunt Stalkers. Follow us on IG, Twitter, and FB for live updates from our trip.

Here’s what’s on our Scare-tinerary:

3HaunTs Haunted House

Kingwood Asylum

Haunted Trails

There is no better time to come face to face with your nightmares than this Halloween season at the Haunted Trails… When night falls and the monsters of these woods begin to howl, you’ll enter a realm of terror you could not have imagined. Acres of mortifying scenes and unnatural creatures await eagerly to quench their undying thirst for your screams. What lurks among these trees? What sinister beings have you in their sights? Come, DARE to walk among these Haunted Trails of Houston for THE most THRILLING outdoor adventure – of your LIFE!

Nightmare on the Bayou

Nightmare on the Bayou is Houston’s only haunted house THAT IS REALLY HAUNTED!

Houston TerrorDome

Phobia

Creepy Hollow

RedRum Haunted House

Fearshire Farms

Unfortunately, they won’t be opening this weekend.

Scream World

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Embarks for Its Darkest Season Yet

NEW Interactive Maze Paths, NEW Reimagined Event Footprint, Extreme Aerial & Fire Shows, New Maze Designs, More Ultimate Scream Tours, More Secret Bars, More Private Lairs, More Twisted Spirits

 

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor rises again from the depths this Friday, September 27, drenched in legend and oozing with a sordid past. Regarded as one of the most haunted places on Earth, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is a thrill-seekers’ delight, blurring the lines of history and hysteria, and for the 2018 season, the event will disorient fans with an entirely NEW park footprint along with NEW maze designsINTERACTIVE alternate paths, and THRILLING live entertainment.

“This coming season attendees are invited to descend into Dark Harbor’s newly, omni-immersive and hyper-enhanced mazes for its darkest season yet,” stated Charity Hill, Executive Producer of Dark Harbor. “With a myriad of voluntary experiences, alternate paths, secret bars, and hidden passages we are proud to deliver a choose-your-own-adventure mega haunt.”

Regarded as one of the most haunted places on Earth, the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor is a thrill-seekers' delight, blurring the lines of history and hysteria. (Photo: Business Wire)Put on a detective’s hat and retrace the steps of Samuel the Savage to solve the gruesome murders in B340. Re-live childhood nightmares playing hide-and-seek with Scary Mary and her sinister teddy bear in Lullaby. Escape the Ringmaster’s big top before becoming a specimen in the oddities museum of Circus. Head to boot camp with Half Hatch Henry for a reimagined storyline of the fan-favorite maze, Deadrise, to experience Captain’s rigorous training camp. Feeling Intrepid? Traverse the John Brown Shipyard and try to hide from the lurking creatures in the Scottish Highlands aboard Iron Master’s express train to hell. Clock in to a shift aboard the infamous Grey Ghost and avoid Chef’s chopping block while working up an appetite for flesh in the maze FEAST.

At Midsummer Scream, the producers of Dark Harbor announced a devilishly perfect addition to their creative team, the sinister & twisted mind of Jon Cooke. The NEW Dark Harbor Production Designer brings with him over a decade of experience designing some of SoCal’s most celebrated theme parks and haunted attractions.

As Dark Harbor’s darkest and most sinister season approaches, those daring enough to set foot on property will navigate a bone-chilling 9-degree Ice Bar, dodge hundreds of devious entities, seek out hidden havens, indulge in devilish treats, imbibe intense concoctions, survive Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sinister Swings, brave the Panic 4D Experience, and white-knuckle death-defying aerial and fire stunts for the haunt’s most frighteningly immersive season yet.

Let the countdown begin: 6 blood-curdling mazes, 5 weeks of terror, 3 new secret bars, 2 electrifying stages, 1 way out…

The annual haunt returns to the Queen Mary this weekend on September 27 and continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General Admission ticket prices start at just $20 online with optional limited upgrades to Fast Fright, Evil Express, VIP, Ultimate Scream, Creepy Cabanas, and Private Patios (available while supplies last). For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

The 17th Door Haunted House Returns with Crybaby!

Four years ago the 17th Door Haunt Experience stormed the SoCal haunt scene and has become one of the most talked about attractions in Southern California. Brilliantly blending a traditional walk-through haunted house with theatrical and extreme elements, it’s a more intense, but still accessible level for haunt fans who had felt they’d “seen it all.”

This year the 17th Door Haunted House returns to its home in Fullerton for the second straight year, allowing the team to build their best haunt yet! One of the scariest, most intense, and most interactive haunted houses in the country has taken things to a whole new level for 2018. This year, guests will also be able to undergo the Vixi Ward Virtual Reality Experience, an enhanced 15-minute immersive venture for an additional $13.

New rooms and new scares… you will hate it and you will love it! Will you cry “Mercy?” or will you survive all 20 (22 with VR) rooms of psychological terror?

STORY

At Perpetuum Penitentiary, the madness continues. As Paula continues to serve her time, she continues her descent into darkness. An unseen side of Paula is now coming into focus. A thought or mention of her dead child torments her soul and brings forth a psychotic rage aimed at those around her. The prison psychiatrist has prescribed “Art Therapy,” inflaming her rage and suffering. As a last resort, he has given her an unorthodox tool… a therapy puppet named “Lincoln.” Meant to present her suffocated infant son, it will push her to a place of evil and perversion. The depravity spreads like a virus.

Will the puppet, Lincoln, lead her to accept her crime? Or will it push her to nightmarish depths previously unknown? Will Paula choose a path to redemption or will she be devoured by the darkness, becoming a permanent inmate of hell… otherwise known as Perpetuum, Death Row.

Paula, her dead son, and You are… Crybaby. 

THE VIXI WARD EXPERIENCE

In the heyday of Perpetuum Penitentiary, the prison partnered with the enigmatic Vixi Labs on a new experimental treatment method for its most troublesome inmates. Touting a revolutionary machine that was capable of interfacing with the human brain – the VRX-2000 headset – Vixi Labs helped Perpetuum to establish the new Vixi Ward within the prison.

After only a short operating streak, Vixi Ward was officially shut down for “excessive casualties” incurred during treatment. Yet in spite of this, screams still echo throughout the halls of Vixi Ward, and it’s rumored to continue operations on particularly unruly inmates.

Guests sentenced to Vixi Ward will face a 15 minute immersive experience. Guests may first endure a pre-op procedure to assess their fitness for treatment. They will then don the VRX-2000 headset themselves to begin their virtual reality experience. Once the guests’ treatment concludes, they will then be snuck back into inmate general population using a secret entrance. There, they will begin The 17th Door maze inside Perpetuum.

 “We’re always striving to outdo ourselves each year and 2018 is no exception!” said The 17th Door co-owner Heather Luther. “With a refocus on storyline, refinement in room details and sets and layered elements of new innovative and interactive scares, we are expecting this to be our best show yet!”Pre-sale tickets for this year’s season are now available online at www.the17thdoor.com. Act fast because they sell out quickly!

The 17th Door is designed for a mature audience, preferably 16 years of age and older, as guests will find themselves in intense situations. All guests must still sign a liability waiver and the actors are allowed to touch guests. At any point during the haunted house experience, guests may use the safe word “Mercy” to be escorted out. They will be given the option to rejoin their group in the next room or leave the haunt entirely.

The 17th Door 2017 Haunt Experience Dates:

September 21-22, 28-29

October 5-7, 11-14, 17-21, 24-31

 

Terror Tips: Maximizing Your Theme Park Haunt Experience

It’s haunt season again!

Many of the big theme-park haunts are creaking open their gates this weekend and we’ve carefully assembled some Terror Tips for getting the most screams and bang for your buck out of the night. As you begin your planning and preparation for the season of the witch, this list of tips will help you experience every maze, attraction, and maybe even the dumb shows at these mega-haunts. So pay attention, please. We don’t want you or your money to be left behind.

Trust us, we know how to Haunt Stalk.

1. GET THERE EARLY

This is the number one tip. Seriously, if you follow only one recommendation on this page, this should be the one. This will make or break your entire night. TRUST US. Get there before the haunt opens; we recommend at least a half-hour early. Remember you need to plan time for parking and to get through any security checks so you can queue up to get inside at opening. Some haunts will actually start letting people in before the posted official opening time. Universal has started opening some haunts as early as 5pm. If you get there early you might be able to go into a maze with almost no one else in it. Other haunts have “opening scare-amonies” that are worth watching and set the mood for the night (but skip them if you can get into the mazes ahead of the crowds). At Knott’s Scary Farm we’ve been able to get into three mazes within the half-hour before the haunt even opens, and we’ve never bought the early entry or “pre-scare dinner” option.

Related to this: Buy your tickets in advance if you can. Waiting in line for tickets wastes valuable time. Why add another queue to your night?

2. Go Early in the Season cal_right

Haunts get more crowded the closer it gets to Halloween. They hit their peak on the weekend before Halloween. We suggest attending as close to the opening weekend as possible. The actors are also fresh and ready to scare. We’ve witnessed “monster fatigue”  when we’ve gone near the end of haunt season, when we’ve noticed monsters talking to each other inside the maze or drinking a soda as they lean against a wall. The only downside with attending early in the season is that some scares might not be completely worked out, and actors might just be finding their groove. The second or third weekend of a haunt is usually the best time to visit.

3. Haunt Stalk on “Off Peak” Nights

From our experiences, you’ll find much shorter lines by going to haunts that are open on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Thursdays can be lighter earlier in the season. However, do pay attention to the local school holidays as those can have a significant impact on the crowds’ sizes during these “off nights” as the haunt will be filled with pre-teen brats who were dropped off by their parents so that the ghost and ghouls can babysit them for the night. The Sunday before Columbus day is especially risky.

4. Consider a Front-of-the-Line Pass on Friday and Saturday Nights

…if you insist on ignoring the previous tip. Perhaps this tip should have been titled “Avoid Friday and Saturday Nights,” but we know that’s not realistic for most people. Work and school get in the way of attending haunts during the week. Sunday night could be a good compromise—lines will be much shorter, and you’ll still be able to arrive early (see tip #1) to avoid more of the crowds (your co-workers are used to seeing you looking hungover on Mondays anyway). But if you absolutely must go on a Friday or Saturday night, we recommend upgrading your ticket to a “Front-of-the-Line” pass (don’t forget to buy in advance!). Time is money, however, we realize that these passes can be pricey, so if you follow the other tips, you might be able to bypass the upgraded ticket and still see everything. After all, there are a lot of great haunts to attend, and you don’t want to blow your budget on a single ticket.

5. Bone Up on the Rules

dsc_0023_6With the terrors of the real world growing rampant, the security measures at many of these haunts has increased significantly. With this increased security comes annoying policies and rules that can make it even more time consuming, difficult, or even preventative for you getting inside; even if you have no intentions of being a haunt evildoer. Therefore, bone up on the rules at the respective haunts before you arrive. You don’t want to be the one who has to go all the way back to your car to return your forbidden camera, spiked jewelry, or switchblade.  We also suggest that you travel light as there’s usually express lines for Haunt Stalkers who aren’t trying to enter with purses, bags, clothes (j/k), etc. Anyway, you’re just going for a night and not moving in… unless the haunts choose you to fill their residency quota.

6. Eat Before You Get There—Or Wait Until You Leave

Do you really want to wait in line for a crappy hot dog that costs $8? No, you don’t. As part of the “GO EARLY” plan, you should have an early dinner near the park. If you get hungry, grab a snack and eat in line. Don’t waste valuable time queuing up for theme park food. On the other hand, you could also wait and eat afterward. For example, Knott’s usually has a “midnight breakfast buffet” (12 am to 3 am) at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant next to the park that might be a good option.

7. Keep Your Group Small

“The More the Merrier” does not apply to haunts. Hitting all the mazes, scare zones, shows, and rides in a single, crowded night requires coordination, and the more people you have in your group, the less likely it is that consensus will be reached about where to go and what to do. Some people will want to go on the rides first, some will want to hit the mazes, some might be hungry and want food (see #3 above). We recommend keeping your group to no more than 6 people unless you’re willing to accept that you won’t get to do everything.

8. Tackle the Haunts Front to Back

Note: this works only if you’ve arrived early. You might think going straight to the mazes in the back of the park is a good idea, but you’re wrong. Sure, there will be no one in the back when you get there, but when you circle back to the mazes in the front of the park, they’ll be packed. Almost everyone else will be working from front to back, so as long as you’re ahead of the pack (by getting in early, see #1 above), this approach works best. If you’ve arrived late, forget it. You’re screwed, no matter what approach you take.

As a side, with Universal Hollywood’s unconventional layout they tend to allow early entry for the mazes in the lower lot, at the back of the park, so follow this plan doing the first mazes you encounter on the lower lot and then keep working your way to very back.  You’ll likely get through all those mazes, which is a majority of them,  with a significantly reduced wait time. Just be prepared to wait a little longer for the few on the upper lot.  However, your overall wait time for the night should be reduced with this plan.

9. Don’t Loiter in the Scare Zones 

Scare Zone Fog… well only if you’re talking about our website. You will most likely pass through the scare zones as you make your way to the mazes. This absolutely adds to the overall experience but don’t get caught up hanging in the scare zones until you’ve already been through all the mazes/houses. As while you’re busy running away from and taking #selfies with a ghoul, the crowds will be surging past you and filling up the #longlines. You can always go back later in the night and leisurely scream through the scare zones.

10. Go On Rides and See Shows Only After You’ve Been in All the Mazes

It’s Halloween season, and mazes/houses are the main attraction. These are open only 5 or 6 weeks at most during the year. You can go back and to get on all the coasters and E-Ticket rides some other time. And let’s face it, most shows at haunts are pretty terrible. Save all of these “dis-ttractions” for last, or at least until after you’ve hit all the mazes you really wanted to go through.

Most Importantly Remain Calm and Happy Screaming!

Halloween 4: Behind the Scenes Preview of the New HHN Maze

9/13/18 Update:

Take a special behind the scenes tour of the Halloween 4 maze at Universal’s 2018 Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood with HHN creative director John Murdy, Trancas Films’ Malek Akkad and Halloween 4 director Dwight Little.

 

8/14/18 post:

4th Time is a Scream: Michael Myers Returns to HHN 2018

Last week a few leaks revealed that Halloween 4 will be coming to HHN in Orlando and Hollywood.

Today Universal confirmed the rumors and provided a detailed overview of what victims… guest can expect to happen inside their latest Halloween maze. Previously, both HHN events have had mazes based on the original Halloween and Halloween II. Hollywood also had a Life and Crimes of Michael Myers maze back in 2009 that featured some of his most iconic kills from the first few movies in the series including the bandaged wrapped Michael from Halloween 4.

As the title suggests, Halloween 4 features the return of Michael Myers to the film series revealing that Michael survived the fire in Halloween II but has been in a coma since that night. While being transferred back to Smith’s Grove, Michael comes out of his coma and overhears that Laurie Strode, who died in a car accident, has a daughter. Michael escapes the transport and heads to Haddonfield in search of his niece, Jamie. Fellow survivor Dr. Loomis also goes to Haddonfield after learning that Michael has escaped again and must reconvince everyone that the evil has returned. After slicing his way through more police, trick or treaters and horny teens the town residents rally to turn the tables and hunt down Michael. There are a few scenes from this movie that could provide some good scares such as the scene where a bunch of teens dress up as Michael and surround Dr. Loomis and the cops as a prank only for it to be revealed that Michael was really amongst the group of masked hoodlums.

 

Halloween 4 should make for a fun maze and is a fitting title as this is the 4th time HHN (Hollywood) is featuring a Michael Myers in a maze. We still think it’s a little strange that they’re not doing haunts based on the upcoming movie. Perhaps we’ll get twice the Michael Myers at HHN (Hollywood) with an appearance of the Halloween 2018 old man Myers in the rumored Blumhouse of Horrors: Chapter II maze.

Here are the details from Universal Press Release:

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., ORLANDO, Fla. (August 14, 2018) – Beginning on Friday, September 14, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, from Trancas International Films, takes a stab at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, bringing the notorious slasher to Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort in all-new mazes inspired by the iconic horror film.

Based on the fourth installment in the classic slasher series created by John Carpenter, the mazes will transport guests to the suburban town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night where Myers has escaped Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and is hungry for revenge. This time, he relentlessly stalks his niece Jamie as his next victim, stopping at nothing to kill her.

Guests will follow Myers as he escapes the mental hospital, encounters his first victims at Penney’s Gas Station and Diner, and wreaks terror on Haddonfield, all set to Alan Howarth’s ominous score. The maze will include horrifying scares by Myers in his classic featureless white mask and navy jumpsuit, with guests dodging his bloody knife at every turn. Halloween fanatics can expect a cameo by Myer’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis and other famous characters from the film as they try to escape the bloodbath.

Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights is the ultimate Halloween event. For more than 25 years, guests from around the world have visited Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood and Orlando to become victims inside their own horror film. Multiple movie-quality mazes based on iconic horror television shows, films, and original stories come to life season after season. And, the streets of each coast’s event are transformed into highly-themed scare zones where menacing scare-actors lunge from every darkened corner.

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