This time of year, something wicked this way comes to most of California’s theme parks, where the theme is frighteningly familiar: Halloween hauntings. And the competition for control of your soul is ferocious. Nearly all of them have amped it up this year with new mazes, scare zones, stage productions and more.
So if you’re the kind who loves to lurk in the dark, maneuver the morbid and stomach the disemboweled, check out one of these five fear-inducing spots. For everyone else, beware: With the exception of the fun, light-hearted spookiness at Disneyland and events designated for young kids, most of these attractions are definitely not recommended for children under 13.
1. Halloween Haunt: California’s Great America, Santa Clara
What: One of the Bay Area’s premier fright fests is returning with haunted mazes that include Zombie High, Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors, Roadkill Roadhouse, CornStalkers, Madame Marie’s Massacre Manor and Toy Factory, plus live entertainment from Blood Drums, Nytewalkers and Sideshow.
New for 2017: The Demon Re-ignited — the venerable rollercoaster brings back its lights, fog, music and blood-red waterfall just for the season. The new Chaos House will provide mystifying, mind-bending special effects, the Backwoods maze leads guests to a deserted cabin through a werewolf-infested forest and scare zones have been reincarnated into Jester Town, Underworld Alley and Feary Tales.
Details: Opens Sept. 22 and runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 29; tickets are $30-$110; www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt.
2. Fright Fest: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
What: Darn zombies — they just won’t die! In league with ghouls and ghosts, they take over the park each year. Get your scare on at several haunted houses and scare zones, including Scrapyard of the Dead, Carnevil: Death Under the Big Top, Nightmare Manor and Captain Bloat’s Shipwreck of Horror
New for 2017: St. Hades Hospital, billed as “a once-pleasant place to be treated, but after a patient suffered a fever and rash that spread like wildfire, the hospital was closed for good out of fear. The doors have opened slightly. But it’s been 40 years. Dare to enter this quarantined and haunted facility?”
Details: Opens Sept. 23 and runs select dates through Oct. 31. Tickets start at $45; www.sixflags.com.
3. Halloween Time: Disneyland Resort, Anaheim
What: All manner of mischief goes on at Disneyland at this time of year in both the original park and California Adventure, but it’s all pretty G-rated, thank goodness. Classic Disney villains roam the grounds, Space Mountain becomes Ghost Galaxy and kids can dress up to trick-or-treat at Mickey’s Halloween Party.
New for 2017: The new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, which opened in May in California Adventure, will transform into “Monsters After Dark” each night during this spooky season. Creepy chaos reigns with creatures on the loose, and Rocket must scheme to save Groot.
Details: Now through Oct. 31; visit both parks ($157) with a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket; www.disneyland.com.
4. Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Studios, Hollywood
What: They’re not kidding about the horror, and they know how it’s done by virtue of being the movie studio that invented the horror film genre. There are more mazes than ever with eight terrifying experiences based on the most frightening films and TV shows, including FX’s “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” “The Shining,” the post-apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead” and more.
New for 2017: The thrills continue with the Titans of Terror Tram hosted by Chucky, an all-new high-energy Jabbawockeez live show and three new scare zones.
Details: Select dates, now through Oct. 31. Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event and sells out fast; tickets range from $69 to $299 for a special R.I.P. tour; www.halloweenhorrornights.com.
5. Knott’s Scary Farm: Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park
What: This park has enjoyed a horrifying history of Halloween haunts for more than 40 years, completely transforming the grounds with 13 haunted mazes and attractions such as Pumpkin Eater, Voodoo Maze, Special Ops: Infected and Shadow Lands, plus scare zones like Ghost Town Streets and The Hollow.
New for 2017: Sinister shows with more than 1,000 horrifying creatures lurk in fog and dark corners. The event is billed as “unlike most dreams.” Instead, “it’s a nightmare you can’t wake up from.”
Details: Select nights from Sept. 21 through Oct. 31. Tickets start at $40; www.knotts.com.