Review: Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt 2014

Review: Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt 2014

The best, biggest, and the original haunt in town decided to try something entirely new this year.  How do you reinvent how to scare people while staying true to what brings people in year after year?  Knott’s looks to answer that question with the 2014 edition of Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt.  The haunt that started it all is back again with tons of new ideas and refreshes.  Let’s dive into the mazes and see how it turned out.

Gunslinger’s Grave

This maze is Knott’s first wild west themed maze and is doing quite well in its sophomore year.  This maze features an outstanding Skeleton Key room that provides the back story and setup for the maze.  The actors in the Skeleton Key room really sell the story and set the stage for the rest of the visuals in the maze. Skeleton Key is highly recommended for the full experience in this maze.

Black Magic

This maze also returns for a sophomore year and remains just as stunning as the first.  The projection mapping on the facade is amazing and the theme is perfectly executed.  This maze also benefits from a strong Skeleton Key room with a very creepy seance full of special effects.  This maze features live magicians performing tricks for small groups that are pulled out of the normal maze path. These magicians perform in costume with one not appearing to have eyes.  This is an outstanding maze among the best Knott’s has ever produced.

Pinocchio Unstrung

This veteran maze features amazing set design and fantastic visuals as you follow Pinocchio on a murderous rampage.  The blue fairy did not grant his wish to be a real boy and this drove the puppet mad.  Images and scenes from the classic fairy tale are distorted and perverted as seen in the aftermath of a nightmare.  Always a strong maze, it has been around for a few years now.  If it does not return next year the Cedar Fair park that gets it will be very happy.  There is a Skeleton Key room, however it was having technical difficulties when our group arrived.


Another 2nd year maze this one is also among the best Knott’s has produced.  You follow the work of the Forevermore killer as he recreates murders and tortures from the classic works of Edgar Allen Poe.  Each room features the voice of the killer reading a classic poem to accompany the visuals, a nice touch for those who haven’t read enough Poe to recognize each room.

Trick or Treat

This is a great maze with some outstanding effects.  Ring the door bell of an unusual house and you are invited in to your own doom.  For this house is owned by the Green Witch!  She appears in a parlor and casts a spell with special effects flying around the room.  The finale features the Green Witch flying over a table in a very cool effect.  Note that the groups are limited and this maze can develop a line.


One of two new mazes for 2014 Voodoo sets a new bar for art direction and design.  This maze is just beautiful with an amazing facade and a very complex design.  At a few points groups choose to turn right or left with different rooms in each direction.  Bridges connect show scenes over swampy water as a wonderful atmosphere is created.  This maze also features a Skeleton Key room that was unavailable when our group arrived.

Dominion of the Dead

This maze features vampires.  Hauntingly beautiful creatures that should not sparkle, vampires have a certain charm and attraction that make them a classic subject for haunt mazes.  A creepy haunting mood with sinister statuesque creatures awaits those who enter.  This maze features a different vibe from others and remains unsettling in different ways.  The Skeleton Key room received an upgrade from last year and has a very nifty gag that requires user participation.  Nicely done indeed.


The other new for 2014 maze features demons that go after your teeth with a certain high pitched sound that’s already giving you nightmares.  This maze is very disturbing with many scenes showing the dark side of this legend.  The creatures take teeth, take the money, torture people with plenty of unneeded dentistry.  It’s got a certain nightmare quality to it without a set story and is very well decorated.  Very good new maze.

Trapped – Lock and Key

This year’s version of this upcharge attraction is now massively sized lasting nearly half an hour!  The events and puzzles in this room are very personal with the actors getting uncomfortably close as often as they can.  Outside of that, I can only warn you to be wary of the color gray and the color grey.  You have to experience it to know what happens inside.  Warning, it’s not for the faint of heart and there are some very intense moments throughout that are sure to make many utter the safe word.

Special Ops:  Infected

By far the most ambitious new feature this year is Special Ops: Infected, a giant interactive scare zone covering all of Camp Snoopy.  You form up in teams of 12 and carry special weapons to shoot zombies as you run, not walk, through the camp to various objectives.  Everything about it sounds amazing and intense…which leads to the biggest elephant in the park.

Capacity is a serious problem this year at Knott’s.  Infected sounds great and everyone who is lucky enough to go through says it’s phenomenal.  It’s free to go through, but there are limited time slots that, on a busy night, will sell out in 45 minutes.  Our group opted to hit a maze and get a good spot for the first Hanging of the night.  When that was over we headed to Special Ops for a reservation only to find it was sold out entirely for the night.

What’s more, so many resources have been devoted to this experience that there are only two shows (the classic Hanging and dancing/magic revue show) and fewer mazes than normal (8 traditional, Trapped, and Witches’ Cavern effects overlay to Calico Mine Ride).  The lack of other shows and additional mazes means more people to do fewer haunt attractions.  Special Ops has limited capacity so it can’t take that many people through each night.  Trapped also has limited capacity and is an upcharge.  Regular paying guests who got there a little late after the pre-scare dinner crowd gets in may be locked out of Special Ops and unable to get into Trapped if it sold out in advance.  They are left with 2 shows and 8 mazes, down from a usual 12 mazes and 4 to 5 shows.

Our recommendations for anyone visiting Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt are:

– GO TO SPECIAL OPS FIRST AND GET YOUR RESERVATION IMMEDIATELY WHEN YOU ENTER.  This is big production for the year and a ton of fun for everyone who gets to go.  IT WILL SELL OUT.  Get there early and go here first for your time.

– Skeleton Key.  Not only do you get front of line access, you also get access to the really cool special rooms and a very nice metal key souvenir.  It’s expensive though, so if you can’t afford it there is a good plan B.

– Pre-scare Boofet.  The primary benefit (other than delicious fried chicken) is early entry into the event.  You can hit the 4 mazes by Ghostrider before the park opens to the public and be ready to grab your Special Ops reservation.

– Trapped.  It’s great, a really amazing experience.  On opening night they were running around 2+ hours behind the reservation times.  Recommendation is to reserve a timeslot late in the night so it does not eat up a huge chunk of your time in the park forcing a mad dash to hit 7 mazes across the park in under an hour before the park closes.

Knott’s has some very innovative ideas and many of them are a total success.  These ideas may well be too successful for the crowds that decend on the park each year.  Be sure to get there early and get your Special Ops reservation in early, then plan your night around it.  With some planning ahead and a few early priorities you can be sure to experience everything Knott’s Scary Farm has to offer!

Review by Tom Zeliff ( @ride_op )

Thank you to Knott’s for iniviting ThrillNetwork to opening night of this year’s Haunt.

View Tom’s photos from the event on Flickr )



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