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King and Hoole go behind the scenes Great America’s Halloween Haunt

Video by Liam Hoole

Media Production Editor

Article by Madeline King


Get ready to scream in fear, because this year’s Halloween Haunt at Great America is ready to be more terrifying than ever. With eight haunted mazes, new party zones, and their most thrilling rides open to the public, guests should prepare for the fright of their lives this Halloween season. 

With this year’s initiative to “make the park a part of the party,” big changes are happening across the park. Designers have been inspecting several mazes to tweak attractions for the ultimate fright night, and will also be debuting a “twisted take on a carnival sideshow” with their new Killer Clown Town scare zone. On top of that, for the first time this year, guests who don’t like being scared will also have a space in the park to get into the Halloween spirit, minus the monsters and jump scares. Employing local Bay Area graffiti artists, the new Dia de los Muertos Party Zone received a new visual pop to liven the scenery to be inhabited by dancing, live music, and other spooky characters. Instead of timed shows set to run every 30 minutes like previous years, Haunt is set up to have four hours of constant entertainment happening simultaneously across the park, including acrobats, dancers, and trampolinists.

 While fans will still be able to enjoy popular mazes from past years, favorites like the Wax Museum will be undergoing hair-raising changes. For the first time ever, all the lights will be shut off and groups of guests will have to navigate its halls with one poorly-illuminating flashlight. “I think it will be a cool new twist on one of the guests’ favorite mazes,” says Digital Marketing Area Manager Danny Messinger. 

With over 500 actors on any given night, makeup artists are constantly airbrushing, retouching, and creating prosthetics for werewolves, demons, and other horrifying creatures the park holds in store. The monsters make up the heart and soul of Halloween Haunt, providing the horrific jump scares in mazes and terrifying guests as they walk in designated scare zones. Actors employ different scare tactics, such as “pingpong, where [the actors] work off of each other, [utilizing] pop scares, fall-out scares,” and more to provide the ultimate spooky experience, stated Creative Director Clayton Lawrence. As noise-scares are one of the most popular among the actors, especially from banging on set walls, set designers started to use thicker pieces of wood for reinforcement to avoid broken sets. 

Lawrence explains that when designing a maze, for example the Tooth Fairy Maze, “one of the first things [Great America does] is get in a room and just tell the story of the tooth fairy, and then we identify, ok, where do teeth come from? How much did you get from the tooth fairy? After the process of just telling the story and… sketching out on paper, we put it into an auto-cad where we can actually walk through the mazes before they’re built.” But don’t expect any sort of logical processes to be apparent in the mazes. He also added, “if [the maze] makes too much sense, we’ll throw it out the door and make you walk through an alien randomly in a closet,” preventing guests from making any predictions on what will happen next. Mixing theatrical scenic design, lighting design, and other traditional elements with a dark twist, set designers are encouraged to exercise the darker side of their creativity. “There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this,” says Lawrence, “That’s what makes it fun and unpredictable.”

For an especially creepy twist, keep in mind as you’re travelling through the mazes that many of the props are real. This includes letters written by real kids to the tooth fairy, missing posters with real kids’ photos, and even real teeth — luckily from animals and not real humans, but creepy nonetheless. A rule around the park is, “Don’t throw it out unless it can’t go in a Haunt maze,” so many props you see have likely been used in real life.

With so many new spooky twists and festive additions, Halloween Haunt is sure to live up to guests’ expectations. Make sure to visit between Sept. 27 and Oct. 13 for a special student discount, so bring your student ID for a festive start to your Halloween season!

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