“The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war; and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.” – Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

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Every time I visit Knott’s Scary Farm, I try to spend as much time as I can in Ghost Town.  Seriously it’s a good show, and while many scurry through the scare zones on their way to maze lines or shows, I always appreciate that this little street is where everything we love about Halloween Haunt started.  And it’s easy to imagine how it evolved, I mean the place is named Ghost Town, it’s inherently spooky in the dark to begin with, so adding fog and monsters only make it scary beyond belief in the best possible way.  I don’t even have to talk about the world famous sliders and how they created the art of the scare, there is a movie about that now.

But where Ghost Town is the gold standard, granddaddy of all scare zones, many people seem to dismiss the other carefully crafted scares in the environmentally friendly (and often scare resistant) zones of the park, but this year Knott’s gave us something special that heralds back to the days of corn mazes and scarecrow terror; something that fits into the caramel apple, autumn classic gothic feeling of a New England Halloween, and they named it:  The Hollow.

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Knott’s description: “From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terror in the newest scare zone, The Hollow. Guests entering the frightful 6-acre area will be terrorized by the souls of fallen soldiers and local farmers that have escaped their shallow graves.”

6-acre’s of Camp Snoopy to be exact. Take a moment to try and let that sink in. This isn’t the already creepy narrow and prefect cradle of terror that Ghost Town is. This is a huge, Pacific Northwest themed, space designed to bring delight to children with colorful rides and happy spaces to explore.  So to create scares in this wide open, bustling, and decidedly non-east coast space Knott’s relied on two of the most primal fears of all, darkness and shadows.

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To truly appreciate this zone, one merely has to take a little mental time trip back to the origins of our modern Halloween, or more specially to the early foundations of our country when it was more commonly referred to as All Hallows Eve.  Many believe that Halloween has it’s origins in a kind of celebration of the dying of the year.  It is the time when the harvest is complete and the land is starting to prepare for the desolation of winter.   It’s easy to understand how people would connect the cycles of life and death to the seasons, and as the earth turned cold and grey envision ghosts rising up, untethered by the living earth any longer and returning to “haunt” the souls of the living.   Some trace it all the way back 2000 years to the Irish festival of Samhain,  but it’s American origins are deeply woven into the fabric of the much shorter volatile birth as a nation.

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So close your eyes, (OK well maybe not completely because you can’t read with your eyes shut) and imagine the horror and hysteria of the Salem Witch trials and of early isolated settlements where fear gripped and motivated true extreme acts of mob evil, and murder. Then move forward in time to the point just after the extended struggle and horrors of the American Revolutionary War. This is where Washington Irving took his inspiration, and set his tale of terror in a tiny isolated countryside town of Tarry Town, New York, and more specially in the well hidden and secluded glen of Sleepy Hallow in 1790.  Country farmers virtually cutoff from the rest of civilization.   One path in and through town.  The sole manmade enhancement to this near wilderness countryscape, a bridge adjacent to the town’s cemetery.    And the greatest tragedy motivator in all history, a classic love triangle between the town’s unmarried and rich young beauty Katrina Van Tassel, and two ill matched suitors:  the lanky and greedy Ichabod Crane, and the bold and town strong man Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt.

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This is also the home of a legendary Hessian trooper, who’s head was supposedly shot off by a cannonball in a nearby battle, and who rides forth endlessly looking for a worthy replacement.  Knott’s has had their own version of this specter, riding along the stagecoach trail for years, and because the park opens early in the season, it is a most welcome icon of Halloween to enjoy while waiting for the park opening rope drop.   And directly behind the elevated path he rides before opening,  is where Knott’s has crafted his domain which you are now welcome to explore via a dark and winding trail, with a few rustic bridges and where the trees dominate the skyline.  You can almost taste the autumn in the fog.  All those icons of classic new world nightmares are here:  Witches, Scarecrows, The Horseman’s loyal ghost army, all deep in the shadows and the mist.   Some of the biggest frights I have seen in the scare zones this year have come from the Scarecrows, that are mistaken for decoration, jumping down upon distracted guests trying to wander through.

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And that is the trick.  Each type of scare each scare zone has it’s own unique cast, it’s own style of scare that works.  The Hallows is vast, and dark, and as one of the main throughways from Fiesta Village to the front of the park,  well traveled, but the darkness masks the normally kid friendly atmosphere.  I can’t help but think it’s such a shame daylight savings time was extended so far into the fall, as this is a zone that fares so much better beyond the twilight.  Each time we have visited I have found new details, like lighting effects in the pontoon bridge grotto, or the myriad of hidden fake monsters in the light that drive you towards the dark corners where the real monsters lay in wait.  I do wish it was less crowded on the busy nights but still I recommend you spend some time seeking out the denizens of the darkness on your next trip to Knott’s Scary Farm.

 


BIG BOO NEWS and a way to save some money too! A 2017 Knott’s Season Pass is the best way to experience all of the Knott’s Spooky Farm fun with the family. New 2017 Season Passes include one free admission during the 2016 season to Knott’s Berry Farm and unlimited visits in 2017 with no blackout dates, discounts on select food and merchandise, and access to exciting year-round seasonal events. 2017 Season Passes are now available at the best offer of the year for a limited time on knotts.com.

Grab your Knott’s Scary Farm Tickets HERE

Knott’s Spooky Farm runs weekends October 1 – Halloween Day from 10:00 am to 4:00pm, and is included with regular park admission. For more information on all the exciting things that are going on at Knott’s Berry Farm, visit us online at knotts.com and follow the conversation using #KnottsSpookyFarm

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About the Author

Ken Toghia is a director, animator, technologist, and horror/haunt fan living in Orlando, Florida. He was raised in Southern California on Friday the 13th films, Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Oingo Boingo Halloween shows, Theme Parks, and Haunts. He started off his career as a Jungle Cruise Skipper and Riverboat Pilot at Disneyland, has a degree in Film and Television from Cal. State Long Beach, and loves to attend haunts and horror films with his amazing wife and sons (who also happen to love this stuff)
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