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14 Sep 2017

Visitor attractions worldwide gear up for Halloween
BY Tom Anstey

Queen Mary's Dark Harbour is one of the attractions to return in 2017

Queen Mary's Dark Harbour is one of the attractions to return in 2017

With the Halloween season fast-approaching, operators around the world are lining up their visitors for a scare as they try to get a slice of the lucrative Halloween pumpkin pie.

Firmly set as a staple of the attractions sector, prompting millions of people to visit theme parks and other attractions worldwide, Halloween is worth more than US$7bn (€5.8bn, £5.3bn) a year to the US market alone – with the event the second-largest commercial programme only to Christmas.

Attractions Management had a look at some of the biggest, most impressive and most intriguing projects to make their debuts in 2017, to see what will be drawing the crowds in search of a scare.

The Walking Dead arrives at Thorpe Park

Earlier this year, Merlin’s Thorpe Park promised to “up the ante” in the lead up to Halloween, and the operator has delivered, confirming plans to bring global IP The Walking Dead to the park for its popular Fright Night events in a deal exclusive to the UK.

The new attractions will both be horror mazes, one indoor and one outdoor. The first maze, called The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare, sees visitors experience iconic scenes seen in season 7 of the show, with the maze centred around the character Negan. The second maze, The Walking Dead: Sanctum, has guests following in the footsteps of survivors, as they attempt to navigate their way past the roaming walkers or risk capture.

Thorpe Park kicks off its largest ever Fright Night event on 29 September, with the event running until 31 October – more days than ever before. Attractions returning for this year’s event include SAW Alive, Big Top and Platform 15.

Universal’s horror spectacular

Never one to be outdone when it comes to this time of year, Universal Studios has gone all out once again for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Running since 1991, the event has expanded to a special three-day event with a single haunted house, to what is now a 30-day event which last year had 12 different horror attractions.

A new Saw-themed maze is coming to the park to coincide with the theatrical release of the franchise’s eighth movie, Jigsaw, which comes out in October.

A change from the park’s other Halloween attractions, Saw: The Games of Jigsaw, will place visitors into traps associated with the franchise, including The Razor Wire Maze, The Reverse Bear Trap and The Automated Scalping Machine. Additionally, traps from the upcoming film will be present in the form of a “living preview”, according to Universal.

As well as the new Saw maze, Blumhouse Productions, responsible for creating cult horror flicks such as The Purge, Sinister and Insidious will be bringing those films to life in a combined haunted house based on the three franchises.

“The advantage to creating a house with multiple properties living inside its decaying walls is each scene is a completely different world,” said Charles Gray, show director for Halloween Horror Nights. “What tie the scenes together are the otherworldly themes that run in all of the films.”

Guardians’ Halloween makeover

Disney’s new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at California Adventure is getting a makeover for Halloween, with a new story called Monsters After Dark putting visitors on a mission to rescue Groot from the Collector and his army of monsters.

By day Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout will operate as normal, but once the sun sets each evening during Halloween time at Disneyland, it will transform into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark.

In the story for this new attraction, the Guardians have escaped The Collector’s Fortress, but accidentally left Groot behind. Guests are enlisted by Rocket to distract the creatures that have been released inside The Collector’s Fortress so he can find Groot.

Running from 15-31 October, Monsters After Dark also features a new composition for the attraction, written by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 film composer Tyler Bates.

New line up for Knott’s

Knott’s Berry Farm – one of the originators of bringing Halloween to theme parks – started its festivities in 1973, with its Scary Farm event growing year-on-year with more than 400,000 people visiting annually.

The operator debuts three new mazes this year out of a total of nine. The first, called Trick or Treat: Lights Out, is an interactive maze using a “faulty” torch, as visitors explore a creepy haunted house. The torch will turn on or off at certain points, giving users some unexpected scares with the new technology.

Its second maze, called Pumpkin Eater, is set around The Hollow, with guests going on a journey around a town with the same name where they will face a “cave of insects” and have to solve a maze of thorns blocking the exit.

The third new maze, aptly named Dark Ride: Castle of Chaos, is set inside an abandoned carnival dark ride where visitors must explore the attraction, populated by shunned performers from the once family-friendly ride.

High seas frights

The Queen Mary, now a hotel, historic landmark and entertainment venue – will host its annual pop-up Dark Harbour event this year, with new experiences including a new maze and ice bar.

This year’s event features a fourth maze on-board for the first time in the ship’s history, with ‘Feast’ exploring parts of the ship never-before accessible to guests during Dark Harbour. Based on the fictional story of a chef during World War Two who would prep soldiers for his dishes before being caught, visitors must escape the chef and his henchmen or risk being “served”.

The all-new ice bar, called The Meat Locker, is an extension of the experience, themed as the chef’s freezer where he “puts his latest victims on ice”. Chilled to 7ºF (-14ºC), guests will spend 20 minutes inside the bar, with offerings including a selection of flavored vodkas.

The meat theme continues with ‘Chef’s Feast Experience’ – a VIP addition where the Chef himself will take visitors on a trip through the galley in the brand new maze.

South Korea’s zombie city

South Korea’s largest theme park Everland started its Halloween festivities early this year, debuting “Blood City” for its visitors on 7 September. Covering 100,000sq m (25 acres), the park’s sprawling Alpine Area, Amazon Express and Safari World areas have fallen victim to an outbreak, closed off by the authorities. Everland’s visitors are set the task of venturing into the area to search for survivors.
At the city’s entrance, a makeup area will allow guests to be made up as zombies, but inside there will 100 zombie actors exploring the compound, ready to rush unsuspecting visitors. Zombie flash mobs and opportunities to take selfies with the zombies will also be part of the experience.

And finally

If all that is a bit much, there’s always the option of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney World in Florida.

The light-hearted Disney take on Halloween includes a ride of the headless horseman, a supernatural fireworks display and trick or treat station offering sweets and healthy alternatives. Visitors will also get the chance to meet, greet and pose with Disney characters decked out in Halloween costumes.

The event started on 25 August – its earliest debut ever – and runs until 31 October.

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