Urban Legends Haunt at OC Fair & Event Center takes guests on a drive-through horror experience featuring Southern California urban legends. / Photo by Jessica Peralta
Amid a pandemic and a more than little chaotic 2020, the haunt industry is proving that there is the will and a way.
From hashtags spanning Save Halloween to Halloween Is Not Canceled, signs of a concerted effort from horror and Halloween lovers to keep Halloween alive have continued on social media and in the community.
One of the earliest large-scale events to make their announcement of a drive-through experience was Urban Legends Haunt, which issued a news release on Aug. 11.
“Urban Legends of Southern California” is a drive-through experience at the OC Fair & Event Center running from Oct. 1 through Nov. 1.
“With the challenges of being able to safely host a traditional Halloween haunt during these unprecedented times, many of Southern California’s popular Halloween haunts unfortunately are cancelling,” said Executive Producer Mark Entner in the news release. “Using our experience as one of the original creators and producers of the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, our team felt as though we had to provide an innovative and safe solution for the thousands of Southern Californians who look forward to enjoying the Halloween season each fall. Our Urban Legends monsters each have ties to Southern California, and we think this is going to be an incredible immersive experience for our guests, while keeping it safe for everyone.”
Guests arrive during a reserved time and drive through five different Experiential Zones on a marked course. The experience tells the tales of some of Southern California’s scariest urban legend monsters through immersive scenes, coordinated lighting and sound effects, live performances and special effects.
Following opening weekend, Urban Legends made some updates based on guest feedback, including adding a fifth immersive show zone featuring clowns with chainsaws, doubling the number of scare actors throughout the show, and adding some jump scares (in accordance with COVID-19 social distancing restrictions).
All team members and monsters are required to wear masks and social distance, and guests must stay in their vehicles during the entire experience. Guests must also wear masks if they roll down their windows.
Entner took some time to answer some of our questions about “Urban Legends of Southern California”:
Halloween Every Night: How did this drive-through concept come about?
Mark Entner: Our team was exploring new ways to reinvent how a Halloween experience could take place while making sure safety was the top priority during these unprecedented times. Our biggest challenge was how can we create an immersive and scary experience in a drive-through format. That is when our team designed creative theater zones that cars can drive-in, stop, turn off their vehicles and the immersive experience will happen around them.
HEN: When did you decide it was time to come up with an alternative to the traditional Halloween events?
ME: Our team started exploring new ways live events and festivals could be produced back in April when it was starting to look like the live-events industry was going to be one of the most impacted industries from this pandemic.
HEN: Are your previous events, like Winter Fest OC and the original Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, guiding this new event at all?
ME: Our experience with previous Halloween haunts helps us understand and appreciate the uniqueness of the haunt industry, but our decades of experience producing and promoting large-scale events and festivals in Southern California including Winter Fest OC, Southern California’s largest winter festival, definitely guides us with launching this brand-new concept. We are grateful to have an incredible team that can help save Halloween!
HEN: How many monsters can guests expect and how will social distancing/safety be handled?
ME: Each of the [five] show zones will have a different interactive and immersive experience. The team throughout the event will adhere to strict safety standards including proper social distancing and wearing face coverings.
HEN: What are some of the logistics of the event?
ME: Urban Legends Haunt will take place in a designated parking area at the OC Fair & Event Center. Groups of cars up to 40 at a time will travel through the experience based on the arrival time on their tickets.
HEN: How long will each scene take?
ME: Each show varies in length, and the whole experience is an hour long. The inspiration for the format is unique and not based on any other of Southern California’s attractions.
HEN: Considering that this is a new type of experience, how will monster talent be trained to scare in the new format?
ME: During these unprecedented times, health and safety of our team is a top priority. Like reinventing a new type of way to experience a Halloween haunt, auditions and trainings will be done through a combination of virtual and small-group sessions.