KneeKnocker Woods: A decade of thrills and chills

Just west of Gibbon on Highway 30, among the sprawling acres of Icon Poly, an eerie transformation takes place every October. As the sun sets, KneeKnocker Woods comes to life, beckoning more than 10,000 thrill-seekers to enter its maze of horrors annually. This spine-tingling destination is not just any haunted attraction – it’s a labor of love, boundless creativity and customer-centric values by the Vohland Family. This year marks the haunt’s 10-year anniversary.

From props to haunts

The idea of KneeKnocker Woods came from a chance encounter. Icon Poly is a custom 3D fabricator specializing in the use of high quality resins and rubbers. The owners, Kyle and Daniele Vohland, were contacted by producers of the Travel Channel’s “Making Monsters” TV show to craft some Halloween props. While the crew was filming, monster maker and haunt expert Ed Edmonds commented that Vohland’s adjacent 20 acres of farmland were the perfect setting for a haunted maze. The idea of this family Halloween event was intriguing, and they decided to venture into the business of haunting in 2013.

The haunt was named KneeKnocker Woods, a nod to the woods on the property. The family invented the story of Grandpa Grimm and later Grandma Grimm, an elderly married couple that playfully bickers about each other to the amusement of visitors. The Vohlands enlisted the help of designers to draw the characters, and Ed Edmonds to bring them to life as animatronic figures. The Vohland family lends their voices for the characters.

“People relate best to stories, and it adds a personal experience,” said Kyle Vohland. “We try to change the story a bit every year. Last year, Grandma Grimm was looking for Grandpa Grimm and asking guests to help her find him. He was hiding in the corn field trying to get away from Grandma. This year, Grandma has decided to build her own, less frightening, maze and Grandpa is back in his shed to greet guests.”

Customer experience is key

Since day one, the Vohlands’ are committed to customer satisfaction. They prioritized the entire experience – not just the haunt – knowing that happy customers would come back and bring their friends. The first thing to change: waiting in lines.

“Nobody likes to do that,” Vohland commented. “By the end of our first night, we knew we had to change how people wait for their turn to go through the maze.”
They were one of the first businesses in the area to deploy an online waiting list, similar to what we experience today at restaurants. A text message alerts the guests of the anticipated wait time and notifies them when it is their turn to enter the maze.

In the meantime, guests can purchase tokens to play games, experience an escape room, enjoy some hot chocolate and other foods, and find the perfect souvenir in the gift shop.

The 90 or so employees are all trained to monitor the flow of groups through the haunted maze to ensure safety and that the timing of the thrills are accurate. Others work tirelessly to keep food stocked and parking orderly.

A multisensory experience

What sets KneeKnocker Woods apart from other family Halloween events is their dedication to stimulating all the senses. They stretch two miles of wires to connect the haunting soundscape of whispers and slamming doors, use suggestive scents to foreshadow horrors to come, blanket the maze with a heavy fog and carefully use lighting effects to create moonglow. And of course, there’s the actors – zombies, witches, clowns, lumberjacks with chainsaws and shifty scarecrows. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that guests are fully immersed in their nightmarish journey.

New Adventures Every Night

To keep repeat guests coming back for more, KneeKnocker Woods offers a different experience every night. Props change, actors switch locations and new surprises are in store to ensure a unique adventure with each visit. The Vohlands believe in giving customers exceptional value for their money and going the extra mile to make their experience unforgettable.

This year, KneeKnocker Woods will introduce Grandma Grimm’s Jack-O-Lantern Jaunt, a tamer maze filled with fascinating pumpkin facts, to cater to those seking a fright-free Halloween adventure.

A family legacy

For the Vohlands, KneeKnocker Woods is not just a business – it’s a labor of love and a creative outlet.

“At Icon Poly, we enjoy bringing our customers’ visions to life, but KneeKnocker Woods allows us a creative outlet,” said Kylee Olson, Vohland’s daughter and manager of the haunt.

“We get bored easily,” Vohland added. “We like to make things and we’d probably be doing this anyway.”

A strong work ethic has been a family tradition for generations. In addition to their entrepreneurial path at Icon Poly, Vohland grew up watching his mother run a restaurant. It drives him to focus on a mindset of leaving a legacy.

“We need to think of what we want to leave for the next generation,” Vohland explained. “My wife and I wanted to build something to give to our children, but we also wanted to instill in them that they must put in the effort to work for what they have.”

It’s clear that KneeKnocker Woods is much more than just a thrills and chills Halloween attraction, it’s a testament to the Vohland Family’s unwavering dedication to customer satisfaction, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Original article by: Dawson Public Power

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