This past Sunday night, I was taken to Long Beach by my Halloween
fanatic girlfriend to experience The Queen Mary’s haunted attraction,
Dark Harbor. It boasted six “mazes,” each with a different ocean related theme. The following is my experience with the attraction. Whether or not it’s a typical one, I couldn’t say.
First of all, this is one of handful of events you can find with absolutely no research. It’s advertised all over the radio, television, and eve billboards, so it’s no surprise that the masses of people with zero imagination would assume that it’s the only haunted event in town.
For the first 3 ½ hours I was there, the only haunted maze I saw was a line of hundreds of irate people trudging back and forth like cattle through rented railing. The only thing that popped out were people trying to sell $5 lemonades. To say that they oversold this event is an insult to oversold events and to understatements.
The event was advertised from 7 to midnight, so when we arrived at 7:30, we felt like we were early enough. For the next 1:15, we waited in line to pick up the tickets we’d purchased online.
At 8:45, tickets in hand, we trudged to the back of a line that was literally half a mile long. I would estimate about 2,000 people were waiting in front of us to enter Dark Harbor.
The line to get in moved somewhat quicker, and we found ourselves at the entrance at 9:45. Thankfully neither of us had to pee because the line for the 2 portajohns provided to the 2000 people waiting outside the event was an hour long as well. Meanwhile, they were still selling tickets to patrons who had little to no hope of making it into the event before 11:00.
Once inside, we quickly found a map and picked one of the mazes, only to learn it had a 180 minute wait. We picked again, and found a maze that had only a 60 minute wait. There we waded back and forth while the same 30 second clip of spooky music played on loop.
It’s at this time that I’d like to talk about the economics of Dark Harbor. First of all, it’s 29 dollars to get in, which seems reasonable, considering the size and hype. Then, it’s 15 dollars to park, but for 5 dollars more, you can park in the same county as the event.
So, for two people and one car, we’re now 78 dollars into the evening. You’re given the additional option of purchasing a “fast pass” which will move you to the front of the line and cost you is 25 dollars extra for each person. That would’ve brought our total to 103 dollars. I don’t want to sound like a miser, but at that price, we might as well go to 6 Flags or Universal Studios and stay all day. We opted not to get the fast pass.
Unlike other theme parks that provide a premium front of line service, the fast pass folks weren’t shuffled in at the maze entrances. They whisked to the front without discretion, meaning that if a line formed in the fast pass lane, the line for us 99 percenters ground to a halt.
So, at 11pm, after 3 ½ hours of waiting, we were finally let into our first maze. It took about 10 minutes to walk through, and there was little to no attempt to space out guests, so that we were simply watching the people in front of us being scared by the same monster that would jump out at us. At times, the performers were so crowded, they had to stop being scary and direct traffic.
When we exited the first maze at 11:15, there wasn’t another maze with a wait less than 60 minutes. That’s when the park started to clear out. Even though my ladyfriend was advocating cutting our losses and going home undertained, I insisted that we get in another line. Surely, they wouldn’t let us wait in a line and not let us go through.
At midnight, we entered our second maze. Whether by design or by threat of riot, the park stayed open for an extra hour. Since most of the people, and all of the fast passers had already left, we were able to hit 3 more mazes during that time, for a total of 5 out of 6. Now, most of the minimum wage performers were exhausted and hoarse from screaming by then, but at least we saw them.
One of the 3 mazes actually on the ship, Hellfire includes charred skeletons and fake coals along with a little bit of smoke and lights shined in your eyes. People jump out at you in sailor outfits with black and red paint smeared on their faces.
Probably my favorite, it’s the only one that actually takes advantage of some of the ship’s décor. It’s covered in fake seaweed, and the people in sailor suits have green and blue paint smeared on their faces. It includes an excellent tour of the pool room and you’re followed for a time by a Marilyn Monroe type zombie lady.
Placed in the old Spruce Goose hanger, this maze includes rubber heads hanging, a room with rubber hands on the walls, bright lights in your eyes, smoke, and people with masks purchased from Target.
Built out of shipping crates in the parking lot, this one has sailors with black and white paint smeared on their faces.
Maybe my second favorite, it went with a redneck torture zombie theme. Lot’s of Leatherface masks, fake foliage, and a kitchen scene where body parts are being prepared for a meal. Disclaimer: There is sadly no chainsaw guy.
Didn’t have time to go in this one, but since its advertisement says that it’s what you don’t see that is scariest, I imagine it’s just really dark.