Field of Screams 2015
Field of Screams has been on my Halloween wish list for the past couple of years. Oni Hartstein, awesome friend and haunt reviewer, loves this place, but it is generally too far out of my convenient travel radius. We planned to meet up here when I was visiting family nearby, but rain and other troubles forced us to cancel. Though we had a great time hanging out elsewhere, I still wanted to get my scream on. With a free Saturday evening and clear, warm skies ahead, I seized the opportunity for a solo road trip.
It was totally worth the 2+ hour drive, even the part where I ended up taking the long way home by mistake.
Field of Screams is a miniature horror amusement park with carnival games, concessions, and souvenir stands in a cobblestoned courtyard. You can enter and leave the midway area as you wish. Each of the four attractions requires its own ticket, which can be bought online or at the park. Tickets are available as single admissions and combo passes, with a VIP option to get into much shorter lines.
Den of Darkness & Frightmare Asylum
The indoor haunts are old farmhouses mangled into twisted and disorienting passages of sensory overload. Both houses are packed with engaging actors and detailed sets, including well-incorporated animatronics and much more vertical decor than I had expected to see in such borderline claustrophobic spaces. Field of Screams basically played Tetris with each house to squeeze in as much fully realized batshittery as possible.
Den of Darkness is built on nightmare logic, with “normal” house rooms stitched together in nonstandard and unsettling ways that almost seem unreal at times. I crawled behind a fireplace and around through a dark attic. I balked at squeezing through a closet between heavy hanging suitcases because it just felt musty and wrong. There’s plenty of mad science interwoven here – including a repulsively stinky morgue – but I get a particular kick out of the mundane being made creepy.
As its name implies, Frightmare Asylum is a horrific hospital. Actors tormented each other and went into high energy freakout mode. One of them threatened to rip my ears off because I was holding them to tone down the ambient noise. A simply decorated maze of prisoners made an interesting and effective contrast to the more elaborate sets.
Both houses have a unique feel, and both seemed fresh although I visited them back to back while waiting for the outdoor haunts to open. Due to the strength of this theming, I was rather surprised that both houses had a strobe light room of similar design. I’d love to see one room or the other tailored to fit more closely with the overall theme of its attraction.
The Haunted Hayride really goes bonkers with scale. First off, Mr. Pumpkinhead draws himself up to a full 10+ foot height to explain the rules.
The hayride wagon, providing a soundtrack via its own speaker, transports you between enormous set pieces that spring to life as actors jump onboard for further scares. The theme is a cross between Hills Have Eyes at the Hillbilly Farm and horror trope variety show, and the variety works because all the material is so bombastically realized. Aside from simulated gunshots and safely distant pyrotechnics, Haunted Hayride is the least intense attraction. It would be a good introduction for someone curious about Field of Screams’ style but afraid of being overwhelmed.
If I had to pick a favorite attraction, this would be it – and not just because of my love for the Fallout games. Nocturnal Wasteland is a master class in crazy assed salvage and construction, and it just kept escalating. Every time I found myself impressed, something later managed to be even cooler. I also liked the alternation between creepy close quarters and outdoor passages – a slower and more apprehensive pace than the Get Me Out of Here haunted houses. A particular set gets extra props – pun most intended – for its unique gross-out smell. Strange praise, perhaps, but well earned.
Field of Screams is a must see for haunt fans who dig sensory intensity and absolutely ace stage design. The variety in scale is amazing, from tight and detailed passages to towering outdoor sets. There’s a strong sense of what each space is suited for and how to use it to maximum potential, and a large and apt cast brings it all to life. As detailed in its blog, Field of Screams works hard in its off season to improve each year. I’m excited to see what 2016 brings.
If at all possible, I highly recommend visiting all four attractions. If you’re majorly rushed for whatever reason, go for Nocturnal Wasteland and whichever indoor haunt has the more intriguing theme. (If you’re making me pick, I’ll say Den of Darkness for its unique room transitions and Normalcy Gone Wrong appeal.) This will give you the most comprehensive sampling you can get within a limited time.
Fellow noise sensitive people, be aware – Field of Screams is loud. There’s a lot of ambient cacophony in the indoor haunts, plus prop guns and other things that go bang. Most visitors seemed okay with the volume level. I enjoyed myself just fine with some casual ear covering, and the experience was absolutely worth the annoyances of ligyrophobia. Even so, I’ll bring earplugs in the future.
Field of Screams
191 College Avenue
Mountville, PA 17554