Halloween haunt in Lancaster County is a real 'scream'

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A week ago in a Lancaster County cornfield, a group of teen boys ran in terror from a clown with a chainsaw.

This wasn't a scene from a horror film. It was an evening at Field of Screams, an immersive haunted attraction in Mountville.

About 2,500 people came out to Field of Screams on Saturday, Sept. 15, and thousands more are expected in the coming weeks.

Watching the chainsaw spectacle was the highlight of the night for Chris Spell, 34, of Shillington, Berks County. He and his wife, Amanda Spell, 32, bought tickets in honor of their 11th wedding anniversary.

"We figured we'd do this to celebrate," Amanda said.

The couple walked through both of the park's labyrinthine haunted houses — The Den of Darkness and Frightmare Asylum — and the post-apocalyptic woodland trail of the Nocturnal Wasteland.

A clown girl stands with a menacing companion.

Their advice to future guests is to wear long pants and comfortable shoes and to spend a little more money for a VIP ticket to bypass long lines.

There's a lot of walking, Amanda Spell said, and at least one of the houses requires patrons to crawl on their hands and knees through a dark passage.

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The haunts: The Den of Darkness and Frightmare Asylum were both converted from old barns built in the late 1800s and 1940s, respectively, and are original to the 33-acre property.

Jim Schopf, who co-founded Field of Screams in 1993 with his brother, Gene Schopf, said their team is always looking to improve the experience.

There are small changes, such as adding new props, lights or soundscapes, and sometimes guests get to experience an entirely new haunt, such as the unveiling of the Nocturnal Wasteland trail in 2013. 

"The good thing about a haunt is that you don’t need to dust it," Jim Schopf said. "The real cobwebs add to the fake cobwebs." 

Melissa Alexander, 29, of Wrightsville, said the props and scares were even better on Saturday than the last time she attended several years ago.

Her husband, Eric Alexander, 40, said he was most impressed with the technical feats used in Nocturnal Wasteland, and he thought a lot of talent went into the construction. 

"I want to go back during the day and see how it all works," Eric Alexander said.

A frightened patron exits the Frightmare Asylum haunted house at Field of Screams in Mountville, Lancaster County.

Be warned: The main attractions at Field of Screams are not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone prone to panic attacks, claustrophobia or asthma.

There are loud noises and optical illusions, and the clowns, ghouls and other creatures will grab at your ankles, whisper in your ears and follow you along dark passageways.

It's all part of the fun, and the interactivity of the actors is one of the park's signature touches. 

For those who want to attend with a group but are too afraid to go inside the haunts, there's a festive midway worthy of any good carnival, complete with funnel cakes, a ring toss and prizes. 

Escape rooms: New this year is a selection of miniature "escape room" challenges, modeled after the group obstacle activity that's become popular in the last few years.

In the Field of Screams version, players have five minutes to solve a series of puzzles and "escape" the imaginary situations and settings, which include a serial killer's cabin, a jail cell on lockdown and a museum heist. 

Since Field of Screams already has four major attractions — Den of Darkness, Frightmare Asylum, Nocturnal Wasteland and Haunted Hayride — the Schopf brothers wanted to add an escape room that wouldn't take too long to complete but would still add to the overall experience.

"Zeebo the Clown" terrorizes a nameless woman (also a character, played by an actress) at Field of Screams in Mountville, Lancaster County.

"That’s why we came up with this five-minute, fairly inexpensive version that our customers could do while they’re in between the attractions," Jim Schopf said.

Each of the major attractions take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Younger crowd: There is no age restriction for admission, but the company suggests on its website that, in general, the park is not suitable for children under 10 years old. 

As an alternative for kids, the Schopf brothers operate Corn Cob Acres, a daytime Halloween attraction featuring the Little Screamers’ Hayride along with about 40 other family-friendly activities.

Corn Cob Acres is open every weekend through Sunday, Nov. 4, as well as select Fridays and Mondays. Details are available at corncobacres.com.

If you go

Field of Screams is open every weekend through Friday, Nov. 9, and on Saturday, Nov. 10, for the 5K Zombie Fun Run. The park will also be open Thursdays and Sundays through most of October and early November, and on Halloween night.

Hours of operation and ticket prices vary. Visit fieldofscreams.com for details.