I found myself driving – alone – to Pennsylvania. Heavy rain earlier in the day scared off my would-be brave friends who promised to come with me.
“It’s going to be too wet.”
“I don’t feel like going all the way to P.A.”
“I fell asleep.”
“I’m a scared little wuss and my name is Andrew. Waaaaahhhhhh.” (Yeah, you.)
So I was left – alone – to test my courage against the four attractions the original Field of Screams had to offer.
About an hour and half drive north of Baltimore, Field of Screams is located at 191 College Ave, in Mountville, Pennsylvania. (Not to be confused with the Field of Screams location in Olney, Maryland. We may get to that another day.)
The “haunted house” attraction is in its 23rd year in operation, the twisted creation from the minds of Schopf brothers Jim and Gene. Field of Screams now boasts four main attractions: Nocturnal Wasteland, Den of Darkness, Frightmare Asylum and Haunted Hayride – the marquee attraction that started it all for the Schopf boys.
I was in high school the last time I visited the attraction. This time, I didn’t have a girlfriend to “protect” or a group of friends to feign bravery.
I was – pause for dramatic effect – alone with my camera to answer the simple question: Is the Field of Screams scary?
My conclusion: Yes.
I’ve been to at least eight of these seasonable Halloween attractions, including this Field of Screams, in recent years. I’m in my late 20s. I know I should suspect there is someone or something lurking behind every corner. I had flashbacks of 17-year-old me walking through the Den of Darkness in anticipation of what was to come. I had my camera and my project as distractions and still – there were aspects of the Field of Screams that made me jump.
After my heart stopped racing and I was able to gather my bearings, I managed to formulate these thoughts on the Field of Screams:
This guy looks like a terrified Justin Bieber. And that made me happy.
While chainsaws lose their scare-factor when you realize they’re not actually going to kill you, they can still provide endless amounts of entertainment.
The 100+ actors tasked with making you wet yourself take their job seriously.
Field of Screams’ cast ranges from burley adult men wielding weapons, to petite children able to contort in ways that still make me shake my head. Remember the spider-walk scene from The Exorcist? They have a girl who can do that. Only she adds a cringeworthy twist at the end that actually makes you concerned for her well-being.
Some of the cast members have clearly concocted backstories for their characters, ever present in both the Den of Darkness and the Frightmare Asylum.
But it’s not just actors that will make you jump.
For example, is this a person or a mannequin?
Major kudos go to the designers and props folks for crafting the life-like mannequins, which jump and twist and screech at you. I’m not ashamed to say I held an extra-long shot with my camera waiting for a mannequin to open its eyes. It didn’t. But honestly, some are a little silly, rickety or squeaky. For the ones that hit – look out. And the ones that don’t – look behind you – because there is probably an actor waiting to pounce on you unknowingly.
Den of Darkness and Frightmare Asylum are tied for scariest of the four attractions – unless your greatest fear is cannibalistic hillbillies from a dystopian future (more on that in a moment).
Both the Den and the Asylum are structured in the traditional haunted house format. Rooms are dark. Hallways are narrow. The actors are motivated and many. The soundtrack is ominous and flows according to the scene.
If you’re more frightened by clowns – the Asylum will be your undoing. If Stanley Kubrick’s 'The Shining' gives you nightmares, bring backup into the Den.
Nocturnal Wasteland is a combination of The Hills Have Eyes, meets Borderlands. In the Wasteland, you’re gonna’ git branded – or so says the creepy severed head.
This outdoor walk through the woods makes good use of space, although it’s a little light on the scares. Where the Den and the Asylum pack each room full of actors, the Wasteland makes for better set pieces like a full sized school bus or a discarded ambulance. The trail is also at the mercy of Mother Nature, although given Saturday’s rainfall, an old pair of hiking shoes were more than enough to trek through only a few muddy spots.
The Schopf brothers point to the Haunted Hayride as the park’s main attraction. For newcomers – it’s an absolute must. Field of Screams was launched in 1993 as just a haunted hayride. It has been perfected to take riders through a series of barns and outdoor scenes that invoke ooooo’s and aahhhhh’s aplenty.
But, a warning… It has remained largely unchanged. So if you’ve done it before, there’s not real need to see it again. Bring friends who don’t know what happens when the lights go out and “Sweet Home Alabama” starts playing in the first barn. (The only thing scarier, back when I first tried it in 2006, would’ve been if Kid Rock’s version of “Sweet Home Alabama” was playing.)
Google “Field of Screams” and one of the top five search suggestions returns “field of screams cost.”
To see all four attractions in a night ranges in price from $34 to $69 depending on the weekend and your threshold for standing in lines. (Get the V.I.P. It’s worth it.) The closer to Halloween, the more you’re going to pay.
This is a cash-only operation. So bring it to avoiding standing in absurdly long ATM lines with service fees.
Field of Screams is open weekends from Friday Sept. 11 to Friday Nov. 13, which concludes with an "extreme blackout" night – that refers to the lights, not alcohol.