An ominous fog hovered a few inches above the ground and visitors patiently waited for the gates of Dark Harbor to open Sunday night.
As the banging from the harbor got louder, evil clowns with sinister smiles reaching ear-to-ear barged through the doors to terrorize the unsuspecting victims.
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is an interactive maze experience that challenges guests to think critically of every turn they take.
The historical ship already has an eerie feeling and the mazes only add to it. There are mazes located inside the boat such as “Lullaby,” “B340” and “Feast.” Each of these mazes takes you through areas which are normally seen in the guided tours, but with horrifying and creepy surprises lurking around every corner.
The other three attractions, “Circus,” “Deadrise” and “Intrepid” surround the harbor.
Going through “Feast,” guests must face the hauntings of the ship’s chef who was cast into the oven during World War II due to soldiers finding out they were being fed human flesh.
Moving along the labyrinth there is a distinct, putrid smell almost akin to the smell of rotten meat in the air as visitors get closer to the kitchen.
In order to get past the unsettling smell, the guests must push hanging bodies out of the way and make their way through the meat conveyor belt before the next meal is served.
“It’s my first time coming to Dark Harbor but [Lullaby] was successful, I didn’t know what to expect at every corner since it was so dark,” said attendee Enya Garcia. “Running down the hallways trying to figure out where to go makes your heart rush. Especially since in some areas, it’s just you and your group.”
The horror attraction created a majority of its characters and mazes based on the ghost sightings many visitors have seen in past years on the ship. The maze “B340” comes from the infamously haunted room on the ship where many have died while “Graceful Gale” is the hostess of Queen’s Saloon, based on the ghost of a young lady who appears in the Queen’s Saloon. The main attraction, Mary in “Lullaby” is based on the young girl who is seen at the first class swimming pool holding her teddy bear.
Each maze gives the guests a choice in determining their fate. Some require maze-goers to climb marine rope ladders, go down a slide and even climb through a meat conveyor belt.
“Nothing gets better than [“Feast”], you get frightened at every turn. It’s very intense, I didn’t know what to expect at all,” said first time visitor from Ohio, Raeanna Grizzle. “My expectations weren’t that high but going through that conveyed belt made the entire expense a little too real. It was truly better than Horror Nights.”
One of the main differences between Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and Dark Harbor is the actor’s interactions with the audience. Having the audience talk to scarers in order to get into exclusive spaces around the attraction makes the event more enjoyable.
In four of the mazes, there are secret bars that only guests 21 and older are allowed to access. In order to gain entrance to the bars, visitors must interact with characters outside the mazes. If guests speak to characters within the areas of the secret bars, asking about their story and go along with the act, they might gain some information hinting as to where the secret bar is located.
There are eight bars set across the entire harbor. The Ice Cave, allows guest to visit a 9 degree bar where in order to exit the bar, guests are lead to an exclusive entrance to the “Intrepid” maze.
Apart from the mazes, there are two areas where guests can see aerial dancing, aerobatic and fire performers.
The first area is near the “Circus” maze, and at the self-proclaimed freakshow, you can see a bearded lady and a puppeteer with his haggard puppet.
The second area is called “The Pyre” which is located close to the entrance of the “Lullaby” maze. Here, you can see the Voodoo Priestess and her followers perform fire rituals. The Queen Mary Slider show occurs near the entrances of the harbor. The Queen Mary Sliders perform by gliding on their knees and doing a variety of aerial tricks including jumping over other performers.
“The slider show is great. It’s one of the reasons why the kids love coming here. My daughter is 12, she’s enjoys coming here and getting scared in the mazes,” said Julia Alvarez, who has been coming to Dark Harbor for 12 years. “You can tell the sliders enjoy what they do since they make sure the audience get involved.”
Dark Harbor is open Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 4 through Nov. 2. Tickets will be sold for Halloween which falls on a Wednesday. Tickets start at $36 depending on the day that guests plan on visiting. Use promo code DARE to get discounted tickets.