When I first moved to California, I’d sometimes hear about a local Halloween attraction called “Not Scary Farm,” and I wondered, “Well, what’s the point of that?!”
Luckily, I was soon set straight– that, each October, the theme park Knott’s Berry Farm is converted into “Knott’s Scary Farm.” Perhaps that homophone-based, potential confusion is the reason the park now uses “Halloween Haunt” as a nickname for the event.
In any case, “Not Scary” would certainly not be the words I’d use to describe the grand affair, during which time the theme park is transformed into 160 acres of horror and mayhem. My always fun and perky friend Jenn accompanied me on Sept. 26 for this year’s opening night of the annual happening. Jenn, who, like me, is in her mid-40s, is one of those people who are pretty much willing to do anything, and she seems to have a hundred items to still check off from her “bucket list.” She was a perfect partner for the night.
First and foremost, the park goes mostly dark, with what seem to be just a few sources of light here and there. As if your visibility and unease aren’t compromised enough by the darkness, fog machines are placed about every 50 feet, making it even more challenging to see what lurks around each turn… or right behind you.
Ghouls and sundry creatures (1,000 of them!) lurk in the shadows and pop out at park-goers relentlessly. Some even slide on their knees right up next to people; this is rarely unsuccessful in eliciting screams from female attendees.
Somehow, the locale is spacious enough to accommode 10 different “mazes,” each with its own theme and set of monsters. This year, which is the 41st for the “Scary Farm,” those themed attractions are Black Magic, Delirium, Dominion of the Damned, Endgames, Mirror Mirror, Pinocchio Unstrung, Uncle Willy’s Slaughterhouse, The Gunslinger’s Grave, Trick or Treat and Forevermore, which is inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Raven.”
Even without the spooky décor, roaming monsters and creepy walk-throughs, Knott’s boasts some other scary features– the rides.
GhostRider is a wooden roller coaster located in the Ghost Town section of the park, and it’s the longest wooden coaster on the West Coast. What makes it so thrilling is that it jolts and vibrates so much as it moves that you forget who you are. It’s possibly the closest you’ll get to an out-of-body experience.
If you’re turned off by a shaky, wooden coaster, and prefer instead a more modern, smoother ride, hop onto The Silver Bullet… as long as you’re cool with being turned upside-down 146 feet in the air! (If I recall correctly, that’s the moment when my derriére actually lost direct contact with the seat and I was temporarily airborne.)
The Silver Bullet would prove to be the denouement of the evening, since it was shortly after we got off that ride that Jenn made it clear she was queasy and “done” for the night. She however politely offered to sit on the sidelines as I continued to enjoy the other, numerous rides we had yet to experience. Since it was approaching 1:00 in the morning, and we both had to work the next day, I figured it was probably a good time to head home.
Honestly though, I could have easily stayed another two hours or so. This is the one time of year when the kid in me emerges energetically and enthusiastically, and “Not Scary Farm” is the ideal place to get in touch with and (supposedly) conquer all those primal fears: ghosts, the dark, heights and vomiting in public.
Knott’s Scary Farm/Halloween Haunt in Buena Park will be terrifying folks through Day of the Dead, Nov. 2. For more information, visit knotts.com/haunt2013 .