Field of Screams slaughters 30th season opener

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Octavio Ortiz took the lead walking into the haunted house, confident as any 13-year-old boy looking to prove himself.

Though dim and ominous, the foyer was relatively quiet. Same with the room next to it.

But rounding the corner into a pitch-black hall, Octavio stopped and turned to the person behind him, suggesting, “You go.”

Then the roller coaster really began.

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All through the house, people came out of the woodwork, sometimes literally. They screamed and howled, giggled and growled in the darkness as they chased Octavio, his family and others through a maze of horror.

Tamika Quniones play-chokes Octavio Ortiz while Eric Marrero stands behind them as they make their way through the Den of Darkness attraction at the Field of Screams theme park near Lancaster on Sept. 10.

Later, after fleeing the exit and escaping silhouetted boogeymen with chainless chainsaws, Octavio snorted, laughed and said, “Nah! I’m not scared of nothing!”

Bold declaration from one standing back in the real world, just a few feet from the field.

Octavio and his family, Tamika Quinones and Eric Marrero, all of Philadelphia, were among the first to brave the opening weekend at the Field of Screams scare-park near Lancaster on Saturday. 

Quinones was visiting for her third year, and she brought Octavio and Marrero for their first — neophytes to the fright carnival.

Rocco and Brenda Dimaio visited from Drexel Hill.

They were both impressed by the actors as they went through the park’s four attractions one by one.

Rocco and Brenda Dimaio prepare for what sights await them as they enter the Nocturnal Wasteland attraction at the Field of Screams theme park near Lancaster on Sept. 10.

“The actors were really into it. They were really genuine. And it was just a lot of scares,” Rocco Dimaio said. “They’re very good at their craft.”

Field of Screams carves into its headstone milestone 30th season this year.

After starting in 1993 with one ride, the theme park has grown like a zombie horde into a massive Halloween-time production, one that co-owners and brothers Jim and Gene Schopf estimated costs between $1 million and $1.5 million to operate now.

They said they have about two hundred employees working throughout the site’s four horror attractions and the front entertainment area. Three of the attractions use about 30 people each. The fourth — the big one, the original — the Haunted Hayride has about 40 to 50 people.

The park averages 80,000 to 100,000 guests per year, depending on the weather, the brothers estimated.

“It’s a whole night of terror, fun, screaming, laughing and just having fun together,” Jim Schopf said.

Each year builds off the previous year, he said, as staff make improvements, innovate and expand the attractions.

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When visitors arrive at Field of Screams, they walk into a large pavilion that resembles a deranged, macabre courtyard populated by homicidal yet helpful zombie clowns.

The entertainment area features a picnic spot with a food vendor, souvenir stands and a stage for live bands. The four main attractions branch off from there.

  • The Den of Darkness — which totally did not scare Octavio Ortiz — takes visitors through what resembles a haunted house. A soundtrack of upbeat 1960s music mingles with pretend blood, gore, bumps in the dark, toys in the attic and presumably skeletons in closets.
  • The Frightmare Asylum is the park’s other indoor attraction. Visitors wind through four floors of what resembles an out-of-control insane asylum and hospital, complete with living autopsies, shocking scenes and scenes of shocking.
  • Nocturnal Wasteland stages outdoors in a wooded post-apocalyptic hellscape. Visitors face off against the walking dead, supernatural creatures and oppressive raiders driven to brand prisoners. Escape involves sneaking through a makeshift settlement and wading through a glowing toxic swamp.
  • The Haunted Hayride starts as a relaxing tractor-drawn ride through a cornfield. Within seconds, though, all hell breaks loose. Visitors are pulled into a demented journey to flee territorial rural homesteaders, victims of covert experimentation, psycho circus clowns and worse. The straw in the wagon is comfy at least.

Of the four, Schopf said he believes the indoor attractions are the scariest because visitors are trapped with monsters in confined spaces.

“In the buildings, it’s kind of like they got you in their clutches,” he said.

An actor in a costume and makeup sneaks up behind riders as part of the Haunted Hayride attraction at the Field of Screams theme park near Lancaster on Sept. 10.

Warnings are posted throughout the park about the types of scares to expect, like actors lightly touching guests or chasing them with chainless chainsaws. There are also warnings of potential health risks, such as flashing lights.

Brenda Dimaio has a medical ondition, she said, and was aware of the flashing lights. She prepared for them by closing her eyes in those areas of the attractions and clinging to Rocco to walk her through.

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Field of Screams runs each weekend through early November.

Prices range from $15 to $30 per ticket, depending on anticipated busy weekends, and with full-park pass options.

They can be purchased online at www.fieldofscreams.com.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.