On Friday, October 21, in the hills of Marin County, zombies, clowns, and other creatures of the night transformed the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom theme park from a coaster kingdom replete with animal encounters into a haven for the dead and decaying. Their Fright Fest consists of numerous haunted attractions, scarezones, shows, rides, and yes, even a few animals that make this one of the unique Halloween events anywhere in the country.
This year, the event consists of six haunted mazes; Carnevil, Nightmare Manor, Boathouse at Blood Lake, Dark Oaks Asylum, Captain Bloat’s Shipwreck of Horror, and Scrapyard of the Dead.
Let’s begin by saying that the park definitely has some issues. First off, they can’t seem to believe there’d be first time visitors to the park, let alone ones from nearly 3000 miles away. Therefore, they seemed dumbfounded when we asked for directions.
Secondly, they need better signage. The map they give you is poor at best, and doesn’t even list the names of any of the daytime attractions, some of which are even open during the event. That makes for a very difficult time trying to navigate in the dark.
Other that that, it wasn’t too bad.
Below, each haunt is rated based on its level of theming, and general scare factor. The ranking is based on a scale of 1-10.
Haunts (descriptions courtesy of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom)
- Carnevil – The walls are aged and covered in blood. The underside of the smoke-filled canopy is washed in a dim, red, eerie light.
Welcome to the sideshow. Beware. Something sinister and evil lurks under the Big Top. The clowns have gone crazy and the smell of death is in the air. No one is safe. Enter if you dare.
Bunko is an angry clown. After being fired from his beloved traveling circus, Bunko turned from a loveable, laughable clown to a vengeful monster, bent on killing his former employers and anyone who got in his way.
And he did so during his very last performance. Using the sword swallower’s props, with his creepy clown laugh, he took down everyone in his path, including his fellow performers and any audience member in his way.
Years later, Bunko still torments traveling circuses, luring unsuspecting audiences into his deadly funhouse.
Theming: 9.9Everyone loves clowns!? Taking full advantage of the killer clown phenomenon that is plaguing the country, this house hits all the right cords. It even takes place under the big top, which makes it one of the best themed houses at the park. Although I only rated the scare factor an 8, it does have the sort of scares that can catch you off guard if you’re not paying attention.
Scare Factor: 8.0
p.s. Beware the maze. It can be frustrating!
- Nightmare Manor – Victorian mansion for sale! Any takers?
This once stately Victorian mansion was the largest and most coveted house on the block. With an enviable parlor, library, luxurious rooms, and hall of portraits, the house also had a devilishly demented dungeon. House hunters beware because restless, vengeful spirits of the house are rumored to rise from the dead on the 13th hour with a thirst for unwelcome visitors.
The previous homeowners, Arsenic and Arania Nightmare rarely had visitors, and when they did, their friends were never to be seen again. To this day, neighbors report painful, agonizing screams, yet no one dwells in the house. Or are these evil twins still haunting the place?
Looking for a place to buy? You can tour this classic house and take heed, Arsenic and Arania may want you to stay. For good.
Theming: 9Every haunted attraction has to have a traditional spooky mansion, right? This traditional haunted house is cool, but the generic theming leads to fewer scares than other attractions.
Scare Factor: 7.5
- Boathouse at Blood Lake – Is the fisherman’s shack truly deserted or not? Only the brave who venture in will find out. It’s dark, creepy and eerily quiet and the lake is blood red.
Theming: 7.5Let’s just say that I didn’t totally get the idea behind this house. Having one marine themed attraction might work, but having two is overkill. However, this was the first house we went through of the night, and might have caught it at an off time.
Scare Factor: 7
- Dark Oaks Asylum – Torment and madness is all you’ll find in the halls of this decrepit institution.
Scare Factor: 8
Okay. I wasn’t expecting much from this house, as I’ve seen more than my fair share of insane asylum houses over the past decade. However, I must say I was pleasantly surprised not only by the details but also by the enthusaism of the actors. Probably one of my favorite houses.
- Captain Bloat’s Shipwreck of Horror – Don’t let your love of money destroy you!
When Captain Bloat and his pirate crew set sail in search of the legendary Golden Skull, they didn’t know how the tides would turn. Searching day after day with no luck, the prized treasure remained elusive.
Greed and hatred ensued as the search for wealth turned the pirates against each other. Crew members were drowned, killed or eaten alive by sharks. The fewer the pirates, he better chances for more gold.
The Golden Skull was finally retrieved from the ocean’s depths. Captain Bloat embraced his prize, but soon his skin deteriorated right to the bone as the rest of the crew each became standing skeletons. As the last pirate lay dying, the Golden Skull slipped back into the ruthless seas.
The pirates are still haunting the area, searching for the Golden Skull. If you come by looking for your fortune, you may face the same fate.
Scare Factor: 5
Now, I’d like to say this was my favorite house of the night, but with such a low scare factor, I can’t. I can, however, say that this house had my favorite layout, as it took full advantage of the Shark Experience to make it seem like you were actually underwater. With a little tweaking, it could be awesome!
- Scrapyard of the Dead – One chilly night, when Bruce, a scrapyard worker, was throwing garbage into a giant compactor, the blades froze. He shut the machine down to oil the blades to loosen then up. That’s when his boss, Gregory, came by.
Noticing the power was down and with no idea that Bruce was there, Gregory turned the machine back on. Bruce screamed when he heard the engine turn. The newly lubed blades cut through him like paper in a paper shredder.
Upset, Bruce’s mother, Lila, broke into the scrapyard and shut the power off. When the men couldn’t get their compactors working, they jumped in to oil the blades. Lila restarted the power, shredding 10 men to bits. Condemned and abandoned for years, the scrapyard is now haunted by the zombified employees.
Scare Factor: 4
This was our last house of the night, and I wish I could say we went out on top. However, I’d be lying. This honestly seemed like an afterthought, as well as something I’d seen many times at other attractions. Heck, X-Scream Halloween has had a similar zone for several years, and they do a better job with it. Still, if you enjoy junk cars and chainsaws, this is the one for you!
With a terrifying line-up of six haunted mazes, three hair-raising scare zones, plus roaming monsters, freaks and zombies, Fright Fest is not for the faint of heart. An additional fee is required for some haunted attractions.
Families can enjoy the best of Halloween entertainment and festivities with Thrills by Day. There’s trick-or-treating along the Twick or Tweat Twail where favorite LOONEY TUNES friends pass out candy and pose for photos; and fun for all with cookie decorating, kids’ rides and fun shows.
Fright by Night begins with spirited monstertainment, most notably, the morbidly macabre opening show, The Awakening, which kicks off each night at 5:45 p.m. as the family-friendly daytime park transforms into a shadow land of ghouls and demonic creature. Guests can also experience the all-new Monster Mash Bash, a truly deadly dance party and a finale to end all finales, The Aftermath, ends the night.
For all the gory details, visit the Fright Fest site.
Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following this column for news on other spooky events and more. If you know of another local event that needs additional undead light shone upon it, please tell us about it!
Friday’s sojourn into the world of the undead is the first of many this Halloween season. This week, we plan on visiting the South Florida Fairgrounds to experience Fright Nights. If we survive, we’ll let you know!