By Gustavo Arellano
By Aimee Murillo
By Matt Coker
By Vickie Chang
By Matt Coker
By LP Hastings
By Michael Goldstein
By R. Scott Moxley
As Knott's area manager of live entertainment, it's his responsibility to select the monsters that will roam the Haunt's "scare zones"—Ghost Town, Necropolis and CarnEvil. And every year, there's a massive pool to choose from. On an early morning in August, hordes of hopefuls line up for the chance to join what many see as a legacy, a band of dedicated freaks.
"I love scaring the crap out of people," says Aaron Frame, who'd been anxiously waiting for his 18th birthday so he could finally audition. "As a monster, you get to be someone you're not—without being put in a mental institution."
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Category: Attractions/Amusement Parks
Region: Buena Park
Those who make the cut are sent to Knott's Scare School, where they learn the basic rules (including never touch or strike a guest) and various scare techniques (such as use your entire body, not just your voice). Within the group of 1,000 monsters, there's a known hierarchy. Rookies usually start off working the mazes, hiding in dark corners and waiting for guests to pass by. A more prestigious role is being assigned to the streets. There, each monster takes on a complete persona (an angry horse breeder put under a spell by a gypsy, for instance), which he or she develops and perfects for months or even years. More veteran monsters can also be certified to be "sliders"—those who get on knee pads and slide up to guests to scare them.
For the monsters who come back year after year, the thrill of scaring the living daylights out of complete strangers is something that never gets old. "It's like getting off a roller coaster, and you've got that high, and you just want to get on the next one," says Roger Ricalde of Cypress, a 43-year-old grocery-store clerk who has been working at the park for 26 years. The monster experience often extends beyond Haunt hours. They meet up regularly for social events such as bowling nights and themed parties, and after Halloween is all over, they hold an awards ceremony at which trophies are doled out for Best Monster, Best Rookie, Most Creative and Most Dedicated. In the past, monsters have made jackets that read, "Haunt monster: It's not something you do, it's something you are."
"These are the people who spent their childhood scaring their little brother or sister," says Jeff Tucker, entertainment supervisor at Knott's, describing the growing subculture. "It's a lot of work, but once guests come rushing in, and they enter the fog, and you start hearing the screams, it's all worthwhile."
This article appeared in print as "Forty Years of Fear: Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt is still scary after all these years."
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