This year was quite a year for Halloween haunts and attractions in Southern California. Elvira made her return to Knott’s Scary Farm, Rob Zombie had his own haunted amusement park at the Fearplex and we saw some of the best new haunts we’ve seen in a long time. Now it’s time to award our annual haunted attraction awards to those we felt exemplified what the Halloween Haunt season is all about. Our decisions were hard and we weren’t able to visit every haunt this season so we had to go on what we visited. There were many haunts that could have been in the same place as the award winners as it seemed every haunt gave it it’s all this season. Read on for the winners…
Best Home Haunt: Camp Sherwood (Big Worm’s Sherwood Haunt)
This maze was better than a lot of pro haunts. The story takes you into the woods where there’s a camp haunted by the “Man of the Lake”. Great storytelling along with a combination of special effects and set dressing made this 2013’s best home haunt. There was even a scene that takes you through a bathroom complete with showers that actually run water onto you.
Most Improved Haunt: Haunted Hollywood Sports
New and improved kill houses along with a goth nightclub staffed by the hottest bartenders helped win HHS the most improved haunt. If they add a few more mazes the quality of their new maze Venom this will definitely be ranked next year as a destination haunt.
Best Costumes: Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare
Great costumes at GAN included everything from sexy Oompa Loompa looking girls with plastic hair and mutant pimps to a cigar smoking guerrilla and look-alike serial killers.
Best Movie-Themed Haunt: Insidious: Into the Further (Universal Halloween Horror Nights)
We could have just as easily chosen The Evil Dead (also at Universal), but we were really impressed with how they combined both Insidious movies into one maze and were able to actually give it a “real” haunted house feel. The representation of The Further dividing both movie themes into two was very effective and creepy.
Best Haunt Show: Rob Zombie Concert @ Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare
We were able to see two shows we’ve always wanted to see at GAN with Rob Zombie and Powerman 5000. Rob Zombie played his most popular songs incluing “Dragula” and “Living Dead Girl” which are two of our favorite Halloween songs. Also playing was Dirty Phonics which until then we had never heard of, but became instant fans with their DnB and Dubstuff that had the crowd going crazy.
Best New Haunt: Alone: An Existential Haunting
We didn’t know much about this haunt leading up to it (which is how we think the creators wanted it). The marketing was excellent teasing us with pictures that resembled secret society symbols and images. They didn’t let anyone know the location until they bought their tickets which wound up being in the basement of a 90+ year old Odd-Fellows Lodge. All we knew leading up to the haunt was that you had to enter Alone and it was going to be held in an already spooky environment.
Best Haunt Environment: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
We always love Dark Harbor which is held at the haunted Queen Mary. This year, not only did they have a zip-line, but their circus and carnival theme in front of the ship was simply awesome and gave the event a New Orleans Mardi-Gras type feel.
Best New Maze at a Theme Park: Black Magic (Knott’s Scary Farm)
In Black Magic an abandoned and haunted theatre summons up the spirit of Houdini once last time and this time the spirits are bent on revenge. This maze featured everything starting with its special effects facade. Throughout the maze were many of the magicians famous tricks gone wrong with terrifying creatures such as the killer rabbit that jumps out of the hat. There was actually one part in the amaze where a real magician was performing magic tricks and another where a spirit literally flies over your head.
Scariest Haunt: Alone: An Existential Haunting
We were luckily enough to investigate the location of Alone and soon found out that we weren’t. This was only days before the media night event which added more anxiety and suspense for us. We had to go into the basement alone where just a few days before we were communicating with real spirits. This haunt actually plays off the participants fears and half of the scares are provided by the unknown. Although they never said one way or another, we feel this haunt was at least partially based on the events of the building. Those going through are grabbed, brought into dark rooms where they’re touched, put into confined spaces and left confused and disoriented. The payoff at the end was so personal for us that we were actually asking what we were face-to-face with if it was real.
Best Theme Park Haunt: Knott’s Scary Farm
If there’s one event that puts us into the Halloween spirit it’s Knott’s Scary Farm. This year brought the return of Elvira as well as some great new mazes such as Gunslinger’s Grave, Nevermore, Mirror Mirror and Black Magic. Haunt came in a VERY close second to Six Flags Fright Fest as best Haunt experience. The only things were that we missed the Elvira show by only five minutes so we weren’t able to critique it and we went through the most popular maze, Mirror Mirror with the maze designer which took away from the experience. Also (this wasn’t included in our decision) but it’s such a part of the tradition that we’d like to see the Pre-Scare Boo-Fet offered on media night.
Best Haunt Experience: Six Flags Fright Fest
The mazes were less scary than some others we’ve seen but we really liked the Total Darkness maze held in the Magic Moments Theater (which we heard is really haunted) as well as Willoughby’s Resurrected and Toyz of Terror. Also, we really enjoyed going on rides like The Green Lantern, Lex Luthor Drop of Doom and Riddler’s Revenge in the dark as well as riding Colossus backwards.