There was a cool wind blowing ashore, the sun was fading, and evil was descending on Long Beach. No it wasn’t just The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor gearing up for another night of terror. HorrorBuzz.com fans were heading down to the shoreline to enjoy a spectacular evening of fun, fright, food and more at the first annual Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor VIP Haunt Meet.
After check in near the entrance to the Queen Mary Hotel, the group was met by JJ Wickam, creative director of Dark Harbor. She welcomed the group and thanked everyone for coming. Leading us over to the entrance of the Dark Harbor Wickam explained the process of setting up a massive event like Dark Harbor. Using an army of creative set designers, lighting designers, technicians, and over a thousand actors, Dark Harbor creates a fully immersive world of seaside screams.
Creative Director of The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, JJ Wickam.
After walking through the main entrance and through the empty thoroughfare that was coming to life, we were escorted into the big dome. The dome houses one of the six mazes at DH but also serves as the backstage makeup and costuming department. Walking through the backstage curtains we arrived at a brightly-lit cluster of activity. Executive Director of Talent for Dark Harbor, David Wally presided over the chaos before us with a calm, calculated presence. Between patting his actors on the back and directing the flow of traffic, Wally said hi to the HorrorBuzz group and wished us a great evening.
Leaving the dome Wickam led her guests to the Queen Mary ship and to the entrance of the new maze Lullaby. Wickam explained that this new maze was based on one of the spirits that haunts the ship, particularly in the pool area. A little girl by the name of Scary Mary plays in the pool area and is known to be heard crying out for her father, playing with guests by playing with their hair or poking or touching them.
The tour of the maze was great but what JJ had in store for us next was unbelievable. Out entire VIP group was able to venture off the maze path and actually go down to the pool level.
Wickam explained that, just a few feet away in the first class pool changing rooms, was what is known as a vortex. A Vortex is a supposed doorway between the realm of the living and the dead. It is very very rare for any visitors to be able to visit this spot on the ship due to its location and small size. JJ led us there. We enjoyed a few moments in the vortex area and paid respects to the spirits that might be dwelling there.
The surprises were not over though. Wickam then walked us to another part of the storied ship that is featured in the B340 maze. Onboard the ship, B340 explores the mind of the violent specter, Samuel the Savage. The big “wow” moment in that attraction is when guests realize they are on a catwalk, high above the haunted engine room. JJ opened a door and we were on the floor of this engine room, looking up at the catwalk.
Invited up to the observation platform, then past that, down deep into the bowels of the ship. The boilers since removed, we stood in awe of the sheer size and history there.
It was now time for a good old fashioned haunting. JJ led us all back out of the ship, then up to the fabulous RIP lounge where food and drink awaited us.
Chicken and Pork Sliders along with home-style potato chips were there to enjoy. Along with our VIP package we were given access to this lounge all night long which included endless food and sodas and water (Evian no less). We were also given a wristband that included three drink tickets.
The Dark Harbor roared to life below us as we enjoyed a leisurely time above. After we had all had our fill of pork and chicken sliders, not to mention drinks, we headed down for the Death March! The Queen Mary staff at each location were very cool and made sure to let our rather large group go through the mazes together.
First up was Circus. Oh the howls and screams that were heard echoing in that tent. We made the Ringmaster proud.
Next up was Voodoo Village. Many liked this maze for the sheer size of the walk through. The twists and turns through the maze-like village area lends itself beautifully to a creepy maze.
Seeing that there was no line at the Anubis Paintball Challenge we all hopped in line. The group pelted the nasty zombies with paintballs with a fiendish propensity.
Chad says “DERP!”
We next moved on to Deadrise. Probably one of the strongest mazes of the evening, Deadrise was jam-packed with dead sailors ready to recruit more crew members.
It was time to take a bit of a break and we decided to pop in to the Sideshow lounge. Here, amongst the freaks, was a bar, restrooms, two mini mazes, and a lovely rotation of performances on a small stage. Little did we know what was in store for us there. Just before entering, our lovely Oceana insisted on a group picture with the gang.
The group said goodbye to the lovely Oceana and we ventured into the Sideshow. The group entered the courtyard and were surrounded by freaks of all kinds. To the left was the White Ghost maze, to the right was the Shadow Spirit maze. The Ringmaster welcomed us in and, to our surprise, said she was set to perform shortly. “Ohhhh Norman and HorrorBuzz are here!” she said. “What should I sing for them?”
The Captain came by to say hello too.
A few minutes later we all sat around the stage on rustic bails of hay. The Ringmaster took the stage and sang “The Bitch is Back!” just for our group. What a lovely performance. She even twerked. For a 115 year old butt, it wasn’t actually all that bad. After her performance she gathered us all on stage and we took a group picture.
115 year old twerk action.
It was time to enjoy the final three mazes on the ship and we jumped back into the scare game with Soulmate.
Soulmate tells the story of Graceful Gale who, in the pursuit of creating the perfect man, has been cobbling together body parts from various victims/suitors.
Next up was B340, the maze that told the tragic story of Samuel the Savage. A troubled youth, Samuel didn’t stand a chance against the madness in the world around him.
Lastly we came full circle and finished the Dark Harbor Death march with the maze we took a tour in earlier, Lullaby. Seeing the maze fully operational and populated with the brilliant cast, we were thrilled and terrified at once.
We ended the Dark Harbor death march with plenty of time for everyone to go and repeat the mazes they liked. The rest of us decided to retire back to the RIP lounge and talk about our favorite parts of the night.
We at HorrorBuzz would like to thank the team at Dark Harbor including JJ Wickam, Charity Hill, David Wally, Bre Combs, Peggy Magee, Juan DeJesus and the rest of the truly brilliant cast and crew of The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. You gave all of us at HorrorBuzz a truly amazing night of fright. THANK YOU! See you again next year!
If you missed the HorrorBuzz VIP Haunt Meet at Dark Harbor, you can still get tickets to explore the Dark Harbor on your own. For tickets, times and hours, click here.
If you are still interested in some all-inclusive Haunt fun, we have something cool for you to do. Here in southern California we enjoy a wealth of Halloween treasures. There are a total of 54 haunts in the area from Professional events like Knott’s Scary Farm to home haunts like Motel 6 Feet Under, to more professional, independent haunts like The Empty Grave. It can be an overwhelming task to pick and choose your activities in October. It can also be an expensive one. What is a Haunt fan to do? Go on a death march.
Introducing the first annual
Orange County Death March.
The Empty Grave
STOP #1 (5:45pm)
We start the night off at Laguna Hills Mall and The Empty Grave. Mike Talorico has a lovely haunted house set up just waiting for you. The expansive 5,000 square foot maze is choc full of the homespun scares that have made the Grave a must-do during the Halloween season.
Here we will also be treated to a meet and greet with Mike and a lights-on walkthrough of the maze.
From there we will hop in our cars and meet up at the Tustin Market Place for quick bite at a restaurant in the area as we get ready for the next destination.
The 17th Door
STOP #2 (8:00pm)
Next up we will tour Irvines The 17th Door. Again with priority access, we delve into the sickening mind of a young girl and journey with her down a path of destruction. One of the most anticipated haunt experiences of 2015, The 17th Door will immerse guests in a terrifying succession of scenarios as we try to survive the dangers that lie within.
Sinister Pointe’s Trust Challenge
STOP #3 (10:00pm)
We end our march with a trip to Sinister Pointe’s Trust Challenge in Brea. A terrifyingly unique experience, where you along with a single guest will encounter a nearly 30-minute fear challenge that will require complete trust from your partner. Upon entering the dimly lit facility, you are escorted upstairs. One at a time you will each enter completely blacked out quarters. Depending on the fear you have chosen, you may encounter evil clowns, the possessed or the living dead!
You will spend an agonizing 10-minutes in this realm attempting to navigate through it in total darkness alone!
but, there is hope! Your partner will be just outside in a control booth watching your every move on a monitor using infrared cameras located within the world that you inhabit. They will see your every move and everything else possibly lurking beside you. Your goal will be to use your partners eyes as they navigate you to collect survival coins. Upon successful survival, the game is then reversed. Your partner will then enter a completely different realm, and you will be responsible for navigating them through the terror.
imagine the ability to see what is about to unfold right in front of your partners eyes, yet they have absolutely no awareness of the evil before them. Will you guide them to victory? Or will you use this opportunity to seek revenge? You decide!!!
This is a low-capacity attraction so the majority of us will park ourselves a block away at Branagan’s Irish Pub and head over in shifts.
The ticket buys you priority access to all three haunted attractions for the small price of $50
If you are on the fence about what haunts to do and when, why not join us for three of the best haunts on Orange County? One price, three haunts, endless screams.
Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.