First off, I’m biased. DARK HARBOR is my absolute favorite theme park haunt. They create consistency in their brand that is unmatched by any other haunted attraction. Every year they breathe new life into the famed ghosts of the Queen Mary by reimagining and revamping their six signature mazes. Each maze tells a story of a different DARK HARBOR ghoul based roughly on ghost sightings on the Queen Mary. Guests experience are elevated with the opportunity to explore three rarely seen areas of the ship in maze walkthroughs. The natural setting of the historic Grey Ghost provides a truly haunted setting that guests are unable to get at any other theme park haunt. Although many of the mazes are similar to last year, there are some new features at DARK HARBOR that will be highlighted throughout this review.
Synopsis: A monstrous freak wave has hit the legendary Queen Mary, causing the ship to nearly capsize. The ocean liner is near a full breach and quickly taking on water as she tilts on her side. Chaos has descended as the passengers and crew are left disoriented and confused in the fight for survival, many plummeting into darkness or the tumultuous ocean. The Captain and the crew are hard at work trying to salvage the ship after the Rogue wave…Or are they?
Thoughts: ROGUE, which replaced the army based Deadrise, is debuting this haunt season. ROGUE tells the story of the storm that led to the demise of the Queen Mary’s captain. Although it uses some of the same set pieces from Deadrise, it feels like a new maze overall. The addition of a dome above the maze allows for stormy skies to be projected creating a foreboding atmosphere. One area of the maze creates an exceptional effect with the use of TV monitors and moving floors to create the sensation of a struggling ship at sea. Like Deadrise, ROGUE has a secret bar where guests are able to create their own scares. However, the mechanism is not as robust and entertaining as the previous “barrel scare” of Deadrise. An interesting aspect of ROGUE is the use of foam bubbles to capture the frothy ocean water which was novel and had never been done in a haunted attraction to my knowledge.
Synopsis: Let The Feast begin. our evil Chef has emerged from his watery grave to overtake our dank and dark kitchens and will present a four-course meal guaranteed to fright! On the menu this fall, Chef has prepared an Amuse Bouche of angst and anxiety, followed by our first course of death and despair. Indulge in our main course of manic paranoia concluding with a dessert of dismay and terror. Come have a seat at our table, but don’t stay too long or you might end up on the menu!
Thoughts: In its third year at Dark Harbor, FEAST continues to be improving with exciting additions developed for the maze each year. This year, a never before seen area of the Queen Mary was added to the end of FEAST, The Engine Room. Although this area is not intended to be scary, it is a very visually stimulating and engrossing new aspect of FEAST. A “secret” bar located in this area allows guest to have a drink and take it all in. Another addition to FEAST is significantly more actors and jump scares than ever before. Haunting music helps in ramping up for the climax oven scene, hanging skin suits and grotesque imagery which makes FEAST a spooky and frightening experience.
Synopsis: Though her life came to a tragic end after drowning in 1952, Scary Mary is one of the ship’s most mischievous and ruthless spirits. Many experts theorize the First Class swimming pool and changing rooms hold the secrets behind the wicked ghost and why she still sings her eternal Lullaby. If you hear a child’s voice beckoning you to play with her while visiting the historic ship, be sure she’s not leading you down a path from which you won’t return. Mary keeps her friends forever.
Thoughts: Scary Mary, a favorite harbor apparition, gets a new look in Dark Harbor’s LULLABY. Stepping out of Mary’s nightmare with less attention paid to her childhood toys and upbringing, the darker side of her demise is explored. Guests traverse down deeper and deeper into the bowels of the ship with limited light and visibility. Mary is illuminated with dim soft blues creating opportunities for jump scares. Less set design and actors in dark spaces creates anticipation for scares. Mannequins hanging from the ceiling like drowning bodies in a pool create haunting imagery reminiscent of Mary’s death. Also, the addition of a moving platform on the bridge overlooking the engine room stimulates fear of heights in guests that is terrifying. Although LULLABY is redesigned to be completely different from previous years, it continues to be a fan favorite.
Synopsis: October 17, 1948 was just another day at sea for the thousands of passengers aboard The Queen Mary. No one would have guessed that a passenger aboard the ship by the name of Samuel would make headlines around the world. According to ship and police reports that fateful evening, Samuel was deranged and dangerous – not only to passengers and crew, but also to himself. After his brutal attack, he was captured and locked in Stateroom B340, only to vanish and leave nothing but blood-soaked walls.
Thoughts: Most notably, it would be amiss for me not to highlight that B340 has the best music out of any haunt I’ve ever been to. 80s synthesizer beats create the foundation for guests to learn the story of Samuel the Savage and the terror that took place in room B340. This year less focus is placed on Samuel’s religious background and psychotic episode with a decrease in nuns and chalkboard ramblings. However, haunting imagery and engaging monster design are emphasized throughout the maze under dim red and white lights. A small “secret” bar at the beginning of the maze allows guest to prepare for the encounter with Samuel’s past. Although there is less of a narrative in 2019’s B340, the maze continues to be one of the most engaging at the harbor.
Synopsis: A young shipbuilder’s obsession with his creation, the unsinkable Queen Mary, lured him to the moment that would forever seal his fate. Presented by an evil sea witch with the promise of immortality and success, his choice was made, and his flesh was exchanged with the steel from the only thing he ever cared about: his ship. Follow the path of wicked choices and wrongdoings to see what lead the Iron Master to become the horrific half-metal creature spending eternity in an iron Hell.
Thoughts: After a major face lift in 2018 rendering INTREPID a breakout hit of last season’s Dark Harbor, not many additions have been added to the maze. However, INTREPID continues to have beautiful set design and engaging scare actors. The graveyard scene with fake snow eerily falling on tombstones and a church filled with sheet covered mourners continue to be a highlights of INTREPID. Additionally, the green fog room where actors can sneak up on guest from under mist is a memorable area of the maze. Overall, even though the set design is beautiful and creepy, there is a noticeable absence of scare actors and jump scares in the maze from previous years.
Synopsis: Upon the Captain’s orders – the Ringmaster has returned to The Queen Mary with her collection of freaks, allowing guests to sneak beyond the curtains to unveil the horrors lurking within the shadows of the big top. Hosting a menagerie of monsters and sinister creatures, the one and only Ringmaster returns with unadulterated and unbelievable horrors for all who step inside Circus! But don’t let your guard down. She is always looking to add another cohort to her traveling show.
Thoughts: Lastly, CIRCUS opens in 2019 with a new ringmaster scare actor and minor changes to the maze. Two paths and a well hidden secret bar make CIRCUS unique in that it has repeatability built in. Guests should expect a fun and lighthearted experience with the possibility of getting separated from their group. Arguably the most interactive maze in the harbor, CIRCUS offers a fun house mirror maze, a ball pit, and tricks from carnival ghouls throughout. CIRCUS is a lighthearted change of pace from other mazes in the park making it unique and compelling.
Having experienced DARK HARBOR 2019, I continue to be impressed by the imagination of the production team in redeveloping the narratives of Queen Mary characters in a delightfully, creepy way. My only gripe this season was an uncomfortably loud PA system that boomed music and announcements at the entrance. However, this inconvenience was only an issue at the beginning and exit of my experience making the rest of my time at DARK HARBOR as magical as previous years. From September 26 to November 2, you can purchase a ticket to Dark Harbor 2019 at https://www.queenmary.com/
From a young age, Danielle has been drawn to all things creepy, cute, and weird. In 2017, she fell in love with horror by way of immersive theater and never looked back. Her passion for consumption of Southern California’s spooky art forms has brought her to haunts, film screenings, escape rooms, immersive theater and pop-up events. With a Master’s in Counseling Psychology, she is specifically interested in exploring the psychological aspects of horror.
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