Behind the scenes of Halloween Haunt 2014 as Knott’s Scary Farm enrolls monsters into Scare School

in Entertainment, Events, Knott's Berry Farm, Theme Parks


These sounds and more were being voiced at the top of their lungs by more than 40 people gathered to go to school, “Scare School.”

They were making all the nasty sounds at the direction of Brooke Walters, a designer of Knott’s Scary Farm, to get them comfortable with making eerie and scary sounds during their stint as monsters, vampires and other creatures during the annual Halloween event.

“You need to be able to stay in character and make scary noises for four, six or eight hours while you’re working,” she told the assembled monsters-to-be.

Brooke Walters (left) and Daniel Miller, designers at Knott’s Scary Farm, talk to some of the soon to be monsters about their roles in the Farm’s Dominion of the Damned maze.

The group was working on their vocal techniques under Walters’ guidance for their appearance in the “Dominion of the Damned” maze at Knott’s Scary Farm. Some would end up in makeup; some would wear masks and more, along with appropriate scary wardrobe when the annual haunting begins September 25, 2014.

“Don’t be afraid to exaggerate your movements,” said Daniel Miller, another designer for Knott’s Scary Farm, who was assisting Walters with the “Scare School.”

After trying out their vocal techniques, the group was instructed to walk “in character” while the pair examined them and coached them on proper walking technique for each person that would appear in the maze.

After an hour of “scare” lessons, Miller, one of the maze designers, took the group inside to properly place each person (aka monster or creature) at their working stations within the maze. During the next hour, each person had to demonstrate how they would be scaring people walking through the maze to Miller’s satisfaction. Then it was time for a walk-through by Walters and other Knott’s Scary Farm staff.

“Remember, don’t tell me what you’re going to do, show me,” said Walters. “I want to be scared out of my wits, so that I know our guests will be too.”

Daniel Miller, a Knott’s Scary Farm designer, teaches one of the people destined to be a monster in a maze during Scare School.
One of the scary people trying out to be a monster for Knott’s Scary Farm came with his own fangs.
During Scare School, prospective scary creatures are told to greet each other in the role they would play.
Learning to walk like a monster or other scary creature is part of what is taught during Scare School each year.

The “Scare School” has become part of the annual tradition at the oldest Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm. It is used by the farm’s designers to try out people auditioning for the first time, and for many of those returning, but in a new role.

Some get their parts right away, while others need a little coaching, something Walters frequently demonstrated with her hands, arms, feet, and occasional ugly faces she would make.

Walters empasizes how a monster in a maze should act to future scarers at Scare School.

But none of the soon to be monsters would have to worry about the ugly face as much as they would also be getting makeup or prosthetics or masks to wear from the 37 makeup artists employed by Knott’s Scary Farm under the supervision of Bill Meier.

“Each night there will be more than 300 people in extensive makeup a night, with another 100 or more wearing a prosthetic or mask,” he said.

Some of the scary creatures at Knott’s Scary Farm are created using prosthetics with make-up, or by wearing masks.
Jerry Paxton gets some scary make-up applied by Bill Meier, a supervisor of Wardrobe and Make-up for Knott’s Scary Farm.

Knott’s Scary Farm makes more than 3,000 prosthetic devices each year for the event. Each prosthetic can only be worn for a maximum of three nights, then it is worn out from all the sweat and abuse it receives according to Meier.

After that, the prosthetic devices are destroyed, lest they appear at competing Halloween events.

Knott’s Scary Farm has hundreds of prosthetics ready for application to the faces of would-be monsters during the event.
This tray contains make-up used to make people look scary that are working as monsters, ghouls or other scary creatures during the annual Knott’s Scary Farm event.

Along with makeup, every monstrous character has to have an appropriately themed costume. Each night, it takes 24 people working under the supervision of Tim Barham to pass out the costumes to all the working creatures and monsters in time for their on-stage role.

Barham is also responsible for making and repairing the costumes, and tries to make them in a way that they don’t fall apart after one night.

“Many of the garments have double stitching at all the seams, but we still have to repair several costumes at the end of each night,” he said.

Some of the wigs and hats worn by witches at Knott’s Scary Farm are ready for scaring in the Wardrobe Department.
More than 3,000 monsters are used during the Knott’s Scary Farm event, and all of them need costumes each night.

To get the unique fabrics used in the costumes, Barham makes frequent trips to the Los Angeles Garment District.

“I take a lot of money with me and grab a lot of fabric,” he said.

This creature can be found in the Dominion of the Damned maze at Knott’s Scary Farm and was rehearsing her role during Scare School with make-up and wardrobe on.
One of the actors rehearsing their role as a damned soul in the Dominion of the Damned maze during Scare School.

The “Scare School” takes place over several nights in order to fill all the roles in each maze, and for the monsters and scary creatures roaming the various areas of the park from the classic fogged in Ghost Town, to the scary clowns in the Boardwalk area. Each person going through “Scare School” is paid for that time as well as their time being on-stage in character.

Knott’s Scary Farm takes place beginning September 25, 2014 through November 1st. It will feature 11 mazes or interactive attractions, along with four “Scare” zones, a live show featuring Elvira – Mistress of the Dark, and of course the now annual tradition of “The Hanging” that takes place in Calico Square. For more information visit Knott’s website at

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