- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2016

The diabolical brothers Gene and Jim Schopf dare humans to return to their 24th season of horrors hidden in an unassuming borough in Lancaster County.

The latest scare-fest offers an affordable, quartet of heart-stopping attractions through the Halloween season surrounding a carnival-style midway loaded with roaming, chainsaw-wielding lunatics, games of skill and live rock bands blasting away into the night.

Victims, rather visitors, should begin their evening with a journey aboard the Haunted Hayride, an event that combines a traditional tractor pulled trip into cornfields with some frightening stops along the way.

Specifically, the roughly 20-minute gore gantlet features 10 stops, some within closed warehouses, that often highlight ghastly nightmares starring serial killing hillbillies, human-flesh-eating pig farmers, the undead, killer clowns, executioners and bloodthirsty rednecks.

New this year is a junkyard area with masked, tool-wielding menaces called the Wrecking Crew who threaten mortals as they pass around a full-sized caboose, fire engine and a school bus that dangles over the riders’ heads.

Jim Schoph promises that for Field of Screams’ 25th anniversary next year, the bus will have an interconnected relationship with another attraction, the Nocturnal Wasteland.

So, let’s discuss that nearby Wasteland and its impressive, 20-minute test of physical fitness and survival on a walking path amid a dense forest, metal carnage and a steady supply of rotting lunatics. Watch out for another school bus filled with dead bodies and a massive Tesla Coil spewing electricity. Visitors then escape through narrow sewer pipes.

The next attractions are my favorites, a pair of real, 200-year-old barns converted into eerie haunted houses. Both were ripe of old age with innards slathered in heat and humidity during my visit, due to an overtly warm evening.

First, stop by the mental research facility Frightmare Asylum that delves a shocking look at the insane and primitive methods to treat them. It will remind one of the television anthology show “American Horror Story: Asylum” due to its four floors of excess featuring bloody examination tables, demented nurses, doctors and uncontrollable patients.

Next, and still my gold standard for haunted houses, is the Den of Darkness, an old-fashioned-looking, 3.5-story, foreboding mansion.

Moments to scarily savor inside include hearing Tiny Tim’s “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” while wandering through a collection of ghostly mannequins that occasionally came to life or a meat locker filled with human remains.

Or, better yet, walk through a morgue corridor with rows on either side of body drawers as lids opened and closed and hands pawed at me. It was a bit too “Phantasm” for my sensitive neurological make-up, and my skin actually felt like it was crawling after the encounter.

My favorite ghoul of the evening also resided in the Den. Simply wearing overalls and sporting a burned, irradiated face, he quietly spoke to me — “sorry about the radiation, that’s my fault” — before breaking into a maniacal Pee Wee Herman giggle.

Picking a favorite ghoul was a hard choice considering over 200 scare actors scattered throughout the attractions were in full, impressive makeup (or mask) and costume just waiting to make visitors jump.

Once again, I’ll remind visitors that the haunted houses require climbing up and down staircases as well as squeezing through a tight space so only those of sound body should attempt the macabre, physical challenges.


Where: 191 College Ave., Mountville, P.A. 17554
Fear factor (out of 5):
4.35 for adults; children younger than 13 need to stay away.
Open weekends through Nov. 6 — Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 11, 5 to 1:30 p.m.
Price range:
$16 to $18 for individual attractions to $34 for a “Scream Pass” accessing all four attractions (look online for daily deal sites to find less wallet-bleeding pricing).

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