By Charly SHELTON
This week, we reach our last Halloween event to be covered. Two weeks ago, we started with Knott’s Scary Farm, which is clever in both effects and themes, and less crowded. Last week we looked at Universal Studios Hollywood which, while the lines are massively long, provides incredible production values and mazes based on film and TV properties which many know and love. And now we come to the last of our “parks,” Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor.
To be perfectly honest, I was a little upset by this event. Upon much reflection, it is because I held Dark Harbor up to the same professional standard as the other two parks and not what I now feel it actually is- a very elaborate private (home or community) level haunt in a great location.
Side note, before we jump in- this event is not for anyone who may have physical issues. I am able bodied, at least enough to where I don’t limit any activity because of physical issues, and I was not comfortable going through some of these mazes. There were issues in some mazes- sliding panels as a walkway, a dropping walkway that launches guests into the air (I got about two inches off the ground), a quagmire of set dressing across the path to catch a foot under and a lack of lighting to the point where traffic through the maze slows to a crawl as the front guest feels ahead into the darkness to make sure there isn’t a wall there- that made me hesitant to enter the next maze. The sign out front of each maze warns “Some areas of the property have uneven surfaces and low ceiling spaces. As is the case with all historical properties, please use care when navigating your way through mazes and the general area.” But uneven surfaces and launching into the air are decidedly different. This event is not for anyone who dislikes unsure footing or walking through near-total darkness for extended periods.
That being said, the event is pretty good for what it is. Six mazes, a paintball adventure and a sideshow with mini-mazes comprise the event, set in and around the famous Queen Mary. An infamously haunted ship, don’t be surprised if you come home with shadows or floating unexplained orbs in your pictures. I did. Three mazes are set inside the ship, going through the dark underbelly of a steamliner and even above the unused pool of the ship, one of the most active haunt spots in America. The mazes are themed to a point- the story of the maze is set up outside in the queue but once you step inside the maze itself, it just sticks to the basics. Not that it is necessarily bad, just that there seem to be very few real scenes to do with the theme and more theming spread through the maze overall. And it is spread a long way. These mazes are so long. It is impressive just how far these mazes go. It takes, on average, roughly three minutes to go through a maze at the theme parks, in my experience. The mazes here take almost 10 minutes to get through, and not from creeping through the dark. They are wound through the village shops area, in the event dome, in the parking lot and three mazes through the ship, and by my estimate, these six mazes cover the ground of over a dozen mazes elsewhere.
With long mazes and a great location, this is an interesting event. But it is not up to par with the other two parks in this article series. There were no really cool effects that push the envelope like the other two had. The theming and story of the mazes fell a little flat, the performers were only ok- some were just annoying and not scary- and overall if I personally had to choose between going to this one or either of the other parks, I would choose one of the others. Now that is on the professional scale. On the private haunt level, like you would find in so many communities around the area, it is spectacular. It is right on that border where it is too good to be called private and too low to be called professional. Whatever you call it, it makes for a fun night out at Halloween time. Just make sure to bring your own flashlight, and watch where you step.