Castle Dark is one of the more consistently fun haunt offerings in southern California, an institution for over a decade. In between rides and rounds of miniature golf, guests can walk through various mazes that include well-timed jump scares, but little gore and no physical contact.
- Riverside, CA
- Small amusement park with haunted walkthrough mazes and live roaming scareactors
- No intentional physical contact of any kind
- Light on blood and gore
- Little to no special effects
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Castle Park has been spending each Halloween season transforming into Castle Dark for years now, building haunted mazes and scattering scareactors throughout the premises amidst carnival-style rides like roller coasters and spinning UFOs. Sort of the light to the now-defunct Scandia Haunt’s dark, so to speak, Castle Dark is not meant for hardcore scare-junkies. Rather, it seems better suited as a great place to acclimate less experienced haunt-goers to what they can expect at a haunted experience. Castle Dark’s mazes, while lacking the power of a high budget behind them, still contain some spectacularly well-timed scares, creating an admirable bang for their buck. The small size of the park and the mazes themselves also make for a more intimate experience, with a higher likelihood of the personal attention that one might not get at a major theme park haunt.
In recent years, Castle Dark has taken to tying each of their mazes together with one narrative throughline (2018, for example, followed an evil stepmother character known as the Lady in White throughout various fear-inducing locales). It’s a small touch, but it’s one that doesn’t cost anything, and makes it easier to become immersed in the nightmare world that Castle Dark creates each year, rather than simply throwing a pastiche of cliches at the wall to see what sticks.
In addition to their walkthrough mazes, Castle Dark regularly advertises their year-round Ghost Blasters attraction as part of the spooky festivities. While it’s not necessarily specific to the Halloween season, there’s still something charming about taking a trip on such an old-fashioned dark ride at a park like Castle Park. Guests will take up arms with laser blasters against cartoonish spectres throughout the attraction, competing against one another as they shoot away at the two-dimensional apparitions. In 2017, Castle Dark also added the Ghost Manor virtual reality attraction to its lineup, rounding out its entertainment options with some variety.
Similar to Six Flags Fright Fest, Castle Dark is not a separately ticketed event, making it one of the more affordable haunt options in the Inland Empire. A single ticket covers both daytime and nighttime hours, with a small upcharge for maze access.
Once upon a time, Castle Dark used to play home to Chambers of the Mausoleum, one of the most impressive mazes in southern California outside of a major big-budget haunt. And while that maze now resides in nearby Corona at Coffin Creek, Castle Dark managed to bounce back as best they could. The small park may admittedly not be the most viscerally terrifying experience in southern California, but having run consistently for over a decade, there’s something to be said for how they’ve raised their intensity bit by bit as the years have rolled on. The scareactors are dedicated, the mazes are intimate, and the scares are efficient. Guests looking to dip their toe into the waters of local, non-major haunted attractions would do well to take a trip down the 91 freeway and give Castle Dark a visit.
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