Behind the screams of the haunted Pathways maze

As students filtered through the pitch black halls of the maze, the blood curdling screams of students and monsters rang out from each room. In front of one, a woman with a bloodied face shrieked before retreating into a hall. Paintings of past principals lined the next hall over, and behind one waited a student who frightened all those passing.

This October, Diamond Bar High School Pathways students transformed the vacant 500 building into a haunted maze. They pulled off this ambitious project through collaboration between students, teachers and directors from Knott’s Scary Farm.

For the past few years, Pathways had been constructing mazes in just one classroom. However, this year they had access to the former humanities building . With more space, the Pathways leadership class had big plans but less than two months to pull it all off. They started their project by choosing a theme to work from while creating the maze.

“We started out with a story, and the story just didn’t quite fit each of our rooms, so we changed it so that each room was different,” Pathways teacher Ty Watkins explained. “Within the last week, one of the Pathways students, Blade, came up with ‘Face Your Fears,’ and with that you can have different locations with different topics, so it wasn’t as much of a storyline.”

With each room being different, the students had more freedom to explore a variety of different scare tactics and styles. For example, one room utilized loud noises and jump scares to frighten attendees.

“One of the special items in our room was the use of a drop frame. The photo art of Principal Reuben Jones would be dropped from the wall making a loud noise with a scare actor revealing themselves from the hole,” senior Kevin Saiz said via Instagram.

In addition to the pathways students, other groups and individuals on campus also contributed to the project, including Enriquez’s Digital Video Production Class, who helped create the final room in the maze. Two juniors, Madelyne Acuna and Mason Fox, also contributed their artistic skills, the former by doing makeup for the actors in the maze and the latter by making a lifelike dummy prop.

“[The project] tested my skills and creativity. I loved learning the mechanics behind this prop, and creating the same illusion with a budget,” Fox said via Instagram.

The Pathways students also received inspiration off campus, in the form of a tour led by theme park directors across the inner-workings of Knott’s Scary Farm, a trip that Watkins secured through his connections at the theme park. There, they were allowed to see everything without actors and learned about the process of how their mazes are made.

“We walked through one of the mazes called Wax Works, both with and without the lights so we could see the tricks of the trade and certain features that made the kids think, ‘This is what we should do,’” Watkins explained.

With the experience of a professional haunted maze under their belts, the seniors were given the opportunity to work on finally building and implementing their own ideas, drawing inspiration from both past mazes and the ones at Knotts.

However, creating the maze came at a great cost, both in terms of time and money. Not only did some students spend over 100 hours working after school and on weekends, but they also all contributed props. The main donors, though, were Watkins, Pathways Dean Gabriel Aguilar and Pathways academy teacher Eleanor Boruah.

By mid-late October, the students were finally installing the maze and moving walls around in the 500 building, and the maze was ready for entry by Oct. 29.

“My favorite part of the process was when we finished, because of the sense of accomplishment after not really knowing whether it was going to work… [or] if we were going to scare people too much,” Watkins said. “We had said from the very beginning that these seniors had a great opportunity with the 500 building to make a legacy that’s gonna be hard to match.”