Knotts Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights begin today; 2012 haunt season stretches longer than ever

Knotts-Universal-2012-HalloweenLike a banshee bursting from its tomb, Halloween Horror erupts onto the Southland tonight, Friday, September 21. When evening falls, the two best haunted theme park events in the Los Angeles area open their cemetery gates: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood unleashes a crypt-full of movie monsters on the all-too-willing victims swarming Universal City. Not to be outdone, the Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt in Buena Park resurrects its ghoulish ghost town, offering even more menace and mayhem. Who will win this year’s round in the on-going grudge match between the two reigning Halloween theme park attractions? Los Angeles fright fans – that’s who! With two excellent and extensive Halloween events opening early in the season, scare-seekers should feel as happy as a ghoul unleashed in the Odessa Catacombs.

Both haunts open their gates at 7:00pm and run until 2:00am in the morning, then resume on Saturday and Sunday (closing at 1:00am on the latter night). The cycle resumes next weekend, then extends into weeknights later in the month. Click here and here for specifics.

Having already rendered my opinion on which of Knotts Scary Farm 2012 or Halloween Horror Nights 2012 will provide the most promisingly pejorative peregrinations (2012 Halloween Recommendations: The Best Haunted Theme Park Events in Los Angeles), I want to take a moment to focus on another point, alluded to above: the extraordinary length of this year’s Halloween season. For many years now, the major Halloween events in Los Angeles have pried open their caskets in late September or early October, adding an extra weekend – or sometimes an extra week – onto the haunting season. For 2012, Halloween is extending ten days into September – 17 days, if you count last week’s opening of the family-friendly Disneyland Halloween Time.

This is unprecedented in our memory. Checking through the Hollywood Gothique archives, we see that Knotts Bery Farm typically started haunting on the last Thursday of September. Disneyland declared Halloween Time in the Magic Kingdom on the last Friday of the month. Universal Studios Hollywood, when it resumed its annual Halloween Horror Nights in 2006, was the late riser among the vampires, failing to exit the coffin until mid-October, then gradually working its way toward the first Friday of the month.

That changed in 2010, when Knotts Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights simultaneously summoned the seasonal spirits on Friday, September 24, for the first time opening in head-to-head competition.  The extra seven days of September expanded to eight days in 2011, when both Halloween haunts opened on Friday, September 23 – not the last Friday of the month, but the penultimate Friday. Now, September 2012 is here, and the two dark demons of the October season are extended their reach even further into September, giving Los Angeles Halloween fans two full weekends (if not full two weeks) to sample their spirits before October arrives.

Perhaps this is just a quirk of the calendar, and we will see a return to a shorter Los Angeles Halloween season in next year. However, I tend to doubt it, for two reasons:

Reason #1: Disneyland’s moving Halloween Time to September 14 pushes the envelope so far that the other theme park events are likely to follow, opting for longer, not shorter, schedules.

Reason #2: In 2013, the last Friday of September falls on the 27th, which would provide only one full weekend of haunting before October. However, the penultimate Friday falls on September 20th, one day earlier than in 2012. Opening on the 20th would extend the Halloween season 11 days into September – one day longer than this year – thus yielding two full weekends of business before October.

I suspect the temptation to sell two weekends worth of tickets in September will override any qualms about stretching the season to unseemly lengths. In fact, the temptation seems so strong that I would bet my silver bullets on it, except for one salient fact, which has probably occurred to you already, if you are mathematically minded or if you happen to have a 2012 calendar in front of you:

The 13th day of September 2013 falls on a Friday. It’s almost a numerologist’s dream: Friday the 13th in the year 2013! Will the temptation of the day made infamous by Jason Voorhees provoke Los Angeles Halloween haunts to launch their annual events even earlier?

Knotts Scary Farm 2012 runs on September 21-22, 27-30; October 4-7, 11-14, 25-28, 30-31. Address: Knotts Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Boulevard, Buena Park, CA 90620.

Halloween Horror Nights 2012 runs on September 21-22, 28-29, October 5-7, 12-14, 18-21, 25-31. Address: Universal Studios, Hollywood 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Steve Biodrowski owns and operates Hollywood Gothique. Since graduating from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema, Steve has worked as a film critic, script analyst, journalist, and interviewer. As a film journalist, his work has appeared in Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage (in France) and The Dark Side (in England). He served as the West Coast Editor of Cinefantastique magazine in the 1990s, then worked as the Vice President of Editorial Content at Fandom.com and, more recently, as the Executive Editor at Cinescape Online. He is currently the Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online, the website incarnation of Cinefantastique magazine.

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