October 2018

It’s the Spookiest Time of the Year: Always Amused October 2018

Erik Chalhoub

By Eric Chalhoub

October is the start of the fall sea- son — the days become shorter, trees become bare, orange becomes the common color, and zombies start to roam the streets (in larger numbers, at least).

It’s also one of the best, if not busiest, times to visit a theme park, and locally, we’ve got one of the best Halloween events around.

California’s Great America’s
11th annual Halloween Haunt 

got the spooky season underway Sept. 21, and will continue to run Friday through Sunday nights up to Oct. 28.

This year, the event sees a new maze (Tooth Fairy), new scare zone (Ripper’s Revenge), and a reimagining of two classic mazes (Madame Marie’s Blackout and CornStalkers), all of which are a hit and continue Haunt’s constant evolution. In addition, magician Ed Alonzo is back, headlining a strong lineup of live shows.

After attending Halloween Haunt every year since 2010, I’m always on the lookout for some new element that takes me by surprise. So I was thrilled to see just that in the Tooth Fairy maze, something that I was talking about the entire night when I visited on Sept. 21. I was even glad to wait in a long line the second go-round just to experience it again. I won’t spoil the surprise in this column.

Madame Marie’s Blackout also added a new twist to a maze that made its debut in 2012. This year, Great America turned the lights off in the voodoo manor-themed maze, only giving you a small, dim flash- light to navigate the fog-filled corridors. I experienced a similar maze last year at Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest, and I’ve grown to be a big fan of lights-out-type experiences.

Chaos House at Halloween Haunt is probably the most unique, trippiest experience I’ve had at the event. The maze, which debuted in 2017, is nothing but strobe lights, mirrors, fog, warped walls, complete blackness and a few monsters strewn about. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, and if you are prone to seizures, avoid it. One walk-through per visit is enough for me.

It was, however, disappointing to see that Great America removed Haunt’s Skeleton Key rooms this year, which were upcharged attractions each with a crazy experience for small groups.

Thinking about visiting Halloween Haunt for the first time? Here are a few tips and observations I have picked up over the years:

– Get there early. The event opens at 7 p.m.; plan on being in the park- ing lot at 6:30 p.m. The crowds will be held back in the park’s entrance plaza while the opening ceremony commences. Being there early gives you time to make your way through the parking and ticket booths, which can take awhile.

– Hit the mazes in the back of the park first. Most guests will get in the line for the first mazes they see near the entrance (Backwoods, Roadkill Roadhouse and Chaos House), causing congested lines and lengthy waits. Once the opening ceremony wraps up, head directly to the back of the park and get in line for Zombie High, Tooth Fairy and Corn-Stalkers. Chances are, you will be one of the first guests in line, and the monsters will be more energetic. They tend to tire out as the night goes on. Once you hit those three mazes, then make your way to the front, going opposite of the crowds.

– Please, do not bring small children. Great America recommends Halloween Haunt is suitable for anyone 13 and over. I’ve lost count of how many elementary school-aged children and those in strollers I’ve seen in tears and terrified at the scary monsters, loud music and creepy environments. Great America does have a daytime Halloween event just for the younger set, The Great Pumpkin Fest, where kids ages 12 and under can trick-or-treat with Peanuts characters, go through a hay maze and more.

– Most of all, have fun. Be prepared to get scared, keep an open mind and be courteous to your fellow park guests and monsters. Plan your visit by going to www.cagreatamerica.com.

Writer Erik Chalhoub has never found a roller coaster too fast or a haunted house too scary. He travels the country riding the best thrill rides. He’s a former Cabrillo College student who is now editor at the Watsonville Register Pajaronian.

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