RATING: 4 +/- Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: *Not Timed
The originator of grand-scale Halloween events tested their hand with a new experiment in interactive horror.
Knott’s Scary Farm is unquestionably the grand-daddy of all large scale Halloween events. Originating almost twice as many years before that other well known seasonal juggernaut, it should come as no surprise that “The Haunt,” as it is affectionately known, would introduce its fair share of industry firsts.
Perhaps none bigger than in 2012; Knott’s wanted something unique for the 40th anniversary of the Halloween Haunt – inventing a new genre of boutique attraction that would be part immersive, personalized maze and part escape game: they called it Trapped.
During its three season run from 2012 through 2014, Trapped would offer entirely different experiences each and every year. Nothing would remain the same, except for perhaps its most appealing feature: Trapped was designed to be a personal experience. For the first time, guests were guaranteed to not be paired with strangers or sent through in large groups. To the contrary, a $60 reservation allowed more than up to six to enter together- meaning you could split the cost among the group, or experience it entirely alone.
Each year, Trapped was structured essentially without a central narrative, instead being presented as a sort of collection of unrelated nightmares. Its victims would flow from one to the next to the next, with no hope of ever waking up able to save them. Trapped was a literal endurance test of a group’s bravery.
Because each year followed the same format, we have elected to present them together in this single review – but it will carry a hybrid structure mixing our standard escape game format with that of our haunted attraction reviews. It only seems appropriate for such a hybrid style of attraction.
Trapped’s debut year came with much fanfare, and even more mystique. Knott’s Scary Farm was completely silent on what guests could expect within, and as such refused to share even the slightest glimpse of what might lie within. It was years after its run before the first pictures of Trapped would finally start to trickle out of the fog (and we hope that more might haunt our memories in the future.)
Knott’s wisely took a very elaborate approach with their first up-charge haunted attraction. Scenic quality from room to room far surpassed that of one of their standard haunts at the time. Trapped’s first outing would set the tone of the miscellaneous assortment of nightmares that would become standard fair for the attraction’s subsequent years.
Beginning in an absolutely filthy bathroom, brave souls would venture into an absolutely filthy rat cage and through an absolutely filthy kitchen. Perhaps you sense a theme. Although distinctly different worlds, none of them were the type of welcoming environment you’d likely be comfortable spending any sort of extended period of time within.
The boutique nature of Trapped, thanks to its incredibly small group sizes per show, allowed Knott’s to dip their toe in a whole new world of hyper-personalized, highly interactive scares. Forget about safety in numbers. Everything could, and very likely would happen to you, personally.
Some of this resulted in very effective and memorable moments, like summoning the spirit of Bloody Mary herself in a tight space full of mirrors, only to have her break through the glass right in our faces.
Other moments, though, were memorable for all the wrong reasons, like in the kitchen, where a very large man dressed in grandma’s nightgown forced one member of our group to eat mealworms. Yes. Real worms. And yes, forced. Had they refused, our experience would have ended, without refund. Here’s the thing – eating a bug isn’t scary, it’s just disgusting. And frankly, it’s a cheap means of going about a scare. Thankfully for all involved, someone else on our team was chosen to share a bite. If you’re wondering, apparently cooked mealworms taste somewhat like cheetos. And they’re just as crunchy.
A very effective false ending found us back in the park’s arcade (where Trapped was located in its first year) – full of functioning video games, and even a person playing one. Stopped by a park employee to take our group photo, we would quickly realize this whole thing was a rouse as monsters charged at us rather unexpectedly from all angles.
As one might expect, Trapped’s puzzles were on the easier side – a wise move for a lot of reasons. The intense atmosphere made even the simplest tasks feel significantly more challenging – and any higher degree of difficulty would have hindered the steady flow of the attraction from group to group.
Puzzles ranged from finding hidden objects, such as a key deep inside a filthy toilet in the bathroom scene to interacting with actors while summoning Bloody Mary to appear. Others forced us to work together as a group to maneuver an impressive moving hallway that required every body within it working in unison to successfully pass. Other puzzles were more like dares, such as the aforementioned kitchen scene. Everything culminated with, naturally, our deaths – requiring each member of the team to lie in rest inside either a sealed coffin, or even tighter morgue drawer.
TRAPPED: THE NEW EXPERIMENT (2013)
Year two would see Trapped expanded from two to three identical paths to further increase its impossibly-low-for-a-major-theme-park capacity. Still a disjointed collection of assorted nightmares, Trapped: The New Experiment felt the shortest of any of its three seasons, and by far was its least compelling.
At one point, we found ourselves trapped inside a padded cell – one where the walls were clearly intended to close in upon us with dramatic effect. Unfortunately on our visit, it did not work. Perhaps even more unfortunately, we’ve heard very similar experiences from several others throughout the 2013 season.
Trapped: The New Experiment’s most memorable piece of scenic was its finale- a long, winding air duct that forced players to squeeze their way through the most confined spaces you could ever imagine. Thankfully for those claustrophobic like me, an alternate route was available through a sewer tunnel below the ducts.
Again, Trapped relied on a cheap scare for it’s most noteworthy moment of fear. No – nothing needed to be digested this time around – but an unlucky member or two of your team may have gotten much closer to a living tarantula than they might have otherwise volunteered to do.
From there, the entire group was instructed to crawl through a narrow tunnel full of spider projections. Yes – you read that correctly – CGI spiders, rather than the real deal. I’m not a fan of spiders at all, but even I felt entirely comfortable thanks to such a misguided effect.
For all the wrong reasons, Trapped: The New Experiment’s single most memorable moment was it’s finale – or, let me be more clear, it’s complete lack of finale such to the point that we had no idea the experience had ended. After crawling through the vents, groups found themselves in a completely empty lounge-type-space, full of black curtains, two or three small stand-up tables and basically nothing else. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, save one actor standing alone at a table in the middle of the room. Naturally, we gathered around him because we had literally no reason to believe the attraction had ended. He placed a simple shirt button on the table and began a long winded interaction about what we should do with it. He asked us what we do with a button. Press it? No. We would do nothing with it, because it’s a button. And that’s how Trapped: The New Experiment ended for us. We were also surprised to learn he was apparently a zombie.
2013 just wasn’t a good year for Trapped. As such, it probably should come as no surprise that this was also the weakest year for its puzzle components.
The New Experiment began with promise, as our group was dropped in front of a closed elevator and left alone without explanation to brute force the combination of buttons that would eventually open the doors for us. Unfortunately the quality of subsequent challenges dropped faster than the elevator itself ever could have.
At one point we found ourselves digging with our bare hands inside the cut open chest of a living victim in hopes of finding a key card amid a whole lot of realistic (and sticky) blood. From there we reached a flooded electrical room, were we were forced to complete a human circuit to restore power amid severed wires, apparently electrocuting the technician submerged in the water in the process.
Unfortunately, not much more of note occurred during Trapped’s second year.
TRAPPED: LOCK & KEY (2014)
Admittedly, we were surprised to see Trapped return for what would become it’s third and final season. We thought for certain after such a sub-par year in 2013, there was no hope of a new Trapped offering in the future. Much to our surprise, that would not prove to be the case – and in fact we gave serious consideration to skipping its third year entirely. Thankfully, we didn’t.
Trapped: Lock & Key proved to be the franchise’s most solid year. Beginning by inexplicably being forced to get on all fours and have our backsides paddled (I don’t make the rules) we would find ourselves in what felt to be a much longer version of the attraction than the previous year. Each room was full of surprises, including a multi-floor scene and a rather odd Silence of the Lambs flavored moment where we found ourselves at the bottom of a well.
Trapped: Lock & Key put clear effort into making its scares fare more interactive than past years. One moment, cornered in a child’s bedroom as the menacing Boogeyman approached, we were forced to hide – our only options being the two most dangerous places to do so in that scenario – inside the closet or under the bed. The choice you made impacted the path you’d take – as those who went under the bed found themselves sliding down to a lower level where they were forced to navigate a narrow crawl-space under the floor, while those in the closet had a much less claustrophobic path above them, and the task of guiding the others throw through their underground maze from above.
We’d be remiss if we failed to mention another of those “cheap scare” gross-out moments that a member of your group was forced to participate in. This time, we found ourselves in a shed with a questionable character who was, for some reason, hording urine in assorted mason jars. I don’t think I even need to point out after the bug incident in year one that someone was expected to drink it. At least this time, it wasn’t authentic, but that didn’t make it taste any less bitterly disgusting. We’re still not sure how something like this constitutes a “scare.”
Trapped’s terminal year culminated in a grand scale, memorable finale. After witnessing a planted actor who had been with us from time to time throughout the experience be hanged by the neck and killed, it would be our turn. Marched to the gallows, hooded with nooses actually placed around our neck in the pitch black darkness, we would be forced to wait for our fate to be sealed. And then, with a shudder and drop of the floor, we, too, would be “executed.”
Trapped: Lock & Key’s puzzles felt much more organic to its world, forcing us to make several choices that carried clearly implied consequences for our actions. As a result, they felt way less like simple puzzles and way more like realistic tasks we would be forced to participate in “if it were real.”
The experience started strong with each member of the group handcuffed to the wall – attached to a lengthy maze of pipes that we would each be forced to navigate our way through on our own to reach the keys to (momentary) freedom at the other end of the room.
Other moments would see us obtaining a key sought by the sinister hillbilly who trapped us in that well, forcing us to drop it in a basket and trade it for our release into the next nightmare.
Though not the first major theme park to offer a boutique additional cost haunted attraction during their Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm raised the bar by taking it from just a haunt to a hybrid escape game. Perhaps more impressively to further illustrate how far ahead of the curve they were, they did so in a time before escape games were as commonplace (or even known in the first place, generally speaking) across the United States.
Unfortunately Trapped’s run was short- spanning just three seasons. It’s sad to think of how this concept could have continued to evolve in a world that clearly was never meant to be. Thankfully Knott’s sent Trapped out on a high note after it’s most memorable season, leaving us with memories that would haunt our nightmares for years to come. Like the button.
Venue: Knott’s Scary Farm
Location: Buena Park, California
Number of Games: 1
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: Not timed.
Capacity: 4 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: This event’s limited seasonal run has ended.