When I knew I was going to be moving to the West Coast, there were two haunted attractions that I knew I had to attend: Halloween Horror Nights and The Queen Mary.  I have always had a fascination with the history behind The Queen Mary so I knew I had to have that on my agenda for the Halloween season.

When the time came for me to attend the black carpet event for The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, I was beyond excited!  When I arrived, my boyfriend and I were greeted warmly by the staff and taken to an area where we would await the Captain and The Ringmaster.  The Captain and The Ringmaster came out above us on a platform and welcomed all to the Dark Harbor!  You could literally hear the swarms of “undead” banging on the door to let us in as the Captain got us ready for our entrance.  Once the doors opened, all ghoulish hell broke loose, and the undead swarmed us.

One thing I noticed early-on was the impeccable detail of the makeup on these scare actors.  It was unbelievable!  I have to say, in all my haunt travels, this is some of the best makeup and SFX I have seen.  Upon walking into the event I was blown away by the amount of scare actors everywhere, it was a visual feast.  Also, the set design was amazing and I hadn’t even walked into the main event yet!  I must have been scared half a dozen times before I even went into a haunted maze or the sun had even set.  Besides there being 6 haunted mazes, a freak show, and a paintball attraction, there is also a giant swing ride.  Also, if you choose to mingle with the dead in a more high fashion way, you can upgrade your ticket to the RIP Lounge or purchase a Creepy Cabana.

Now lets get to the mazes and attractions which is what you all really want to know about.

Haunted Maze #1: Lullaby
This was the first house we hit up and it was amazing.  I was digging the whole atmosphere from the moment we entered to the moment we exit.  The Lullaby maze tells the story of Scary Mary, a child who drowned while on the Queen Mary.  All she wants to do is play with someone and we are just the type of living souls she wants to play with.  What I liked most about this maze is that it is on the Queen Mary and it’s deep down which gives the perfect creepy atmosphere to begin with.  There are many Scary Mary’s running around the maze, all who want to play with you, and the acting is spot on.  I was super impressed with the makeup and costumes as well as the use of the ship as the perfect platform for some of the set design.  There were times when we were going through the maze where it was pitch black and silent and that was frightening in and of itself.  I loved the tension that was continuously being built up.

Another really cool aspect of this maze was we got to walk through an abandoned pool area.  There was no additional set design to this area other than Scary Mary on the opposite side giggling the entire time.  She doesn’t come after you but it’s extremely unsettling.  That was probably my favorite part of the entire maze.  Lastly, another thing to note that I really loved was the ending.  It didn’t end the moment you left the maze, Scary Mary literally would follow you outside and continuously ask to play with you.  I absolutely loved that and I wish more haunts would do that.

Haunted Maze #2: B340
I didn’t think it was possible to top Lullaby and boy was I wrong.  If you want to know if something really scares me ask me to tell you what I experienced in the house.  If the answer is “I can’t remember” it probably means I got so scared/anxious that I blocked out the entire experience.  This is what happened during B340.  This is by far my favorite maze at Dark Harbor.  I can’t remember what happened but what I do remember is a feeling of dread and fear and that, my friends, is what I’m always looking for in a haunt.

You might be asking yourself what B340 is, and it’s a walk through the mind of an extremely disturbed individual, Samuel the Savage.  The whole maze is very dark with scattered pulsating lights throughout and it’s not a short maze. You are in the underbelly of The Queen Mary and it’s an uncomfortable journey.  It’s so hard for me to find haunts that really scare me and B340 did the trick.

Haunted Maze #3: Soul Mate
Soul Mate is the last maze that is actually on the Queen Mary.  Soul Mate tells the story of Graceful Gale, who has been looking for her Soul Mate ever since her disappearance on the Queen Mary.  I enjoyed this house and I really loved the last scene of this maze where we come face to face with Gale.  Overall, this house didn’t scare me as much as the two other mazes, Lullaby and B340, but I enjoyed the set design as well as the costume and make up.

Haunted Maze #4: Deadrise
Located almost in the middle of the attraction area of Dark Harbor is part of a destroyed WWII ship.  You can’t miss it because, one, there is literally part of a ship just hanging out and two,  there are some pretty bad ass pyrotechnics going off.  What I liked about this maze, and actually all the mazes (with the exception of Circus) was that they pulsed the lines.  I remembered specifically that they did this for Deadrise and it made the experience more enjoyable.

Deadrise tells the story of an escort ship that helped guide The Grey Ghost through enemy infested waters.   As all stories that are horror related would have it, Deadrise had a fatal crash and sank to the bottom of the sea.  Going through this maze we encounter the Captain, for the first time, and his troupe of ghouls and ghosts.  I enjoyed this maze, I had a lot of fun, and again the makeup and costumes were on point.  There were times when the monsters seemed to literally come out of nowhere.  Actually, my boyfriend and I discussed that that seemed to be a running theme through the majority of the houses.  These scare actors were pro’s when it came to hiding.  You actually never knew where they were going to come from.  I especially liked the ending to Deadrise – you are walking through a deep fog only to come face to face with the Captain.  No words are spoken or exchanged.  He just looks into your soul and walks away.

Haunted Maze #5: Circus
I’ve been trying to come up with the best way to describe my experience with not only this house but the queue leading up to this house.  Up until this point I had had a really great experience with everything that the Dark Harbor had offered me.  However, all this took a turn when I went into the queue for Circus.  As part of media we are given fast passes to get through all the mazes and I was extremely grateful for this as I have a handicap in which I can’t stand on my legs for long and it requires me to have a cane or wheelchair.  When we approached the line we were told that we would have a 25 minute wait to enter the house – this proved to be wrong as the line was hidden in front of us and it ended up being close to 45 min.  I can’t imagine what people must have been feeling had they bought a fast pass and still had to wait that long. About 20-25 minutes into my wait time, I started to feel a lot of pain and discomfort in my legs.  As we rounded the corner of the queue I got the attention of the attendant that was leading people into the haunted maze.  I asked him if I could step out of the line and wait for my party to come to the front due to being in pain (I also showed him my cane to let him know that I had a handicap).  He informed me that he had no way of getting a hold of management to ask them nor could he move the barrier in front of me.  Not only was I shocked, as I have never had this happen to me at any haunt, but it made me incredibly concerned if there was a severe emergency or fire – how would these people get out of line if the attendant can’t even move the barrier?? I ended up waiting in line because backtracking would have been just as hard and when I came to the front of the line the attendant finally asked me if I wanted to sit down in which I replied there was no point since I was now about to enter the house.

Putting aside my anger and concern over ADA requirements, I was extremely disappointed in this house.  I wasn’t scared and there wasn’t anything original or fun.  I was so impressed with the other four mazes that to be let down by this house was such a bummer.  I typically love circus themed houses because I have a fear of clowns but I felt like this house was just thrown together.  I wanted there to be so much more and felt like they could have done something more original.  Also, as an interior architect who has studied ADA requirements I was really put off by not only the lack of help from the attendant but also the cause for concern if there was a real emergency.  After exiting the house, I did go to customer service to bring up what had happened but they weren’t much help.

Haunted Maze #6: Voodoo Village
I’m a tough critic when it comes to Voodoo houses.  I am always looking for that one Voodoo house to wow me and I have yet to find one.  It wasn’t that this house was bad or that it didn’t rise to the occasion, it just didn’t really do anything for me.  I was left feeling neutral. However, I do not fault the Dark Harbor for this.  I’ve been to a Voodoo maze in Howl-O-Scream and Knotts Scary Farm and I feel the same way – they don’t do anything to scare me.

Putting that aside, the house is still fun and I enjoyed the set design greatly. The Voodoo Village even has a swamp to go through!  So though it may not have scared me it still was a visual feast for my eyes.

Newest Attraction: The Curse of Anubis: Paintball Adventures

When I first heard about this attraction, I was pretty excited.  I had never played paintball before and I’ve always been intrigued with Egyptian lore. However, I was really let down with this attraction.  You are led into a tent and there are a row of paintball guns set up for you.  Once you are given the go-ahead, monsters and mummies come out to play.  The problem is it’s kind of boring.  I would love it if the characters charged us or made an effort to interact with us at all.  They don’t do anything but hide the entire time.  Listen, I know that paintballs are not the softest things to be hit by but there is plenty that can be done to make the experience more interactive and enjoyable, especially if you, the consumer, is paying an additional $10 to take part in this.  If there was anything I would tell you to skip, it would be this.

All in all, I really did enjoy my time at Dark Harbor.  The haunts were pretty spectacular and as I have mentioned numerous times, the makeup, SFX and costumes were incredible.  If The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor keeps going the way they are going I can see them outshining the likes of Halloween Horror Nights.  I really feel like Dark Harbor is set to be one of the best new haunts out there and I hope it doesn’t end up cutting corners or resorting to non-original ideas for their haunts.

As I mentioned, my biggest criticism has to do with how ADA compliant they are.  This is my first year having a handicap and it’s tough.  I really hope that management takes a look at different ways they can improve their queues for people that do suffer from a handicap.  I have seen with other haunts that a lot of time they will take you out of line and have you sit somewhere while you wait for your party to reach the front of the line.  Honestly, this is my biggest concern and I hope it’s something that eventually gets addressed.

Would I recommend that you go to The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor? Absolutely. I would not recommend buying a fast pass as it doesn’t seem to do much, in turn I would suggest getting there early and hitting the newest maze, Lullaby, first as well as the Sideshow Freaks and Oddities.  The biggest compliment I would give Dark Harbor is that it’s original.  It doesn’t rely on IP houses and I love that it comes up with it’s own stories and superstitions.  I’m extremely glad that I was able to go to this haunt and I want nothing but the best to happen with Dark Harbor as I believe it’s really on the cusp of hitting it big.  I look forward to seeing their continued success as well as seeing what they have in store for us all next year.

Shannon McGrew
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