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Oct. 9, 2022

Day 38: Carnival of Darkness in Ontario, CA

Day 38: Carnival of Darkness in Ontario, CA

Carnival of Darkness is a new haunt inside Little Rascals Pumpkin Patch in Ontario. Today, we’ll hear from the Owner Kekoa about their theme and what it’s like transitioning from haunter to owner. Follow along to our Hauntathon:...

Carnival of Darkness is a new haunt inside Little Rascals Pumpkin Patch in Ontario. Today, we’ll hear from the Owner Kekoa about their theme and what it’s like transitioning from haunter to owner. Follow along to our Hauntathon:


Kekoa Santiago: My name is Kekoa Santiago, I'm the owner of Carnival of Darkness. Welcome to our first year. So, our concept is that you enter the mind of the Clown King. We had a traditional carnival where you had your bearded lady, your strongman, magicians, and all those things, but one by one they started going missing and everybody started wondering where they went and the only thing they saw was the clowns. So, everybody started questioning the clowns, but then once they started questioning, they went missing as well. So, when you enter the Carnival of Darkness, it's your job to find where they went and hopefully not become part of the clown cast.

Kekoa Santiago: Each area of our haunt is meant to give you a different taste of what's going on in the Clown Kings mind. So, when you enter as a guest, like I was saying, where is everybody? Where have all the other carnies gone to you? As you enter, you pick a door, and every time you go through that door will change on what can open. So, that's right from the get-go we start the confusion and the madness of the Clown King. 

Kekoa Santiago: Then as you progress through that, you start to see the backlog where the clowns get ready, and what happens if you didn't become one of them. Then after that, you enter his mind and what the darkness of his mind really is. Once you continue on, if you weren't a guest who turned into a clown or agreed with what his ways were, then you maybe start turning into some confections as well.

Philip Hernandez: Why did you want them to have that kind of struggle with choosing the door at the beginning?

Kekoa Santiago: Well, there's the popularity of escape rooms, right, that's going on right now. We wanted to mix a little bit of that, but still staying true to a professional haunt. We space people out because we don't want the conga line effect, and as haunters ourselves, we know, hey, this will make the effect a little bit longer, the experience a lot longer for the guest. We're charging people to be here, and because it's a labor of love we want them to get their full value, so the guests have their full value too.

Philip Hernandez: I notice you guys have a lot of really dynamic characters. How did you connect with this actor force? 

Kekoa Santiago: If there's one thing everybody can take away, it's that this is all about them. It's not about me as an owner. It's not about any of us behind the scenes. It's about these guys. People show up for them. When picking our cast, we didn't have too much trouble, because we knew them from before. Once we said, "hey, we're going to do something where we're going to highlight the actors, we're going to make sure they're taken care of." We help them out with makeup, we help them out with food, and we really take care of them. At the end of the night, we reward our best scares with more money or more food or the different things out there in the night. It is a little bit hard to find a cast, but all of these guys have their own unique character, and we're so glad that they chose to be with us. We're lucky, we're very lucky.

Philip Hernandez: So looking back at this year, what do you think has been the most challenging piece of putting this year's event together?

Kekoa Santiago:  The most challenging piece this year would be just getting through the little hurdles and things that we don't know. The things that aren't sexy, the permit sides of things,

Philip Hernandez: The fire inspection, the permitting process, all the safety. I mean it's a big leap to go from working with a haunt to being the person in charge that the Fire Marshall looks at when you're trying to get stuff, that that's a big shift in mindset. 

Kekoa Santiago: Right, being the person where all stops come to you, and good or bad, everybody looking at you and left or right, you got to make a decision. But yeah, like you said it's year one, we've jumped over all those hurdles, and there are still many more coming. We haven't even hit our peak of the season yet, so we're excited for that.

Kekoa Santiago: We're always changing here, here at Rascals Pumpkin Patch, and the Carnival of Darkness, it's always evolving. We want to keep it that way. We take a lot of input from our cast, we really value them, and I want to hit that on the head. When a cast member works with us, if something is not working, let's try it out, let's see how they can make it better. Because they're essentially boots on the ground, and they're living that experience, we want to make it great for them.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me about year two. I know that when we first connected it was a little bit late in the season. So, I know, as with everything this year, things were a little tough to get everything straightened out in time. But year two, what do we have for year two?

Kekoa Santiago: When we came here to Ontario Mills, we saw this as a great location. We... and I say we because it's my cousin Robert and I. Robert and I both worked Scandia for many years, and if you know Scandia, you know the haunt that was there closed in 2018, and since then there's been nothing of a semi-pro haunt like us in the area. Thankfully we've been able to partner with the right people to get our own haunt built.

Kekoa Santiago: Yeah, year two will definitely get more space. We're getting a lot of interest from vendors, and because we're not a vendor-dependent event we can limit ourselves and really pick and choose great vendors that want to be here. Year two, we want to expand that. For example, we're only limiting vendors to 10, and because there's so much to do here already, in year two I'm looking to maybe double that or triple that. Also, in year two, we're hoping to make this your all-inclusive fall event, to include an Oktoberfest.

Philip Hernandez: Tell us when you're open and your website. 

Kekoa Santiago: So, for ticketing go to Rascals Pumpkin Patch or Ontario Pumpkin Patch and you can find the Carnival of Darkness side of things, or you can go to Carnival of Darkness on Instagram, you can get tickets there, or show up. We are offering a promotion to all service members and students of the local area, local high school students. If you show up with a student ID, show your military ID, or service ID, we'll give you 25% off.

Kekoa Santiago

Owner of Carnival of Darkness