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Knott’s Halloween Haunt History 2005

Halloween 2005 offered another snapshot of how the Knott’s Berry Farm Halloween Haunt operated during that phase of its career. Being almost the only large-scale Halloween theme park in the Greater Los Angeles Area, Knott’s Scary Farm didn’t need new attractions to draw an audience every year. Though Knott’s offered an abundance of seasonally-themed entertainment (ten mazes, two haunted rides, plus magic shows and other live entertainment), there were only two new mazes and one newly themed ride.

One unfortunate aspect of Knott’s prolixity was that, with so many mazes to fill, there was a certain amount of repetition, with the same or similar gags used in areas that should have been themed differently: at least two vomiting mannequins, a handful of electrocutions, and more hangings than one could count. It would take several years (and competition from Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood) before Knott’s Halloween Haunt dedicated itself to making each of its mazes unique.

Knott's Halloween 2005 Axe Murder ManorOf the three new attractions, the best was 13 Axe Murder Manor. Taking the place of Blood Bayou in the Mystery Lodge, this walk-through provided a traditional haunted house loaded with paranormal phenomena, in spite of a titled that suggested gory psycho mayhem. Though some sets  were wooden flats, many rooms were quite impressive, especially an Exorcist-inspired tableau with a possessed woman (a dummy) rotating ten feet in the air, with lamps and objects spinning around her. This maze lasted through 2008.

With its heavy music and psychedelic imagery, Feary Tales in 3D (tucked inconspicuously near the Ghost Rider roller-coaster, along with its companion, Asylum – Revisited) suggested an LSD-inspired version of “Alice in Wonderland” more in line Jefferson Airplane than Lewis Carrol, but it did not exploit the 3D element as well as the Carnivorous Clowns attraction, Best moments: an impressive mechanical dragon (in a brilliant shade or orange) guarding her egg, and Humpty Dumpty repeating, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Feary Tales remained part of Knott’s Scary Farm through 2007 (when Hollywood Gothique finally captured it on video).

The Cavern of Lost Souls offered another Halloween overlay on the Calico Mine Ride, but the decor stuck closer to the ride’s usual look, emphasizing Old West miners – who just happened to be dead. The inherently spooky nature of the mining cavern was enhanced with spider webs brushing invisibly against faces in pitch-black tunnels. Like most of the Calico Mine Ride’s themes. Like many of the mine ride’s themes, Cavern of Lost Souls lasted only one season.

Returning attractions included Carnival of Carnivorous Clowns from Outer Space, Red Beard’s Revenge, Red Moon Massacre, the Curse of the Spider, and Lore of the Vampire (which, befitting a maze inhabited by immortals, had aged well). Of these, only The Asylum – Revisited was notably revamped – to resemble a castle or a mansion instead of a hospital – but this had little impact on the interior.

Overall, despite the minimal additions, Knott’s outdistanced its rivals (at that time, the Queen Mary Shipwreck and the Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest). Partly this was because Knott’s Berry Farm’s simulation an old ghost town provided the perfect setting for a haunt, but mostly it was because the actors lurking within this setting displayed a high level of enthusiasm and employed clever scare tactics, such as exploiting the strategic placement of dummies and statues, which distracted attention from live actors. Ironically, this made an advantage of wearing full-face masks instead of  makeup, because it made the cast virtually indistinguishable from mannequins in the dark – until the immobile actors suddenly sprang to life, lashing out at naively unsuspecting victims.

This was effective enough to somewhat compensate for the cattle herd approach to customers, who were forced through the mazes continuously, with little time for actors to reset after each scare. This latter aspect would eventually lead Knott’s to add special premium attractions (such as Skeleton Key Rooms in 2013) that would offer a more personal experience for small groups of people, with the effects carefully timed so that everyone could see them.

Read our original Knott’s Scary Farm 2005 Review.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.