Shipwreck: A Scary But Sloppy Halloween Haunts Alternative
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt and the Queen Mary’s Shipwreck both feature a variety of themed mazes, adorned with fluorescent paint and bloody props, pumped full of fog and populated by costumed monsters lurking behind dark curtains or around corners, waiting to jump out and startle you.
Halloween Haunt has seniority, entering its 34th year (Shipwreck is celebrating its 12th anniversary), and it benefits from its old age and the resources at its disposal (it is, after all, held at a theme park). Its monsters are very well-trained and their costumes are scary and professional-looking.
Shipwreck is a little rougher around the edges. Its mazes are more akin to extremely well-done high school or community haunted houses. Its monsters break character more often; they’re a little more likely to make a joke than to go for a scare and some of their costumes tend towards the amateurish.
However, the scariest maze at Shipwreck (‘Field of Freaks’) is probably a little scarier than the scariest at Knott’s (’13 Ax Murder Manor’). Shipwreck is darker and foggier and the monsters are more likely to get right in your face.
Also, surprisingly, the monsters at Shipwreck are allowed to touch you (or else the ‘no-touching’ ordinance is not as strictly enforced as at Knott’s). One monster walked past me through a corridor and bumped into my shoulder (this may have been an accident) and another stroked my shoulder with his hand (this was quite deliberate).
The theme of any particular maze isn’t especially well-developed at Shipwreck. One maze mixed a clown motif with a haunted forest with the Wild West. Some had no discernible theme at all.
At Knott’s, if you went into, say, an insane asylum-themed maze, you could count on seeing people in straightjackets, guys in lab coats and girls in nurse uniforms.
In a factory-themed maze at Shipwreck, on the other hand, you could see a random ‘ghoul-ash,’ (to make a terrible pun) of butchers, chainsaw maniacs and zombie soldiers wearing bandoliers.
Some of the more intriguing mazes at Knott’s were ‘Red Moon Massacre,’ which had a Little Red Riding Hood theme and was built around a log flume ride, ‘The Grudge II,’ which made up for its lack of jump moments with a genuinely creepy atmosphere, and ’13 Ax Murder Manor’ (think Disneyland’s ‘Haunted Mansion,’ but actually scary).
Shipwreck really shines when it plays to its one big strength: the Queen Mary itself (allegedly haunted in real life). Whereas Knott’s can make a fairly convincing replica of a deranged Las Vegas casino or a haunted high school, several of Shipwreck’s mazes actually take place on a real ship. You don’t need to use your imagination when you’re descending a narrow staircase into the boiler room of a ship or, at one point, looking at a giant propeller in the eerie waters below.
Once you’re done with all the mazes (which I managed to do at both events, mostly by going early in the season and early in the evening), there are various other diversions. Knott’s has several of its roller coasters operating as normal during the event. It also features several shows, the best of which is, without a doubt, ‘Zamora’s Side Show of the Bizarre,’ featuring Zamora the Torture King and Miss Electra, who collectively eat fire, climb a ladder made of swords, lie on a bed of nails, get shot full of electricity, swallow broken glass and, most impressively, push a sharpened bicycle spoke through a forearm.
Shipwreck features live music