Friday, October 29, 2010

Knott's first Halloween Haunt, 1973

Today's images come from the Knott's Berry Farm Collection at the Orange County Archives, and show the first Knott's Halloween Haunt, in 1973. Note that the event ran for only three nights -- not an entire month, like today. Also note, in the photo below, the much shorter lines at the entrance gate.
Today, the Haunt is a juggernaut and brings in much of the theme park's profits for the year. The majority of Knott's backstage warehouse space is filled with Haunt props and equipment, and a surprisingly large portion of the year is spent preparing for this lucrative event.
In the photo above, two of Knott's roving "monsters" take a break backstage. That's the least menacing Frankenstein's Monster I've ever seen. The Haunt has gotten a lot scarier over the years.
When the first Haunt was held, the new Gypsy Camp section of Knott's had just opened. It was a flop and didn't last long, but they made good use of it during the Halloween festivities. The photo below shows what appears to be a costume contest on a big outdoor stage in Gypsy Camp.
In the photo below, Haunt host Sinister Seymour (of local late-night TV fame) poses for a photo with participants in a Seymour look-alike contest. The group is standing in front of the newly opened John Wayne Theatre in Gypsy Camp.

In case I don't get the chance to blog again this weekend,... Have a happy, spooky, kooky Halloween!


Connie Moreno said...

Wait....WHAT? Tickets were only $4??? Wow, things have sure changed!! Great post!

Renee Fontes said...

I worked for Knott's in the 80's. We got to dress up and decorate our areas in the park. Our area was Fiesta Village so we had a pirate theme. It was so fun,I loved working there it's a great place to be a teenage employee!

Anonymous said...

I worked for the Hurlbut Amusement Company during the first three Halloween Haunts.

John Waite and Academy-award winning make-up artist Greg Cannom (of Mrs. Doubtfire fame) put the Haunt on the map.

Cannom provided Planet of the Apes costumes for several, and also one of Barbra Streisand. He is a genius.

Not all of the early costuming was "scary." I wore a baseball uniform, and one of the Chicken Dinner Restaurant waitresses I knew came as a housewife. She had her in curlers, wore a bathrobe with fuzzy slippers, with a couple of pieces of toast in her pockets. Hilarious, but not appetizing.

James Woest said...

That "Frankenstein's Monster" - with the suit and forehead scar, that's Herman Munster, no?

Chris Jepsen said...

I guess so, Jim. But it looks like a teenaged version. I'm trying to think who the kid reminds me of -- but it's certainly not Fred Gwynne.

Major Pepperidge said...

The fact that the first Halloween Haunt flyer had Seymour is SO awesome! I still remember a funny bit that he did during the airing of "The Bride of Frankenstein".

Anonymous said...

I was at the very first Knott's Halloween Haunt in 1973, and I still have my original ticket stub. I went with a friend of mine from school as we were big Seymour fans and wanted to see his show. After the show we went to the bumper cars which were behind the theater. As we were getting in line, I noticed a back door of the theater opened and Seymour stepped out with two female fans and some guy. Seymour had his arms around each of the girls, talking with everybody. I told my friend "there's Seymour" and we watched him say goodbye to this friends and go back inside. We went the next year (1974) but they sold out at the gate, so we snuck into the park by jumping the wall at the Fiesta Village. I'll never forget it. I've been to the first 18 Knott's Halloween Haunts in a row before missing some years and breaking my streak.

Gary R. Salisbury said...

Many facts that are not True. The first Halloween Haunt was created by the Knott's Berry Farm's Entertainment Department, not the Log or Mine ride. The actual event was created by Bill Hollingshead, Gary Salisbury, Martha Boyd. The Planet of the Apes characters were done by Gene Witham, who was doing the major makeup. He said that some of the pieces were actually from the movie. I never heard of Greg Cannom, who in an above Blog is stated as the makeup artist that did the Planet of the Apes make up. Gene had worked for Universal Studios in the makeup show when I hired him as a street performer at Knott's. I have never heard of Greg Cannom being involved in Halloween Haunt and I hired most of the beginning players. Hurlbut Productions hired its own personnel.