Cedar Fair implemented something nationwide which I think may be one of the smartest moves we have seen a theme park chain make: they created haunts.  I’m sure there were some wondering about the wisdom in this but to haunt nerds like us they made it so that I want to tour all Cedar Fair parks sometime during the month of October.  At this point, however,  we can’t afford to travel too far so thankfully they implemented it at a second park in California and near Winchester Mystery House no less so that a fright-filled weekend can be had!  This one is at California’s Great America and though they share certain elements with the other Cedar Fair haunts they have definitely made it all their own.

Mazes And Zones

Slaughter House Annihilation (Maze)

Description:

There’s too many people in the world and not enough food. This Slaughterhouse takes care of both problems.  A constant feed of humans are being subjected to the grinders which keep the river of blood flowing through this dark complex.  It’s a virtual cornucopia of bloody remains as parts are ground into a tasty meat treat, using a very special recipe which includes one very special ingredient … You.  Do not let the fear paralyze you as you attempt to escape from the edge of Annihilation.

Experience:

Slaughter House Annihilation is a gross out maze and they do it really well.  Using elements of the original Slaughter House maze at Knott’s Berry Farm which was about a meat processing plant for food chains that used “long pig” as well as regular pig, Slaughter House Annihilation has taken on Apocalypse aspect so that mixing humans into the meat is survival rather than appetite.  It has gore and grinding meat all over the very unsanitary looking meat plant and the scare actors look like every backwoods horror movie nightmare.  It is a good scare and an appetite killer all in one, especially if the thought of being sliced, diced and served up for dinner makes you nervous.

Club Blood: Revamp’d (Maze)

Description:

Follow the creatures of the night to the hottest nightclub around, Club Blood.  This club has it all, the latest beats, the hottest dancers, but there’s just one problem…it’s overrun by hungry vampires waiting to feast on their next victim.  Watch your neck or you’ll be next!

Experience:

Let’s face it even if they have a tendency to get a bit overdone, everyone enjoys a vampire maze, especially if it has some sexy female vampires.  Club Blood takes you to a back alley club where you are on the drink menu and they think you would be good to the last drop.  The club is the danger scare where sexy dancers and bulky bouncers make your blood start pumping before you are sent into the back room and back alleys where the jump scares show up in full force.  The males in the group tend to lag behind a bit in the club but there are scares for the whole group once the poles are left behind.  It didn’t seem that “Revamp’d” from previous years but this is still a blood pumping, rocking maze.

CornStalkers (Maze)

Description:

A cult of evil scarecrows lies in wait in this overgrown path of debris, hay bales and cornstalks.  Guests must weave their way through this twisting maze of bedlam, dodging a series of dead ends and avoiding the stalkers who are “dead-set” on forbidding anyone to escape.

Experience:

In a poorly lit, back section of the park, CornStalkers gets a great deal of it’s scares through misdirection and the fact that it is so hard to tell a straw dummy from a person in a dark maze of hay bales and corn stalks.  Even seasoned haunters in our group got some pretty decent scares in here as they expected the scare from one place and was completely caught off guard.  The first year they had this maze there was a tractor horn and lights that paralyzed you, it is either an effect that didn’t work when we were there or isn’t done anymore due to it being so disorienting but I kind of miss it.  There is also an animatronic at the end that could do for some repositioning or retheming.  Otherwise the maze has a great hard working cast that know the ground so well they can constantly change up their scares and deliver a different experience each time through.

Werewolf Canyon (Maze)

Description:

Be careful as you venture deep into the murky woods through a hunter’s trail where the hunters have become the hunted. A pack of blood-thirsty werewolves have taken revenge on those who dare invade their domain. With only the full moon’s light to help you navigate through…can you make it out alive?

Experience:

Backwoods settings are always creepy because we have been taught by horror movies that bad things happen out there.  There’s cabins, trails, and camps that have all been overrun and become the home of werewolves just waiting for some poor fools to go wandering out into nature during a full moon.  Though you know you can mostly expect werewolves to be the attackers there is a nice variety of scare actors and the dense nature atmosphere gives tons of places to hide and scare from.  This maze has lots of growls in it but they are usually followed by screams.  Always a good scare.

Toy Factory (Maze)

Description:

Once a place where dreams were made, this toy factory is now a place where nightmares come true! The maniacal factory workers are manufacturing a variety of disturbing new toys and novelty items for their demented amusement, using any part available, including human parts. Buyers beware as your favorite toys have now been turned against you, or you’ve been turned into one of them.

Experience:

This maze has the most addictive theme song I have ever heard.  Ever, ever?  Ever, ever.  The moment you hear it you get a bit of goosebumps and the rest of the night you will be humming the tune.  The Toy Factory uses a variety of scares, often a false sense of security or distracted amusement followed by a good solid scare.  The make up and masks range from something you would expect to see in a Disney parade to a Rat Fink character and they all have something creepy to say or do.  The mazes twisted take on childhood toys and games makes it one of the most popular mazes in the park and consistently there is a line so if you see it short jump in!  The maze also has one of the longest claustrophobia hallways we have ever seen, we have seen it reduce guests to tears and seen seasoned haunt veterans decide not to go through the maze a second time because of this daunting hall.

CarnEvil 3D (Maze)

Description:

Hurry! Hurry! Step right up and don’t be shy! The most gruesome carnival is back in town. Get ready to face your worst childhood fears as demonic clowns and other freaks of nature terrify guests at every corner where they have turned the tables to make you the attraction!

Experience:

This maze has taken a bit of a beating over the years and is a little worse from wear.  That being said it has excellent 3D and a strong cast of scare actors that take your mind off the aging set pieces and get it back on the disorienting 3D and unique scares that only can happen with the limited vision caused by 3D glasses and environment.  I have seen people go through without glasses and unless you have a massive clown phobia you lose most of the experience that way.  The actors know their space, they know what looks scary, freaky or disorienting when you are wearing the glasses so spend the buck to do the maze right.

Dead Man’s Cove – Forsaken Souls (Zone)

Description:

The Captain and his crew have been joined by ghastly creatures from the depths of the Abyss. Lost for all eternity these forsaken souls wander Dead Man’s Cove in search of treasure. Only this treasure isn’t your ordinary booty, it’s your soul! And, if you are not willing to join, they might just have to make you.

Experience:

One of the smaller scare zones but full of hard working pirates with lots of great lines and character development.  Some go for the startle scare but the menace scare is what you find a plenty as you work your way through the fog and cursed sea folk.  They have an organ that looks like it could have come right out of a Pirates Of The Caribbean movie and cannons that have long since been silenced stand sentry over the scare zone.

Underworld Alley (Zone)

Description:

In an age of darkness, at a time of evil, as night falls the Army of the Dead is awakened from their graves, looking to wreak havoc on those brave enough to enter their graveyard. These recently departed and tattered souls are lost in a world of transition and searching for the next soul to join them in a horrifying syndicate of wickedness known as Underworld Alley.

Experience:

An extremely short scare zone consisting primarily of a graveyard, it is stuffed full of lively undead folks that make sure to give you a spook or a laugh.  Since we atr so hard to scare we mostly got the funny lines from the dead but there was still a surprise or two as we went.  Working with such a small space the talent really had to work to get their scares and they did getting plenty of screams and laughs.2

The Gauntlet (Zone)

Description:

Deep within the fog, screams of pure panic pierce the night, as never before in the history of man have such bizarre creatures been seen. You see a strange traveling carnival has made The Gauntlet their home. The forces of darkness manifest themselves in a strange collection of freaks and oddities fueled by the haunting melodies of the nearby CarnEvil. There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in this playground of terror.

Experience:

This seems like the longest scare zone though in the dark looks can be deceiving.  The name doesn’t seem to conjure up a demented side show to me but the theme and costumes fit outside the big top of CarnEvil perfectly.  We would almost prefer something like “The Dark Side Show” or something like that but the name matters a lot less than the experience.  The talent is constantly moving through the fog and getting scares, all with their own technique based on their character which made this a really good scare zone.  All three of the scare zones are well done, we just think it would be nice to see them bigger.

FEATURED MAZE:

Madam Marie’s Massacre Manor

Description:

Money does not always buy happiness. For Madame Marie, this could not be more true.  As Louisiana’s wealthiest heiress, Madame Marie has perfected the art of Voodooism.  Enter her Manor with caution as there is nothing richer in her eyes than blood. Your visit in her lavish home will leave you breathless.

Experience:

This maze was the strongest maze we have seen so far this year and will definitely top our list at the end of the season.  Having traveled to New Orleans we know the folklore behind the maze’s story and the maze designers and scare actors did a tremendous job of creating this Voodoo experience.  From the exterior which has a definite French Quarter feel to the piano, plate setting, every single little minute detail that is created to the point that it really feels like you are walking through a decrepit abandoned house that has become the residence of ghosts and dark magics.  Besides having terrific detail there is also great use of effects, one projection effect we saw was one of the best uses of the effect we have ever seen.  With this perfect stage set the actors work to flesh out characters until they seem to inhabit the space rather than just haunt it from time to time.  This was truly the standout maze of the year at Great America and sets a new standard for mazes to come.  Our hopes are for some mirror or Pepper’s Ghost work to go along with the projections, this maze should be the start of a whole new level of production.

 Shows:

Overlord’s Resurrection

Description:

Bow down to the Overlord as he unleashes his fury onto California’s Great America! No one is safe from his army of minions…you can run, but you can’t hide.

Experience:

The opening and closing ceremony each night of Haunt, the Overlord is risen high in the air to give his speech, then lowered at the end of the end of the night speech (he is quietly lowered after a while between speeches).  A nice way to set the Haunt in motion each night.

CULTure POP

Description:

Someone is messing with the Overlord’s minions, and he is angry. For those who enter his theater, be prepared to suffer his side-splitting wrath as he unleashes the most heinous monsters around…and we’re not talking about the cast of GLEE!

Experience:

This is the pop culture satire show that many parks have under different names.  Always good for a few laughs and usually better toward the end of the season when the jokes have been fine tuned.

Ghostly Glow Party

Description:

Ghouls just wanna have fun. Come take a break from the madness and swing by the party while our spell casting DJ puts you in a trance and Ghostly Dancers awake your soul.  Wear neon clothing to attract the spirits in this all new atmosphere.

Experience:

Hot go-go dancers with club music.  There is a place to dance but most of the folks there just wind up watching the dancers because they are less scary than the ones in Club Blood.  Could turn into something later in the run when people get a feel for it, there are always people ready to go somewhere wearing glow sticks and light up clothing.

Blood Drums

Description:

Out of the beauty of the night Blood Drums is tapping into the simple and complex rhythms of fright. You will find yourself being taken away to a magical and frightening place. When the drums reach a fever pitch and the blood boils with revulsion, the mind has no compulsion. The leader will have no need in seizing souls as they will have succumbed, gladly offering up what is there for the taking. Blood Drums a mesmerizing amalgamation of cadence and sound. Brought to you by Street Drum Corps!

Experience:

These guys rock!  People wander toward their stage from all over the park for an industrial found object sound (think Stomp) as these guys pound away in thick fog and lots of metal and speakers.  Must see even if just a pause while passing.

Shocking Side Show Of Freaks

Description:

It’s all real – freakish acts that take the human tolerance for pain to new levels. The 7 foot 3 inch, George the Giant and Robin Marks will amaze onlookers as they exhibit their out of this world act of torment and anguish using fire, sledge hammers, swords and anything else they can get their hands on.

Experience:

We have been fans and followers of George the Giant for a really, really long time so we make a point of seeing him and Robin Marks appear whenever we can, usually a couple times a year.  We have seen pretty much all of their sideshow shocks at this point but that doesn’t stop us from coming back for more.  To us old fans of George seeing him is an important part of every season.

Last Call:

So we have listed and covered just about everything California’s Great America Halloween Haunt has to offer in as quick and concise manner as possible and this is still a long article!  Is this park a great deal?  Yes, especially if you go multiple times and get a season pass. If you get the Platinum pass you can get into all Cedar Fair parks for free with free parking and into their haunt events for discounted prices but admission to Great America’s Haunt is free and included with either the Gold or Platinum season pass.  We are so glad that Great America started doing their haunt and hope that with the new 49ers stadium coming in, literally across the parking lot, that they will just get bigger and better!

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Ripper71

Dustin "Ripper71" Thomas has been a staff writer with GamingShogun.com for over five years and has taken on the role of editor with a brief stint as Editor-In-Chief. He is also a co-founder of @IsItOctoberYet where he covers haunt nightmares and amusement park fun.