The Schopf family celebrates 25 years of scaring unsuspecting humans in the latest iteration of their "Field of Screams" horror attractions nestled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The event actually started as a small-scale, one-time, creepy hayride for the brothers Jim and Gene after a friend suggested to Gene that it might be fun.
"We were way too busy to do it, but 2,000 people came and liked it. It was really cheesy, and it grew from there," Gene says.
This year offers a quartet of temptations to economically frighten visitors with a couple of new twists on the previous designs that should entice "Field of Screams" veterans.
The evening should always begin with the famed and traditional Haunted Hayride. A tractor pulls a hay-loaded cart of victims through a 3/4-mile long cornfield maze with roughly 10 stops along the way.
The often stomach-urping moments feature driving into warehouses (doors closed for a few minutes), or watching living dioramas, and being attacked by an assortment of lunatics and ghouls.
Commonplace during the harrowing ride are bumping into pig carcasses and dangling snakes, watching a live decapitation and being harassed by killer clowns, cannibal hillbillies and the undead. It's also worth appreciating an exploding moonshine still with a 30-foot fireball.
Most memorable during the hayride was watching a group of zombies slowly following the tractor as they emerged from a foggy graveyard, and most horrifying was getting stuck in an enclosure with chainsaw-wielding maniacs and bloody human torsos dangling in my face.
A quick word about the ghouls roaming all over the attractions; they will get in visitors' faces and will poke and prod for scares. My suggestion is to hold emotional outbursts to a minimum when possible or dare attract the horror hordes.
An example of what not to do was one teenage girl who was unable to contain herself in the hayride and was constantly screaming. Although amusing, it did not help her. At one point, she actually started kicking at the scare actors who got too aggressive.
Next, tackle the Nocturnal Wasteland and embark on about a 25-minute stroll though a forested garbage pile of toxic, twisting terrain.
Not as scary as in previous years, the Wasteland is now more of a spooky obstacle course and definitely not for out-of-shape humans.
The change, in part, is due to adding catwalks and a bus hanging over the Hayride, adding plenty of climbing, bending and descending down ramps and stairs as well as escaping the course through massive sewer pipes.
Now, the final pair of attractions derives from two multistory, centuries-old barns converted into haunted houses that offer roughly 15-minute walkthroughs.
First, the daunting Den of Darkness features themed rooms and begins with a séance. Corridors throughout contain ghouls leading to a variety of decorated rooms. Ghouls looks ripped from a morgue and body appendages attempt to get out of their metal tombs.
New this year is a doll room featuring a pair of young girls creepily debating what parts of visitors passing by they could use to construct new dolls for their collection.
As in previous iterations of the Den, visitors end up in the attic where they will be force to climb through a tight space to escape. Once, again, out-of-shape humans need not apply.
Next, the Frightmare Asylum comes loaded up with an assortment of deranged doctors, nurses and patients trapped in a decrepit building that smells as old and grotesque as it looks.
This year, for the 25th anniversary of "Field of Screams," visitors can also get a 45-minute, behind-the-scenes tour that includes taking part in scaring the other guests. The price is steep at $150 per person but also includes access to all of the attractions.
For music horror fans, Goth-style and hard-rock bands also play on the grounds around the attractions and recently included a visit by "The Undead, a group of ghastly musicians (look not style) led by former Misfits guitarist Bobby Steele.
And, finally, don't forget the Extreme Blackout on Nov. 10 that forces guests to walk through the attractions in the dark while stumbling onto even more aggressive ghouls. These are serious scares, folks, and will require a release waiver to participate.
IF YOU DARE GO
What: Field of Screams
Where: 191 College Ave., Mountville, PA, 17554
Fear factor (out of 5): 4.35 for adults; children younger than 12 need to stay away.
Hours: Open weekends through Nov. 11 - Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 11, 5 to 1:30 p.m.
Price range: $16 to $20 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).