Haunt Report: The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2011

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Haunt Report: The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor 2011The appeal of a Halloween attraction in one of the world’s most famous haunted locations was just too good to pass up so Dread Central hit the road for Long Beach in our annual Southern California spook house quest. The Queen Mary has long been host to a variety of ghost-themed events, but they pulled out the big guns last year with their first annual Dark Harbor attraction. Now they’re back for Round Two with five mazes and two scare zones that stretch inside and out of the infamous cruise ship.

While other events like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights tend to show you every gory detail, Dark Harbor gives you exactly what its name suggests: darkness. Many times you’re left feeling your way through dark corridors in the bowels of the ship, while cleverly timed scares and high-pitched ghost screams (among the creepiest I’ve ever heard) frantically drive you through. The creators of Dark Harbor also score huge points for the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced at one of these attractions: a tiny bridge suspended over a fifty-foot drop in the main hull of the ship that shakes around on hydraulics!

Outside the mazes are plenty of recession-friendly eats and a stage with live bands and pyrotechnics. One maze in particular is among the best ever concocted: The Cage. Set in a giant dome outside the ship, this exhibit is like being trapped in a nightmarish industrial-music video. Fog, heavy music, pulse-pounding lights, and chain link fences twist and turn through hundreds of hanging severed hands and dangling hands. It’s a trippy sensory overload that’s a nice change of pace from the typical haunted maze.

Sometimes the smaller mom-and-pop attractions are a lot more up-close-and-personal than the mega multi-million dollar theme parks, and Dark Harbor certainly achieves that effect while standing side-by-side with the big boys. This is slowly becoming one of our favorite Halloween traditions, and it’s well worth visiting even if you went last year. Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor runs October 7-9; 14-16; 20-23; and 27-31 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket discounts and promotions start as low as $20 online here. ‘Fast Fright’ front-of-the-line passes are also available online and at the door and are well worth the additional $20 upgrade for busy nights.

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Steve Barton

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