A Roundup of Some of SoCal’s Scariest Halloween Attractions


All photos taken at Dark Harbor.   Photos by Trang Le.

All photos taken at Dark Harbor.  Photos by Trang Le.

Halloween may soon leave as quickly as it arrived, but it’s still not too late to hit up some of these local attractions and get your freak on-- especially on the day of! Here is a look at three SoCal theme parks and their Halloween-themed festivities.

Halloween Horror Nights — Universal Studios*
*Runs through Nov. 5
By: Lauren Gandara

Probably the most popular amusement park to visit for Halloween, Hollywood Horror Nights can make even the toughest person flinch (at least I believe so). However, this year Universal Studios missed the mark in certain aspects.

The park includes seven different mazes, including those themed with American Horror Story, The Exorcist and The Walking Dead. There is also the Terror Tram, which takes people to a certain part of the park and forces participants to find their way back to the main area.

As soon as I entered the park, I took a few steps forward before people in masks began charging at me with fake knives and revving chainsaws. Being the big chicken that I am, I admit I was spooked, especially when they get up in your face the way that they do!

The lines can be scarier than the mazes themselves! The lines lasted longer than it took to walk through the entire maze. I definitely recommend going during the week rather than the weekend or just buying the front-of-the-line ticket if you can afford it to avoid the crazy traffic. It took over two hours before you could enter a maze; it was just nonsense. I’m a patient person, but that was too much for me.

Being a big American Horror Story fan, I toughened out the crazy wait and got to see how the park incorporated Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel into the maze. There were a few representations of the show that I did see walking throughout the maze, such as  the clown from Freak Show and the zombie climbing out of the mattress in Hotel. And, again, being such a big chicken, that maze definitely freaked me out the most.

The one maze I was really disappointed with was the Walking Dead maze. Though the line went by much quicker than American Horror Story line, I was just not impressed. I was only startled maybe twice throughout an entire maze. Universal workers had people go into the mazes in groups,  making it so the people in front of me were the ones getting spooked by zombies, and then those same zombies would go back into hiding before I had the opportunity to be frightened by them.

The atmosphere kind of lagged in certain areas of the park as well. There were periods where you were just walking and there was nothing to look at — no one to jump out and scare you which I think would’ve made the overall atmosphere more frightening. I want someone to jump out of the bushes while I wait in a two-hour line... I’m not doing anything anyway!

The Purge scare zones located throughout different areas of the park were OK, but weren’t as scary as I’d have liked them to be.

It took so long to go through everything that I did not have the opportunity to make it to the Terror Tram, but I was told by other park goers that it was a pretty terrifying experience.

Overall, I feel that previous years attending Universal Studios Hollywood Horror Nights have been better at scaring the pants off of me.

Ticket prices can be scary as well. For general admission, tickets are $90, but CSULB students you can save up to $35 a ticket by going through the ASI Ticket and Information Center.

For more information, visit halloweenhorrornights.com.

Knott’s Scary Farm — Knott’s Berry Farm*
*Last day is Oct. 31
By: Antonio Henriques

Upon entering the theme park and hearing the screams of both kids and adults, the thought entered my mind like the drop you feel on a rollercoaster, “Oh, so this is how it’s gonna go.”  

As someone who is already easily spooked, the option to have a fog machine spread throughout the park and have park workers dressed in terrifying costumes jump and scare you out of nowhere couldn't have been more demented to a first-timer like me.

My first ride was the Ghost Rider rollercoaster, one of only two rollercoasters in the country made entirely of wood — already a frightening scenario. The hour-and-a-half wait was worth it, and it was the perfect pre-game pump I needed to carry me through the night.

After 20 minutes of being scared by fog machines and people jumping out at me, next was Carnevil — a “scare zone” where your fear of clowns becomes a reality.  Although coming out unphased, my friend did little to hide his steadfast fear despite his mom being in attendance with us.  

“Dude, f*** that s***,” he blurted.

We then decided on another thrill ride — this one being Supreme Scream, a ride that lifts you hundreds of feet in the air then drops you unexpectedly. This was the scariest thing of all.

“Don’t scream or else it’s gonna be worse and you’ll lose your voice,” my friend’s girlfriend said before taking off.

With all my power mustered, no scream came out; and, thus, this was my favorite part of the trip.  

Following that was something out of a sh*tty B-list horror film. The Red Barn, a maze that, according to the park website, is “a blood-soaked barn with carnivorous animals seeking to prey on human flesh.” It was at this maze that the thought came to me over and over like a record player — “AW, HELL NAH!”  But after being jumped at by demonic dogs and cows, the hell was over. The night remained young.

For more information, visit knotts.com/scaryfarm.

Dark Harbor — The Queen Mary*
*Last day is Oct. 31
By: Denny Cristales

There’s something about Halloween that causes people mainly youth to go out of their way to subject themselves to the horrors of spooky-themed attractions and entertainment just to get a good jolt of fear into their system.

While most would conclude that kind of behavior is masochistic, it’s actually been the norm for hundreds of years — or however long Halloween has been around and so, those in search of the next fright fest can pack their bags and embark on a voyage aboard the Queen Mary’s scarier, grumpier counterpart.

A total of six mazes, a 4-D experience, paintball shooting range and giant swing are featured at the Queen Mary’s annual scary attraction.

The calling card for the Dark Harbor this time around is the all-new maze Intrepid. In this adventure, attendees wander through parts of the Queen Mary while the Iron Master, the fictional creator and protector of the ship, attempts to guard it from ghouls onboard.

It’s important to note that there are two routes upstairs and downstairs to choose from, but the choice in direction is in the hands of the Iron Master who simply points participants toward a pathway. It’s not clear whether both paths lead to the same destination.

The cast of characters who actually play their roles quite admirably are the performers in the B340 maze. This attraction explores craze-minded individuals who have been driven to the point of insanity at the hands of Samuel the Savage.

The selling point here is the two ship dwellers who incessantly whisper incoherent sentences that really drive home the theme of insanity. They really nailed their delivery. It’s worth checking out just for that alone.

Circus Big Top Terror is exactly as its name implies a carnival house filled with a ball pit, a hall of mirrors and a wacky room with spinning walls and a variety of bright, neon colors that are sure to induce folks into some kind of daze.

Speaking of being dizzy, the giant swing in the middle of the theme park is a thrilling ride that is quite fun, but lasts about a minute too long. Don’t eat and swing, folks.

The 4-D theatre experience was a five-minute, first-person film adventure in which the protagonist is wandering through the Queen Mary while attempting to escape its monstrous inhabitants.

Expect bubbles, a splash of water, some foul stenches and a seat that pinches your sides spontaneously a feature that will have most participants wondering when that blasted seat will strike rather than paying attention to the film.

The paintball shooting range left a lot to be desired. Besides a long wait time, participants are only given 30 pellets to hit vague targets with little to no payoff for the effort. It’s a bit of a dud not to mention that the guns had stiff mobility, and no goggle protection was provided.

For more information, visit queenmary.com/events/dark-harbor.