One of my most favorite Halloween memories was back in college when I worked at Knott’s Scary Farm, the annual Halloween transformation of the popular California amusement park, Knott’s Berry Farm. When the tradition started in 1973, Knott’s was one of the original premier Halloween haunted houses in the country. Every year, they turn the entire amusement park into a giant haunted house with mazes, nightly shows and over 1,000 scary monsters. In the 1980s, the park brought pop culture icons to represent the event and by 1982, Elvira Mistress of the Dark began performing and hosting her own show.
Elvira came into fame in 1981 when she auditioned for, and won, the replacement host of Los Angeles weekend horror show Fright Night. She was responsible for developing a look for her character, and she and best friend Robert Redding came up with her character, a sexy punk vampire. I’m sure you’re familiar with her tight fitting, black gown with a plunging neckline and her big… hair.
Shortly after her debut at Knott’s, her character evolved from the obscure cult figure to a surprisingly lucrative brand. She was associated with many products including comic books, Halloween costumes, pinball machines, action figures and more. In 1988, she took her brand to the next level, co-writing and starring in a feature length film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Not too bad turning a role in a “B grade” horror film into a Halloween cult figure and making a successful career out of it. She has even appeared on Counting Cars where she had her 1958 Thunderbird refurbished.
Knott’s Berry Farm was a college job for me, but I had a blast working there nonetheless. Some of the best times were the handful of nights I was scheduled to guard Elvira Mistress of the Dark! It didn’t happen a lot because every single security guard wanted to be her escort. It may have been for the fact that I didn’t ask to guard Elvira that I was selected a couple of times. She was very nice but surprisingly quiet, scandalously attractive and always put on a phenomenal show. Guarding Elvira wasn’t a difficult task by any means, but I was one of the guys that escorted her from her dressing room to the theater and back again several times a night during her Halloween run.
Elvira continues to host her show at Knott’s Scary Farm, twice an evening, for the entire month during the Halloween festivities. It was a very memorable time in my life and has given me some very fond Halloween memories of getting the chance to meet “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”. So if you happen to be in Los Angeles during Halloween, go check out the Elvira’s show. You won’t regret it!