Knotts Scary Farm 2013 Review

Jason McDonald

Another week brings us another major Halloween event here in Southern California.  The week before we saw the grand opening of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.  Today we’re going to be taking a look at another theme park’s Halloween event: Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Scary Farm.”

Every year the theme park likes to kick off their Halloween event with an intense opening ceremony that really gets the crowd excited.  Check it out below.

Also accompanying the opening of Knott’s Scary Farm was a parade of hearses that lined the street in front of the theme park.  A DJ was also placed well above the entrance of the park, so as to provide musical entertainment for the crowds waiting to enter.

Photographs by Carmen Zapata


And while a solid opening is all well and good, the most important aspect of a Halloween attraction are the mazes and, when it comes to quantity, very few can match up to Knott’s 12 houses.  This is definitely a theme park where you get the most bang for your buck.  However, quantity doesn’t always equal quality.  Read on to see what I thought of some of the mazes.

“Black Magic” was the first of the mazes we visited and one of the new ones to come to Scary Farm this year.  Featured in this video (thanks to ThemePark HD) is a new feature at this years event.  For an additional fee, guests can obtain a “Skeleton Key” which allows them into a special room in select mazes.  These singular rooms provide a unique and personal experiences for guests, but ultimately they left me feeling a little underwhelmed.  If you’re getting a Skeleton Key along with a front of the line pass, then it’s a nice little bonus.  However, on it’s own, it doesn’t feel particularly worth it.

Let’s get back to “Black Magic” though.  The theme of the maze centers around an evil version of Houdini who has pierced the veil between the living and the dead.  With his return he has brought with him all sorts of demonic forces that are causing chaos.  The premise is, by far, my favorite aspect of this maze.  Using Houdini as the crux for evil mischief is a fantastic idea that would allow for some twisted magic based scares.  However, aside from a few great set pieces, I felt that the maze was underdeveloped.  The scares were also light and not very impactful, with most scare actors simply looming in the background and not being intimidating.  A problem which would present itself in other mazes.

“Slaughterhouse” is probably the exact opposite of “Black Magic.”  The premise is a familiar one, crazy rednecks eating people, but the scares seemed tighter and much more prolific.  The Skeleton Key room was also pretty memorable.  I don’t know if it’ll be the same scare actor every time you go in, but the one featured in the video above did a great job and had an amazing presence.

As I said, this maze was a bit more stereotypical, but I think the familiarity of it made the scares easier to design.  With crazy and deformed rednecks, there’s plenty of room for good jump scares and menacing figures.  There are also a few substantial set pieces that give the maze added flavor.  Overall, a well done design.

“The Gunslinger’s Grave” was a strange maze for me.  On one hand, I thought it was the weakest one of the bunch.  However, I’m a sucker for westerns and I was excited to see a maze try and tackle that genre.  Unfortunately, the subject matter didn’t really allow for solid scares.

The maze centers around a group of bandits who are brought in to kill a ruthless gunslinger.  When they do, the gunslinger returns from the grave with a vengeance.  So, basically, lots of undead cowboys and angry western folk running around.  One memorable moment in the maze, which you can hear in the video above, is the old Honky Tonk piano playing “Mad World.” It was a pretty cool audio gag.

“Forevermore” was a real treat at Scary Farm.  Despite the cheesy name, this was one of the more well thought out and executed mazes at the event.  The maze took Edgar Allen Poe’s classic tales and gave them a modern twist as a serial killer went about killing people in ways related to Poe’s iconic stories.

Forevermore seemed the most adept at blending amazing set pieces with great scares.  Every room is a treat to the senses.  From the audio design to the set work, there’s something in each room that captures your attention.  The scares are well thought out in these rooms as well.  Plenty of places for monsters and freaks to jump out and get you.   This was, without a doubt, my favorite maze of the night.

Overall, this years Scary Farm was one of the tamest Halloween events I’ve been too thus far.  If you’re looking for a place that has a lot of variety and great roller coaster rides, Knotts is all you need.  However, if you’re only interested in going to the scariest event of the year, you’ll want to look elsewhere.  I’m pretty susceptible to the kind of scares you’d find in your typical haunted house and I found myself simply walking through each attraction without any feeling of anxiety or intimidation.

If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t want to go to an ultra-scary event, than Knott’s would be perfect for you.  It’s still entertaining and there are a lot of things for you to see and do in the theme park.  Along with the roller coasters there are six stage shows you can watch, including a special Elvira performance.  Knott’s Berry Farm may not be the scariest place in California, but it’s definitely the most value-friendly.  For what you pay to get in, you’ll get more entertainment out of Knotts than any other theme park this Halloween.

For more information on Knott’s Scary Farm, you can visit their main website.


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