Oct 052008

The first ever Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America, was actually quite enjoyable. Low expectations helped.

Our excitement for being the first to attend Halloween Haunt, was somewhat dwarfed by the fact that we were going to Knott’s Scary Farm the following night, and Miley Cyrus’ Sweet 16 right after that. But despite our numerous negative experiences with Cedar Fair throughout the year, I’ve gotta admit, they put on a pretty good Haunt.

We started out with the Boo-fet, which was not only cleverly themed, but damn good food as well. Bear in mind that we attended Media Night and the ‘regular’ buffet may well have different food.  The food being so good was a pretty much the only benefit, because the main reason I paid 13 bucks each for dinner, was to get into the Haunt early. It turns out this was irrelevant, because I’ve never seen the park so empty. Nearly everyone there was either media, or had a VIP pass.

Z and I wandered into the park about 5 min. before the gates opened and were the first to wander into the Witch Doctor’s Trail, giving us the full attention of the primitive tribe camped out there. Our hackles rose as we approached the next scare zone. Fog was pouring from the bridge, and we couldn’t even make out shapes within it. Moving closer together,we crept into the fog, only to discover the most nerve-racking scare zone of all: an empty one! Both our brains knew the monsters had not yet begun their shift, but our instincts kept us searching for hidden enemies.

Having survived the empty fog, we passed the creepily abandoned and cordoned off KidsVille. It was odd that with all these monsters about, Scooby Doo and his friends were tucked away in a dark corner. Next stop: Camp GonnaGetcha. After confirming the ride camera was working, (no special Halloween frame though) we braved the cobweb-strewn trail to the Camp. As we boarded our log, we asked the “counselor” if the ride had been fully themed. Her hems and hahs, gave us the answer despite her claiming ignorance As we floated through various campsites, Texas Chainsaw Massacre rejects continually charged our vessel. Ever the trooper, Z screamed “BOO!” at the lifthill ride op and we both giggled at the “AAAH!” she received in return,

At this point we realized we still didn’t know when the the shows weree going to be, but we decided to continue our loop around the park instead of tracing back through Voodoo-ville. The overall themeing of the park was not much more impressive then it had been we we got our sneak peek two weeks earlier. And I’m still not sure why the guardian of the CornStalkers maze was wearing blinking bunny ears. However, we were impressed that the maze itself runs all the way from Psycho Mouse to the opposite end of the midway. Speaking of the midway, employees were few and far between (as seems to be standard Cedar Fair operating procedure) and not a single Halloween critter was available to the victors.

We did manage to add a new Scooby (Tuxedo Scoob) to my collection though with a quick Roll-A-Ball game. Next to that stand, was a convict awaiting execution in Old Sparky. Unsure of his bonds, Z cautiously approached only to quickly assert, that he would certainly not be moving, It wasn’t until after our game, that the unseen warden must have thrown the switch as the convict started jerking spasmodically as Sparky sprung to life, and the convict’s ended.

Next stop: Invertigo. Z rode while I smoked, severe sinus pain keeping me off looping rides for the night. The covered walkway between Invertigo and The Demon was a fog shrouded scare zone that couldn’t seem to contain it’s monsters. The citizens, such as ourselves, were all avoiding the fog, so the monsters broke protocol and invaded the clear path.

Approaching the front of the park again, we came across a caricature stand and decided to finally fulfill our long delayed mission. Ramon, the artist, was clearly pleased to have not only the business, but also our company. Not only did he do a superb job, far exceeding my expectations, but was also quite the conversationalist. If you’re ever considering a caricature at Great America I can’t recommend Ramon too highly.

On our way to the Ed Alonzo show (Halloween edition) we got caught up in the CarnEvil scare zone. The Jack in The Box, marking it’s beginning, is the best piece of themeing on the park by far. We got to the show a few minutes late, but were ushered in the back door. Despite Ed Alonzo having made such huge fans of us over the Summer, this more adult themed version was mediocre at best.The only “wow” moment was when he produced Bob the Duck, from his straightjacket. Hypnotist Dave Hill’s show was to be our last stop of the evening. A few minutes into his opening patter he warns that audience members sometimes fall asleep while he is hypnotizing those on stage. I’m 90 percent sure this is supposed to be a joke, but having suffered through 35 minutes of his droning on, I now understand the reality. Z, always quick to volunteer, did seem to be genuinely under his spell though. So it was still a great experience for her despite ranking as the single most boring show I’ve ever witnessed in any amusement park.

Over all, if you already have a Gold or Platinum pass, or are a HUGE fan of haunted mazes, Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America should be rather enjoyable. But whether it’s worth the extra admission fee is still pretty debatable in my mind. I think I had a better time at last year’s Mutant Creek Hayride.  If you’re not a pass holder and still want to visit Halloween Haunt, be sure to stop by Burger King and get a $5 off coupon, or find a similar deal elsewhere, as $39.99 is way too much to pay for this event.

Apparently my hands were shaking even more than normal (fear perhaps?), so almost every picture I too kis incredibly blurry.  But if you’re brave enough you can see them all in my Halloween Haunt gallery.