An unmistakable icon of the Long Beach harbor, The Queen Mary has been attracting guests intrigued by its history and mystery since 1967. That’s when it made Long Beach its permanent home after being retired from active voyages across the Atlantic. In more recent years, it has also been home to “Dark Harbor”, an event that has grown to be one of the premier haunted attractions in Southern California. Using the historic ship as a backdrop, as well as the setting for half of the mazes makes this event quite unique as it is one of the few haunted attractions that is rumored to actually be haunted.
The ship, which made its maiden voyage in 1936, is surrounded by rumors of deaths and mishaps during its many years of service that have since given way to countless stories of paranormal events on board the ship. Some of the more well known characters of the ships eerie past are featured in various mazes around the park. Like “Scary Mary” in the event’s Submerged haunted maze.
Submerged is one of the 4 attractions housed on the ship itself and is the story of a cruise liner, much like the Queen Mary, going down and taking its passengers and crew with it, forever trapping them beneath the sea. Opening in the pool area where Scary Mary, who is said to have drowned and where she now invites you to come swim and play. This character is awesomely unsettling and an absolute delight to watch. The maze continues into the depths of the ship, making great us of confines corridors to make you feel like you are trapped and going down. Even going as far as to incorporate gushing water into scenes, the designers of this maze did an amazing job of bringing the story to life.
Deadrise is another maze that used the sinking ship theme, but this one was more of a military ship – not a cruise liner. Built on the midway, this maze had a lot of fun twists and turns and the talent was high energy and always in character.
Back on the boat we headed to B340. An absolute celebration of the twisted and insane, this journey into the mind of a serial killer is an intense ride that could have you questioning your own sanity by the end. Full of gore and fetish inspired scenes of torture, this one will please the hardcore horror fans.
Dark Harbor also features a midway area with the usual places for food and merchandise, several bar locations, a hookah lounge, VIP cabanas, rides, roaming monsters, and a stage that features bands and DJs nightly (check their website for performance schedule). This stage is also home to the cast of characters show, which as a fan of haunted events, I really appreciated. This event has done an awesome job of creating unique feature characters that act as hosts of both the event and their home mazes. This show takes a theatrical opportunity to introduce them all and give a look into their backstory, which really enhances the experience of their mazes.
The Circus returns this year along with its beloved Ringmaster, who is also the event’s face on billboard and bus ads all over Southern California. This gothic carnival of sadistic clowns and circus performers was so much fun we did it twice!
Another maze we loved so much that we had to go through it twice was called Soulmate. New this year, Soulmate tells the story of “Graceful Grace” and her search for the perfect mate. Pay attention to the details on this one, as the designers went to great lengths to build deep layers of story while still managing to have it make perfect sense – which is often a challenge for haunted mazes. Graceful Grace was by far our favorite character of the entire event and the women who portray her are fantastically creepy.
Dark Harbor also features 2 up-charge attractions. First is Freak Show – half freak show, half maze. Built inside a series of shipping containers, while mildly entertaining, wasn’t worth the five bucks. At a $15 cost, Encounters promises to be a more intense experience. This guided paranormal tour is by reservation and requires guests to sign a waiver before entering. We had fun and our guides were entertaining, but we didn’t think it was worth the cost. We won’t give away what happens though, should you want to explore it for yourself.
Last up is Voodoo Village, which is by no surprise, themed around voodoo rituals and the catacombs of a bayou. While this theme has been done in several variations at many haunted events, we have to say that Dark Harbor nailed it. The twists and turns through the dank and dark hallways, the sets of ritual sacrifices and spells, all come together to give a feeling of realism that is hard to achieve. This maze alone is worth the charge of admission.
Dark Harbor offers many ticket packages and tiers, including “Fast Fright” passes that let you cut the time you wait in line, VIP packages that includes a catered lounge, hotel packages and more. Check their website for details. Dark Harbor runs on various days now through November 2nd.