As we slip into October, I decided to assemble my first-ever Fantasy Halloween League of the Top 13 haunted mazes at theme parks around the world.
Think of the Top 13 list as a nightmare fantastic park with the most demented, disturbing and disgusting collection of haunted attractions ever gathered in one virtual place.
Or my definition of a dream vacation if I had a bottomless budget and unlimited vacation time to jet around the world to the best and most bizarre haunts.
I’ve tried to include a sampling of mazes from each of the major theme park chains plus a few independents.
I purposely went light on Six Flags’ Fright Fest and Cedar Fair’s Halloween Haunt entries because I find those events interchangeable and unimaginative with a conga line of identical sexy vampire, killer clown and murderous butcher mazes.
Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and Germany’s Europa Park have multiple entries because their Halloween events are so amazingly strong and inventive.
Universal Studios, the undisputed leader in horror this time of year, is the most well represented on the list and probably deserves a Top 13 of its own.
And there’s even an entry from Disney, a company better known for family-friendly fare than spine-tingling scares.
A couple of smaller parks that offer well-respected Halloween events, like France’s Parc Asterix and Pennsylvania’s Kennywood, just missed the cut. Halloween can be a brutally bloody business like that.
In assembling my Top 13, I was looking for unusual, unique and offbeat haunted mazes and attractions that I’d actually jump on a plane and fly half way around the globe to see.
13) The Aftermath -- The Fright Fest maze at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California fills the former Batman stunt show arena with post-apocalyptic torment and turmoil. Visitors emerge from a fog-filled tunnel into a dystopian world of overturned vehicles, nomadic warriors and mutated creatures.
12) La Llorona: The Child Hunter -- Based on the Mexican legend of a distraught mother who drowned her children and then herself, the La Llorona maze at Universal Studios Hollywood is haunted by the ghost of the drenched, weeping woman and the wandering children she snatches at night. Visitors walk through sticky pig carcasses hanging in the carniceria amid the smell of rotting meat, watch a child being eaten alive by La Llorona entering through a bedroom window and cross a horrifying moonlit lake full of drowned children floating face down in the water.
11) Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas -- The eccentric magicians have accidentally nuked Sin City, leaving the desert gambling oasis covered in radioactivity. The comedic 3D maze at Universal Studios Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights in Florida takes visitors on a day-glow journey through Las Vegas after one of the duo’s illusions goes horribly wrong.
10) Graves Academy -- The Haunted Halloween maze at Hong Kong Disneyland takes visitors inside a once-prestigious private school where students are taught a terrifying curriculum and bred for evil. Headmaster Alistair Graves, a dark arts master and strict disciplinarian, has turned the decaying academy into a portal for unbridled evil.
9) Alice Cooper Goes to Hell / Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare -- The Alice Cooper mazes at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando draw on elements from the shock rocker’s theatrical concerts with a soundtrack culled from his concept albums. The Halloween Horror Nights mazes feature themes of unending darkness, eternal torment and unimaginable horrors inspired by the song lyrics.
8) Trapped -- The up-charge maze during Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm in California takes up to six people through a labyrinth of locked rooms with increasingly dire consequences. Trapped takes visitors from a rank-smelling bathroom to a confining cage filled with rats to a morgue where the dead come to life. Participants must solve puzzles or make unpalatable choices to escape each room and ultimately the maze itself.
7) The Passing -- Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom introduced the new up-charge maze at this year’s Fright Nights. With a suffocating burlap sack over their head, each person is sentenced to death and must blindly make their way through the claustrophobic maze to their own burial.
6) Chinese Wedding of the Departed -- After a terrible fire destroys a mansion, the family killed in the blaze returns as ghosts to haunt their former home. Wandering through the ruins, visitors to Ocean Park’s Halloween Bash in Hong Kong try to avoid the Matchmaker of the Underworld who plots to turn the living into brides and grooms for the ghostly children.
5) Alone -- Busch Gardens Tampa in Florida introduced the “solitary scare experience” in 2010 at Howl-O-Scream with the up-charge Alone maze that takes up to four people through the attraction at a time. The back-story involves an obsessive hoarder named Alexander Daedalus and his impressive collection of oddities. But whatever you do, don’t touch anything. During the tour, the scare actors call you by name and purposely split up your party.
4) Biohazard (Resident Evil) -- The haunted attraction at Universal Studios Japan brings to life the Resident Evil survival horror video game series and film franchise, known as Biohazard in Japan. The elaborate scare zone and stage show turns the New York area of the park into a live-action replica of the zombie-infested Capcom video game’s Raccoon City complete with Licker mutants, Cerberus dogs and Tyrant super soldiers. Moving among the park’s visitors, protagonists Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield battle monstrosities unleashed by the evil Umbrella Corporation, housed in Universal’s Terminator 2 attraction.
3) Down -- Go deep inside a stinking sewer pipe at Europa Park’s Horror Nights where you meet rats, spiders and other creatures slithering through the dark. Visitors walk and crawl through a dank and musty conduit lined with slippery walls and reeking of sewage.
2) Ghostly Legends -- Ocean Park asked visitors to vote on the most haunted places in Hong Kong and turned the survey results into a maze at Halloween Bash. A possessed and demented disc jockey serves as the guide through 10 Hong Kong haunts populated by supernatural beings like an eight-headed girl, an ice crystal monster and a woman covered in butterflies.
1) Take Away -- Prepare to have your appetite spoiled at Europa Park’s Horror Nights during the grand opening of a Chinese fast food restaurant (known as “take away” in Germany). The Take Away maze at the German theme park sends visitors on a behind-the-scenes tour of the disgusting kitchen where a cleaver-wielding cook prepares caged cats as the main course.