This year Knott’s Scary Farm returned for its 46th season with promises of terror and thrills around every corner. For the Halloween season, the park transformed into a haunted play-land which included 9 haunted attractions, four scare zones, and three shows for those who dared to step foot into the fog-filled atmosphere. The following is a recap of each of these events in the order that they were gone through:

FORSAKEN LAKE – SCARE ZONE

Description: A new and unearthly scare zone is making its sinister arrival to the park, Forsaken Lake. For the first time, the lake underneath Silver Bullet reveals the horrors and creatures it’s kept hidden, until now. Forsaken Lake will unleash gothic creatures, which have been ravaged by the dark and murky waters, as they wander their crypts preying on unsuspecting visitors, looking for victims to drag back to their watery graves.

Danielle’s Thoughts: The New Orleans themed Foresaken Lake scare zone creates an eerie atmosphere with strong costumed monsters. Chanting monks, undead witches, and cloaked figures haunt this area of the park. Fog and darkness creates a poorly lit walkway that allows for scare-actors to easily spook you. Although there was a lack of set pieces, given the fog and darkness they would have been difficult to see. Attendees are likely to traverse the Foresaken Lake many times as they make their way through the park.

DARK RIDE – MAZE

Description: Journey through an abandoned carnival ride where cruel carny folk still linger int he shadows in Dark Ride, Knott’s Scary Farm’s newest maze. The shunned performers have created an ominous world of terror which they plan to unleash on those who enter. Dark Ride will lead brave visitors through a treacherous path and into the bowels of a long-neglected attraction, as sinister shadows and horrifying scenes cast gloom over the once pleasant ride. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, being helplessly surrounded by clowns without a way out.

Danielle’s Thoughts: Drawing on themes from nostalgic carnival rides, Dark Ride allows guests to experience what goes on behind the scenes after the ride breaks down and your symbolic cart falls off the tracks. A cheesy and campy opening creates the atmosphere for Dark Ride and immerses participants into the narrative. The soundtrack begins to skip and participants are alert to danger approaching. After a slow build, clowns, carnies, and acrobats, emerge from the darkness to scare participants. Similar to previous years, Dark Ride is visually stimulating, nostalgic, and imaginative and is a staple maze at Knott’s Scary Farm.

CARNEVIL – SCARE ZONE

Description: Knott’s Boardwalk is taken over by “CarnEVIL,” where the freak show is the main event and countless clowns crave your undying attention.

Erik’s Thoughts: I wish to be clear that I have always thought clowns are the creepiest things humans have ever created. The painted smiles mean that you can’t tell what whether they are smiling or crying. It’s bugged me since I was a little kid.

So, let’s just say that CarnEVIL has been both a favorite and a fear of mine since it first opened. And this year was no different. The moment we entered the area, we were surrounded by a cavalcade of creepy, evil little painted beasts. They tracked us, mocked us and eventually one sat next to me to tell me – of all things – how his mother had warned him if he made a face, it would freeze that way. And so it has.

Did I mention how creeeeepy I think clowns are? So much so that I’m afraid of even pointing this out here—because someone will use it against me someday soon, I’m sure.

SHADOW LANDS – MAZE

Description: A fulfilling life ensures a soul safe passage into eternity, but what happens to the souls of soldiers slain in battle? Enter the hair-raising Shadow Lands maze and fight off demon samurais whose souls are cursed to rot within the depths of purgatory. Guests will embark on a quest through a sacred shrine, an ancient Japanese temple and into the midst of the shadow lands.

Sarah’s Thoughts: I was initially very skeptical about how this maze was going to be handled. I didn’t know if it was going to be a generic maze with a bunch of samurais running around or if it was going to really delve deep into the rich, cultural mythologies and superstitions from the Japanese culture. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by The Shadowlands. We initially start off in what appears to be an homage of sorts to Aokigahara (what the West knows as the Suicide Forest) before we enter a traditional Japanese style building. From there, we are led through a winding journey through what is the Japanese equivalent of purgatory. I don’t think there was too much in terms of scares or story. I couldn’t quite track the story of this maze. However, the strength of The Shadowlands lies within the various array of youkai attendees will be introduced to and the overall ambiance and design of the maze.

THE HOLLOW – SCARE ZONE

Description: From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terror in the newest scare zone, The Hollow. Guests entering the frightful 6-acre area will be terrorized by the souls of fallen soldiers and local farmers that have escaped their shallow graves.

Sarah’s Thoughts: This was probably my second favorite Scare Zone in the park (with Forsaken Lake taking my heart and soul and everything else.) We were first introduced to The Hollow with large sinister looking pumpkins before finding ourselves confronted by terror-inducing pumpkin creatures. I kept getting horribly distracted by all the Jack o’ Lanterns that it made it all the more fun for the scare actors who tried to catch me by surprise. Alas, we did not find a Headless Horseman in The Hollow, but that didn’t detract from the overall spookiness.

PUMPKIN EATER – MAZE

Description: Survive the wrath of the murderous 7-foot tall creature that haunts the old woods surrounding The Hollow in the new maze, Pumpkin Eater. The notorious creature is on the prowl hidden within the dark confines of the haunted town he once terrorized. To escape the sinister Pumpkin Eater’s wrath all that enter must go on a quest through the silent town of victims, face a cave of crawling insects and solve the labyrinth of thorns that blocks the way out.

Sarah’s Thoughts: It makes perfect sense for the Pumpkin Eater maze to be nestled comfortably within The Hollow scare zone. The start of the maze features a gorgeous array of Jack o’ Lanterns and skulking pumpkin creatures before we eventually come to the frightening Pumpkin Eater. I was never expecting to find myself in the body of a giant pumpkin. The level of detail within the maze was never short of amazing. Once you get consumed by the giant pumpkin, it’ll be difficult not to notice the human bodies being absorbed into the pulpy pumpkin flesh and get smacked in the head by dangling pumpkin seeds. Eventually, we made our way way out of the pumpkin and was met by a woman screaming about needing to get away because he (the Pumpkin Eater) was coming. That moment was the only time I felt confused because didn’t we just escape? Despite that particular moment, we were able to escape through a glorious corn maze ripe with the smell of hay and made our way back to The Hollow.

A note that I shared with Erik after the maze concluded was that the story of the Pumpkin Eater might have made more sense if the ending of the maze was swapped with the beginning of the maze. Basically, the maze should experiment with starting off with the disorienting lost feeling in the corn maze before getting snatched up within the Pumpkin Eater’s clutches. Ending in the corrupted deserted town swarming with pumpkin ghoulies could end the maze with a feeling of lost hope before getting swept up in The Hollow. I’m curious to know if anyone else thought similarly.

THE HANGING – SHOW

Description: The Citizens of Calico face their toughest foes yet, the censors; in this live stage show that looks back at the year’s pop culture with some killer comedy. Notorious for its special effects and high-flying stunts, The Hanging is a no holds barred assault on pop culture’s most infamous moments of the past year.

Erik’s Thoughts: I have always loved The Hanging. When I go to Scary Farm, it’s the only show that I make a specific effort to see each and every time. I was excited to get a chance to see the newest edition of the show, now moved to a new location that was far more convenient for allowing audiences to keep moving through the middle of the park.

So to say that I was disappointed by this year’s show is an understatement. The Hanging has always been a little hit-or-miss, largely dependent on what pop culture moments happen each year that it can parody. But this year’s show was muted and disjointed with an ending that came across as a little tone-deaf to our entire group.

The show’s premise this year was all about how censoring has made it impossible for anyone to create the type of humor and un-PC nature that a show like The Hanging has always been. That setup suggested to me that what we were about to see would be a show designed to fight that very attitude.

Instead, we got a show that seemed, in my opinion, to have actually been censored to the point of being boring. The jokes were flat. There were easily half as many characters parodied than previous years. Even the stunts in the show seemed to be minimized from previous years, cut down to the point where it was the same stunt done five times.

Gone were the savage parodies. Gone were the massive fight sequences that filled the stage (instead of half-filled it with repetitive action). Gone was the constant splattering of blood to the point where it covered the stage. We were left with a show that narratively was about the death of The Hanging and in reality felt like it was about to be that exact death.

And while I don’t want to spoil the ending’s choice of who is actually hanged, I have to mention that I felt like it was a really strange decision process. Yes, the goal of The Hanging has always been to tear down pop culture and ‘hang’ the one individual who was the worst of the year. But of the multiple options presented during this year’s show, they offered some strong potential choices whose rise into pop culture was predicated on them doing actual bad things and then chose to hang someone whose crimes consist of doing mediocre stupid things. It felt like the strangest of choices and, in my opinion, created one of the most off-kilter endings I’ve seen from this show in a year where the rest of the show was equally…off.

Here’s hoping they either retool the show fast or restore it with something massive next year. Because I, for one, don’t want to see The Hanging become the final sacrifice the good citizens of Calico offer.

THE RED BARN – MAZE

Description: Take a trip to a blood-soaked barn filled with carnivorous animals seeking to prey on human flesh in the Red Barn gore maze. Legend has it the farmer who owns the barn was transformed into a heinous creature that sends his sadistic sons to ensure his legacy. None dare enter the barn, for those who enter never escape.

Erik’s Thoughts: What, exactly, was the story of this maze? I’m not exactly sure but it doesn’t seem to match the description given for it very much. I hadn’t had the chance to see this maze in previous years, so I was looking forward to seeing what had replaced the previous Pinocchio maze. Overall, however, I was disappointed.

It’s definitely a gore maze, with lots and lots of body parts and intestines on display. And there is a repeated “person wearing a pig mask” character running throughout the maze. But is that supposed to be the ‘transformed farmer’? His sons? None of it was clear to me.

As for the promised carnivorous animals, I only saw a dead dog and a nightmarish animatronic half-dead horse that was recycled from an earlier maze (where its presence made a lot more sense).

It was only after all of that random set of scenes that we seemed to actually find the narrative, with the sons showing up and what I assume was the original farmer at the end (although with no evidence of him being transformed, only in a wheelchair.)

That last character did give us one of the creepiest moments of the night as he spotted one of our party and croaked out, “I’m gonna love you. I’m gonna love you HARD.” Nothing like a creepy moment from the almost-required cannibal themed maze to leave you truly unsettled after you’re done.

SPECIAL OPS: INFECTED

Description: Armed with cutting edge laser guns, brave guests will face off against hordes of zombies in the groundbreaking Special Ops: Infected Interactive maze. Small units of guests will battle the zombie apocalypse through blood soaked city streets and an underground sewer system crawling with nearly one hundred ravenous zombies. The high tech innovative experience thrusts guests into the middle of a live-action video game complete with live actors, real time scoring system, kill streak rewards system and interactive targets, including a juggernaut boss zombie. The new attraction is one of the largest mazes ever created in Knott’s Scary Farm history so form your squad and put your zombie apocalypse survival skills to the test in this action packed, one-of-a-kind experience.

Erik’s Thoughts: I really wanted to like this maze. The concept—shooting laser guns at zombies who have receptors on their necks that can register when you shoot them, essentially “killing” them and keeping score, is a great one.

But we started with two guns in our group that failed—one before we left and a second soon after we started. While the “well, do your best” response from the staffer with the first gun was amusing, it’s not nearly as interesting a concept when the technology is failing you before you even begin.

Moreover, sometimes zombies had the receptors and sometimes not. Sometimes they died when I shot them and the receptors changed color and sometimes not.  I was left just shooting everything in sight and having no idea whether I was being effective, which defeats the entire purpose of the maze.

The story of the maze is fine and clear but somewhat uninspired for me. We were sent to go kill the source and that’s pretty much what we did. Even the big reveal at the end was underwhelming for me in a year where Knott’s really stepped up its game of big props and big monsters.

Of all the mazes we did at Knott’s, this was probably my least favorite.

HACKS! CUTTING ROOM FLOOR – SHOW

Description: This unique, twisted, improvised comedy antics of “Hacks” returns to Knott’s Scary Farm with a brand new show in the Charles M. Schulz Theater. This time around, they have taken over a run-down movie theater and with the help of the audience and lots of “B” horror films, they create on the spot, a Halloween show that will have you screaming with laughter.

Sarah’s Thoughts: I had very mixed feelings going into Hacks- Cutting Room Floor because improvised comedy can be one of those hit and miss activities. However, whether due to the crowd that we had or because of the comedians on stage or a combination of both, we had a hilarious time watching the late night show. Throw in the awkward randomness that comes with selecting audience members who have no idea what they are doing and you have a recipe for hilarity. However, the one thing that I will note is that the audience can probably make or break this show. Without an audience ready to cooperate like ours was, I could easily see this show going south.

TRICK OR TREAT: LIGHTS OUT – MAZE

Description: Are you afraid of the dark? You will be. Armed with only a faulty flashlight, explore the creepy house at the end of the street, in the upgraded Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out maze. Face the terrors of the house in complete darkness as your interactive flashlight reveals the horrors hiding in the shadows. Featuring new state-of-the-art effects, unexpected scares and other eerie surprises, Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out will terrorize you like never before.

Danielle’s Thoughts: Armed with only a semi-functioning flashlight, Trick or Treat: Lights Out offers you a chance to explore what lies in the shadows in a trick or treating experience gone wrong. Drawing on the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, guests learn of an evil witch that occupies this house and the possessed pets and eerie ghosts that accompany her. Fans of Knott’s Scary Farm, will appreciate the evil witch character, as she has been a staple of the park for many years. The use of a flashlight allows for scare-actors to sneak up on participants easily and creates more opportunities for jump scares. Additionally, the flashlight is on a timer and has a tendency to flicker which can heightened one’s sense of fear. Carved pumpkins, black cats, ghosts, and witches create a nostalgic atmosphere that fans of Halloween will greatly appreciate in this maze.

THE DEPTHS – MAZE

Description: A heavy fog drapes over an abandoned port village where ancient creatures lurk inside the pitch-black underground caves hidden below the seaside shores. The Nightwatch Mining Crew has mysteriously disappeared and village rumors point to the eerie tunnels the town sits upon. Myths of the terrifying horrors that lurk within the cave have often been whispered but never confirmed. Did the crew meet their demise at the hand of vicious creatures that live within the cave? Journey into the ominous caverns and follow the crew’s path into The Depths, discover if the superstition revolving around the cave is true or not. But be warned! All who have entered have never resurfaced.

Sarah’s Thoughts: I am not normally a person who gets really excited by mazes, but The Depths really made me giddy. The opening act of the maze focuses on a mining crew who takes their time to warn us of the impending dangers leading into the tunnels. However, we do not listen. We continue to venture further. There we start running into a handful of vicious aquatic looking creatures that are immensely menacing. The amazing set design of the maze allows the scare actors to play, especially in one of the bigger rooms. I’m not quite sure how to describe the room, but it is dark and foggy with greenish lights. The combined effect of all three of those makes it so that we feel disoriented and confused, giving the fish-like scare actors a chance to get us and get us good.

There is a glorious kraken (that I may or may not have given a name to) that blew me out of the water. I had thought that it was going to be a standing unmoving creature. Oh, no. They utilized a full on animatronic beautiful tentacle baby and I was so happy! When I say that this was my most anticipated moment of the evening, I am not lying. After the Kraken, we are met with further beautiful set pieces and astounding creatures that I do not want to reveal because it would take away from the surprise. Needless to say, this was my personal favorite maze of the night.

I do recommend that people go through The Depths at night to take in the full effect of the animatronics and effects utilized throughout the course of the maze.

DARK ENTITIES – MAZE

Description: Teleport beyond earth and into a realm where the darkness is absolute. In the depths of space, a lone station faces terror beyond all imagination. An extraterrestrial mutation has invaded the station, and it’s on the prowl for new hosts. The unearthly inhabitants’ force increases as it feeds on its unwilling victims. Escape the dark entities before its deathly force eliminates all living form aboard the station. There’s nowhere to escape when time is running out!

Erik’s Thoughts: While the idea of aliens and mutations are nothing new for Knott’s (or any big haunt), I quite enjoyed the concept of this maze. The narrative was one of the stronger ones at the haunt, buoyed by the early presence of an animatronic robot and a ‘teleport’ booth that used a simple mechanical effect to help make it very clear that you were ‘going’ someplace else.

The fact that the same mechanical device is loud enough to cover the immediate crisis directly past it is also a clever move, as it allowed you to enjoy the one moment and then realize exactly how screwed you were the next.

Once the ‘invasion’ begins we’re treated to a pretty typical sort of maze, one filled with half-mutated people and fully mutated (but quite ingeniously designed) monsters. What elevates this maze to being one of my favorites of the year was the ongoing special effects, including a grotesque operating room and a massive monster at the tail end who is capable of actually attacking audience members through a well-hidden use of puppetry.

Oh, and there’s also the biggest bug I’ve ever seen. By far the scariest thing in the entire park (and I’ve been to Georgia.)

PARANORMAL INC. – MAZE

Description: Paranormal Inc. features high flying aerial stunts and scares as guests help investigate a haunted hospital where the patients were tortured for decades by deranged doctors and nurses. Demonic spirits of the murdered victims have been detected throughout the mysterious halls, while evil medical staff prowl for new patients to torture.

Danielle’s Thoughts: Paranormal Inc. is a must see. With a new surprising and sudden ending in 2018, this maze will be appreciated by Scary Farm veterans and newbies alike. As a paranormal investigator, you are invited to inspect a haunted asylum and search for the ghost of Mary. Your paranormal instruments begin to break as you sense heightened activity and Mary escapes into the asylum. The use of acrobatics, different passage ways, and air tubes makes this maze particularly unique. Participants are separated in two groups and can enter the maze from either the left or right which allows for repeatability. With a strong narrative, memorable ending, and use of special effects, this maze is bound to be a highlight of your experience at Knott’s Scary Farm.

GHOST TOWN STREETS – SCARE ZONE

Description: Ghost Town Streets is the original – and still most terrifying scare zone – that started it all. Bands of half-human, half-animal monsters prowl the streets and inhabit the fog. Beware the notoriously startling Sliders who lunge from every fog-filled corner of the land.

Erik’s Thoughts: Just as Knott’s proclaims, this is both the oldest scare zone and full of fog. I mean FULL OF FOG. It is one of my great pleasures in life to walk into the Ghost Town area with friends and then wait for the nearest fog machine to kick off and simply…disappear…into its MASSIVE plume. In fact, the first time I ever went to Scary Farm, I realized that I had never understood what real fog machines were until I walked into this area.

Be aware—you can actually get so blinded by the fog that you walk into a railing of one of the shops so hard you flip over it and crash to the ground. Not that I’m saying I ever did that. No one has any photo evidence I did. I’m just saying I saw a friend do this. Once.

Sarah Musnicky
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Sarah Musnicky

Managing Editor at Nightmarish Conjurings
Sarah is the managing editor of Nightmarish Conjurings and a lover of all things magical and horrific. All who are familiar with her can attest for her love of glitter, adorable plush, and obsession with folklore and mythology. When she's not chasing after things she probably shouldn't hug, Sarah is making sure that Shannon's sanity stays intact long enough for deadlines to be tackled.
Sarah Musnicky
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