[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1

This year’s spooky season has taken on more significance with the arrival of Knott’s Scary Farm ’s 50th anniversary. The big 5-0! Exciting, right? And with such a giant milestone for the oldest operating theme park haunt, the team has much in store for attendees this year to get the Halloween season rolling.

From new mazes that pay homage to both Scary Farm and horror across the board to new shows and the return of scarezones past, everywhere people turn, they are hit smack in the face with Scary Farm’s long-lasting history. With time and some tweaking, this year’s Knott’s Scary Farm is set to be another success.

The following is a recap from Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky focusing on the mazes this year’s Knott’s Scary Farm has to offer. Stay tuned for our second part specifically highlighting the scare zones and the shows you can catch at Knott’s Scary Farm.


THE DEPTHS – Returning Maze

[Haunt Review] KNOTT'S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
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.

Thoughts: Alas, it is time for us to pay tribute and say our goodbyes to The Depths in its final year. Subtle changes punctuate the beginning of the maze. As we descend into the mines and go deeper into the caves, the darkness (well-blocked out even with the sun still out) clouds the senses. Monsters arise slowly before we enter deep into their domain. While much is still the same, the impact still slaps.

The maze creatures, both real and animatronic, still cut their teeth on their surroundings. The giant Kraken and the shaky ship still hold strong after all this time. It is a shame to know The Depths will be reclaimed by the sea, but its impact will remain with Knott’s Scary Farm fans forever.

BLOODLINE 1842 – Returning Maze

[Haunt Review] KNOTT'S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1
Courtesy Knott’s Farm
Description: Enter the battlegrounds of the war-torn streets of the steampunk Neo-Victorian city of Valdonia as your clan’s perilous journey takes you into the heart of a raging war between your brethren, the immortal Daybreakers, and the bloodthirsty Valhymphri.

The vampires have sacked the entire city and destroyed everything in their path. Creep through the shadows and avoid the raging vampires as your clan traverses through the rubble-filled catacombs and blood-soaked walls. Armed with only your wits and courage, find the remaining Daybreakers and help them destroy the King of Valhymphri…for the last stand is here! Blood and blessings!

Thoughts: Last year, Bloodline 1842 had been in my top mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. Part of this was due to the natural high intensity evoked by the shoot ‘em up style run they did. With the battle between vampires and rushing to fight them off, there were expectations going in.

This year, they’ve removed the guns. The plausible reason? Getting people through faster seems most likely. While this decision had the benefit of allowing us more time to take in the worldbuilding details, certain character decisions to rush us along and try to give us instructions seemed out of place. Why rush when the lack of guns takes away the sense of urgency?

The design of the maze is still gorgeous, and the actors were on their A-game. However, the memorable impact and intensity from last year’s debut are lacking this year.

DARK ENTITIES – Returning Maze

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

DescriptionTeleport 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 life forms aboard the station. There’s nowhere to escape when time is running out!

Thoughts: Another maze set to close its doors, unlike The Depths, Dark Entities feels like a maze ready to shutter its doors. Much has remained unchanged these years. With a simple alien invasion/possession storyline, it’s a story told in a couple of acts which makes things easy to follow.

Likely due to it being opening night, the monsters hadn’t yet found their stride. With the space they have to play around in, during our walkthrough, the animatronics seemed to have more life than the infected. There were a couple in the middle of the maze who were active and energetic, though, and they should be commended. With more adjustments during the run, the talent can knock this maze out of the park for its final year.

All in all, Dark Entities was an okay maze, but definitely has run its course at Knott’s Scary Farm.

WAX WORKS – Returning Maze

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

DescriptionMysterious lights and strange noises have begun to emanate from the eerie abandoned wax museum. The once prominent plastic surgeon, Dr. Augustus Scratch, has been seen tinkering at night and is now ready to show off his beautiful yet terrifying life-like masterpieces of hot molten wax and bloody flesh.

It’s rumored that blood-curdling screams can be heard echoing through the halls of Wax Works as victims are horrifyingly submerged into a scorching hot cauldron of bubbling wax. Take a closer look at his gruesome works of art and try to escape his deadly grip or become the newest masterpiece to add to his collection.

Thoughts: Wax Works is back but hadn’t yet found its footing on opening night. Much of the layout is the same, and the Wax Works’ aesthetic plays heavily into setting the tone. The abandoned museum is coming at the seams, and no time is wasted in throwing attendees into the fire and getting the scares rolling.

There are still many memorable visual moments, from bee-covered mannequins to people suspended above boiling pots of wax to the demonic creature towards the end of the maze. If there’s anything the Knott’s Scary Farm team does right is the visuals.

As a maze, particularly on opening night before kinks have yet to be worked out, Wax Works felt like a safe maze. There wasn’t anything that stood out that had a positive or negative impact. The team checked off all the boxes with no muss or fuss.

ROOM 13 – NEW Maze

[Haunt Review] KNOTT'S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
Description: Violent murders at The Blind Tiger interrupt the Prohibition-era revelry on Memory Lane. A dangerously addictive new cocktail named The Devil’s Elixir seems to be at the root of the mayhem, but where did it come from? The answers may lie at the heart of the extravagant Argive Hotel, where many have checked in… but none have checked out.

Thoughts: One of the new mazes to help ring in Knott’s Scary Farm ‘s 50th anniversary, Room 13 had built-in expectations. With the Goring ‘20s Scare Zone always hitting the mark with its character and energy, you’d expect that to naturally transfer over to Room 13. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Starting off after The Devil’s Elixir has already been consumed, we enter The Blind Tiger to witness the aftermath. Slow-paced music keeps the energy mellow, impacting both patrons and actors in theory. The transition from bar to Hotel isn’t as seamless as the description illustrates, though there is a cool mirrored floor effect once you get to the balcony. When the big secret is revealed, there’s no smack-in-your-face ah-ha moment. Instead, the energy stays about the same from the performers and – in some ways – the design as well throughout.

A transition like Origins might have benefited Room 13’s storyline more, where The Devil’s Elixir’s impact steadily took over. This inherently would give a more chaotic feeling rather than the slow steady drone of the maze’s background music.

Overall, Room 13 needs a bit more pep in its step.

THE GRIMOIRE – Returning Maze

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

DescriptionTurn the page and enter the world of an ancient relic whose dark stories exist purely to turn your greatest nightmares into a reality. Try to escape the horror of the evil creatures released by the mysterious book, or have your soul eternally trapped within the pages of the next chapter!

Thoughts: The Grimoire was a new addition last year at Knott’s Scary Farm that ran into some line issues, likely due to its opening. However, it seems the immersive opening scene to onboard people has been phased out. Instead, we leap straight into possessed campers with no real build-up to the Grimoire opening. At least, that’s how it looked through our walkthrough.

As far as the storyline goes, it’s about the same as last year. We are plunged through time to witness how others have opened the book and brought forth violence into their lives and the world. It still reads chaotic and a bit disorienting but that’s the point. There were more monsters in the areas that needed them last year, which helped keep things flowing.

It’s still a decent maze, but the introduction to the Grimoire before the chaos hits is greatly missed in this iteration of The Grimoire maze. You don’t realize what you’re missing until it’s gone, and that opener just added a little extra special sauce to the package.


Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

DescriptionPierce the veil of time and discover the secret of the evil fog that hangs over Knott’s Scary Farm in Origins: The Curse of Calico. Unearth the sinister paranormal activity that plagues the town as Sarah Marshall is put on trial for her suspected crimes of witchcraft.

All will be unveiled when the Green Witch rises up and curses the townsfolk, transforming all who have accused her into a wicked horde of malicious creatures with an eternal quench for the living.

ThoughtsOrigins: The Curse of Calico is back again but feels more necessary this year with the 50th Anniversary focus. Sarah Marshall is a legend within Knott’s Scary Farm, and her continued presence is a reminder of Scary Farm’s legacy. That said, the maze is about the same layout-wise.

Attendees walk through the town of Calico. From the courthouse to a bank to a shootout in its dusty streets, we see how Marshall’s curse lays waste to the town that turned against her. With a mixture of projections, animatronics, and scare actors, the slow steady roll of her curse is unveiled.

The scare actors roaming through the maze work well to deliver the agonizing transformation of the curse on the town. The Green Witch flyover at the end was missing during our walkthrough, likely due to a shift change, and proved why that addition is impactful for the end of Origins.

All in all, Origins: The Curse of Calico is still rocking.

Mesmer – Returning Maze

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

Description: Within the canvas tent lies the secret of the most potent force in the universe: the human mind. Give in and succumb to the hypnotist Mesmer and his sinister sideshow, as it pries on your hidden fears.

Release your inner thoughts and descend into a world of madness, torture, and eerie enlightenment. There you will uncover the grotesque secrets hidden as you brave through the most terrifying show ever created.

Thoughts: Mesmer is back again this year at Knott’s Scary Farm, and while not much seems to have changed with the design of the maze, it still slaps. Just be warned for those who are strobe-sensitive. The strobes are hella lit and you can see them through your eyelids. Be careful.

Greeted by Mesmer at the beginning of the maze, you’re taken through various horrors and terrors that aim to scare and destroy the mind. The emphasis on the psychological looms large. Accompanied by Mesmer’s hypnotic voice, the monsters you meet along the way are there to remind you of the horror that lies within.

The actors in Mesmer are both ornamental and shocking. The scares are more focused on the visuals and emphasize the environment around them, but the actors are still in character, never breaking from their focus.

In its third outing, Mesmer still holds strong. Just be careful where you wander. You might get caught in his design.

Chilling Chambers – NEW Maze

[Haunt Review] KNOTT'S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
Description: Honoring Scary Farm’s inaugural maze, “10 Chilling Chambers,” which began in 1977. This unsettling attraction pays tribute to its past while horrifying today’s audience. The Keeper leads you through a foreboding cathedral, encountering classic maze themes. Unleash 50 years of modern terror, reliving the eerie collections and diabolical characters of seasons past.

Thoughts: For this year’s 50th anniversary at Knott’s Scary Farm, the team brought back a revamped version of 10 Chilling Chambers. The Keeper leads us through 50 years’ worth of familiar mazes and, for both casual and super fans of Knott’s Scary Farm, it is a welcome treat.

The maze itself is an eclectic mishmash of aesthetics, but it’s not without reason. We’re going through time to pay homage to the greatest mazes Scary Farm has had to offer. The Keeper is represented through video recordings, much like Sarah Marshall in Origins, but it would have been nice to see more of him up close in person.

The energy from the performers is great, particularly in the clown/circus-oriented portion of Chilling Chambers. Noticeably absent during our walk-through were the performers in the doll portion of the maze. Likely due to a shift change, but their presence would have made those portions pop.

Despite the little issues here and there, Chilling Chambers is a museum of Knott’s Scary Farm’s history. Full of fun and dark whimsy, the future is still promising for Scary Farm.

Cinema Slasher – NEW Maze

[Haunt Review] KNOTT'S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 1
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
Description: Embark on a journey through the Midnight Theater, entering horror film worlds where you must survive the deadly Slasher’s rage. Can you escape these movie nightmares, or will you be trapped among decaying corpses in the ruined theatre? The sinister Midnight Theater beckons the brave into Cinema Slasher.

Thoughts: One of three new mazes this year, Cinema Slasher is a strong, fine addition to the Knott’s Scary Farm maze line-up. Taking use of the natural theater setting, the transition between Slasher movies is seamless. From sorority houses to lakeside camps to living our own slasher movie nightmares, Cinema Slasher takes you there.

The scare actors in this maze appeared to have lots of fun when we walked through, and that energy was infectious. While there could have been a few more actors in the camp section of the maze, the environment created in replicating the camp site has so many details that the lack of monsters isn’t as noticeable compared to other mazes in the haunt.

A maze that is good for both horror fans and Knott’s Scary Farm attendees, Cinema Slasher is an easy fave out of this year’s line-up. We’ve all joked about what it’d be like to be in a slasher movie, and now we get to live that in real-time.

Know Before You Go to Knott’s Scary Farm

Now that you’ve survived my breakdown of the mazes, it’s time for me to relay some tidbits that will help make your attending Knott’s Scary Farm a bit smoother. We don’t want to be caught unawares, do we?

  • The bag policy is still in place. Clear plastic bags smaller than 12” x 12” x 6” as well as non-clear wristlets or clutches no larger than 5”x 8”x 2” are allowed at Knott’s Scary Farm. All bags are subject to search prior to entry. If you have big pockets, def recommend you use them.
  • Try to get there early for parking purposes. Standard parking for cars and motorcycles is $30. Beach Boulevard is a traffic hellscape approaching opening so getting there early or parking nearby may help you in the long run.
  • Under the chaperone policy, all general park guests ages 17 years old or younger must be accompanied by a chaperone who is at least 21 years old to be admitted to the park. The chaperone must present a valid photo ID with date of birth. One chaperone may accompany no more than 10 guests ages 17 or younger per day.

If you’re prepared ahead of time, it can create fewer headaches in the short and long term. Don’t want to go into the haunt already frustrated.

Knott’s Scary Farm Final Thoughts

For its 50th year of existence, Knott’s Scary Farm has a lot of potential to be great based on our walk-through opening night. With new mazes and new monsters come some kinks to work out. However, with some notes and becoming more familiar with the environment and finding their groove, the mazes and performers this year at Knott’s Scary Farm are set to knock things out of the park.

Nightmares become reality for its 50th year as Knott’s Scary Farm is overrun by 5 unnerving scare zones, 10 macabre mazes, and 4 shocking shows. From September 21st to October 31st, goblins, ghouls, and everything in between rule the park. To purchase tickets, go here.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Knott’s Scary Farm breakdown.

Sarah Musnicky
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