Friday, February 06, 2015

The Haunted Shack, Knott's Berry Farm - November 1960

I was very happy to find today's photos from Knott's Berry Farm! One of the "most missed" extinct attractions from Knott's is the beloved "Haunted Shack" - a wooden cabin built at such extreme angles (and on a slope), that all kinds of crazy phenomena could be seen there; phenomena that could only be caused by GHOSTS! 

The Haunted Shack debuted in 1954; the story goes that it had once belonged to Slanty Sam and Shaky Sadie in Esmerelda County, Nevada. After they passed away, Walter Knott had the shack moved to the Berry Farm.*

The guide (or host?) looks like a gas station attendant. "Fill 'er up?". I remember this illusion; a guest was chosen from the audience, and challenged to get up out of the chair. They couldn't do it!

This next one was known as the "Scare Chair"… it was placed high up on the wall, resting only on its back legs on a thin piece of wood. We saw the host put it there himself! And yet there was no danger of falling. What audience members didn't know is that this kid was a "plant", and he stood at that angle no matter where he was. Because he was the great-grandchild of Slanty Sam and Shaky Sadie.

WHUT THE…?? Water is flowing uphill! He is a demon! Stone him! I remember another water illusion: a spigot hanging in the air above a sink, supported only by two thin wires, with no pipes running to it. And yet water was gushing out of it continuously! "How does it work?" someone invariably asked. "Very well!" would be the reply.

It looks like this guy is dancing with that broom, a la Fred Astaire, but in fact he was demonstrating how it would stand up on its own, and at a ghostly slant! There's nothing spookier than a haunted broom.

The Haunted Shack was demolished in 2000, replaced by the "VertiGo" ride.

*Info gleaned from Chris Merritt's book, "Knott's Preserved".


Nanook said...

Haunted Shack Friday. It's a good day. I especially enjoy the cast member uniform shirts "personalized" with the 'name': Guide. Nice touch.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I miss The Haunted Shack! Termite damage, or being non-ADA compliant, or whatever the real reason was for it's removal...they should have done whatever upgrades needed to be done to it and kept it at all costs! According to current Knott's employees, guests still ask about this attraction on a daily basis! And VertiGo didn't even last that long before being removed. The attraction that is currently in that location (the Screamin' Swing) has an "up-charge" and I have never seen it have a line. I say, it's time to BRING BACK THE HAUNTED SHACK!!!

K. Martinez said...

Ah, the Haunted Shack! I pass by another "haunted shack" several times a week on my way to a friend's house. It's the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz and it's still open to this day. In my over forty years of residing in Santa Cruz, I've only been there twice. For some reason, I always opted to take visiting friends and family to the Winchester Mystery House over the hill instead. One of the things I remember most about the Mystery Spot were the guides explaining the "phenomena" with straight faces.

Chuck said...

I finally got up the courage to enter this place (with my parents, of course - the name was absolutely terrifying) on my last childhood trip to KBF at age 7...and wondered why I had been scared for so long.

I remember an illu-, er, strange natural phenomenon where a person would walk from one end of the backyard along a fence and either seem to grow or shrink. My strongest memory is being asked to climb up into that chair on the wall. Some sort of strange force from outside my body physically pushed me back into that chair, and it was an effort to get back up again. It looks like good clean fun, but until you're sitting there up on the wall, you really don't understand the gravity of the situation.

On my last trip to WDW in '07, I discovered "Old Scratch's Mystery Mine" on Tom Sawyer Island, which exhibited many of the same physical properties. Unfortunately, it was an unescorted walk-through, so other than a sign at the entrance, there was no context, backstory, or anybody pointing to strange goings-on that you might otherwise miss. I wonder if any of our WDW experts (if they're even here today - it's not a WDW post) know if this was originally guided or if it's always been a self-led, exploratory tour. Did this open with the rest of the island in '73?

(For an outstanding overview of the Mystery Mine - as well as the rest of WDW's MK's TSI - see TokyoMagic!'s excellent 2011 trip report here:

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, thanks for the mention and the link! I love Walt Disney World's Mystery Mine! And K. Martinez, it's good to know that there are other similar "Mystery Spots" right here in CA. And as far as I know, there is still a "Haunted Shack" in the town of Calico, but I have yet to make a trip there to see it, or the town for that's "on my list" of things to do!

Snow White Archive said...

Looks like it would've been a lot of fun. I remember as a kid visiting similar "mystery spots" on family vacations in the Midwest. Funny how the vortexes on the earth's meridian lines almost always line up in tourist locations. ;)

Nancy said...

we also went to a place like this somewhere around here when I was young (like in the 1960s!) Now you have me wondering where it was and the name.... its a mystery!!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I was selected to sit in that chair once.

I heard the current owners wanted to tear down all of Ghost Town and put in thrill rides. I seem to recall that it was granted historical status to insure it’s preservation. I don’t know any of the details of this; does anyone know anything about it?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, they look like they should be changing tires at PEP Boys!

TokyoMagic!, I miss it too. I find it hard to believe the "termite damage" excuse. How expensive could it be to fix that structure? I don't know how much real estate the Shack used, but they must have room for it. I agree, bring it back!

K. Martinez, I went to the Mystery Spot with my younger brother a few years ago (he still lives in San Jose), and we listened to the spiel about how it had been built on a site with "gravitational anomalies" After we were done, my brother asked, "Do you think there really are gravitational anomalies?". Ouch.

Chuck, it's funny, I was afraid to walk through the tunnel to the gold mine (it was just a short tunnel), but I was never worried about the Haunted Shack. Not sure why. The growing/shrinking illusions are pretty striking. Even though you know it's just your brain being fooled, it is convincing! I never knew about "Old Scratch's Mystery Mine", but half of the fun of the Haunted Shack was the spiel. Without that, it's just a crooked house.

TokyoMagic!, well, I guess I must have seen your post about Old Scratch's Mystery Mine, now I have to look at it again. I haven't been to Calico since the 70's, so who knows what's there!

Nancy, I think there were places like this all over the USA. I believe they are generically known as "gravity hills".

Monkey Cage Kurt, I have not heard that; the park just spent a bunch of money refurbishing many of the Ghost Town buildings, so it seems unlikely that they would now want to tear them down. However, it is hard to rest too easily, knowing how this stuff can vanish in an instant.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I remember hearing that the owners thought Ghost Town didn’t have the same draw like it did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. So to make it more appealing to kids they were going to retool the entire park toward a more modern thrill ride park.

This was a while back, many years in fact, but I don’t recall exactly how long ago it was. I think the town is safe now due to the outcry at the time, and the historical status and all. I was just hoping someone may have more info about it. Anyway, I’m sure it’s safe now.

Unknown said...

I was picked to sit in the chair and I WAS able to stand up. I ruined their presentation. I've always wondered why no one else could stand up.

Curt said...

Knotts Berry Farm, particularly the Ghost Town section, is based entirely on the still surviving Calico Ghost Town located in the San Bernardino desert. Walter Knott owned Calico Ghost Town and moved several of its dilapidated buildings to what is now Knotts Berry Farm in order to entertain guests at his Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

The Ghost Town buildings were so successful that Knott started charging an entry fee and later built the entertainment park as it eclipsed the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Calico Ghost town still has a "Mystery Shack" which is very similar to the Knotts Berry Farm "Haunted Shack."

Calico Ghost Town and Knotts Berry Farm could not have existed without the other.