The Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt plans to unleash a new form of fear this year. The long-time king of Theme Park Halloween Attractions in and around Los Angeles, Knotts Scary Farm has decided to offer its visitors the opportunity to reserve a block of time for a small group of friends within a new, exclusive maze called Trapped, which will not be accessible to other haunt-goers. For an additional fee of $60 (on top of the regular admission price to the haunt), a group of up to six people can enter the closed-off area, where they will be exposed to a more personal, intimate scare experience than can be afforded in the park's other attractions, where the sheer size of the crowds prevents monsters from focusing on individuals.
Knotts Scary Farm is keeping a lid on the details of what will happen inside Trapped, but the general impression is that this will be a genuine maze (as opposed to most so-called Halloween mazes, which are actually more like labyrinths). Ticket-holders will reserve a start time; a VIP waiting area will be set up at the Laser Tag area. Once inside Trapped, you will have to find your way out; this should take about 25 minutes, according to estimates.
Last month, the Los Angeles Times ran an article in their business section about Trapped. You won't learn much about what happens inside the Trapped maze, but you will get a sense of the business thinking behind the decision:
"We are seeing that it's been a trend that has been going on for about five years," said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati-based consultant to the industry. "If something is a little more special, they are going to be looking to wrangle an extra dollar out of it."
Conceptually, Trapped sounds exciting, but clearly this is an example of how capitalism sometimes comes at the expense of consumers. For years, theme parks such as Knotts Berry Farm and Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood have been overselling tickets to their events, creating long lines that prevent visitors from enjoying all the attractions in the time available each night. The "solution" to this self-created problem was not cutting back on the size of crowds but selling VIP tickets - for a higher price, of course - that allow front-of-the-line access. It's a win-win for theme park Halloween events, which reap the profits from selling both too many tickets and more expensive tickets.
With Trapped, the extra expense seems rather modest; $60 for a group of six people seems worth-while for the enhanced scare experience. Unfortunately, the added value of Trapped shaves off value for the regular ticket-holders, who now have a choice of only twelve haunted mazes instead of thirteen. One fewer mazes probably will not seriously diminish the scare factor of Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween Haunt, especially when you consider the additional scare zones, Halloween shows, and rides; however, the simple fact is that, for reasons of time limitations if nothing else, most long-time fans of Knotts Scary Farm will not have the opportunity to experience Trapped.
That's a shame, because the potential for intense interactivity to create a more genuinely frightening experience is not to be underestimated. Last year, Delusion: Presented by Haunted Play proved how effective this approach could be. It's good to see a major Halloween theme park attraction in the Southland move in this direction (Busch Gardens started a similar attraction in 2010). Now if only there were a way to make this accessible to the general audience.
The annual Halloween Haunt takes place at Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Boulevard in Buena Park, from September 21 through Halloween night. Advance tickets can be purchased for as little $36 - a $24 saving over purchasing on the day of the event. Admission-and-meal combo tickets are available for $50.99. Trapped tickets are available for $60 in advance; the price on the day of admission is $75.