ACE Night at Knott's Scary Farm 10/3/21

I moved to Socal 5 years ago but haven't engaged with the local enthusiast community. I decided it was time and joined ACE so I could attend this event. I attended alone, which is always a little intimidating, but I ended up finding a good group of coaster nerds to follow. It's nice to find your people.

The ACE event was an all-inclusive package with access to the pre-scare Boo-fet, refillable soda bottle, early entry, Fast Lane AND Fright Lane front of line access, and priority seating to the 10 pm Puppet Up! show. There were over 60 members at the event.

This was my third Scary Farm, having previously attended in 2001 and 2016. I really like Knott's approach to the mazes where they replace a few mazes every year, so every 5 years or so it's a completely new event but you can still enjoy repeat visits to your favorites. I find this preferable to both USH HHN who replaces almost all mazes every year and SFMM Fright Fest who has had mostly the same tired mazes the whole time I've lived here.

The Boo-fet dinner never disappoints. Though it keeps getting more expensive it's a really nice spread including endless steam trays of the genuinely delicious Mrs. Knott's fried chicken as well as lots of other great choices. I've been eating Keto for the last 5 weeks and didn't want to blow my streak. There were plenty of Keto-friendly choices, and while I had decided I would cheat a bit with one piece of the famous Boysenberry pie, it was honestly really disappointing and I stopped after 3 bites. The big benefit of the Boo-fet dinner besides the chicken is that it gets you early entry into the event.

Because our ACE group was first into the buffet we were at the front of the line for early entry. Around 6 we got access to Ghostrider. For my two previous visits the Boo-fet attendees were the only people in line at Ghostrider at this point, but this time they were still clearing out the day guests so we were glad we already had our FOL wristbands. We rode 3 times and the ride was SCREAMING. I've never had a bad ride on GR because for my 2001 rides it was still pretty new and my 2016 ride was just after the big retracking. They seem to be fixing their mistakes of the past by keeping on top of maintenance because it's giving amazing rides. They're letting it shoot past the MCBR leading to a second half that is out of control, I can't think of a second half of any coaster that goes as hard as this does. And just when you think you're rising up into the brake run it throws you down for the most out-of-control helix. Definitely still a top 10 coaster for me, it makes me miss CCI so bad. I got two rides and thought I couldn't handle another, but the group I fell into wanted to go back for more. We got 3 rides with the plan to go back for another after dark.

At 6:30 they opened the 4 'warehouse' mazes to the early access crowd, and again we were at the front of the crowd. Being the first people into a maze isn't necessarily a good thing, though, as the Scare Actors aren't all in place and haven't found their groove yet. This combined with light leaking in from the ceilings put a little damper on the first few haunts.

(The following descriptions are copied from here:

Wax Works
Introduced as the first new maze of 2019, Wax Works takes guests into an eerie abandoned wax museum where once-prominent plastic surgeon Dr. Agustus Scratch turns his victims into his latest works of art.

First and worst. But still not bad. There's just not a lot to it in terms of theming or scares.


The Depths
Another third-year maze, The Depths, sends guests into the underground caves of a seaside town where terrifying horrors are said to lurk and where the Nightwatch Mining Crew vanished.

Never particularly scary, but this maze has incredible atmosphere and scene setting with some very clever gags and amazing animatronics. Except for the angry giant lobster tail which is neither incredible nor scary. But overall a solid example of everything Knotts does well.

Dark Entities
In its third year, Dark Entities will again take guests into the depths of space to face the extraterrestrial mutation invading a lone space station.

This is a clever maze with a great use of sound, animatronics, and lighting. It has a VERY creepy vibe that heightens the scares. The ending was a little underwhelming but that can be forgiven after the other strengths.


Paranormal Inc.
Now in its sixth year, Paranormal Inc. will again take guests into Hayden Hill Sanitarium, where they’ll be part of a paranormal investigation show when things go horribly wrong, and the veil between the living and the dead is lifted.

The one holdover from my last visit, it's no wonder this maze has stuck around so long. It has a great sense of scale and surprise, with a mid-course twist (an unsettling visit to a Dr's office) that leads to one of the greatest special effect scares of the event.


As we wrapped up the 4 warehouse mazes we made our way into Ghost Town just as the main gates were opened and the sun set. Ghost Town in the fog is why no other haunt will ever, ever be able to top Knott's. The sense of atmosphere and the incredible Scare-Actors (especially the sliders) combined with the gratuitous amounts of fog makes for such a creepy, amazing environment. It was also the home of our next maze:

Origins: The Curse of Calico
Origins: The Curse of Calico made its debut in 2019 and is returning for 2021. The maze is inspired by the beginnings of Knott’s Scary Farm and is what maze designer Jon Cooke has referred to as a “love letter to the history of this event.” The backstory of the maze is built upon Knott’s Scary Farm’s origins in Ghost Town and the witch hanging shows performed in the 1980s. Guests enter the maze and watch as the witch’s curse takes over the Calico townsfolk and then experience the mystery of the Calico witch as it unravels.

This maze was absolutely the highlight of the night. Despite an odd choice to incorporate a lot of TVs into the experience (A clever use of projection mapping could have told the necessary story beats without feeling like you're just watching TVs hung on the wall) the scenic work and storytelling are just perfect. It could have been a little scarier but you never know if you just hit the maze on an off cycle. The only reason it's not a 10 is because nothing will ever be a 10 after Shadowlands, which saw its last year in 2019.


GORE-ing 20's scare zone.
On our way to the next maze we looped around the back to go through this new for 21 scare zone. I feel for these Scare-actors who are trying really hard to be scary with the environment, costumes, and material they've been given, which is just... not scary. Or particularly interesting. This one needs some rethinking for next year. Then we had to dejectedly walk past Hangtime and Xcelerator, both of which are currently out of commission. Sigh. We made our way behind Xcelerator to find

Within the canvas tent lies the secret of the most potent force in the universe: the human mind. Give in and succumb to the hypnotist Mesmer and his sinister sideshow, as it pries on your hidden fears. Release your inner thoughts and descend into a world of madness, torture, and eerie enlightenment in this haunted maze. There you will uncover the grotesque secrets hidden as you brave through the most terrifying show ever created.

It's really hard for me to be fair to this maze, since it replaced Shadowlands which is probably my favorite maze I've ever experienced at any Halloween event ever. It was so creepy, scary, and epic that it reset the bar for my expectations of what a haunt could do. So while Mesmer is a very respectable effort it had a really tough act to follow. It starts in a room where it felt like there was meant to be a pre-show that wasn't actually happening, followed by more TVs on the wall but it worked in this maze because it played off of a sideshow poster theme. There were some cool special effects as well as some confusingly placed animatronics, but the storyline wasn't particularly clear, especially at the end. The environments also didn't give a lot of room for the Scareactors to hide or maneuver, so too often it just felt like they were hiding behind a corner, which isn't particularly scary.


On our way out of Mesmer the group took a shot on Supreme Scream, but sadly I had to take the walk of shame because I couldn't get any clicks on the shoulder harness.


Dark Ride
Dark Ride returns for its fourth Scary Farm season. The fan-favorite maze saw some significant enhancements in 2019 with the addition of an interactive control room and gift shop exit scene, so it’ll be interesting to see what Knott’s has in store for 2021.

I think Knott's needs to go all-in on this idea and just build an omnimover Haunted-Mansion style track system in a black box that they can re-theme every 5 years or so. As it is this one comes across as a jumbled mess. Themed mazes work best when the central conflict/antagonist is really clear, and all of the scenes and Scare Actors build off of that central, clear conflict. I have no idea what's going on in this maze, or why there are weird doll-women next to mutant clowns next to torture-prone maintenance men. A more interesting take on this would be a dark ride that is designed to take you to hell (like Mr. Toad) that accidentally opens a portal into actual hell. Or something. Still, it had some interesting scenic work and gags, so it's not a loss. But could be a lot better.


Pumpkin Eater
Returning for its fourth year, this murderous nursery rhyme inspired maze will again take guests back to colonial times where they’ll face the terrifying world of a serial killer and must escape the wrath of a murderous seven-foot-tall creature that haunts the woods surrounding The Hollow.

Pumpkin Eater was a pleasant surprise. The scene setting started in the queue with a really nice farmhouse/village setup, and the inside had some great sets and neat effects.


Puppet Up!

We had to wade back through the bizarre Gore-ing 20's scare zone to get to the theater for Puppet Up! This show was created by Brian Henson and it sometimes plays at the Muppet Studios in Hollywood for like $80/person. I've been tempted to go before but the price seemed steep for what's basically an improv show with puppets. I would say that seeing it for free was worth every penny. It was by no means bad, but the biggest thrill for the audience seemed to be hearing puppets drop F-bombs. The puppet gimmicks were cute but the actual improv was pretty "Improv 101" level stuff.


At this point we'd done all the mazes so it was time for a few rides. The Timber Mountain Log Ride is dressed up as a "Halloween Hootenanny" with lots of pumpkin decor and a few other weird surprises (aliens??) Plus it had a song that sounded like the song from the SNL Merryville Brothers Haunted Castle so that was fun. A sweet night ride on Ghostrider was taken, then I hopped over to Sierra Sidewinder to get the credit. With a few minutes left in the night I rushed over to Montezooma's Revenge for old times sake (King Kobra at Kings Dominion was my first looping coaster) but it was down, so I did another walk through of Pumpkin Eater on my way out of the park at 1am.

Knott's invented the theme park Halloween event back in the 70's, and after having been to many Halloween Horror Nights on both coasts and Fright Fests all across the country I can attest that Knott's is still the master. My only criticism is that I think they could get a bit more unique with some of their scares. They have mercifully gotten away from the 'shaking a bean can in your face' crutch that they used to rely on, but I'd love to see them innovate in the Scare Actors approach as much as they innovate in scenic design and special effects. I think the key to their success is that they have managed to maintain a sense of anarchy and creativity that Halloween Horror Nights always lacks combined with a level of polish and professionalism that puts Fright Fests to shame. Anyone who is a haunt fan owes it to themselves to get to Knott's Scary Farm at least once in their lives.

"I've been born again my whole life." -SAVED
eightdotthree's avatar

ThemeDesigner said:
Because our ACE group was first into the buffet

Gotta get that gravy!

I think next year is my year for Knott's. My wife and I tried to go a few years ago but realized they weren't actually open when we would be there.

Last edited by eightdotthree,

ThemeDesigner said:

Because our ACE group was first into the buffet we were at the front of the line for early entry.

Or as Disney would call this, ACE+

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