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    Niles: Say no to No-Boo; Knott’s Scary Farm should be scary
    • October 10, 2023

    Innovation does not happen unless someone takes a chance. But whenever you try something new, you create the possibility for failure as well as success.

    Like many theme park fans, I want to see parks trying new things from time to time, so I won’t roast Knott’s Berry Farm too hard for trying something new at its Knott’s Scary Farm event this year. I just hope that the park’s management sees its attempted innovation as a failure and does not bring it back again next year.

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    This year, Knott’s has been selling a “No-Boo Necklace” to Scary Farm visitors who did not want to be scared when walking through the park’s many scare zones. One fan online compared buying and wearing that necklace to bringing a poncho to a water park. If you don’t want to be scared, what’s the point of going to a haunt?

    Knott’s has to have known that the No-Boo Necklace was going to be controversial, and the park actually has leaned into the controversy. When Knott’s announced the item during its after-hours preview event for Knott’s Scary Farm, the devoted fans there greeted the news with a chorus of boos. Knott’s even wrote the No-Boo Necklace into the return of “The Hanging,” giving it as close to a starring role as anything else lampooned in that show.

    Halloween haunts have grown into massive events for theme parks around the world, so of course parks are going want to continue expanding them. So long as those expansions do not dilute the nature of the event, that’s great. I have loved seeing parks’ creative teams work with non-traditional genres — from science fiction to the roaring ‘20s — when designing attractions for haunt events.

    But seeing other people get scared at a haunt is as much a part of the attraction as getting scared yourself. That camaraderie — that shared belief that we are all fair game for the monsters — is one of the qualities that makes haunts so beloved among fans.

    I understand that there may be circumstances in which people need an accommodation for scare zones. Those should be handled through guest services like any other necessary accommodation in the park. They should not be sold as a consumer product, like the $15 No-Boo Necklace. That just makes it feel like the park is trying to expand the haunt by marketing it to people who don’t want the core experience that the haunt was designed to provide.

    Would Legoland feel as accommodating to families with young children if it started building huge looping coasters with severe height requirements? No. That would be an expansion that changed the nature of the place, much like adding No-Boo Necklaces to the mix at a haunt.

    If Knott’s sells enough No-Boo Necklaces to make the product a financial success, it runs the risk of changing a core element of Scary Farm to the point where devoted fans won’t enjoy the event as much anymore. Knott’s has great family Halloween event with its daytime Spooky Farm. Let the fans who don’t want scares go there. Let Scary Farm continue to be scary for the rest.


    ​ Orange County Register