- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2019

“It’s the thrill of it all,” says Jim Schopf, co-owner of “Field of Screams,” when asked why he and his brother Gene continue to scare visitors during the event’s 27th Halloween season.

Specifically, those thrills are spread out over 35 acres on the family farm within Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that offers a midway with carnival games, escape rooms, live rock music, roaming creatures and four main, petrifying attractions.

Here’s a rundown of the quartet of attractions and what new nuances the Schopfs have added to ratchet up the terror.

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Haunted Hayride — The “Field of Screams” fear legacy may be most remembered by a roughly 22-minute-long journey into macabre during a traditional tractor ride.

Around three dozen guests sit on a hay-filled, flat-bed trailer attached to a tractor and are driven through cornfields and 10 warehouses loaded with extreme fright scenarios — such as a circus filled with killer clowns, a large creature-loaded greenhouse, a run-in with Crazy Dave and his Hillbilly family, and a room with chainsaw killers.

New this year is the ambitious S.H.A.D.E. cryogenic mutant-testing facility that features a “Stranger Things”-style lab area, video screens and mutants contained in tubes.

A scientist on a screen and in the facility tries to keep visitors calm as the lights go out, and chaos ensues when the mutants escape.

With productions values comparable to Universal Studios Horror mazes, it’s a welcomes addition. I hope they ramp up the mutants and scares next year.

The ghouls were especially enamored with a victim’s long hair this year as I was harassed multiple times. An executioner was even so bold to come up, grab my locks and declare, “I wonder if the pretty hair comes with a head so I can see it all roll.”

Nocturnal Wasteland — A sweaty and exhaustive 15-minute walk greets guests as they survive a 3/4-acre twisting, forested gauntlet of horror filled with killers, hungry creatures and environmental challenges while they escape through tunnels, cages, multiple abandoned vehicles and catwalks.

Visitors even pass over the Haunted Hayride and must avoid the long-range attacks of a “Mad Max”-style ghoul shooting air blasts at them.

In addition to the new Deadwood Cemetery, complete with life-size angel gravestone statues, and an updated butcher shop, the attraction also boasts a much bigger neon-green swamp illusion than last year. It gives visitors the effect that they are waist-deep in water as they walk by an abandoned fishing boat.

However the scariest part of the journey was listening to the cries and pleas of “sorry” from a younger child further behind me. His father and older sibling were laughing at him throughout with only some occasional sympathy. Just another BIG reminder to parents that these attractions are really scary, and younger children who are easily frightened should be discouraged from attending.

The attractions round out with a pair of haunted houses — Frightmare Asylum and Den of Darkness — that each offer a roughly 12-minute, multistory walkthrough that is not recommended for the physically challenged or faint of heart.

The Den is a mid-19th century, converted barn-turned-mansion housing a doll shop, butchery, claustrophobic attic and new dining room with a main course that will make the weak of stomach urp.

The Asylum features a maze of nurses, clowns, holding pens, a reanimation lab, a crazed dentist office and multiple autopsy tables with (politically incorrect alert) live female victims being tortured and a sickly sweet smell throughout (like one might find in a humidity-drenched basement morgue).

However, the biggest surprise this year had nothing to do with the attractions.

The brothers have added a second story to the merchandising area and a roughly 75-foot-tall steel grain silo with the “Field of Screams” banner illuminated at the top.

The extra story is the headquarters of the operation and actually a monitoring station loaded with video screens that cover much of the area and help with line and crowd control during the nights.

The silo acts as a watchtower for Gene and Jim Schopf as they use a spiral staircase (with metallic webbing for stairs no less) and a ladder on its outside to get to the top and admire their fiefdom.

I can easily see the boys working this into some sort of special access attraction at next season’s opening.

As per tradition each year, I pick my favorite ghoul, and this season it goes to a weird super-skinny guy with a long blond beard dressed in a nurse outfit.

Strategically hidden in the Frightmare Asylum, he slowly  moved in front of me and asked, “What’s a matter? Never seen a pretty girl before?”

Note: My most important suggestion is get to the event early, especially during peak nights near Halloween. The park had a record 10,000 folks show up on one evening last year.


What: Field of Screams
191 College Ave., Mountville, PA 17554
Fear factor (out of 5):
4.5 for adults; children younger than 12 need to stay away.
Open weekends rain or shine through Nov. 9 — Friday, Saturday, Sunday and select Thursdays; also, open until the last person is through attractions.
Price range:
$16 to $20 for individual attractions to $35 for a “Scream Pass” accessing all four attractions (look online for price variations and daily deal sites to find less wallet-bleeding pricing). Add $10 to $25 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.

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