by Andrew Hrip
Ghastly ghouls pursue a group of terrified kids in a chilling chainsaw chase that none of them saw coming. A lady stops to take a selfie with her friends; little do they suspect that a clown, clad in a spiked dog collar, is lurking up behind them. Before any of them can react, it strikes and leaves them screaming. Nearby, two teenagers are throwing severed human heads into toxic waste barrels in a twisted take on basketball. This seems like a scene straight out of a living nightmare, right?
Yes. The movie kind.
Guests can find actors portraying these creepy characters, the use of such non-human props and much more at Field of Screams in Mountville, marking 25 seasons of providing an enjoyable, safe scare for the entire family.
The Haunted Hayride is one of four, main attractions at Field of Screams and the establishment’s original attraction. In operation since Field of Scream’s inaugural year, guests are greeted with a warning by the “pumpkin king” as they board a 35-foot wagon, taking them on a 20-minute ride through a cornfield. After the sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama” mark the hayride’s beginning, guests encounter a variety of frightening sights. A tent populated with crazed clowns, a public guillotine execution and a greenhouse full of oversized insects and evil mutants. Not to mention a family of hell-raising hillbillies, introduced by the familiar twangs of “Dueling Banjos” from the movie “Deliverance.” Just when they think the ordeal is over, guests must negotiate a psychedelic, revolving chamber to exit the area.
Opened in 1995, the Den of Darkness is Field of Screams’ second major attraction. After attending a ceremony that summons the “residents” of the building in the main room, guests traverse its three floors and encounter all sorts of terrifying tenants. While waiting their turn, guests get a clear view of what awaits them. They watch as their peers run outside for dear life. Apparently, the den does live up to its slogan. “Pay to get in, pray to get out!!”
Frightmare Asylum, originally a 4-story chicken house according to Field of Screams co-owner Gene Schopf, opened in 2002 and highlights the warped relationship between doctor and patient. Constant banging on the walls serves as a prelude to encountering gruesome operations and autopsies, mumbling mental patients and other sights in this sanitarium.
Field of Screams newest attraction is its Nocturnal Wasteland, described by Schopf as a “post-apocalyptic style, afterworld kind of themed haunted trail.” Opened in 2012, guests zigzag their way through school buses, a power plant, a water treatment center and other landmarks as dank odors fill their nostrils. Gas mask-clad characters and other creatures await as guests crouch through sewer pipes to make their final escape.
For guests who crave a creepier experience, Field of Screams hosts its Extreme Blackout day Nov. 10. This one night, Schopf commented that willing guests sign a waiver to face the major attractions in a darker and more interactive environment. He said, “You might get yanked out of a wagon, you might be put into a cage, you might be restrained. It’s a little bit more than what you might get on a regular night here.” If the ordeal proves to be too much, guests can use a safe word, such as “chicken,” to stop their suffering, according to Schopf.
On a lighter note, Field of Screams offers a “down-on-the-farm” experience for kids ages 2-12 in an attraction dubbed Corn Cob Acres. The attraction offers a variety of fun activities such as milking cows, picking pumpkins, feeding goats and navigating a corn maze. New this year are corn cannons; Schopf explained that these devices use compressed air to fire ears of corn at exploding targets.
Field of Screams hosts its 5K Zombie Fun Run Nov. 11. Guests sign up to run through Field of Screams wearing flag belts and negotiating various obstacles or to be zombies and try to snatch flags from the runners. All proceeds from the event benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition.
Born in 1993, Field of Screams began when Schopf and his brother Jim “had this brainstorm to do a little hayride” on their farm. He explained that guests arrived at the hayride’s entrance which, at that time, was “a stick with a sign on it.” Schopf’s wife, Sandy, cooked hot dogs for the guests and drove the tractor for the hayride. He revealed that Field of Screams’ original actors were members of Millersville University’s wrestling team, which his brother Jim was a part of at the time. Schopf elaborated that the wrestling team took the job “because they wanted a stereo system for their wrestling room.” The success of the hayride and subsequent expansion prompted the brothers, both of whom were schoolteachers, to embrace their hobby on a full-time basis.
Voted the number one best extreme haunted attraction by USA Today in 2015, Schopf said, “There’s not a whole lot of haunted attractions that are 25-years-old or that are as successful, in general.” 25 seasons is scary. Scary good.