The juxtaposition of the thrills, chills and frights offered by the attraction, stands in an ironic contrast when compared to the creative, passionate and service-minded Vohland family who put in countless hours to bring KneeKnocker Woods to life.
The story of KneeKnocker Woods cannot be told without Icon Poly, a custom 3D fabricator that specializes in the use of high-quality rubbers and resins.
Kyle Vohland said the business was started 25 years ago after he exited the computer business and was working to find a new career path. He said sculptures had always been a hobby and would work on making molds.
Vohland said the trick was being able to reproduce items accurately to sell them.
The path to creating items that range from corporate mascots, signs, sculptures, trade show displays, functional replicas and interactive displays, all started in an interesting place – a fire hydrant.
Vohland said his brother, a firefighter, asked if he could create a replica fire hydrant for his child, as a real one would have been too heavy and a safety issue.
From a resin mold, Vohland created a practically life-like fire hydrant, but it only weighed 15 pounds. He said people were intrigued by this and he got orders to produce more.
After producing multiple replica fire hydrants, Vohland was eventually contacted by the company that built the actual fire hydrants, likely with a cease-and-desist letter waiting.
Rather than a court battle, Vohland and the company struck an agreement for him to produce the replica hydrants, something that would help save their salesman’s backs when showing off the product.
These fire hydrants would eventually connect Icon Poly to Hollywood.
Vohland said that nearly everything on a movie set is a replica and these must be produced somewhere. The same fire hydrant company Vohland was producing the replicas for sent a request by a movie maker to Icon Poly.
One of the first replica hydrants featured in a movie was the 2003 film “Bruce Almighty” starring Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman.
Icon Poly capabilities today include computerized sculpting, 3D foam milling, and laser digital sculpture enlargement.
Icon Poly was eventually contacted by the producers of the Travel Channel’s “Making Monsters” television show.
The show followed the Greely, Colo., based company Distortions which created animatronics for haunted Halloween attractions.
While filming the show on the Icon Poly property near Gibbon, Vohland said one of the Distortions staff looked around at the adjacent acres of farmland and noted it would be the ideal setting for a haunted maze.
After consultation with experts, the Vohland family decided to jump into the venture in 2013. Thus, KneeKnocker Woods was born.
The name is a nod to the property itself, which features a wooded area along the Wood River that snakes through the area.
No haunt would be complete without characters and a story, so the Vohland family created Grandpa Grimm, a farmer who was plowing his field and accidentally overturned a lost graveyard and let all the zombies out who now inhabit the maze.
Each year something new is added to the story, including Grandma Grimm, who bickers playfully with Grandpa Grimm. Last year Grandpa went and hid in the maze with the zombies while Grandma was the one who greeted visitors and asked them to find the old coot.
Vohland said during their first year they included thousands of dollars in animatronics and around a mile of wire. So much has been added to the maze that now they need two miles of wire, Vohland quipped.
The walking path for the trail is around half a mile through the wooded area and corn field. The time it takes varies by how fast a group walks – or runs.
Kylee Olson, Vohland’s daughter, said KneeKnocker Woods has become an adventure for their family, and they all have their own role to play. She said it takes every single one of them to make it happen.
KneeKnocker Woods became so popular that the line to get in became massive, and something the Vohlands wanted to avoid.
They were one of the first businesses, even before local restaurants, to employ an online waiting list. Customers would leave their numbers with the staff and would receive a text when it was their turn to enter the trail.
While people waited, other attractions were added, such as a corn maze – watch out for the monsters, zombie skill games, axe throwing, escape rooms, a gift shop and ghoulish food options.
This year a new feature is the paintball range where people can shoot at zombie targets that pop out from behind cover.
Each year, KneeKnocker Woods employs around 100 people and around 60 to 80 are on site each night helping everything run smoothly.
Olson said many of the workers are from their extended family who have been coming back year after year.
The website for KneeKnocker is email@example.com and they can be found on Facebook and Instagram at “KneeKnocker Woods”.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.kneeknockerwoods.com/collections/tickets
KneeKnocker Woods is open every Friday and Saturday in the month of October with occasional Sundays.
The Vohlands are always adding new features to KneeKnocker Woods, which has transformed from a haunted trail to a full-blown Halloween theme park.
This year the main addition is Grandma Grimm’s Jack-O-Lantern Jaunt, a scare-safe maze that will be filled with lighted pumpkins and other objects. There will also be signs with interesting trivia about jack-o-lanterns.
There will be a “Zombie Proof” shuttle from the entrance to the Jack-O-Lantern Jaunt, on the backside of the property.
A Decade of Service
Reflecting on a decade of KneeKnocker Woods being in operation, Vohland said that they take it, “year by year.”
Vohland said they plan and prepare as much as they can before the start of the season but can only create the maze after the corn is mature and the irrigation pipe can be removed.
The family has around 10 days to get the entire operation up and running. He said they are pretty worn out by the time the gates open, but it has always been about delivering an enjoyable experience for their patrons.
Vohland said he has always focused on a “servant personality,” and treating people the way they would like to be treated. Also, they just want people to have fun.
That is a reason they don’t charge for people to be on the property or parking, allowing people who might be finically stressed to still enjoy the evening at KneeKnocker Woods.
“The idea is we have something for everybody,” Vohland said.
Olson said the past 10 years have been, “an adventure,” and said while they might be exhausted from the Halloween season, they always come back to planning for next year.
She said she is really looking forward to the tamer Jack-O-Lantern Jaunt and they hope to bring in as many people as they can.
“We are looking forward to the next decade,” Olson said.