Kings Dominion 2014

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Haunt 2014

31 October 2014 | Written by Maxxum

As one listens to the clack-clack-clack of the "Rebel Yell" roller-coaster at Kings Dominion rise to the peak of a lift hill, there's a brief moment when you can no longer hear the screams from the rest of the park. It's the second when one begins to feel the cold wind surrounding them as they reach a height from which they will plummet at speeds over which they have no control. When we started the first dive I thought to myself, "I wonder how often the park checks these things for safety?"1. It was probably better not to have asked, that thought worried me more than the feeling of my stomach 2ft behind me and we still had more track to go... welcome to Haunt.

It's a substantial effort to convert the park for Halloween. Planning begins in June, with the call for monsters starting in August. Over 600 people are hired to frighten park goers - an irony given that the parent company of Kings Dominion trades under the stock symbol "FUN". The Haunt begins in late September and brings special exhibits like Halloween themed shows at the Kings Dominion Theater, concerts and impromptu monster dances throughout the park, scare zones (fog covered areas where monsters wait to scare you), and shrubs that come alive and chase you. It's a combined effort on the part of park planners, designers, and actors but it's the latter that often terrifies the most people. The monster process starts in make-up with artists like Beth Gorley Dickerson.

Beth Gorley Dickerson (left) attends to a monster

Beth explains that the same monster isn't used two years in a row in order to keep the event fresh, with each monster being completed in 15 minutes or less. KD's make-up artists will complete 230 or more make-ups per night during Haunt month.

This year, I noted the monsters seemed especially festive - it was the first Haunt in several years to occur on Halloween night at the park. In the rear of the park there was party music, food, and lots of coffee as monsters completed preparations to welcome the crowds beginning to grow at the entrance.

Vampires have no reflection Homecoming Hell
The dark farmer comes to reap your soul... ...like a pig to the slaughter

The Haunt of the night officially starts when the "Overlord" summons his monsters through a ceremony that begins with the evil ones being instructed by their leader before switching to chase the crowd. Each crowd has a different reaction; my first time witnessing the Overlord ceremony saw children fleeing the entrance area when the monsters unexpectedly turned on them. The high-pitched screams are something you'll eventually learn to accept for the 5hrs from start of Haunt till closing (7pm - 12am). The screams can be so loud that you can hear them from the parking lot before entering the park. To put that in scientific perspective - in order to hear a scream at an appreciable level (say 40 - 50 dB) from 100ft, it would have to start at over 90dB - but, the park has obstructions throughout so something in the order of 110dB is more likely. Yes, the terror of park attendees is so loud that it is possible to quantify their fear mathematically.

Summoning the horde

I don't normally get surprised during Haunt, but I was taken several times this Halloween. It should be noted that the monsters are keen to read your face, so if you send the right signals you can even throw your friends under the bus and the monsters will take advantage of it to scare the people in your group. It helps to walk ahead of your friends so you can make eye contact with a monster, then point back in the direction of the people behind you so the monster will know when to strike.

Spare some blood?

This is my fourth year covering Haunt, and it's a treat every time I go. If you appreciate art, or simply enjoy being frightened, it's worthwhile to attend the Haunt at least once. The drive from DC can be abysmal, but it's amazing how quickly one forgets these things once you're at Kings Dominion. Our drive from DC to Doswell was a little over 3hrs this time, due primarily to Friday commuters, so keep this in mind if you're trying to reach the park before 7pm.

End of line

To get tickets, or more information, visit Halloween Haunt.

1Kings Dominion advises that the coasters are checked daily.

Photos by Maxxum