By Kayla Caldwell
Imagine walking through the safety door of an 85-year-old war ship that crushed and killed a young crew member in 1966. And as you pass by the frighteningly powerful doors, holding your breath as you wait for the emergence of the ghost of that young boy, ready to jump out when you least expect it.
Do you have a picture in your mind? Great. That’s just a tiny glimpse at what you’d feel braving the (real-life) haunted mazes at The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. Feast, the one I described above, features two of Dark Harbor’s beloved monsters - Half-Hatch Henry, who lost his life when he was cut in two by Door 13 - and the chef, whose crew shoved him into the oven to cook when they were less than enthused with his menu.
These are true stories. This is not a wild fabrication to make the haunts seem more interesting. And that’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to the impressive and often, haunting, history of The Queen Mary. That’s what makes it one of my all-time favorite Southern California haunts. You can’t write this stuff!
As amazing as Feast is, it’s not my favorite. For the second year in a row, that prize goes to Intrepid, which features one of the coolest light effects I’ve seen in a haunted maze thus far. One room in the maze is drenched in green light in such a way that you feel like you are wading through waist-high murky waters. Beware the creatures that swim below.
Lullaby is another classic, with a pretty spectacular update this year. After you journey past the creepiest living dolls imaginable, you make your way to the first-class pool, where poor Mary met her demise. Now it’s your turn. Dark Harbor magic makes you feel like you are walking below the water’s surface in said pool, and don’t look up, lest you see the floating bodies of Mary’s other victims.
The Seance bar within Lullaby was another gem, as in addition to serving a combination of my favorite spirits (whiskey + elderflower) in a shot called, “Mary’s Last Breakfast,” it also featured tarot readings.
Circus is always a blast, as there are multiple paths and it’s hilariously easy to take a wrong turn walking through the hall of mirrors. Throw in an adult ball pit, sad clowns, and a secret bar that lets you play tricks on other maze-goers, and you’ve got a good time. This secret bar featured whiskey shots with a pickle back as well as pickled eggs, which may have been the scariest thing of all.
Whiskey seems to reign king at Dark Harbor, what with their myriad whiskey shots in the hidden bars as well as a not-so-hidden tasting room. And that is A-okay with me.
Libations aside, this year Dark Harbor had a new maze, waving goodbye to Deadrise as Rogue came in on a crashing, thunderous wave. The maze depicts the terrifying night a wave almost 100-feet tall crashed into The Queen Mary, knocking her about until she was only 3 degrees from capsizing.
Along with featuring Dark Harbor’s beloved Captain, Rogue also shows off some wild effects. The maze was built under a dome allowing all sorts of special effects that make you feel like you’re rollicking on the water with The Grey Ghost herself.
Last, but certainly not least, B340 is another one of my favorite mazes. It sends you deep into the ship as you attempt to avoid the maniacal Samuel the Savage and all of the demonic spirits a dark soul like his beckons forth. The secret bar in here lets you rest from the thrills for a moment, as a window gives you a glimpse at what horrors await once you continue on.
Unlike other haunts, there aren’t really any safe spaces at The Queen Mary. Once you pass through those gates, you belong to the monsters and demonic entities that haunt the ship. And having seen the audition process first-hand I can tell you, these people are dedicated. But you won’t want to avoid them, at least, not if you want those little wooden tokens that gain you entrance into the infamous secret bars.
For those not feeling brave enough for the mazes, there are also amazing acrobatic and fire shows, a “Monster Dance Party,” PANIC, the 4-D experience, and the Sinister Swings, a ride from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
Dark Harbor runs from now until November 2. You don’t want to miss one of the best haunts in Southern California as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. I know I’m already looking into tickets for a return visit. Join me?