Halloween Review: Coffin Creek 2016

After going dark in 2015, Coffin Creek returns to haunt Corona this Halloween. Yesteryear’s absence was largely due to the location property going into probate following the owner’s death. The revived Coffin Creek is missing two of its attractions, and Figment Foundry, the company that behind Chambers of the Mausoleum and Labyrinth of Lost Relics, is no longer involved. The remaining three attractions, once independently owned and operated, have fallen under command of a single Haunt Proprietor (the owner Coffin Creek’s original maze), who is using available resources to re-launch the attraction in hope of building it back up to its former size. The resulting comeback feels a bit like a new haunt, finding its legs and establishing itself while looking forward to next year.

Location
One of the exterior sets at Coffin Creek's Catacombs maze.
One of the exterior sets at Coffin Creek’s Catacombs maze.

The location of this attraction – a sparsely populated area with unpaved roads – really enhances the scare factor. As your vehicle enters the property, a character in a lab coat stops you and gives directions to help find your way through the darkness.  The road going in is covered with uncut grass and dead greenery; it is the only paved road, and at certain points it narrows to a single lane.  There are no lights, and the dark drive to the parking lot puts you in the mood and amps you up; it is almost as if we were really going to an abandoned, haunted area.

Near the dirt parking lot, is an area with a psychic reader, portable restrooms, and a couple of food vendors.  To the right, is The Prado Witch Trail, which we recommend visiting last (reason disclosed below).  The other two mazes require a small hike uphill, which complements the atmosphere (there are white solar lights to help you find your way in the darkness).  Once you reach the top, the ticket window is the first thing you see.

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The Catacombs of Guasti Cemetery

Coffin Creek 2016 catacombs-exteriorThis is the highlight of Coffin Creek 2016.  Groups of about 6 are admitted each time.  The maze starts off by having you wait under an arch until a robed scare actor invites you inside.  The character leads you into a room which looks like a mausoleum, then directs you to a path and, as you pass, bangs the wall with her stick, yelling “Get Out!”  Once you exit that dark pathway, you enter a chamber filled with coffins – one of them contains a surprise! The next area is partly outdoors, with a few open caskets – elevated so you won’t see what’s lurking inside.

Moving forward, you see endless sets and decor that put you inside haunted catacombs.  Most of the scare actors are robed, which suggests cult activity.  In the final room, a cult member directs you into a church, which has a coffin in back with a scare actor next to it, pounding benches to make noise.  Toward the front, a “pastor” with a painted face tells you to pray, while a strobe light blinks. The final turn is a confession booth near the exit, which takes you to an exterior area with a creepy looking fountain like something from Transylvania or The Hunchback of Notre Dame – or even the European fountain sound stage in the Universal back lot tour.

Overall, the decor and props are very appropriately themed for this maze.  Everything makes sense, and the entire tour puts you deep inside the catacombs, where multiple twists and turns will keep you guessing what is about to pop out from around the next corner.

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The Haunted Asylum at Coffin Creek

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In front, the Ticket Taker, a woman with pale make up and a lab coat, welcomes you as she holds a baby skeleton, whom she identifies as her son, ‘Cyrus’.  When asked the date of his death, she replies, “Oh, he was born like this – his Daddy is a skeleton. You’ll meet him inside – he’s the one with the fedora.”

Coffin Creek Asylum 2016skulls-on-wall-asylumOnly small groups are allowed into this maze, which begins with a dark corridor covered with coffins and skulls. There are various scare actors in the typical corners and one behind a coffin door.  A gal with a painted clown face, holding a bone, says the doctor will see you in the next room, which resembles a bloody and arcane operating room.  A doctor, dressed in bloody scrubs and holding a pliers, yells, “I want your teeth! Your pearly whites!” Next is a jail with a screaming young girl, followed by a female doctor holding a bloody limb.

After another hospital scene with a pair of nurses, you finally enter a room that actually looks like an abandoned asylum, where a scare actress in a straitjacket pops up and yells “Get Out!”  A scare actor in an orange jumpsuit and a clown mask leads you through another exterior path, which looks like the remains of the asylum after a fire, with debris signaling a portion of a building that once was.  After encountering a maniac with an axe, you exit to a shack-like area, with wood scattered randomly.

This is a solid maze with dozens of turns and twists to keep you wondering what’s around the next corner.  However, the inconsistent wardrobe and decor led me to question the overall theme.  (I came to the conclusion that this is an Asylum in the post apocalyptic era.) The costumes are indiscriminate with the exception of the medical staff in scrubs and lab coats, and the pathways – some indoor, some outdoor – at times appear random, leaving visitors to wonder whether they are still supposed to be in an asylum. (As the orange-clad clown lead us outside, I thought we were about to transition into another section of the maze, sort of like Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks.) Nonetheless, this maze was full of surprises, tons of pop up scares,  and it was very long, so the overall value was great.

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Prado Witch Trail

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The haunted trail has about 6 scare actors spread out over a wide area:

After 200 feet, there are some crosses and scarecrows, and a Father and his Son can be overheard preparing for your arrival. Father turns out to be a farmer with a shotgun, sitting in front a little wooden house and yelling “fresh meat” in a Southern accent as you approach.  He directs you inside the house – which consists of a left turn and then a right turn to go back outside (where we saw a mini storage area with a Gatorade cooler, water bottles, and cups). After another 50 feet, there is an empty, mangled cage and, in the distance, a young man with a white tee and overalls flailing his arms and dancing in circles with a chainsaw in one hand (presumably the Son). One hundred feet beyond, there is a man in his 20s holding a shovel, who says he’s been digging a grave for you.

Coffin Creek 2016 prado witch trailFrom this point, the trail is muddy and at times wet.  The route is not recommended for people who can’t see at night or have trouble with unbalanced terrain.  The only illumination is from solar-powered lights along the path. The trail concludes with a scare actress popping out from the bushes.  With a pale face, a robe, and what looks like green hair, she is the only witch-like element on the trail, which is mostly occupied by hillbillies and farmers.

Prado Witch Trail is enhanced by the narrow muddy pathway, whose dark turns lead you to question what’s around the next corner, but overall I expected more. There were many empty areas that could have used more props or actors.  More scares and less mud would have been nice.

There should be a warning sign to alert visitors about the mud; though the worst parts were covered with plywood, some of the mud was so bad that I felt like I was sinking, and the end result was the bottom half of my shoe and the cuff of my jeans caked with mud residue.

I would rank the Prado Witch Trail as my least favorite, but if you have the all-maze pass, considered it a bonus: the  end of the trail opens up to a dried dirt road, leading you back to the parking lot, which is why I recommend doing this one last.

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Conclusion
In the catacombs.
In the catacombs.

One should go to Coffin Creek with an open mind; treat this as a re-birth – a fresh experience. For haunt-goers seeking quality scares in the Inland Empire, Coffin Creek could save a trip to Knotts Scary Farm or Halloween Horror Nights.  Each attraction is $13; all three are $25, and a fast pass is $40. The three-maze pass is a good deal if you want to see Catacombs of Guasti Cemetery and the Coffin Creek Haunted Asylum, with the Prado Witch Trail as a value-added extra.  Though there are 2 fewer attractions this year, the organizer is planning to resurrect the haunted hay ride for the next Halloween, hoping to make Coffin Creek better than ever.

Coffin Creek continues at Crossroads Riverview Park on  October 21-23, 27-31. The address is 14600 Baron Drive, Corona, CA 92880. Get more info at: coffincreek.com.

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