Our perception of time is funny. The days are long, but the years are short. It feels like Halloween was just here a few months ago. While we felt lucky to have any bit of Scary Farm last year, this year was more of a return to the normal presence we had gotten accustomed to. Although there are still some kinks being ironed out.
Before we go into the event itself, I want to discuss some recent security changes around the park. Due to a handful of incidences both in the park and elsewhere around the country, a chaperone policy was enacted over the weekends during the summer. Virtually everyone, employees and guests alike, applauded the move. Following the reception of that policy, Knott’s continued to implement that for all nights of Knott’s Scary Farm, along with adding a very restrictive bag policy. This means anything larger than a clutch will have a hard time getting in, unless it’s solely used to carry medical supplies.
One of the most common questions I see asked regarding Halloween events are crowd levels. What day is best to go? Do I need to buy the Fast or Fright Lane? Will it sell out? As of right now, all traditional experience regarding crowd levels is up in the air. The new policies, already modified once, means that large groups of kids, or even just teenagers on dates, are completely absent from the park. Combine that with the Scary Farm season pass being more limited in sales this year, and you have a nighttime Halloween event that’s much less chaotic and packed than years prior. While not completely eliminated, it also means a lot less idiotic rough-housing of the talent from young adolescents.
That turns out to be a double-edged sword. While that does mean you feel safer, and that wait times are greatly reduced, you also are losing the atmosphere from the monsters scaring groups of screaming kids. If you ever enjoyed people-watching in scare zones, it’s slim pickings this year. We’ll see how the season progresses as demand naturally increases, but keep that in mind. The amount of folks I’m seeing walking back to their cars, or calling their parents at the front gate is surprising. So, make sure you read this policy update before you go. It’ll save you embarrassment and headaches later. And check it again closer to the date you attend. I promise you, it’s important this year.
Also, unfortunately, there was no big announcement event this year where the new mazes are announced and the retiring mazes are honored. But for those wondering, this year will conclude Pumpkin Eater and Dark Ride, along with The Hollow, the scare zone which accompanied Pumpkin Eater. So if you want to prioritize what you might later regret, do those. Thankfully the wait for Pumpkin Eater is always manageable, due to its location. Dark Ride fluctuates to the point of absurdity. It will be empty, therefore drawing a crowd, and balloon to a 40-minute wait and back down to a walk-on. Time it properly.
This also means that merchandise available for these 3 retirees will only be available this year, so get the matching hats, shirts, and gravestone pins while you can. (And there is one hilariously gigantic hat for sale this year)
OKAY. On with the actual review!
Earlier this summer, Knott’s decided to keep the alley beyond Ghostrider permanently open during the year with some vendor booths and other distractions around. This meant this area is a bit more fleshed out than years prior. It also means it’s open during Spooky Farm operations, too.
Of course, what you really want lies just beyond the Squishmallows and kettle corn. Four of the mazes are kept back here. This year that means The Depths, Wax Works, and Dark Entities return, while Paranormal Inc. is replaced with Bloodline 1842. Bloodline is the ‘gun’ maze this year, with Infected succumbing to the virus. Given how intricate this maze is, undoubtedly things will be different by the time you visit. But instead of unlocking different gun modes during the path, you choose between 3 different firing modes right at the start, be it a shotgun, sniper rifle or machine gun, although they have different more playful in-universe names. This also means this isn’t a traditional conga-line maze. There are parts where you are held and given instructions or story beats. Although even a few hours into the first night, they were already bypassing some of those holding patterns. So I can’t rightly say what your experience will be on the night you attend. There is even a boss fight conclusion involving a different way of defeating the vampire than simply firing at him.While there is a score supposedly given at the end, we never saw ours properly displayed. But such is the problem reviewing things from the initial night of the event. Kinks are constantly worked out. There’s a lot to love in this maze, but ironically the feedback mostly seems to be that more people would love it AND more people would be ABLE to appreciate it if the gun-play was entirely removed.
I’m not sure if there’s an ability or willingness to make that change mid-event, but I see the merit in such an idea. The maze’s idea of good vampires fighting the bad stands on its own, and given the lower population of scareactors throughout ALL the mazes, the focus is less on shooting than ever before. Just go through as part of the troops and you’ll have a good time. Don’t worry about your score. Also in the back is the return of The Depths. It’s a fun maze with a lot of fun gimmicks, like a laser lake, a shaking boat, and of course our tentacled friend at the end. But it feels a bit neglected. I’m hoping next year some more surprises get sprinkled in. Dark Entities is also around, if not hidden in the hardest-to-find spot in the whole park. It’s a silly gross-out maze. While it’s looking rough in the last few years, it still has a lot of scares and tells a good story. If any maze is deserving of getting some guns added to it to breathe life into it, this is the one. Wax Works, one of the 2021 debuts, is back and just as disturbing as ever. I’d dare say it’s one of my favorites this year. The ending hallway drags a bit, but the rest of it is just total eye candy. Who doesn’t love the invisible man or gigantic honeycomb-covered mannequins? As you re-enter Ghost Town proper, Origins is also back. This is the most thematically beautiful and appropriate maze the park has, with Gunslinger’s Grave long gone, tying deeply into the whole fictional history of the park. And this year the finale also works in the Grimoire, continuing the effort of all recent mazes sharing a timeline. And right up the road, formerly home to Infected and Mystery Lodge (MIA) is The Grimoire. Building on the show that was in the theater last year, it follows some campers reading from the book and how it transports you through different twisted time periods.
There are SO many easter eggs in this maze. It really feels like a love note to Knott’s Scary Farm in general. I don’t want to spoil too much of what you’ll come across, but there’s a lot of variety in the maze. I want to imagine for subsequent seasons they can simply swap out one time period each year and keep it fresh for a long time. The storyline is a little confusing, but that’s just an excuse to go through multiple times, right? On the other side of the park, Dark Ride is standing, ushering guests into the Castle of Chaos. It’s a complicated concept of a maze. You constantly walk between the actual ride path and the backstage areas. While it’s been plussed up over the years, it feels a bit like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland with how it’s a gigantic task to keep it all running smoothly. Given the link between scare zones and mazes, it’ll be interesting to see if the replacement for 2023 is a carnival-theme again, or if it goes in a different direction.Mezmer is the companion to Dark Ride, hiding behind Xcelerator in its second year. I love the execution and design of the maze. The monsters are all unique beasts. Plus the narration, while haunting, also acts as a guide instead of just letting the noise of a maze be screams. It’s just great all around and I’m happy to have it back. Finally, we hit up Pumpkin Eater. It’s weird because, over the years, I’ve fallen in love with Pumpkin Eater more and more. It’s just creepy and fits the area. When you exit the maze, you’re still in that period of time. It’s immersive. I love all the giant bugs and the gruesome ending. I don’t think I’ve wanted a maze to stick around an additional year since Black Magic or Gunslinger’s Grave. Go, enjoy it.
The scare zones are all the same this year, but that’s due to change, finally. The Hollow is in its final season. The Hollow is basically the parent of what became the Gore-ing 20s. The initial year of it was the first time Camp Snoopy was an entire scare zone, giving guests a reason to walk the full area instead of just having a dead zone between a maze near the entrance. It also had a good amount of theatrics that would play out over the night between three competing factions. The interactivity was amazing to see it play out, especially with the effigy burning that happened every night at midnight.
While the effigy burning still happens, the remaining theatrics have all gone to the wayside as it became more of a traditional scare zone. Forsaken Lake remains the only scare zone without an accompanying maze. Right now because one end is at Fiesta Village, in the middle of a year-long refurbishment, it’s hard to justify walking through it. But it’s still a beautiful way to make use of this area.The Gore-ing 20s, debuting last year, remains the highlight of all scare zones. It takes the interactivity that was in The Hollow, and gives it a lot more of a story to flesh out. It’s social and engages guests, with lively music and timed events. There’s a full live band and dancers that play at the top of the hour. Plus with the new restaurant and bathroom opened up nearby, this area has never looked nicer. Finally, the heart of Scary Farm, the original scare zone that created this whole darn industry, Ghost Town, is alive (undead?) and well. The area is pumped with so much fog, you often can’t see the monsters until it’s too late. There’s some new additions of animal creatures roaming the area this year, so be on the lookout.
In regards to entertainment, to take your mind off of scares, there’s enough. The Bird Cage Theatre is home to Conjurers: Dark Magic as usual. The magicians usually change each week, so if you’re visiting multiple times over the season, it’s worth going multiple times to check it out. It’s always a good time in this historic location.The new show this year is Le Magnifique Carnaval du Grotesque. However, if you weren’t paying much attention, that might surprise you as a similarly structured show occupied this space last year. But in all honesty, it’s similar in name only. Instead of rotating bands with sideshow acts, this is a tight 30-minute show featuring a dance troupe, balancing act, fire dancing, ring acrobatics, and a VERY large wheel. Plus it has a duo of enchanting hosts that make you feel welcome in the most unsettling manner.
It was interesting on opening night to see many guests skipping over the initial performances of this show, assuming it was similar to last year’s, but after a few weekends, the area was filling up early each time.
Considering the acts involved, it’s a spiritual successor to the acts of Ed Alonzo or Elvira that were previously indoors. And that’s a great thing. This sort of entertainment is a lot more pleasing to fill the night air with, and the more controversial bits, like The Hanging or Puppet Up, can be left to the indoor theaters, where you have to willingly choose to subject yourself to that mayhem. As for Puppet Up, it’s back again, with lessons learned. In the sophomore year back in 2021, the guests came too prepared for an improv show, throwing the suggestions into a predictable rut. This year, Patrick Bristow is keeping a much tighter leash on that, and a lot of new bits have been introduced. This show alone is worth the price of admission to Knott’s Scary Farm, so to see it in top form is very encouraging. Just make sure you’re ready for something very vulgar and filthy. Of course, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the Into the Fog art show in the Factory Store. Every year it’s a great collection of art from artists all over, diving into the nostalgia of the park, and showing so much creativity. Where else will you find a black velvet painting of cord dog puppets?
Also, make sure to hit up the Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride. They’re both gussied up for the season, and the mine ride in particular has both a nighttime and daytime version. You know… if you’re at theme parks, you might as well go on a ride or two, right? That concludes the offerings this year at Knott’s Scary Farm. It’s a full slate of entertainment that’ll keep you busy all evening. There were no big surprises this year, outside of the new carnival show. They instead prefer to run with “Don’t break what works” and it has served them well. However, next year is the 50th anniversary, so there’s some mighty big expectations to honor that.
While season passes for the event quickly sold out long ago, single-day tickets are still readily available at Knotts.com. Knott’s Scary Farm runs select nights through October 31st.