Doswell, VA (North of Richmond)
(Abbreviation: KD or PKD)
Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.
Holloween Haunt 2007 -
(10/15/07) I’m going to start this off by saying that this was my first ever visit to Kings Dominion for a Halloween Haunt style event. That said, please forgive me if I don’t know the exact history of the event or if certain things I witnessed happen every year or if they were just something being tried more recently. I love theme park Haunts and I wanted to try out something new this year and I saw some things I liked, and I saw some things I really did not like, but more on that later.
It’s probably worth noting that this was also the park’s first Halloween Haunt, a new name to go with a supposed new attitude and intensity, replacing the old FearFest event. There were a few random scare zones here and there, like the Voodoo Swamp in the Congo, CarnEvil clowns on the Midway, and freaky farmer types in the Old Virginia area. These monsters were working the crowds well in most areas, and seeing a good number of sliders mixed in impressed me. Unlike the restrictive Scream Zones I saw at Carowinds, the ghouls were allowed to roam freely though some fairly large areas. In fact, one ghoul in particular appeared in the most unlikely of places… the bathroom. My wife took my three year old into the bathroom outside Blackbeard’s Revenge and while he was doing his business, a creepy hand appeared under the side of the stall asking if she could get some toilet paper. Un-phased, my son handed some over, while the thankful ghoul commented that everyone else so far had refused to be so courteous. I’m kind of torn on the issue myself… while my dark side likes the idea of really having no where in the park “safe”, I’ve got to wonder if the bathroom should perhaps still be off limits. Of course… there is still the off chance that the ghoul was really in need of a kind stranger at that moment, so I guess I’ll never know.
Before I begin to touch on the haunts, I wanted to address another problem we noticed with how the Haunt is handled. Like Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Europe, the Haunt is a free event included with you day’s admission to the park. Unfortunately once the sun sets, the park does everything it can to try to force anyone with small kids out of the park by closing down all the kiddie areas and rides by 7pm along with a handful of child friendly attractions throughout the park. So if you’re not there for the big coasters or the haunts, there really isn’t anything for you to do which is a shame considering how well balanced they have things down at Busch Gardens Europe. Speaking of the big coasters, I was also surprised to see a good number of them down, apparently victims of the haunt. The water rides I can understand, but I’m not sure why they felt they needed to close down Flight of Fear (more later) or The Hurler.
Now lets get on with the haunt reviews, in the order I did them.
Club Blood – Tucked away in the back of the park inside a brand new warehouse structure fit inside the structure of The Hurler, this indoor haunt was a great first pick since it opened early. It was extremely dark, and did a good job of scaring quite a few people. The downside however was that perhaps it was too dark… there were sections where I could dimly see some kind of scenery or creatures that I would have liked to have seen in more details, but it was just too dark in some rooms. A little revision to the lighting plan here would work wonders. The downside here however, and to virtually every single Haunt at Kings Dominion was the fact that they “pulsed” the lines by only allowing very small groups (8-10) into the Haunts at a time. While the act of pulsing the line is normal for haunts, the groups are often twice as big, and when they are as small as this, the pause between groups is typically quite short. In the case of Club Blood they seemed to be waiting about 90 seconds between groups, which made our short line so very slowly. It’s worth noting at no point once inside did we run into the back of the group before us, so obviously the delay between groups was set too high.
The next haunt we ventured into Alien Outpost, which is set up in the queue for Flight of Fear. They’ve installed walls and props all throughout the queue, but you end up still entering the UFO and actually walk through the coaster station (past the empty train) before you get to the exit. The queue isn’t very long, and it seemed a little understaffed… that or they only had three different costumes, because it seemed like I kept seeing the same three or four aliens over and over. I think they could have just ran the coaster as normal along with the “haunted” queue all day and night as a little extra fun. I was happy to see that the pulseing was done far better here… slightly bigger groups (10-15) and the wait time between groups was only 45-60 seconds, so the line moved very quickly. The scare factor was low here though… and I was confused as to why all the body parts were stuck to the walls with spider webs… where there who no sign of an kind of alien spider along the way. Pick a theme guys…spiders or alien… or at least get an Alien Spider.
Up next was Freak Show in 3D and I’ll warn you to avoid this terrible waste of time at all cost! Speaking of cost… they were actually trying to hit guests up for a buck to buy a set of those cheap disposable 3D glasses that are given out for free at every other 3D haunt I’ve been though. I’d say only about half of any given group went for it and bought them, but in the end you’re better off avoiding this one at all costs. The line pulsing was unbearable at this location, allowing groups of 8-10 into the house every 3 to 4 minutes. The wait time would flux a bit depending on how fast people were at decideding if they wanted to spend a $1 on glasses or not, but after standing in line for what seemed like forever, it never went any quicker than 3 minutes between groups, for a maze that lasts all of about 4 minutes. Once you had your glasses and were in your final group ready to go in, they did another odd thing… making everyone reach out with both hands to hold the shoulders of the person in front of you. Talk about making a weird situation uncomfortable and odd… but people did it and all it really did was block the view of the 3D scenery by putting someone’s body in your face the whole way through the maze. As for the maze itself… placed inside a small laser tag arena, it was just odd 3D paintings on the walls. Nothing even disturbing or attempting to play tricks on your eyes with 3D… just 3D paintings of creatures and giant demon faces and such along the hallways. The hope was that if you were looking at the 3D paintings, you may not see a guy dressed as a clown standing against the opposite wall every 30 seconds. I wasn’t impressed in the slightest and this easily was the worst haunted house I’ve been in so far this year out of the 30 I’ve hit to date.
Up next was the Blood Shed, where the old Arcade near Grizzly was turned into a barnyard slaughterhouse. The line was long and the pulsing was average… about the same as Club Blood. Just long enough for you to wonder why the hell the line wasn’t moving just before it would start to move again. The inside was themed well, but like Club Blood, it was a little too dark at times to really allow the scenery to give the proper impact. Unfortunately, while being inside one of the better themed houses, the scaractors were a little on the uninspired side and in many cases ended up getting more laughs for their efforts than screams.
Next on the road was Blue Ridge Bloodbath, but I had to admit by this point in time I had become quite frustrated with the way the lines were being handled and upon seeing the huge line for this outdoor haunt that had taken over the Antique Cars area, I just didn’t have it in me to stand in line for over an hour. So here is a edited “guest review” of Blue Ridge Bloodbath for you:
Blue Ridge Bloodbath a haunted version of the antique car ride, which is a fairly unique premise for a haunt as most parks outside of Knott’s Berry Farm seem to stay away from turning their rides into haunts. Your car ride will take you deep within a dark wooded area full of fog and several scenes ranging from graveyards, to a crashed antique car. Each area has a few scaractors who can do a decent job of scaring people while jumping out from behind trees, bushes and set pieces. There are a lot of scaractors towards the end of the attraction who charging at your vehicle with chainsaws, and do not stop until they are in your face. Overall, this attraction provides a fun and different experience from the rest of the haunts in the park.
Not far from here was Blackbeard’s Revenge, where the line starts off in the log ride queue and then heads back to a giant fake ship they’ve placed just beyond here at the entrance to White Water Canyon. The line didn’t look too bad, so we got in… and I wish to god that we hadn’t. The maze suffers from the same awful line pulsing delays that plagued almost every haunt in the park, combined with the deceiving fact that the fake pirate ship in the distance is really not the actual entrance to the haunt. No… you’ve got to venture far deeper into the forest beyond this point, almost to the actual station of White Water Canyon, before the pirate themed haunt really begins. This was easily the longest line we stayed in all night, and it’s just not worth it. The open air pirate haunt was just stale, fairly pointless, confusing at times, and pretty much empty of anyone really trying to scare you at all. The whole experience was about 90 minutes of my life that I’m never going to get back. For the life of me I can’t figure out why they space such small groups so far apart in these mazes, because it was very apparent in this brightly lit maze where you could see a good distance ahead of you at any given time that there wasn’t a single other soul in the maze anywhere near your group. A 20 second spacer between groups would have been more than sufficient… but two minutes was really pushing it beyond reason.
Frustrated at this point, I almost passed on the final maze of the night places just off the side of International Street in a tent… the Maze of Madness. Good thing I didn’t, because I think that out of all the mazes, I may have liked this one the best. (Club Blood is a very close second.) The inside of the tent is a very different atmosphere from any of the parks other haunt, full of dark walls, mirrors, strobe lights and chain link fences. Into the Asylum you go, running into many twisted nurses on a mission to get in your face, along with several escaped inmates who range from scary to silly. Focusing on the silly one… I had just passed through a dark curtain into a blinding room full of strobe lights and part parts lining the shelves in front of me. Normally I’m an expert at haunted house navigation, but they had me here, I was leading our group and had become blinded and stranded, trying to figure my way out and I knew there had to be someone waiting to prey on me at any moment. Instead of a scream, snarl, chainsaw or even a shaker-can… my would-be attacker got in my face and yelled “Global Warming!” What followed was like one of those surreal moments where everything else in the world stops for a few seconds… Whaaat?! Did you just say Global Warming? “Yep! I’m CRAAAAZZZZY!” OK…. And time began moving forward again and we all laughed. Important Tip here… you’re better off hitting this maze last on your way out, because there no line for it at all after everyone else has ventured deeper inside the park and is stuck in the horrible lines elsewhere.
So in summary… the Kings Dominion Halloween Haunt was a mixture of fun and frustration. The good news is that they did seem to be trying hard and that the worst problems were mostly operational issues that can be solved in the future, if they are willing to do so. The park is also quite dark in many areas (which is why we’re lacking in the photo department), so perhaps they could learn a bit about how to light up their exterior environments and buildings from Busch Gardens as well.