The air was crisp as twilight approached as we ventured into the ominous setting that is Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. The ship is a world-renowned destination known for its striking visual appearance and ode to a different time. But the vessel is also famous for an entirely different reason, where frequent paranormal sightings that have taken place in its rooms and corridors over the decades. For selected nights during the month of October, the ship lends itself perfectly to host an all-around fright fest, Dark Harbor.
It is initially apparent that the event is not reserved in any way, but has a magnitude that keeps you held under its spell constantly. As we entered the venue, there is a sinking feeling of darkness as one disappears into the fog held within a series of storage containers that act as makeshift hallways, fittingly dubbed “The Vortex.” On the other side lays the open area — “The Street” which houses food, live music, and the “Night Mariner’s Bar.” Here we found many evil minions doing their best to put some fear in us before we ever stepped foot into one of the five uniquely themed mazes.
There is truly no way to prepare for what awaited us in Dark Harbor’s mesmerizing areas. Three of the mazes are housed directly in the bowes of the ship and take full advantage of the already visually arresting interior while sprucing it up inventive production design for full measure of scare. My personal favorite was without doubt, “Submerged” which takes you into some of the darkest corridors of the belly of the Queen Mary accented with gruesome water displays and the occasional dead monster jumping from the shadows. What is most intriguing is the way in which the maze ends, passing the original first-class pool of the ship, hauntingly empty of water, where many a real ghost sighting has been reported.
The remaining two areas of the ship are just as unique. “Containment” features an infirmary of dead or nearly dead shipmates. There is also a significantly greater amount of blood effects in this one, so be forewarned. Across the way is “Hellfire” which is an overwhelming freakshow that never lets up the entire way through. In this maze, as well as in the rest at Dark Harbor, one can see just how much effort has been taken to create monsters of great authenticity. From the wardrobe, to the make-up, to overall performance, each character has a unique purpose, and does their job with excessive zeal, to the horror of the audience.
In the dome adjacent to the Queen Mary, “The Cage” offers the most visually stimulating experience of the entire event. Strobe lights, black lights, and other various effects sensationalize what is a disorienting yet surprisingly short maze, if you can find your way out. A series of small town-like buildings houses Dark Harbor’s most extensive area, “The Village of the Damned” full of an unrelenting host of demonic beings trying to keep you from escaping their deadly grasp.
What sets “Dark Harbor” apart from the competition is its genuine ominous atmosphere thanks to grand haunted backdrop, the Queen Mary. Where other fright fests create from scratch and put together a spectacle that is overall temporary fakery, Dark Harbor takes what is already a slightly unnerving environment and transforms it into the very darkest place imaginable. Although not always apparent, there is a theme, a story that runs throughout the entire place, based on the idea that the she-demon Bundara and her two sisters have raised hell directly out of the water to prey upon the fears of mankind. Touring the mazes, I constantly found myself peeking around the corner, praying there wasn’t another wicked monster waiting to invoke another spark of fright into my soul. At Dark Harbor, they do indeed insight fear, and they do it with immense style.
The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor will be open October 7-9; 14-16; 20-23; and 27-31 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket discounts and promotions start as low as $20 online at www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor. ‘Fast Fright’ front-of-the-line passes are also available online and at the door, and well worth the additional $20 upgrade for busy nights.
The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach.