Welcome to the cobweb-filled dungeon of Ultimatehaunt.com!

Several years ago on this website, we provided a feature titled “The Ultimatehaunt Darkhives”, which was a look into the history of the Halloween Haunt.  At the time, the website was only a few years old and we were still attempting to fit the puzzle pieces of Knott’s Haunt history together.  Since then, we have learned a great deal about the rich history of this event through the interviews we have conducted with several of the former (and current) employees of Knott’s Berry Farm.  With that information provided to us we have been able to present “Haunt 101” to you for your viewing enjoyment.
 
Even though it has been over 10 years that Ultimathaunt.com has been online and we have gathered more historical information on this event than anywhere else on the planet, we are indeed still learning about the Haunt’s past.  We have discovered that thousands of factors brought this event to life over the years and we have done the best we can to document them for both preservation purposes and for your enjoyment.
 
This updated version of The Ultimatehaunt.com Darkhives is going to take a piece of Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt history and provide a detailed analysis of that portion of the event.  Items included here in the Darkhives may be anything from pieces created in the Knott’s Berry Farm Makeup Department or a look into a particular photograph of previous mazes, monsters or attractions.  You never what you’ll find here in the Darkhives and we invite you to check in with us periodically because this portion of the website will always be added upon.
 
So, follow us down the dark hallways of the Haunt’s past as we blow the dust off the cabinets and crates in The Ultimatehaunt.com Darkhives.



DARKHIVES ENTRY NO.1
THE FIRST HANGING

"Celebrities are skewered in an outdoor stunt show in Calico Square"
 
"An uproarious lampoon of your favorite pop culture icons.  Who will get hanged this year? A must see satire"

"An irreverent look back at the year's pop culture is killer comedy.  Notorious for its special effects, pyrotechnics and high-flying stunts for a no-holds-barred show of monsters and madness. A must see parody!"


"Our host takes on all rivals for absolute power in "Crypt Keeper for President!"

"New for 1999. The star from "Tales from the Crypt brings a whole new attitude to this Scary Farm favorite.  As always, nothing is sacred in "The Hanging"

"Citizens arise! Rally round the gallows!" (The Witch’s Revenge: 1987)

"Visual proof that the seeds of crime bear bitter fruit as the wicked witch is tried at the gallows as she seals her fate…or does she" (The Hanging of the Witch 1983)



By far, the Hanging is the longest running show that has been featured at the Halloween Haunt. Nowadays, a variety show is presented, but we know that it was not always like that.

In 1977, according to former Entertainment Director for Knott's, Gary Salisbury, the first witch was hung (much like the Salem witch trials).  In 1978, the Hanging is not billed at the event.  The Transylvania Sideshow of Horrors was present 7 times nightly in Calico Square and the Hanging was not present at all on the maps and advertisements in 1978.

In 1979, the “Monsters' Revenge” took place in Calico Square and the Hanging again was not billed.  Contrary to popular belief, the Hanging has not run continuously since 1976. 

In 1980, the "Midnight Witch Hanging" is billed as it returned to a witch hanging and ran that way up until 1989 in which Freddy Kruegar became the main star of the show.  From that point on, the Hanging became a variety show spoofing current pop culture in which pop icons of the time are killed.

However, for those that remember, the earlier Hanging presentations were  more of a serious/darker performance.  According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle - Tuesday October 4, 1988: "After local witches voiced objections, Knott's Berry Farm announced that it is dropping a Halloween skit that featured a witch casting spells on the audience.  'Its incidents like this that help perpuate a myth' said Chris Culver, a respiratory therapist and witch.  He said that pagens revere nature, not the devil.  A witch is not a 'cackling old hag with green skin who wants to eat little children' said David Beecher, a witch and computer operator.  Amusement park officials said that their decision to change the skit had nothing to do with the witches' protests"

This ultimately led to a witch no longer being hung. Along with the official descriptions listed above, prior official releases included: "More than 1,000 celebrities, political figures and other infamous individuals have been sacrificed during the Hanging since the Calico Square pyrotechnics and stunt extravaganze debuted in 1978 [?!] - but none, ironically, by the noose!"  With all due respect to the historian at Knott's Berry Farm who published this information, we now know that 1978 was not the debut year of the Hanging.


Its first year the Hanging appeared at the event was in 1976 and was titled "Dead Man's Hanging", in which a cowboy was hung.  This very first cowboy hanging is what we are going to be looking into today. A great big "THANK YOU" goes out to Gary Salisbury for assisting us with this information and for providing us with the photographs below:


This picture above is a shot of the very first gallows constructed for a hanging at Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt. This historical gem is that of the hanging gallows from 1976. Notice how beautiful the trees are in the background that are no longer there! This picture can be looked upon as a strong statement and tribute to the writers, producers, actors, actresses and various stunt people that have performed in the Hanging show over the years. The Hanging is the most popular show at Knott's Haunt and has spawned shows that inspired Universal Studios in their "Bill and Ted" show that takes place during Halloween Horror Nights (both in Orlando, FL and Hollywood, CA).

It all started with those pieces of wood and rope pictured above.

Gary Salisbury tells us:

"We wanted to have a Hanging. We thought, of course, all hangings were cowboy-based. We hadn’t developed the witch concept yet, so we hung Bob Rochelle, who was one of our stuntmen. We went down to Grant Boys where they sold surplus army products and I found a parachute harness to use to create the illusion of Bob being hung.

For this show we started the procession down the streets from the hanging platform. The guests would hear through the speaker system":

(Excerpt from the actual script)

“Having been tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree by his peers, it is the sentence of this court that the prisoner shall be executed. Further, let the record show that the judgment shall be accomplished by hanging and the prisoner shall be hung by the neck until dead. This sentence will be carried out immediately in the Ghost Town Calico Square. Court is now adjourned.”


(Photograph from 1976 Knott's Haunt - The First Hanging)

"Then you would hear and see a lonely drummer playing a snare drum slowly marching up the street followed by several monsters pulling a two-wheel cart with the prisoner standing in it with his hands tied behind his back. He was paraded up the gallows and the executioner placed a black hood over the prisoner’s head and placed the rope around his neck. The drummer began a sustained drum roll, increasing in volume until the trap door was sprung. The prisoner was hung"


(Photograph from 1976 Knott's Haunt - The First Hanging)

"Then, they brought the prisoner back up onto the platform by pulling up the rope and he says:"

“Thank you. Thank you for coming to my hanging. It was really quite a nice affair. It was for you, the public, who made it all possible. Thank you again and good night.”


(Photograph from 1976 Knott's Haunt - The First Hanging)
"The Hanging had been met with success and so we knew we would bring it back"

Some of the performers above are Bob Lewis, Kevin Dick and Bob Rochelle (being hung).

Taking a closer look at these pictures, it is interesting to see that a preacher was present in the first Hanging. Of course, although historically correct, the preacher was removed from the show.

It is incredible to think of what the Hanging has become today in contrast to what it once was. Gary Salisbury, although quite responsible for the creation of the Hanging and the direction it took throughout the remainder of the 1970's and most of the 1980's, takes no responsibility of the Hanging post-1989. Whether or not you are a fan of the current show or a fan of the older shows, it is interesting to know where it all began: Back in 1976 when Bob Rochelle was hung in the "Dead Man's Hanging".