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Sept. 25, 2022

Day 24: Castle Dark 2022 at Castle Park in Riverside CA

Day 24: Castle Dark 2022 at Castle Park in Riverside CA

In its 14th year, Caste Dark has a new team and approach to Halloween this year. Castle Dark at Castle Park in Riverside runs 18 nights now through the end of October. We’ll hear from the new entertainment director Joseph Ancheta about this year’s...

In its 14th year, Caste Dark has a new team and approach to Halloween this year. Castle Dark at Castle Park in Riverside runs 18 nights now through the end of October. We’ll hear from the new entertainment director Joseph Ancheta about this year’s event and their future strategy. Follow along to our Hauntathon:


Joseph Ancheta: My name is Joseph Ancheta. I am the Events and Entertainment director here at Castle Park. So, Castle Dark is being rebranded, we're going back to our medieval ways.  We have 3 brand new mazes and two new scare zones this year. We've introduced our brand-new sorceress Morgana, who has taken over the park, and her brand-new maze Morgan's Revenge, which is our largest of the three houses here. 

Joseph Ancheta: So, Morgan's revenge is going through the dungeon of our castle, and you encounter all her creatures as you're trying to find out where Merlin is in that maze, but he has completely disappeared from the park. We built it right next to the castle, the maze is extremely dark as you enter, because Castle Dark. So, we kind of left it dark right there. You start off in her dungeon torture chamber and then you end up meeting her pet dragons inside. Then you find yourself trapped in the catacombs of spiders, skulls, and trolls, and at the very end, you find yourself in an enchanted labyrinth trying to make your way out back to the castle. 

Joseph Ancheta: We wanted to introduce a new female villain to the park, and we thought Morgana would be perfect, and she worked out really well. She's the new queen, she walks around the park, and all of our employees about her when she goes by. It's kind of a fun new bit we have

Philip Hernandez: She also leads the opening ceremony? 

Joseph Ancheta: Correct. She is the opening show for the park, and it's her arrival pretty much announcing that she is the brand-new queen of the park and all her soldiers and stuff. 

Philip Hernandez: Tell me a little bit about some Easter eggs in some of the mazes we can look out for. We already talked about Morgan's revenge, of course, there are a lot of easter eggs in there, but what about the other mazes? 

Joseph Ancheta: House Next Door maze is an 80s theme based in 1988, and it is about an abandoned house where a college group wants to throw a party, finds out there's a Mortuary house right next door, and they find some interesting ghosts inside. A man and his daughter used to live there, he was the caretaker for the Mortuary next door, and his daughter died. So, he ended up making this doll out of the body parts and bringing it to life with witchcraft. So, that's why as you go through the maze and these kids have that party in there, things go wrong, and you start encountering these evil dolls inside.

Joseph Ancheta: If you look in House Next Door, you'll see a tribute to my favorite fast-food joint in there from the 80s, and still around, and then you'll see some family portraits that are actually my family. So, that's kind of fun. You'll see a doll house in there that's actually a replica of the house from Poltergeist, so that's funny. They wanted to do that one, so that was fun. They put a lot of classic toys in there, there is a Raggedy Ann doll in there and Andy in there as well. So, we wanted to do something fun like that. 

Joseph Ancheta: In the Funhouse maze there are some ventriloquist dolls there, some classic ventriloquist dolls you'll remember from some scary books when our childhood that are in there too. 

Philip Hernandez: And the Funhouse of Terror, Funhouse, closed, right?

Joseph Ancheta: Yeah, our Funhouse is open to the public and it got shut down, and you find out why these clowns are in there, but they're not so much clowns as they are creatures underneath there as well. 

Joseph Ancheta: We had two scare zones, we have our midway area, which is the largest clown area of the park, and then we have our medieval scare zone, which is leading all the way up to Morgan's Revenge. Then we have our safe area, which is the Day of the Dead Area, that's for the younger ones to take a break from it. Then we have our party zone over in midway with our DJ spinning tunes all night to dance away. 

Philip Hernandez: I think it's also interesting that you're tying in the medieval scare zone, of course, into Morgana and everything. 

Joseph Ancheta: Yeah, so that is something very unique with our scare zones. We have select monsters in the scare zones that also wander into the mazes, so you're constantly changing out characters in the mazes you go through. Also, Morgana's Revenge has the largest number of hide spots for scare actors. There are over 47 spots to hide in that maze, and they can rotate, so you never really know where they're going to be hiding in that maze, it's fun.

Philip Hernandez: So, let's talk a little bit about the future of the event. 

Joseph Ancheta: So, we're definitely looking at expanding. I'm very excited to expand next year with a new maze, and definitely, I think Morgan is going to be around for a while, people love her. So, she's not going anywhere anytime soon, that's for sure. But we're definitely going to be expanding and adding a lot more to the park, some new elements and stuff, you could be seeing some new experiences next year besides mazes. I can't really get into detail yet, but what we're already planning for next year.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me a little bit about your transition. 

Joseph Ancheta: I come from 10 years at Universal. I did entertainment production for Halloween Horror Nights there, and I did Grinchmas and stuff with that team. So, I have a lot of experience in haunts. I've started in 1994 with our family home haunt, and my mom's birthday is right before Halloween, so every year it's like, "oh, we're going to haunt," and I was that scaredy-cat kid.

Joseph Ancheta: So, I fell in love with it, and through Universal, I gained a lot of experience. I also worked with Boomers on their Haunted Mini golf, creating that as well. Yeah, and I was a scare actor for over 10 years as well. So, it was really great getting into the industry.

Joseph Ancheta: So, coming here, it was fun because they were like, "we're looking for something new. We want to rebrand this event." So, taking it to this new level and bringing the theatrical element of it, theming, sound, music, and everything come into play, and people are really loving it. Today's feedback, everyone says this is the best they've seen it theme-wise in a while. So, they're really excited for it. So, next year we're definitely going to enhance on that a lot more. I really want to play with Ghost Blasters at some point, so I want to do something with that. 

Joseph Ancheta: When I came here, I was just looking like, I had never been here until this summer. I had never been this park. I've heard of it, never been here, and I walked around, and I was like, "this park has so much potential for an event." I love a challenge. I really do love a challenge when it comes to enhancing something. So, I wanted to do something special here, and especially from a big fan of Knotts, you know, that's where we all came from, Knott's haunts.

Joseph Ancheta: So, being that this is Bud's original park from his Calico Mine Ride and Log Ride I was like, "oh this would be great." His apartments here and stuff, and I got to see that. There's a lot of history that a lot of people don't realize. You come here and you see a lot of references to Knott's architecture and stuff because he did it here too. 

Joseph Ancheta: So, I really want to pull back into that history, especially because you don't find parks like this much around anymore, this small, especially out in this area, you know? So, I was really excited to see how we theme it, especially with all the carnival rides and stuff. So, I really want to pull more next year into expanding on that, especially with how much space they have available in the park. 

Philip Hernandez:  What do you think your biggest challenge will be when it comes to the market? Obviously, you're facing a lot of competition. 

Joseph Ancheta: We are facing a lot of competition. I think our biggest challenge is how far out we are from the LA area, we're in Riverside. Let's just say, often today we all know how bad the traffic is coming out this way, so it's a challenge. But we are getting a lot more people than I anticipated that we were going to get today. So, I'm excited to see getting it out there more, expanding it, that this is a rebrand for them for this Halloween event. It's also the 14th year we've done it, so next year is going to be our 15th anniversary, so we're going to go big next year for the 15th. 

Joseph Ancheta

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.