What started as a hobby, creating the simplest of a haunted cornrow maze with a handful of hidden humans, has become a full-blown addiction for Jim Schopf, co-owner of Field of Screams in Mountville, Pennsylvania.
“We cut a path on our farm’s cornfield and used our dad’s tractor and wagon to drive through it and scare people back in 1993. People liked it, and we never looked back,” Mr. Schopf said.
With his brother Gene and teams of talented make-up artists, production designers and scare actors, they have spent more than three decades crafting one of the scarier horror attractions in perhaps the world.
On a night enhanced by the potential for thunderstorms, the diabolical duo welcomed victims to the 31st year of “Field of Screams.”
Their twisted world comes infested with hundreds of roaming maniacs and creatures and spread out over four main areas of horror on the family’s 35-acre farm, which also accommodates a midway with carnival games, escape rooms and live rock bands.
Those of less than sound mind are highly suggested to start the evening working through the longest of lines in the park that are waiting to board the Haunted Hayride.
Vintage 1970s tractors with custom-built wagons drive up to 80 visitors per trip through rustling cornfields on a 25-minute gantlet featuring 10 stops within smothering warehouses of terror.
This year, expect some of the staple visits to include an “Alien”-themed sci-fi research facility, a pig slaughterhouse, a “chop” shop with working cranes to aid in dismemberment and a psycho circus filled with especially aggressive clowns.
Most unsettling is a massive, multistory building with ascending and descending conveyor belts transporting hooked and headless “bodies” for processing complete with a live “decapitation” to highlight the grisly encounter.
Next, take a 15-minute sweaty aerobic session through the Nocturnal Wasteland looking more and more like an extended scene from “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Victims maneuver through twisted metal walkways and bridges, a living cemetery, a thick neon-green swamp and multiple burned-out vehicles en route to entering a sewer pipe maze to escape. Of course, hunters are looking for fresh kills along the way or at least easy ways to capture strays in rusted metal cages.
Now, a pair of haunted buildings conclude the visit and really deliver authentic scares for those daring to enter the centuries-old structures.
First, the aptly named Den of Darkness is a multistory Victorian-themed mansion transformed from an original barn built in 1840 that resides on the farm grounds. Highlights include a dining hall area with a living main course, a doll room, multiple kitchens with chefs and butchers looking for human flesh, walls containing rattling body lockers and a room of standing bodies covered in sheets.
Worth noting, once they climb to the peak of the building, visitors must squeeze through the attic fireplace that leads through a crawl space. That is no joke and unhealthy humans need not apply.
Second, and the crown jewel this year, is the also multistory Frightmare Asylum aka Applegate Mental Hospital. It wins the night for the often absurdly aggressive nature of its doctors, nurses, inmates and more clowns, providing a near nonstop assault of jump scares and abuse.
Never mind the incredible range of pungent odors wafting from molding concrete to sweaty latex and rotted wood and baby powder, the rooms are packed with dismembered bodies, live electrocutions, grotesque experiments and creepy crawlies.
Germophobes will be most horrified by a hallway composed of inflatable walls that require pushing through as the textured plastic rubs at clothes, hair and skin.
Reach the attic to find an assembly of crazed children looking for guests to stick around forever.
Most disturbing was a doctor in the autopsy room reminding me that I would see him here in two years. Nice, time to start eating healthier.
Both walks through the mansions last about 10 minutes and each feature belligerent ghouls shabbily dressed that love screaming nasty rants and threats into unassuming ears.
Here are a few notes for attendees.
Every attraction is concluded with an encounter with chainsaw-wielding maniacs who will poke at body parts, especially knees with their blades, tender joints beware.
Also, do not wear white clothing. An unwanted meeting with a near replica of a hulking Leatherface from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” had him rub his nasty noggin on a shirt sleeve, leaving a makeup stain on the apparel.
And, finally, for those still looking for more screams, the hands-on Extreme Blackout is set for Nov. 10 ($50 with advance purchase). It literally dares guests to walk through the attractions as they encounter ghouls so aggressive, they will selectively take guests away from their loved ones and even lock some in cages. Safe words are even required along with a signed release waiver to participate.
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IF YOU DARE GO
What: Field of Screams
Where: 191 College Ave., Mountville, PA 17554
Fear factor (out of 5): 4 for adults; children younger than 12 need to stay away.
Hours: Open weekends rain or shine through Nov. 10 — Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, select Thursdays and Tuesday (Halloween night); also, open until the last person is through attractions.
Price range: $18 to $23 for individual attractions to $55 for a “Scream Pass” accessing all four attractions (look online for price variations and daily deal sites to find less wallet-bleeding pricing). Add $15 to $35 more per person (depending on the weekend) to avoid the lines with a VIP upgrade. Cash is only accepted at the event, but there is an ATM on-site.