Today – 4 SoCal haunts will present their 2022 plans – Bones Gulch, Fright Nights at Alesmith, Castle Dark, and Fear Farm. This presentation was recorded live during Midsummer Scream. Follow along to our Hauntathon:...
Today – 4 SoCal haunts will present their 2022 plans – Bones Gulch, Fright Nights at Alesmith, Castle Dark, and Fear Farm. This presentation was recorded live during Midsummer Scream. Follow along to our Hauntathon: https://linktr.ee/hauntedattractionnetwork
Welcome to Midsummer Scream. It's time for a look ahead to the 2022 Halloween season. With haunters representing some of the new and hottest attractions that need to be on your “must boo” list, please welcome to the stage partner at Bones Gulch, Tim Fowler, Creative Director of Fear Farm Rix Boxer, Events and Entertainment Manager at Castle Park Joseph Ancheta, Owner at Scareventures Kris Golojuch, and your host, Co-founder and Creative Director of Midsummer Scream, Rick West.
Rick West: Hi, everybody, we're almost there. I'm not going to cut you any slack. We're almost there, everybody tired? Yeah, the monsters are like, no, no. All right, cool, you guys can, if you want to scoot closer, you can. That's alright. Welcome to our campfire chat.
Rick West: Any Halloween fans in the house? Yeah, you're probably at the right place then. Good, good, and welcome. So, we're simply going to talk about a couple of the new haunts and some of the hot haunts that are coming to Southern California this Halloween season. Does that sound cool?
Rick West: So, let's just dive right into it. We have Fright Nights at AleSmith, and this is Kris Golojuch. Now, Kris, go ahead and tell us what this year's event is all about.
Kris Golojuch: So, this is actually our second year. Last year's Fright Nights, it was kind of something that got thrown together after COVID. The brewery wanted to do something, and it just morphed literally within like a 15-minute conversation. It went from just the decorations in the tasting room to, we went out back and I saw this huge warehouse and I'm like, "well, what about this space?" He's like, "hey, we're down for anything, you tell us what you want to do." So, we created a haunt, it went really well. We did seven nights, and they signed us up for season two after the first night. They were just like, "this was incredible. We had no idea we'd be this successful." So, the second logo there is actually our daytime for the kids, so it's like a trick or treat trail. We've done it for a long time, even with the Haunted Lodge, you'd run the kids through the first couple hours before the actual haunt opens, and they could trick or treat without the monsters and any of the scary stuff. We had friendly, camp guides and camp counselors, things like that.
Kris Golojuch: So, at Fright Nights, our theme, they have a beer called Evil Dead Red. So, we were looking at that and we're like, "well, how do we, you know, play off that?" We came up with this whole back story of Pa Zion, he raises like these dead scarecrows to harvest people, he shoves him into barrels, and it basically brews and turns into the Evil Dead Red. We have actually tasting stations in the maze for adults, they get to try stuff and they have no idea what they're trying.
Rick West: Wait, wait, wait. Hang on. Say that again slowly.
Rix Boxer: I need to go to this haunt.
Rick West: Because the people that are going to be excited about that need to hear it slowly today.
Kris Golojuch: So yes, there is an alcoholic component to our maze. However, we tried to balance it. I know a lot of people were kind of turned off by the Queen Mary doing the hidden bars. These guys actually wanted to do that at first and we thought, "no, I don't know if we like that. We kind of want to make it so that you don't have to do it." And you don't, it's totally an optional thing. There are just some things, it's completely immersive, and there's actually going to be a scene, I don't want to give too much away, but you'll actually be sitting down at a dinner table in doing kind of like a cheers and there'll be some beer there. But we also make it for the kids. So, if you're a designated driver, you don't drink, or if you are under 21, it totally works the same way. We know ahead of time so that they're not trying to force it, we do have bracelets on the adults, so we know who's been checked for IDs and all that.
Kris Golojuch: We start at the back, we're basically going backward, and the story goes from the brewery and the tasting room. You're seeing the product and now you're going, "hmm, I wonder how they made this," and you explore going backward. So, you go through the process of bottling, where they actually brew and age the barrels, and then back all the way back to the farmhouse. That's where our scarecrows are lurking with chainsaws and all that fun stuff.
Kris Golojuch: So, this year, we're definitely amping it up, we're not giving away any of the secrets other than the table with the cheers, that is something new. Last year we just kind of had a bartender thrown in as like a mock tasting room and they gave him whatever they had, and we had usually Sours. So, if you're not familiar with what a sour beer tastes like, you have no idea what you're drinking, and our actor is such a good ad libber, Steven, he was just playing off you. He'd hear your voice, he'd just think of something, and he'd just go off the rocker. I mean, we will be putting clips up on our TikTok, but some of the stuff he did last year was great. This year he'll have a better scene and get to interact with people a little bit more. So, real excited.
Rick West: So, you're going to have these interactive alcohol components in the trick-or-treat trail for the parents that have had it with all the kids, right?
Kris Golojuch: No. So, what we're doing this year that's new...
Rick West: I tried, sorry.
Kris Golojuch: We're doing the Haunted Beer Garden. So, before you even get in the maze, you do the check-in, and then everybody gets to go out to the beer garden. In the beer garden, we're going to have pumpkin carving and kids coloring sheets, things like that, so they have something to do before they actually go through the haunt and trick or treat. It's kind of similar to what they do in SeaWorld and other theme parks where we have stations set up throughout the maze. So, not only do they get to see a maze and kind of get them transitioned to get ready to do the scary thing one day, they also get to get candy and they have something to take home, some stickers and things like that. We're just trying to get the whole demographic and not just focus on the older folks.
Kris Golojuch: As far as the drinking, you do start off with either a pint, or you can wait till afterward. You don't have to drink it right at the beginning, but we do have that nice beer garden we're going to do that's going to have barrels, pumpkins, scarecrows, and we'll have a huge barn facade that you'll go through. Then, once inside the maze, it actually starts off right away, that's something new this year that our preshow thing will have like a taster kind of thing. Then in the maze itself, there will be two different portions, or interactive areas, that you'll get a sample. Like I said, you don't have to, you can keep going. So, if you don't drink, or you're with little ones and you don't want to help be held up, you can just keep going through the haunt and the actors will just keep going. It's not going to be a distraction at all. That's our goal.
Rick West: Yeah, that's cool. So, this is nothing new, some of these are older, right? From earlier, right?
Kris Golojuch: Yeah, so this was last year. Like the one on the far right, the red one, that was actually just our promo we shot. I actually shot that in my backyard. The one in the middle, that was one of our last night shots. That was the end, and that's something new we added to this year. We're actually going to have a Reaper's Row, which is a viewing area of all the chainsaw actions. So, you can come back with your point of beer, and you'll be disguised, hidden behind a fence with jute and things so they can't see you, and with lights shining out to blind them, but you'll get a first-hand view of what's going on.
Kris Golojuch: This guy, Pierce, he's like probably one of the best chainsaw actors in America. I'm not even kidding. I would give you a refund if you come down and tell me he's not, I mean, it's that good. I think three years ago he almost broke his leg and I'm like, "you got to get out of the maze," and he's like, "absolutely not. We got three more nights." That guy duct-taped his leg with like a rod and kept going. So, the guy is a menace and I love him, he's like a brother to me and he just loves his stuff, he lives for it.
Kris Golojuch: Then the far left, that was a promo we did for the trick or treat. That's actually one of the kids that went through, and his parents were willing to let him be in the image. So, I like the picture and I'm like, "that's a good place we could plug some things in there." That's kind of the look, so it's more like kidzee stuff. You can see in the daylight hours or a little bit of the light lighting, but it won't be too scary at all. In fact, the warehouse, it doesn't really get dark till about 7:00 o'clock. So, as you see the hours there, two to six, it should be well lit, so there should not be any kids running around. We had a couple last year just because they didn't know, and then once they started going, they realize there's candy involved, so they hang around.
Rick West: Kris has been haunting for a long time. Kris, how long have you been haunting?
Kris Golojuch: Ugh, given away my age. I started back in 1991. I was 11 years old, so I've been doing this a long time. I started as a home haunter like most of these guys, most of you that are in the haunt business, and just one day I tried to figure out how I could do this going pro without losing the farm. We found a niche that works. I mean, we do a lot of rental stuff that seems to be working really well, but pairing up with a partner like this that helps absorb the blow, especially the financial blow of things, it helps a lot.
Kris Golojuch: A lot of people don't realize the undertaking when they try to go pro and start a haunt, especially if you build it from the ground up. I mean, we know people have lost everything, even their house, their wife, their husband, whatever. So, it's very taxing on you. So, I would advise you if you're getting into this business, do your research, talk to one of us. You can talk to me anytime, I know some people have DMed me. I'll let you pick my brain, I don't want to see anybody lose everything. It's a tough business. I know it's easy to drive by and you see, you know, 1000 people in line somewhere it's like 20 bucks. You're doing the math. It doesn't work that way. There's so much behind the scenes, just like the show here.
Kris Golojuch: A lot of guys think they can go throw a convention together, there is so much behind this, and you guys don't realize all the undertaking. I don't mean just you, but there are people out there just, "so we can make a ton of money doing this." It's not the case, and these guys are the lifeblood, like some of the actors you see in our haunt, they're the reason we're successful. They make everything. I mean, if these guys were out of the maze, I think people just run through and be like, "whatever. It's like a decored house." These guys are my living blood and I love every one of them.
Rick West: That's awesome, man. I think that's one of the things that's really cool about the haunt community, right? Whether you're a haunt owner, a monster, or just a hardcore fan, it's a family. Southern California, especially Southern California more than really anywhere else, has that camaraderie in that family feeling. I think you guys have experienced it all here this weekend, right? You can feel that intent, it's the intangible, tangible, something that's in the air that really makes Midsummer Scream special because you guys are all here. I mean, we could throw a show on here, you guys could throw up a haunt, but without the lifeblood coming, it's nothing. So, it's family. That's what this community is, right? I like to always say this is our island of misfit toys. So, we all fit in here, and this is great.
Rick West: You guys are in San Diego, we should point this out, right?
Kris Golojuch: So, our haunt this year and last year was at AleSmith Brewery, which is up off of Miramar Rd. Pretty easy to get to from the 805 and 15. I know a lot of you guys are from up here in the LA area, so if you come down South, it's accessible from two different freeways. It's just a long industrial road right behind the base, the military base there where they shot Top Gun. So, you'll see as you're coming down, it will be on the South side of the road. I think the brewery is actually right where the museum is, there's actually like 5 retired aircraft, so you know you've hit it if you see that on the South side of the road. Are we discussing ticket sales or anything like that?
Rick West: You can.
Kris Golojuch: So, going back to tickets, we did launch tickets late last night to do like a soft opening. They went live today, officially, and right now we're actually running a promo on Instagram, and I'll probably share that on Facebook as well. Basically, if you go to our @ScareVentures Instagram page we're doing a ticket giveaway for at least 1 4-pack and probably several 2-packs. So, we'll just see how much traction that turns up. But, we'll definitely do a lot of giveaways to make it something that if you attended here. So, you guys get kind of first dibs, and I'll look at that after the presentation and see who got on there.
Kris Golojuch: We want to get some tickets up to the LA area, get you guys to come down. Like I said, this is like an event, so it's not so much like, "I'm just driving to San Diego for like a 15 haunt." It won't be. Last year we talked to some people, did exit polling, I think the average person spent about 3 hours at the facility. So, not quite theme park, but definitely ahead of going to just a standalone parking lot haunted house.
Kris Golojuch: Like I said, this year with the Haunted Beer garden, you're welcome to go back there afterward, you can also go to the reapers row. I think they want to do where you have to buy a pint or have a pint or drink to go back there and enjoy that. But there will be definitely different things to do, and there's just the brewery itself if you want to enjoy a good beer. AleSmith is one of the top breweries in the world, really, of micro-craft beer. It's that's one of the reasons we teamed up with them. It was a great opportunity.
Rick West: We love being scared. We love scaring people. But there's nothing better than watching people get the shit scared out of them. I think everybody's excited about Reaper's Row, right?
Kris Golojuch: So, we did it, I think, four years ago at The Lodge and it was kind of an unofficial viewing area. It just kind of built up over each weekend, and we had a weekend where I couldn't believe it, I couldn't get through the exit. I'm like, "guys, we got to keep this clear, the Fire Marshall is going to have a field day with this." We probably had about 100 people hanging by, all videotaping, and putting on social media, and it was great. So, that was kind of what inspired us, and the brewery was like, "Hey, how do we get people to watch that? A lot of people like that." Unfortunately, we had some logistic problems, we had people passing, so the exit and entrance were at the same spot. This year, we fixed that and it's all good. People love hanging out and watching this, and they love people crying. Now, true story. I've never had this happen, ever. We actually had one person soil themselves, #2, and she was so embarrassed her husband decided to tell everybody. You always hear about people saying they peed themselves. Whatever. That was impressive. We had to find out which actor did it, and of course, it was our chainsaw guys. She's like, "I came here just for a beer. They talked me into doing a haunt. I had no idea what this was. I thought it was going to be like people in sheets yelling Boo."
Rick West: Well, you tell her that now you can have another beer.
Kris Golojuch: So, she hung out, we took pictures, and we posted on Instagram, we're like, "is that OK?" She's like, "Yeah, it's fine. I just threw my underwear away." I was like, OK.
Rick West: Wow, wow. You want to know that kind of information. Let's talk about this. So, some of you guys know, I know there's a couple of CalHaunters in here, Beth has been my best friend and my partner for going on 10 years, actually 10 years this past June. Unfortunately, right before last Halloween, we found out she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and it was pretty gut-wrenching. I've been doing haunting so long you start to forget how old you're getting and the years passing by. She's actually a couple of years older than me, even then, we're still like, we just didn't think this would ever happen to us. You never do. You always think it's older people, people you don't know, it's somebody else, it's never going to happen to you. When it happens to you, it's just, I mean, it is literally a gut punch. So, the brewery came to us and said, "hey, you know, it's not too late, we can pull the plug. We totally understand." And it was Beth that was like, "no way. We're going forward. This is a great opportunity for you. I'm totally endorsing you doing this and going forward." So, we went ahead and went forward, and was very successful.
Kris Golojuch: But, none of my haunts have been as successful without her. She is like our ultimate haunt mom. She's in charge of all the actors. She gets reached out to because I become a complete a-hole during building and they know, "who can I contact? Oh, just contact Beth." She is the Ying to my Yang, so if they need to deal with somebody that has a calm manner, even in the stressful moments, two minutes before opening, they'll call her. She has everything under control. Even when she was sick, she was still going through this. Unfortunately, we couldn't do the Kristmas show. We had an awesome Nightmare before Kristmas haunt all planned out, and it just got too much because chemo started, and it was just like we knew we couldn't do it.
Kris Golojuch: So, you know, hopefully, we'll get to bring that back again in the future because we had a lot of cool things planned for you guys. So, we'll talk to Rick about that and David and see what's coming up on the schedule, but we definitely want to bring that back and hopefully return to the Hall of Shadows as well. That's something that some of you may remember we've done in the last few years. We did a fisherman one a few years back, and then we did the Thunder Mountain, Old West Saloon kind of thing, and I think we did one another. But it's always been a fun experience and if you get the chance, I would definitely recommend doing it.
Kris Golojuch: It definitely requires a good partner and Beth is that person. I couldn't be where I'm at right now without her. She has been my rock and she's gotten me through the darkest time, so I can only do the same for her, and we're hopefully getting there. She has had it removed, she went through chemo, we still have some treatments, what they call preventative, trying to make sure they got everything and then we'll find out, I think, February. Hopefully everything is clear, and she got a clear bill of health.
Kris Golojuch: So, we started this thing last year, Team Bethy Beaux, one of our friends, came up with the Beaux spelling based on, like, New Orleans. She'd seen a ghost and was like, "that's so cool. I love that boo." So, we decided to spell our name that way. I know some people say box, or they can't figure out what it is, but we came with that slogan, and the ribbon with my skull, and kind of made it nightmarish looking so it kind of matches our theme that we did. We did a night at the brewery which was really cool that they all recognized her. We sold some shirts, we have a few left, but you know, we're just trying to recognize her. Because like I said, all my guys, all my monsters, they love her to death. That is our haunt mom.
Rick West: Let's show some love for Beth. She's right here with those guys.
Kris Golojuch: One thing I want to mention is I've known Rick now, what?
Rick West: 800 years.
Kris Golojuch: So, it's been a while, and this guy will text me literally at 2:00 AM in the morning to check on Beth. We've built a really good friendship and I'm very grateful for that. I mean it's been nice to have somebody in the industry that, you know, not very close, we're obviously about 120 some miles apart, but he always checks on us, makes sure she's doing good, makes sure I'm doing OK and holding up on my end. I appreciate Rick and David checking in on us, and obviously having us here today, I appreciate it. We know the opening night is October 14th. The kid thing I believe is only like $10, and they get a bag of candy and I think the pumpkin was a couple of dollar upcharge, and all of the funds for that go to the Anvil of Hope, which is AleSmith's charity that they're part of. They do mostly at Kristmas time, but we decided to add an element for Halloween.
Kris Golojuch: We will be streaming live each night we're open. We're going to set the camera up in different sections to show some scare zones for people that can't make it. If you're familiar wit TikTok, I mean, we have people watching from like Germany, Japan, it's everywhere. So, it's kind of cool to showcase your work to the world because it's really a good platform to use. I think it'll be fun just to show some scary actors, you know, doing their thing and kind of showing it. Maybe not for maybe more than an hour or so, but just to give a tidbit of what's happening in the showcase or haunt.
Rick West: So, let's go to San Diego guys. From San Diego to the middle of the desert. How many people are familiar with Fear Farm? How many people have been in the Hall of Shadows this weekend? How many people saw that big ass one in the corner that almost touches the catwalk? That's Fear Farm, that's their monstrosity, and that's actually the biggest facade we've ever had in the Hall of Shadows. It's unbelievable. We walked in during install and the thing was almost done. I said, "you know, Rick, your problem is you have no vision, you have no drive, there's no creativity." It's just, it was beautiful and it's wonderful. Well, tell us about what you guys do. Explain to the folks where you guys are and what you do.
Rix Boxer: So, Fear Farm. We are out in Phelan California, most people do not know where Phelan is because we are small town out in the middle of nowhere. But we are just north of Hesperia, Victorville, that area, we're about 10 miles from there. We're located on a farm, an actual farm with pigs and chickens and all that stuff, we have all that stuff. This is a passion project that basically turned into a major operation. We employ over 50 people for this we do food, we have multiple haunted houses, we have a full bar, we have a store, we have all that stuff.
So, our attractions include we have our main house, which is a Victorian mansion classic haunted house. That's like the love, that's what got us into it. So, we do that and it's a big black house, it's 30 feet tall, it's a monster, and that's kind of our centerpiece of the whole thing. Then we also, this year, the Hall of Shadows haunt, we've decided we're going to turn that into a full-blown maze too. So, that's going to be added to it as well. We also have a ghost town and our haunted hayride as well, so we're very spread out, we got a lot going on.
Rix Boxer: It takes a team, and like he said before, actors and all of our people that that's what really makes it, you know? I mean that's what it's about. It's about our family, our core people, We have our core like 20 people that come back every year. Some of them have been with us for like, I don't know, 12, 15 years, we've lost count at this point because they've been with us for so long and everything. That's kind of the heart and soul of Fear Farm. Fear Farm is a passion project and I really mean that. We don't really do this for, you know, financial gain or any of that stuff, it's all about the love of Halloween and what we do?
Rick West: How long have you been doing for your Fear Farm? What was the spark that you're like, "You know what? We're going to do this thing out here."
Rix Boxer: So, Fear Farm itself is about 13 years old at this point. I've been doing haunted houses and putting them on since I was six, so this year is actually my 25th haunt season doing one. Yeah, pretty crazy. So, you better believe we're going to go all out and really bring it
Rick West: I believe you go all out. At Season's Screamings last year, in the Hall of Yuletide Spirits, they had the gingerbread house, if you guys remember that, which was fantastic. So, this is some of your scenic work, which is really, really good.
Rix Boxer: Oh, thank you so much. I mean, we just every room, room by room, and we just try to make it as best we can. Of course, we got to keep being safe and everything and up to code and all that stuff. We go by the book, but we really focus on the small things. We do it in square inches, you know, not square feet, square inches. It's like, even like there's like a dread of paint on the wall or something, it's like, "does it need more or something?" It's something that most people would just walk right by and not even notice, but to us, it's a big, big deal.
Rick West: Are haunters obsessive? Yeah, a little bit. No, we totally get that. And everything is big, how big is the property?
Rix Boxer: So that haunt area is 2 1/2 acres of property. The hayride is about 1/2 mile long and it zigzags through all kinds of stuff. We have a little woods area on our property and everything. It's actually outside, I mean, it's going to feel like you're on a farm. That's really important to us, the real aesthetic of things we want to feel believable, really, really believable.
Rix Boxer: Most of our sets, you're going to go buy real farm animals and you're going to see things like that, just because like they're babies. We love animals, you know? But they're kind of part of the attraction in a weird way. You know, it's like, the smells and everything else.
Rick West: Yeah, the smells are weird.
Rix Boxer: Yeah, smells are weird, but it actually does add to the whole ambiance of what we're doing for sure.
Rick West: I think that's awesome because you know, here obviously in Southern California, not a whole lot of like legit hayrides that are out in the middle of nowhere. You leave California and you find them across the United States. But a lot of people are so focused on living in SoCal or up in the Bay Area or whatever, you kind of forget that like between that and further out, there's a whole lot of space that's not utilized in California. So, knowing that just, you know, a short drive away we have a really cool, legit hayride to enjoy. I'm looking forward to it this Halloween. We're going to come. I've only seen their work in the Hall of Shadows, and then also at Season's Screamings. So, we're going to go for the first time this Halloween season and see what they're doing, because your stuff is crazy. It's really, really good.
Rix Boxer: Thank you so much, and like I said, it's a team effort. Usually, all the ideas start with my dad and I sitting at the dinner table would be like, "you know, it would be really funny if we did this to somebody?" And then we try to make it into something that's real. So, I mean, it means a lot hearing that kind of stuff for us.
Rick West: No, I think it's great. You guys approve? You like what they do? And you will have time, like if you haven't seen what they've done in the Hall of Shadows, you'll have time after this. Make sure you get down there and check it out. It's legit, it's crazy.
Rick West: All right, how many people have been to Castle Park in Riverside? I grew up as a little kid, going there to play miniature golf and even more importantly, the Big Castle there used to be like the mother of all video game arcades. So, I grew up going to Castle Park. I've actually never been to the Halloween event known as Castle Dark at Castle Park. Oh, this is going to get tricky. But, it has changed hands over the years and there have been different approaches. We have the brand-new pair of hands that it's in now and this is Joey and he's going to talk to us about what's coming this year to Castle Dark.
Joseph Ancheta: Hey guys. So, we are super excited, we are doing a brand-new look for Castle Dark this year, completely starting at the entrance and going with a whole story concept for the whole attraction this year. So, we're going to talk about 3 brand new mazes that we have this year.
Rick West: But these guys are important.
Joseph Ancheta: Of course, yeah. We can talk about these guys first. So, this is our brand-new creative team for the park, myself, Brian, Mandy, and Casey, you guys are out there somewhere. These guys are doing all the day-to-day heavy lifting for me because there is a lot going on. We are coming up close to opening soon, so we are very excited to be working together. Some of us, Casey comes from years and years of experience, Brian worked with me over at a Speed Zone Haunted Mini Golf last year. So, we're very excited to be on this team.
Joseph Ancheta: Alright, our first random maze is Jinx: Fun House of Terror. This is going to be a brand-new maze in the park. It is going to be a fun house featuring a mirror maze and quite some other fun new surprises that we won't get too into detail with. Jinx is our signature clown at the park, along with his partner Havoc, so you'll be seeing them run around the park and this will definitely be something fun. It's going back to a more retro approach to the haunt industry, if we all remember in the 90s how we used to do our haunts back then. So, you're going to be going back to a lot of black light lighting and stuff and that, so that's going to be a fun new maze that's awesome.
Rick West: That sounds really good.
Joseph Ancheta: The House Next Door, with everyone knowing the 80s is in right now, we are doing a party set in 1980s. As guests you're going to come in and find that this house is a during a pretty cool party, you're going to see a lot of retro decorations, but as you make your way through, there are some secrets in the house that you're going to have to explore. In the end you'll find out what the true evil is inside this house.
Rick West: That would be the clothing we wore in the 80s.
Joseph Ancheta: You're going to see a lot of that fun. There's a lot of fun costumes in that one that's going to be fun. Then this is the main event right here. This is Morgana's Revenge. Castle Park is home to Merlin's Revenge, which is our main roller coaster and character, Merlin, in the park. Morgana is the evil sorceress who has finally been released, and she has taken over the entire park. She has released an army of medieval characters in the maze, and as you go through the maze you're going to encounter, if you visit our booth you'll see, dragons and some other cool creatures and trolls and stuff, so it's going to go back. Very World of Warcraft style maze, and you'll like it.
Rick West: Yeah, there we go. Yeah, you can clap for that.
Joseph Ancheta: We also have two brand new scare zones. We have Medieval and our Midway. We're literally turning the park into two giant scare zones. What makes this very unique is these two scare zones can also interact with the mazes. So, what talent can be running from the streets into a maze and back from the maze into the streets. It gives our talent a big diversity of experiences, and we have a very special surprise for you. So, somewhere out there under your seat, there are four tickets out there, and there are 4 4-packs of tickets if you look under your seat.
Joseph Ancheta: So, we're going to be opening on September 23rd. We'll be running Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays. If you stop by our booth in the exhibit Hall 647, we're giving out promo codes right now for half off right, and the ticket does include access to all three mazes, 2 scare zones, and 27 attractions inside the park, and mini golf as well.
Rick West: Who's going to go to Castle Dark this year? Who's scaring at Castle Dark this year?
Joseph Ancheta: Jinx is actually right there. There he is.
Rick West: All right, well, thank you. Thank you for being with us. That's exciting.
Rick West: All right, Bone's Gulch. Now, we're going to go through an English lesson here, because this is tricky. There's an apostrophe after that S, so it's not Bone's Gulch. Mr. Tim, how are you, brother?
Tim Fowler: How you doing, man?
Rick West: Let's see, you're showing us a picture of your wood. That's fantastic.
Tim Fowler: You're welcome, I thought you'd appreciate it.
Rick West: Everybody here has already seen many pictures of Tim's wood, so this is great. What the hell are you people doing up there in Castaic these days?
Tim Fowler: Well, the three of us, Scott Sibley, Greg Packer, and I, you know, 3 home haunters are coming together, partnering with the museum for the Sheriff's Department, and doing a charity haunt.
Rick West: So, let's back this up for a second. You do, also...
Tim Fowler: The Farm Haunt.
Rick West: No, he's at our booth.
Rick West: He's a good man. Scott Sibley, who did Beware of the Dark Realm for, what, 50 years, right? A million years. He is partnered with Tim. Then the third component of your show is?
Tim Fowler: Greg Packard.
Rick West: And Greg Packard, I think that Greg Packard is probably in the house, right There he is. Also, Greg and Tim have been very instrumental over the years in bringing all of the amazing entrances to Hall of Shadows to life for us also. So, actually, that's cool, that means it's pictures of all three of your wood, I guess, right?
Tim Fowler: Yeah, yeah.
Rick West: Let's move on, shall we? So, here's what's cool, this is like such a brand-new haunt that most of the pictures, in fact, all the pictures we're going to see are what they're doing up there. It's pretty phenomenal, as I was putting it together, it looks like any construction process, anybody that builds haunts looks kind of the same. But let's talk about the conditions, what's your average temperature up there while you're building this haunt?
Tim Fowler: It's been about a hundred, hundred plus every day. So, all of us work. We work on the weekend, so we show up at, you know, 7:00 AM about 1:00 o'clock it's too hot and we got to leave. So, this is our first build day, May 21st. So, what you're seeing here is... We've been about it about two months, and we've got quite a bit done.
Tim Fowler: The haunt itself is located at Jack Bones Equestrian Center in Castaic. We're about 3 exits past Magic Mountain right off the five, and we're about 5 minutes off the freeway.
Rick West: Yeah, that's nice. Now, tell us the story again, how were you approached to do this project? How did it come about?
Tim Fowler: So, Scott approached Greg and I prior to 2020 if we'd be interested in doing something more. Scott was inquiring with the city of Santa Clarita to see if they would donate A piece of property, anything to get until we could do something. on Halloween of 2021, Scott was approached by the Sheriff's Department, the gentleman that runs the museum. They were impressed by his heart and said, "would you be interested in doing something more? We have this event space up in Castaic." And that's where it started.
Rick West: That's pretty remarkable because I mean, anybody that works in haunt stuff will tell you, finding a location is a freaking nightmare, usually. Unless you own a farm. Finding, especially in Southern California, finding a space to do a haunt, especially if you want to expand and make it like a pro big dealio, that's a cherry situation, man.
Tim Fowler: They've really been a great partner because they've been really awesome to deal with. We showed them what we wanted to build, they're like, go for it. They're taking care of all the operations, as in the logistics of parking, insurance, fire, and all that stuff because it's on their property, it's at Pitchess Detention Center. So, it's right outside the jail, so it's on sheriff's property. It has already a little ghost town there where they hold their chili cook-off, so we have a scare zone already built in, it has a stage. We're building the haunt and you know, it's been a blast. I mean, time's ticking away, so obviously we're getting a little nervous. So, I wanted to send you these pictures and show you, this is what we got and we're cranking on it.
Rick West: So yeah, it's pretty awesome. Yeah, that's your first day of build right there, you wrote that?
Tim Fowler: I wrote that on top of the wall, I was up on the ladder.
Rick West: That's awesome. And he's always in the camera too, apparently. Greg is somewhere sweating his ass off in Tim's doing selfies.
Tim Fowler: Hey, I got a got to document it man.
Rick West: It's great. Awesome, yeah.
Tim Fowler: So, fortunately, every weekend we got people up there helping us get this together. This is completely volunteer, all of our time. We're doing this because we love it and we're raising money for the sheriff's museum?
Rick West: That's awesome. I love that middle picture. What's going on there?
Tim Fowler: That's Greg showing my boy Leo, drilling holes. That was our first day of building. So, my son's up there pretty much every weekend, helping out as he can.
Rick West: I love that, because you're looking literally right at the next generation of haunter right there. Now let's talk about this, because I went through his pictures and I'm like, "OK, I've seen so many pictures of Tim's wood." He's still laughing at that, it's so old. I noticed, you know, you see the framework, you see the facades going up and then suddenly there's all this rock work, and any haunter will be like, "where the hell did you get that cool rock work?" Let's talk about that.
Tim Fowler: All right, so it was a Sunday, me and Greg were driving to get a beer actually, and we drove by a parking lot, one of the studios, and we saw it all out in the parking lot. So, we pulled in, the security guard, said, "yeah, come back tomorrow." Long story short, we just went in and asked, "what are you doing with it?" They called, I think it was CBS, this is from Star Trek. They said, "you know, if you guys can take it, that is just going to save us the money from throwing it in the trash." So, many, many truckloads of giant, giant foam, sketchy truckloads, people were looking at us, it was hanging off the back, some of those pieces are as big as a car, but it was all donated to us.
Rick West: That's pretty amazing. I mean, everything for this haunt, it seems like everything is like literally falling into place, right?
Tim Fowler: Yeah, if we just had a few more months, you know, if we could find that. But we'll get it done.
Rick West: This is great. Well, you know, if you want to get people out of the jail, you could have extra hands helping you. And the Sheriff's, you can have a good security team too, so you're pretty set.
Tim Fowler: And ticket sales went live yesterday, so if you come by our booth, we do have a promo code for $5 off through Eventbrite. We're going to be open six nights every Saturday in October and the last Sunday, and October 30th we also are doing a daytime kid-friendly event for one day.
Rick West: Oh, that's awesome. That's really cool. OK, so let's just get into general questions and just some general discussion. When did you guys realize that, like everybody here, you were in love with Halloween and everything spooky?
Joseph Ancheta: I will say it's because my mom's birthday is the day before Halloween. Rest in peace. But we grew up in our family watching scary films, and unfortunately, I was forced to watch them.
Rick West: No, fortunately you were, because now you're here doing this.
Joseph Ancheta: So, I officially fell in love with it. I remember exactly. It was 1997 and my uncle and dad forced me to go to Knott's Scary Farm for the first time, and I was terrified, and I fell in love with it.
Rick West: You just made me feel really freaking old, man, I just want to say.
Joseph Ancheta: At that time is when my family decided they're going to start doing home haunting. We started our home haunt, and ever since then, no matter where I go, each park, it ends up somehow being Halloween.
Rix Boxer: My aunt and uncle used to do their porch. Just, you know, basic stuff, just a tarp, strobe, black lights, couple tombstones. My uncle would dress up as a monkey in like fighter pilot gear. He had this air horn, a truck air horn, and I just remember being really, really young and watching people just booking it down the street from this guy with the air horn. I'm like, "OK, I need to figure out what the mechanics of this," at a young age. That was basically how I fell in love.
Tim Fowler: Yeah, my mom took me to Scary Farm when, I think I was 10. She was at the first one, I think she's been to most of them since. You know, growing up we did Knott's. My dad started home haunting, I guess he didn't even know it was home haunting at the time. We're decorating Halloween, but my dad built these coffins and guillotines. And, you know, it's ever since...
Kris Golojuch: I'm hearing a common theme of matriarchs because I'm right there with you guys. I think I came out of the womb and said, "pumpkin!" Ever since then, Halloween was always, holidays in general, were big in my family, my grandparents, both my grandmothers and my mom. So, I was immersed in Hallmark and anything else that came from the 80s, all that good stuff, the little ceramics. So, holidays were big and then I think I went to like a high school haunt and that kind of gave me, "oh, this is kind of crazy. I didn't know people did this." Then in 1990, I went to the Wild Animal Park down in San Diego and they did a really awful thing, but it was a thing. So, I was like, "OK, let's go." We didn't know, we got all excited and it was just a letdown. It wasn't awful, it's just a letdown. They described it as something more than what it was, but I'm like, "What can I do with this and make it better?" That's really how we started. I did my first little haunted trail in 1991, and it was inspired by the year previous that the Wild Animal Park actually did something called the Haunted Trail and we just kind of ran with that. Then in, I don't know, I want to say like, maybe early 2000s I joined CalHaunts and picked up some tricks, we trade traits, and some effects, the Meyers. It was a good group of people, and it made me feel like, "OK, I'm not the only weirdo out there. There's other people like me and they embraced me, and OK let's go with this." That was kind of what helped me get me from home haunt to pro, was just finding out there's more people like me and getting that encouragement to grow. And so for CalHaunts, I'll always be in debt to just because that's my beginning. I know I haven't been to a meeting in like 45 years, but I will get to one soon. I think I had a good reason why we didn't do this year. But we'll be back and like I said, that's family to me, just like MSS.
Rick West: Lots of CalHaunts here, right? That's awesome. It's hard to see, but I just realized holy shit it's Diane Mayer right there in the front. It's a long running joke, sorry guys. So, the question that I I'm thinking that some people may have is how do you make that jump? Like, you're doing your pro haunt, you're dressed up like a monkey fighter pilot on the porch and you realize, I really want to make a go of this and turn this into a thing. So, what do you do to make that jump?
Joseph Ancheta: Well, I will say, I started off as a scareactor at Universal. Then, all of a sudden, it just happened, I fell into joining their production team with John Murdy. Once I fell in love building with them, I was like, "OK, I'm going to be in this, probably this is my career for the rest of my life," and working on The Walking Dead attraction. Once I left Universal, I was like, "I'll try some other entertainment, you know?" I did Great Wolf Lodge, and I was like, "well, I kind of want to go back to Halloween," and here we are. So, we're at Castle Dark now. I feel like once you do your home haunt and you really get into it, and then you start following, I don't know, like TPA videos, I grew up watching that, and you just really want to learn how to do that and build. I think it was Season of Screams, the DVD, that when that came out, that's where I was like, "OK, I want to do this as a pro." That's where I started my journey on learning how to do it.
Rick West: Now, you're kind of in a unique situation, Rick, because it's a home hunt, but pro Hunt on your homestead.
Rix Boxer: Hey, we have the space, so you we're going to use it. I don't have to pay rent. Honestly, what got us to that point was, we were doing it and we were just taking donations and stuff, and one night 4000 people showed up. We kind of all looked at each other and we're like, "yeah I think we need to you know, try to see where we can go with this." It became a pro haunt accidentally, you know. I mean it went from a passion to a pro haunt. Then, you know, we basically were just trying to do all the research we can, trying to figure out permits and what does the fire department want from us, and all that other stuff, all those steps. How do we make things safer so it's better for the general public to come through. A lot of learning curve from, went to YouTube University and a lot of that going on and then it just kind of shaped up, it kind of all fell together.
Rick West: You hit on something that I want to comment about. You said YouTube University, that's like, no joke. Because you look now at the younger haunters, if they want to know how to do something, how to create a widget, all you have to do is type that in the search and you have a million different videos on YouTube about how to make said widget. So, I think that's very apparent in the Hall of Shadows this year. We haven't had a hall of shadows here in three years and so seeing everything being built and seeing everything come to fruition, it just really struck me as I was watching it all go up, that everything is just like leaps and bounds, even beyond what it was in 2019 when we had the Hall in there. So, the level of sophistication is really growing as younger haunters, and older haunters, really have anything they want to learn at their fingertips. So, I think that is really cool and it’s really kind of setting us into a warp drive at this point. The question is, where does it end? Because the line between amateur haunt and pro Haunt is becoming very thin and very blurred at this point.
Rix Boxer: You know, the general public, people that come through, a lot of them are going to compare what we do to films and stuff they see on screen. So, we have to step it up, we have to be the best we can be just so that we can get the approval rating of that. There's all these, you know, Disneyland and everything else, we do get compared to that whether we like that or not. You can make a positive out of that, and that just fuels your drive to make it as good as you can be, you know?
Rick West: No, I think that's really cool, that's very cool. I can't wait to come out and see. Tim, how about you, man? How do you go from the front yard to bigger and crazier things?
Tim Fowler: I mean, this opportunity... Going pro, I mean, of course I think every home haunter has thoughts of it. But in this, the stars aligned with this one. This place, the location is 3 miles from my house, Scott's close, Greg makes the trek out every weekend, and we all get along. We have a good partner with the Sheriff Department Museum and they're giving us a great opportunity. Financially, if we were to do this on our own, it probably would never happen.
Rick West: I hear that. What a blessing, right?
Tim Fowler: It's pretty crazy. Every time we're up there, I'm like, "wow, this is, this is big, you know, it's not my garage and front yard anymore."
Rick West: That's really cool, man.
Kris Golojuch: Well, I'll be blunt. In 2009 when I went pro, I had a really good job with the Pepsi Bottling Group. I'll never forget meeting with HR and making that jump, because they're like, "there's no way you can do both. It just sounds like you're going to be overwhelmed." The hours that I had to apply to Pepsi, it just wasn't going to work out. So, I'll never forget walking out with that severance check, just looking at it and going, "well, this is it. There's no going back." I haven't gone back, and I've made it work. There's been rough years, but there's been some really good years, and that's why I was saying earlier, if you're going to make that jump, do your research, pick somebody's brain. I mean, like the guys were saying, work for somebody else first, learn something. I know some places don't like that, because they're going to give away their tips and tricks and things like that, and there are some guys that don't like that, but there are some that'll encourage you to grow.
Kris Golojuch: I would encourage some people to avoid going pro just because of the scary risk, but if you've done your proper research, you can make it work. There's still niches out there to be found. I mean, it's happening every year, look what 17th Door did, they came out of nowhere and created something nobody else was doing, and it worked. The first year, they were like slammed every night. So, it happens, there's there is a chance to make it, you just have to find that niche.
Kris Golojuch: You have to, have to, have to market. A lot of people don't save any money for marketing, and that's a huge thing. They get built, they have this beautiful attraction, have great actors, but no marketing, and nobody knows where you are. You cannot be just laid up against the freeway and think, "oh, 20,000 people are coming here." Nope. They'll just drive right by, and they'll go to what they know by name brand, Knott's Scary Farm or Universal Horror Nights, that's just the way it works, and we've had to deal with that. SeaWorld went through that last year. They thought as a theme park they could just open, we've gone a couple of nights, literally, I could have counted the people that were in the park, it was rough. They're only coming back, I think, because they had spent the money and made it like a multi-year deal to make it happen. So, you have to market. For us, we had to do it, we had to spend the money to do it.
Rick West: I'm really excited to see what you guys are doing this year. It's going to be fantastic. I'm sure that you guys are looking to do different haunts make sure to visit the SoCal haunt list when that goes live this year. That is an invaluable tool, and it's very easy to kind of see the dates the haunts are going to be and where they're at, and kind of plan your haunt hopping. That's become a thing. So, I encourage you to get in the car and do a little driving, gas prices are coming down, and drive around and support these guys and show them the love, because if we don't show up, they're not going to exist. So, we got to do that and I just, I thank you guys so much. This has been a really nice chat.
Co-founder and Creative Director of Midsummer Scream
With more than 20 years writing experience in the themed entertainment industry, Rick West is no stranger to telling a great story. After founding Theme Park Adventure in 1994, Rick went on to become a staunch supporter of California’s haunted attraction community, forming deep relationships with pro and home haunters alike, blazing many trails in the form of media coverage for Knott’s Scary Farm, as well as many other independent Halloween productions around the state. In 2014, Rick was named one of the nation’s top 10 theme park industry bloggers by USA Today.
Rick is a Creative Director/Show Writer in the themed entertainment industry, lending his skills and robust working knowledge of theme parks and attractions. Rick West is currently a Show Writer at Rethink Leisure & Entertainment in Burbank, California and has also worked for other themed entertainment companies including Thinkwell, BRC Imagination Arts, The Producers Group, Wyatt Design Group, Apogee Attractions, and The Hettema Group.
Marketing Specialist Event Production
Now the Creative Director for Castle Dark at Castle Park, Joseph has a broad history in the haunted industry starting with a family home haunt, experience as a scare actor, and working with Universal on Halloween Horror Nights.