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Silverwood Theme Park version 3.0

Roller Coaster Alley's Scarywood Theme Park 2009 Trip Report

Click here for photos from our trip!

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. Fright Fest at Six Flags. Even Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. These days Halloween events at theme parks are everywhere. They offer a chance to see the dark side of the amusement world with frightening mazes, haunted thrill rides, and scare zones. Starting in 1972 with Knott’s Berry Farm’s legendary transformation into Knott’s Scary Farm, Halloween events are often a park’s busiest time of the year. With every building covered in decorations, popular rides spruced up with new twists, and characters dressed up in costumes that take no less than a little time to prepare, who wouldn’t want to check these places out? And besides, everyone loves a good scare, right?

Silverwood, of course, knew that a Halloween event would eventually be something worth looking into. But like so many other things, this park was determined that if it was going to be done, it was best to take time and do it right, rather than rush into a half-baked Halloween celebration. After all, it wasn’t but three short years ago that Nancy Digiammarco, marketing director for the park, stated the following in an interview with Roller Coaster Alley: "You know, we’ve looked into [a Halloween event] and our feeling is that the time is not right yet. We are a distance out of Coeur d’Alene – it’s not like we’re sitting right in the middle of town – and that time of year the weather is pretty "iffy" for us. So it’s being looked at, but we’re not quite sure yet that it’s going to happen".

And so it would seem, the spooky side of Silverwood was miles down the road.

Which is no doubt why a few eyebrows were raised earlier this spring when Silverwood announced its operating schedule – and for the first time ever, the park was to be open through the entire month of October. Rumors began to fly that perhaps they were thinking about a Halloween event after all, but this died down when the events calendar came out, and no Haunt was included on the list.

The 2009 season progressed nicely, with great weather and crowds for the park. As the summer began to wind down, it seemed that the sun would begin to set on yet another standard operating season. Perfect time to turn the world upside down, right? And that’s exactly what Silverwood did when a teaser announcement was suddenly posted on their Facebook page – "Something SPOOKY is coming to Silverwood this fall". It was a dead giveaway – Silverwood was about to jump on the Halloween bandwagon for the first time.

After a few days of rumors bouncing around, the details were announced – the daytime would be filled with family activities geared towards kids, and at night, the park would transform into "Scarywood Theme Park". The train ride would become "The MidFRIGHT Express". Thunder Canyon would be drained and turned into a walk-through haunted maze called "Terror Canyon Trail". Nick Norton would be putting on a Halloween themed magic show called "Nightmare". Scare zones would be placed throughout the park to spook unsuspecting guests who dared to brave these attractions. And to top it all off, the park would do a little re-decorating...everywhere.

On October 17th, 2009 the RCA crew headed to Silverwood to check it out for ourselves. Making our way out of the pedestrian tunnel towards the main gate quickly set the stage: if the decorations we saw were any indication of what was to come, we were not going to be disappointed. The entryway to the park, along with the courtyard and Main Street, were covered in decorations. Bales of hay, pumpkins, bats with fiery-red eyes, and spiders of various shapes and sizes had spun their silken homes all over the buildings.

Walking through the park during the daytime, it was easy to spot kids of all ages thoroughly enjoying the activities at Garfield’s Summer Camp. We caught a few glimpses of the theming at Terror Canyon Trail. And as for the weather? Well, it was about what one might expect – certainly not conducive to take a swim at Boulder Beach – but easily comfortable enough to enjoy the rides. And enjoying them was a breeze – virtually no lines at any of the coasters meant you could ride to your hearts content. Fittingly enough for the season, Silverwood seemed a bit like a ghost town.

True to the park’s intent, as the sun went down, the setting began to change considerably. Guests were directed by a creepy, ghoulish voice, to head towards Main Street, as the park was to be prepped for its transformation into Scarywood. Soon, the familiar banjo music faded out, and all that was left was creepy, eerie sound effects and music. Silverwood, as we knew it, was no more.

First up: the Theater of Illusion. After feasting on an all-you-can-eat dinner of "Brains and Eyeballs" (Spaghetti and Meatballs), Nick Norton’s magic show was predictably awesome. A few new decorations along with some Halloween themed music added a nice touch. And while the show did contain a good scare, overall we found it to be easily the tamest of the three attractions.

Next it was time to experience something we’re not aware any park has attempted before: the re-theming of the Silverwood Railroad to the MidFRIGHT Express. The train itself was practically transformed into a monster – decked out with creepy lights as it slowly made its way to Main Street.

Passengers load the cars that had been occupied by guests during the day for many years, and as the train starts to make its way out of the station, all the lights on board turn off. In mere moments, the only illumination is the cars driving by on Highway 95, and soon even those are gone. Slowly, the train proceeds through the woods, enshrouded in creepy darkness. If that weren’t enough, the ride is narrated by an eerie ghoul that haunts the very woods being traveled through. Soon, riders find themselves passing by several terrifying and gory scenes, all while skeletons and ghosts float amongst the trees – some of which pop right out of the dark.

Up ahead is the infamous train trestle – but instead of hearing how tall it is in chipmunk feet, someone is about to blow the entire bridge up. After an impressive explosion underneath the bridge, the train somehow moves onward, toward the mine. The train stops as usual, but there aren’t any cowboy-clad robbers this time. Instead, two zombies emerge from the mine, force a victim off the train, and proceed to carry her back into the mine with them. Needless to say, she didn’t come out in one piece. The train quickly starts up again and heads away from the mine before any more passengers are lost.

If this weren’t enough to get riders’ hearts thumping, the train slows down for its final stretch through the forest, ultimately reaching a dead stop - again. Sounds of rustling bushes and branches begin almost unnoticeably, but grow louder and louder. Flood lights temporarily blind all riders on the train, and before there is time to assess what is happening, strobe lights turn on inside the train, and ghouls, goblins, and zombies storm through every car. Screams and shrieks from guests abound, and the goblins eventually exit the train. Finally, the journey leads back to the station.

Our opinion? MidFRIGHT express packed just the right amount of scares to get us ready for the main attraction – the Terror Canyon Trail. Making our way back to the trail, we encountered several scare zones that were brilliantly placed to guard the way. You had no choice but to take a deep breath and start walking. Monsters and zombies, acting the part very well, filled the park walkway with screams. Eventually, we arrived.

In a nutshell – this maze had it all. Monsters, vampires, dark caverns, decorations, gory body parts strewn about, skeletons, werewolves – you name it. It was a new surprise around every corner. Many times it was hard to tell if what you were looking at was a person or a prop – until it started moving towards you. The Terror Canyon Trail is simply non-stop excitement.

And Silverwood could not have picked a better location for such an attraction. The depth of the water trench, along with the trees crowding on all sides, creates the perfect environment for a haunted walk-through. Few artificial backdrops – most of it was real. And being down in the trench reminded you that you had no easy way out; just keep pressing forward. There were seemingly no end to the scares. Even after getting out of the attraction, monsters follow guests all the way up the exit path until they arrive back in the park.

While the other two Scarywood offerings have their moments of fear, Terror Canyon is definitely not for the faint-of-heart. The magic show? Yeah it had one startling moment. The MidFRIGHT Express? It’s not for your 5 year-old, but at least you had a chance to catch your breath a few times. Terror Canyon Trail will have your heart racing from the moment you hand over your ticket until you have left the park.

Overall, Silverwood has done an amazing job creating Scarywood. The fact that they could put this together this well for the first year is great news...because it should just keep getting better with experience. We think it’s safe to say that Scarywood will return for years to come. True to their original Facebook posting, something spooky is at Silverwood right now...the only question you have to answer is, are you brave enough?