This year marks our 24th year of attending Knott’s Scary Farm, which adds up to  a lot of monsters, mazes, and Elvira shows we’ve experienced along with miles upon miles of walking (running) in the fog.

When we first went to Knott’s Scary Farm we were young, naive, and easily scared teenagers. Everything about Scary Farm was terrifying, fresh, exciting and new to us. Now as “adults” we sometimes ask ourselves “is there really anything more that they can do that will really wow and scare us after all these years?”. I mean,  we’ve pretty much perfected our haunt POV to the point we can easily detect where all the monsters are hiding in the mazes or predict what they’ll try to do to scare us in the scare zones. Plus we’ve toured the country and have expereinced all the different types of haunt scenarios you could imagine.

There even was a period when Knott’s had become  the dated “granddaddy” haunt that held a nostalgic value but very little else; especially when compared to the new renaissance of high production, ultra suspenseful, and personalized  haunt experiences that have emerged within the past ten years.  Add in Universal who got very serious about its Horror Nights events in the mid-2000’s and we saw the bar for theme park and local haunts get raised so high it seemed that Knott’s should just do like they do in Calico Square and hang it up.

14463157_963053570468030_2916029003104925387_nHowever, when you’re an originator that created the game you can redefine the rules. So not being unaware of the competitive changes, a few years ago the creative team at Knott’s Scary Farm embarked on a pleasantly dark path where they wouldn’t necessarily try to compete with what everyone is doing but instead move to further perfect what they’ve started. With this came the emergence of some incredible new maze themes and concepts that are designed the capture the imaginations and fears of today’s teenagers (and adults). In recent years we’ve watched as each season they’ve created unique maze themes and haunt concepts that showcase just about every frighting and fun aspect of Halloween. What Knott’s uniquely possess in comparison to other haunts is the soul of the Halloween Season.

To us they may no longer be the scariest haunt in town but for others, especially the new generation of haunt goers, they could easily hold the terror crown. We believe that it’s the wide variety of themes and enhanced story-telling that brings Knott’s Halloween Haunt to life. Where else can can you go Trick Or Treating in a witch’s house, investigate Paranormal activity inside a haunted hospital, battle zombies with laser guns in a post apocolyptic city, and try to escape from demonic Samurais or gun sling with cowboys and werewolves? It’s all pure Halloween season fun.


This year we continued our tradition of visiting the Scary Farm and like Elvira it still hasn’t gotten old. This was the first year we’ve attended on their opening night. Usually we like to wait for a week or two to give the monsters and performers a chance to perfect their scares. While it was noticeable in some areas that they could improve over time, overall we are impressed by how well managed and produced this year’s Halloween Haunt is. The tagline for this year is “Whatever, you’re imagining is here” and trust us, there was a lot of imagination put into this year’s show.

Let’s take a closer with look with our 2016 review featuring maze videos from ThemeParkHD:



Every year there is a standout newcomer and this year it’s Shadow Lands. This has to be one of the most unique themes and beautifully designed mazes we’ve ever seen at Scary Farm. This maze is like a mix of  ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘The Grudge’. Shadow Lands takes guest on a journey from an ancient temple into the realm of samurai soldiers trapped in a demonic purgatory. With the Japanese setting they were able to utilize some creative and surprising scare tactics with moving walls, sliding screens, and plenty of animated props. The monsters in this maze were high energy and athletic performers who perfectly synced their moves to the sound and lighting effects making it appear as if they could actually strike us at any second. They were able to scare us a few times in this maze.  The maze was also very colorful but still had a sinister atmosphere with drastic transitions back and forth between brightly lit and dark rooms . The highlights of this maze includes the geisha house scene, a temple with crushing stone walls, and the outdoor samurai battle where flying warriors attack from all angles decapitating prisoners in their path.  This is a must see and if you don’t have fright key then we highly recommend that you make this one of the first mazes you go to as it had one of the longest lines.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 3.5 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls



The theme of this ‘new’ maze isn’t nearly as unique as Shadow Lands as it features the tried and true haunt concept of being attacked by cannibalistic hillbillies. This maze definitely has more gore than scares. We had anticipated this to be one of the scariest mazes of the night but  we were disappointed that it really wasn’t frightening at all. The monsters in this maze seemed lazier than those in any of the others. There were a lot of wandering monsters who were just taunting guests  or their victims as we passed by.  We also felt that the “normal” hillbilly look made the actors seem too attached to their human identity and there would of been more impact if they had a mix of more mutant looking hillbillies running around. This maze looked like a recycled sets from the past Cornstalkers and Uncle Willy’s Slaughterhouse mazes, both of which were far more terrifying. This maze has potential to be a more intense experience but we didn’t find The Red Barn to be very foreboding inside. We also warn that this maze requires you crouch down to pass through some sections, which seems to be one of Knott’s new tricks this year.

Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
Theming: 2 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1 Skulls
Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls



After two years of being a “by appointment only” attraction that would get booked up before the first rope drop, Special Ops: Infected is finally accessible to everyone who attends haunt. Just get to it early or you’ll have to wait in a long line; even for up to 30 minutes with Skeleton Key.  This year’s zombie laser tag maze moves to the back of the park by the Mystery Lodge where they’ve scrapped the the extra drama and competitive game play for a more efficient and larger maze experience.  Now Special Ops runs like a regular maze only you are armed with a laser gun and get to fire away at zombies and animated props wearing collars that light up when you accurately  (or accidentally)”shoot” them. Unfortunately they traded off any ounce of terror in this maze for efficiency. Throughout the maze there are zombies and military ops running chaotically all over the place. The  sets are interesting and well constructed but you really don’t have enough time to take it all in as the “Ops” keep yelling at guests to hurry up as you make your may through the maze. This rapid pace kills any kind of suspense and the zombies are always in plain sight so there’s not a single scare in this maze.  The fun solely comes from blasting the zombies and watching the collars light up. Perhaps it would be scarier if you had to catch a zombie but we know that probably wouldn’t work so well either. Nonetheless, this year’s maze is an improvement over the previous versions but still is nothing to be scared of.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1/2 Skull
Overall Rating: 3 Skulls


Returning for a second year, Dead of Winter attempts to keep guests frozen in fear. Set inside a frozen tundra, cannibalistic snow creatures attack a small village. There are some interesting set pieces featured in this maze and they do a nice job keeping the air deathly chill. This maze is an ambitious undertaking that reminds us a little of 2010’s Labyrinth maze, if you added snow to it. The monsters in here are high energy but they were almost trying too hard as there were monsters who were popping out too early or being overly dramatic making most of the scares ineffective. With a little better timing we think the maze can be scarier. Overall this makes for a nice introductory maze  for the more timid Haunt Stalkers with enough cool effects to keep seasoned Haunt Stalkers amused.

Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
Theming: 3.5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1 Skulls
Overall Rating: 2.5 Skulls


In Gunslinger’s Grave guests are chased by werewolves through the haunted mine shafts, corrals, and salons of the Calico Ghost Town. The layout of this maze is mostly outdoors and in parts it really feels like a maze. We still love the soundtrack to this maze and the settings are perfectly suited for Knott’s. The addition of werewolves that was made last year adds an interesting plot twist to this maze. There are some good actors in this maze and there a couple genuinely scary moments. While we have loved the Gunslingers theme over the past four years and liked when they added werewolves last year, we think that this version of the maze probably could use another refresh if they plan to bring it back again next year. Maybe Vampires or Aliens will be next to invade the Ghost Town. Why not – lol?


Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 2.5 Skull
Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls


Trick-or-TreatThis maze is the epitome of a Halloween Haunt. This short but sinister maze takes us on a festive and creepy Trick or Treating adventure through the iconic Green Witch’s house. The pathway cascades through a haunted mansion packed with sinister Halloween decorations and ghostly effects. The infamous Tricksters are also back creating mayhem in the various rooms along the way. This maze is shorter than the others, but it’s also has some of the strongest atmospheric environments and a dramatic finale that they seem to change every year. Trick or Treat isn’t overly terrifying but this maze truly reflects the spirit of the season with more emphasis on the fun of Halloween versus the scares.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 2 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4 Skulls


This is a wildly imaginative, unique, and  grotesque maze. For anyone who has a fear of going to the dentist or the sound of drills then you probably will find this maze to be terrifying. The story begins with scenes of children loosing their teeth and once the Tooth Fairy arrives to collect their denture gems, we end up following it deep down inside the nightmarish abyss of a dental torture chamber. The Tooth Fairy’s lair depicts scenes of depraved root canals, blood soaked coins, monstrous dental apparatus, and deranged hygienists. What we still like about this maze is the feeling of being taken farther away from the real world with no chance of getting back. The talent here is aggressive with good timing popping out of some unexpected places. It’s also easy to get distracted by the interesting scenes allowing the Tooth Fairy and its minions plenty of opportunities to catch you by surprise.  We’re also glad that this maze is no longer connected to Paranormal Inc. so it’s easier to go though it twice, if you want a second check up.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 3.5 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls


IMG_0290This is still a great looking maze but the narrative seems to have faded to the bottom of the swamps. We know there’s a Voodoo curse but we’re not sure what that means. After we encounter the voodoo queen and some of her minions we end up in a maze filled with backwoods hillbillies. We still miss the choose your own path section they had the first year, which was a big part of the fun. Now everyone follows the same path starting inside a voodoo shop, then leading out to some cabins on the edge of the bayou, before ending deep inside the swamp. Everything in this maze looks great from the lighting to the prop pieces but for some reason the scares are sparse. The final section through the bayou swamplands has an authentically spooky atmosphere but it was nearly void of any monsters when we went through it. We feel that over the past three years the Voodoo maze  hasn’t been able to create the intensity of scares that the setting is begging for.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 3 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls
Overall Rating: 2.5 Skulls


ctbap08vmaaivebThis maze is Knott’s Scary Farm’s special effects spectacular! It all begins with a pre-show where ghost hunters are showing their recent contact with a spirit from another dimension but things “surprisingly” go wrong quickly and soon the group is split up into two and everyone must find their own way to escape the raging demons that have come to take us back to the “other side”.  They spared no expense in this maze where they cleverly mix digital projections, animatronics, practical effects, and rigged sets. This is the maze where they were able to scare us the most and the group we were with was even more terrified. People were actually hesitating to go from one room to the next. There a disorienting lighting effects and some impressive stunts such as a guy suddenly getting sucked up into the ceiling by a force of evil. Every detail in this maze is well crafted and the actors do a great job trying to keep you scared and emerged in the story. We don’t remember finding this maze to be very scary last year but this year it’s one of scariest mazes at Knott’s that we won’t soon forget.

Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 4 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

Skeleton Key Rooms

key-with-plate-2016-no-backgroundFor those of you who want to splurge and enjoy front of the line access, you can get a Skeleton Key with Fright Lane access. This year instead of adding an additional Skeleton Key room to the maze they created four stand alone rooms that are practically hidden across the park. Each room has a unique story but follows a similar formula. We enjoyed all the rooms and think think these experiences are worth the additional cost. If anything, these rooms packed in more suspense and scares than most of the mazes. The only downside is the wait to get in the Skeleton Key rooms could be up to 30+ minutes, which kind of defeats the concept of buying a front of the line pass. The other problem was that the rooms were hard to find and didn’t have signage to indicate what they were and who can go in. We saw a lot of guests without Skeleton Keys wait in the long lines only to be told after they waited that they can’t get in. We hope Knott’s improves the signage but overall we found the Skeleton Key Rooms to be one of the highlights of our visit.  The most suspenseful room is Slasher, the most theatrical is Visions, ZoZo has the best special effects, and Prey is the scariest.


Skeleton Key Room Ratings

Slasher: 4.5 Skulls
Visions: 3.5Skulls
Zozo: 4 Skulls
Prey: 4 Skulls


Scare Zones

This year there are four main Scare Zones throughout the park. Over the years the level of design and the amount of props used in these areas has declined as Knott’s started to pull back on it’s park wide Scary Farm decorations so that they don’t upset their daytime guests.


Ghost Town

The returning Scare Zone’s include the quintessential Ghost Town where’s Knott’s legendary monsters and sliders terrorize guests entering the park. This is still the gold standard of Theme Park Haunt Scare Zones.  In the Boardwalk area there’s the sparse CarnEVIL scare zone where  psycho clowns pester and taunt guests opposed to scaring them. Also returning is Dia de los Muertos where colorful skeletons come out to socialize.

The Hollow is this year’s new scare zone. This zone takes over the Camp Snoopy section of the park where the ominous Headless Horseman prowls the fog-filled streets along with his army of colonial monsters. The atmosphere in this area was creepy and like Ghost Town this scare zone features high energy monsters and lots of fog, creating super grand entrance to a night of haunts.

Lastly there’s The Deadly 7, a sadistic crew of terrifying monsters representing each of the seven deadly sins. This is a roaming group of monsters who we did not see at all doing the night of our visit.




The Queen of Halloween is back making her exclusive Halloween season appearance at Knott’s and it goes without question that everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm is still Elvira. Danse Macabre follows the show format we’ve come to expect from the bust err… best Horror Hostess, with musical numbers, tongue in cleavage jokes, and some ad lib audience participation. This time around the Mistress of the Dark and her dancers get down to Elvira’s versions of current top 40 songs and recreate the classic Thriller routine with a “Mistress Night” remix.

In addition to being a good place to sit down and catch your breath from standing in lines and wandering in the fog, Danse Macabre is an entertaining and lively 20+ minute Halloween party that is as good as it gets for theme park Halloween shows. We thought that this was the most comical and and fun show she’s done during her recent appearances at Knott’s. The dancers should have been tighter in their routines but over time they should be able to perfect their routines and as long as Elvira keeps it tight, which she does, the audience will be more than satisfied .


Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

We didn’t get a chance to watch The Hanging but from what we saw when we walked by it looked like it was pretty much the same show as every year with an irreverent take on pop culture.



Knott’s Scary Farm Overall Fright Value:

5 Skulls

Overall Rating of Knott’s Scary Farm 2016:

4 Skulls

Check our ratings guide for further details