There was so much to see and hear at last weekend’s Midsummer Scream event, but the biggest and most interesting presence at this year’s convention was definitely the LA Haunted Hayride. There was no way to miss their impressive display and photo op. It loomed large over the show floor and was the first thing most attendees saw as they entered the huge convention space. And the Hayride certainly has a lot to boast about this year, as its completely new theme and attractions constitute an impressive reimaging of what’s become one of the most popular Halloween events in Southern California.
On the show floor and during their panel presentation, the creators and producers behind the event revealed details behind this year’s event: Midnight Falls.
This year, some “fresh blood” joins the Hayride team, including the well-loved Jon Cooke, formerly of Knott’s Scary Farm, where he designed fan favorite mazes including Dark Ride, Shadowlands, and Special Ops. He recently left the theme park world to start up the MurderCo Escape Room, which is consistently rated one of the best (and scariest) in the area. Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group is also involved this year as the new owners of the Haunted Hayride. This company operates well-reviewed haunted attractions around the country.
So what can we expect from this year’s hayride?
The Hayride has always has some sort of running backstory each year, but we’ve always found the theme to be vague and hard to follow. Most years, the Hayride scenes have felt like disconnected but fun vignettes featuring a variety of general scary images, from clowns, to cannibals, to cult members. So we’re very intrigued by the new approach this year, which has a tight theme centering around a single town–Midnight Falls–and its creepy institutions and residents.
The small town of Midnight Falls is celebrating its 13th annual Halloween festival. But at Midnight Falls, it’s always Halloween night, and it’s always 1985.
The “Halloween festival” will take place in the town square, which will serve as the “hub” of the event. The four main attractions will be accessed through this area. As you wander through the square, you’ll encounter colorful townspeople who will engage with you and provide some of the back story through your interactions. You can expect to hobnob with politicians, soccer moms, gossip queens, football stars, and cheerleaders. And keep your ears open for the local radio broadcast, which is featured in every attraction and provides a layer of detail to help immerse you inside the story.
Midnight Mortuary: The town mortuary is run by the enigmatic Marlow family, and its walls hold the key to the secrets behind the strange happenings in the town. The Mortuary will be a standard haunted house/maze walk-through attraction. But most exciting is the fact that the crew from Sinister Pointe will be helping to bring this maze to life! Sinister Pointe has successfully relaunched amazing attractions in the past, including Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary and the Winchester Mystery House. We cannot wait to see what magic they make here.
Trick or Treat: This crazy popular attraction returns with a special Midnight Falls twist. This year, visitors to Midnight Falls will be able to trick or treat in a neighborhood of all new houses. But beware of the monsters inside. Each house will be themed not only to the individual monster who lives inside, but will also tie into the overall “core” monster. And keep an eye out for a special homage to home haunters.
Roadkill Ranch: This family-owned business keeps the streets of Midnight Falls clean of roadkill. This will be another walk-through, but the designers promise you’ll get the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere. Expect chainsaws.
Midnight Falls Hayride: The main attraction is also the epicenter of the evil and where the overall story of the town will come together. Although there weren’t many details revealed about the Hayride itself, the producers noted that the experience will really begin in the queue, where you’ll see the gas station scene featured at Midsummer Scream.
The Hayride has been a hit-and-miss event for us over the years. We know that hayrides are extremely popular on the East Coast, but we’ve just never found them to be very scary. But one thing the LA Haunted Hayride has done extremely well in the past few years is capturing the sense of Halloween magic that is often lost in the mega theme park events. With their Halloween Festival, Trick or Treat attractions, and Sinister Pointe’s attention to suspense and detail, we have high hopes for this year’s hayride.
The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is located at the Griffith Park old zoo. It opens on September 28 this year and runs select nights through November 2. Discounted tickets will be available later this month.