At times, farming can be a scary line of work filled with drought, damaging pests, low-yields, financial woes, grueling physical labor, competition both local and global, and, during the weeks leading up to Halloween, a small army of chain-saw-wielding, blood-splattered teenagers on loan from the local high school drama department spilling their faux entrails all over the place.
In honor of Knotts Berry Farm’s beloved annual Halloween scare-fest, which has been going strong for about 45 years, we’ve singled out a few real, honest-to-goodness farms that also cash in on the spooky and the supernatural in a big way during October (to be fair, once upon a time, the also terrifying-for-another-reason Southern California theme park was indeed a working berry farm).
It’s called “agritainment” or “agritourism” and for many farmers, scaring the bejebus out of the locals has become a lucrative way to supplement their income during lean times. According to the Haunted House Association, as of 2010 there were more than 500 American farms offering Halloween-themed attractions.
And we’re not necessarily just talking about pumpkin patches, hayrides, corn mazes and other decidedly mild seasonal amusements of the agrarian nature. The owners of some farms have opted to erect elaborately designed sets, hire dozens of costumed actors, concoct creepy backstories and offer uniquely ghoulish diversions that attract thrill-seekers far and wide. (Zombie Paintball Safari, anyone?) To be clear, many of these are grade-A productions that warrant a somewhat hefty admission price, not low-budget spook houses in the middle of a field. And since realism rules supreme, several of these agri-haunts feature stomach-churning special effects that would give George Romero a run for his money. In other words, they’re not a great idea for young children or people with heart conditions.
Glen Boyette, hay farmer and proprietor of North Carolina’s Clayton Fear Farm Haunted Scream Park, summed it up best in a Wall Street Journal article on the farmhouse-to-haunted house trend: “People love to be entertained more than they love to eat.”
Below, you’ll find a handful of gruesome Halloween attractions located on farms across the country (from our research, it seems that a disproportionate amount of them are located in Pennsylvania). Obviously, there are many more than listed here, so we’d love to hear about any that you find particularly blood-chilling in the comments section. Read on if you dare and beware the evil flash websites with music!
1. Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride at Arasapha Farm, Pennsylvania
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: “The Haunted Hayride is a 25 minute, action packed, heart-pounding ride through the dark forest of Arasapha Farm, located just outside Philadelphia, and is filled with huge, detailed sets, giant monsters, and more pyrotechnics than a Kiss concert.” [Note: Does this mean we can dress up like Paul Stanley?]
Adult weekend admission: $20 (Haunted Hayride); $40 (Haunted Hayride, Bates Motel and Corn Maze)
Non-terrifying off-season and daytime activities: Sheep shearing
2. McCall’s Haunted Farm, New Mexico
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: The Haunted Barn: “Enter the gruesome McCall family butcher shop filled with crazed characters that are waiting to terrify you! Will you get out in one piece?” [Note: One would hope, yes.]
Adult admission: $15.95 (single attraction); $24.95 (both attractions — Corn Maze and the Haunted Barn)
Non-terrifying off-season and daytime activities: Pumpkin picking
3. Clayton Fear Farm Haunted Scream Park, North Carolina
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: Fear Farm Academy: “Seymour Phear’s plan to home-school his 12 brothers and sisters has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Report to the headmaster’s office at once; your punishment awaits! See the twisted teachings of the anatomy class and, if you have the stomach, sample today’s mystery meat in the cafeteria — Pork? Turkey??? [Note: Any vegetarian options?] Everyone gets teased a little bit in school, but this has gone way too far.”
Adult admission: $13 (single attraction); $27 (all seven nighttime attractions including Fear Farm Academy, Haunted Cotton Maze, Slaughterhouse, etc.)
Non-terrifying off-season and daytime activities: Grape tasting
4. Haunted Woods at Maris Farms, Washington
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: "A 35-minute adventure through the corn on trails covered in sawdust will take you twisting and turning through 12-foot-tall cornstalks and past several creepy creatures as well as in and out of some sadistic sets. What evil lurks behind the next turn? Is someone or something watching you? Can you feel their bloodshot eyes following your every move as your creep along the trail?” [Note: We would hope not. We get very self-conscious.]
Adult admission: $35
Non-terrifying off-season and daytime activities: Pig racing
5. Haunted Hayride of Terror at C. Casola Farms, New Jersey
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: The Hayride of Terror: "Take a Haunted Hayride into the backwoods of New Jersey. People say they see and hear things that come alive. So maybe if you’re lucky you may see their shadows and hear the horror of the victims’ cries as they roam by. Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night? Then come take a ride.” [Note: Only if our driver is licensed in the state of New Jersey.]
Adult admission: $12-15 (single attraction); $40 (all four attractions — the Hayride of Terror, 3D Haunted Barn, the Haunted Wooded Trail, the Living Maze)
Non-terrifying off season and daytime activities: Landscaping services
6. HorrorFest at Shady Brook Farm, Pennsylvania
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: The Barn of Horror: “The Barn of Horror has long been a gathering place for all manner of fiends — a collection of night terrors trapped under one roof. Walk through the darkness, test the limits of bravery, and find out what lurks in the night.” [Note: Monsanto?]
Adult admission: $20 (one attraction); $25 (two attractions); $30 (three attractions); $35 (four attractions — Barn of Horror, Carnage, 3-D Alien Encounter, Hayride of Horror)
Non-terrifying off season and daytime activities: Produce shopping
7. Blake Farms Halloween, MichiganDecidedly scarier-than-drought draw: Zombie Paintball Safari: “Are you prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse? [Note: Most certainly not.] Come test yourself through our Zombie Paintball Safari! Ride our custom hayride equipped with paintball guns. Bring your favorite video to life — shoot LIVE zombies to train as Blake’s Zombie Hunter!”
Adult admission: $24.95 (ultimate combo pass includes two attractions)
Non-terrifying off season and daytime activities: Cider milling
8. The Dark Side Haunted Adventure at Glacier Rock Farms, Wisconsin
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: Foxglove Nursery: “In 1964 Foxglove Nurseries Inc. purchased the farm at auction to create a grow farm for multiple greenhouses to supply their stores. After a couple successful seasons they decided to setup a greenhouse to develop hybrid species. What was created in that greenhouse, no one really knows, because before they could announce any of their creations there was some kind of chemical spill and the whole farm had to be evacuated. Official reports state that all of the employees made it out alive, but we have unearthed documents that reveal there were several botanists that never made it out of the greenhouses.” [Note: “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?”]
Adult admission: $30 (includes access to all seven attractions attractions — The Dark Side, Foxglove Nursery, The Descent, Backwoods Revenge, Twilight Nightmare, Schizophrenia, Mephistopheles Lair)
Non-terrifying off season and daytime activities: Cow milking
9. Fields of Fear at Cox Farms, Virginia
Decidedly scarier-than-drought draw: Cornightmare: “Walk through cornfield terrors — in the dark!” Features include the Vortex, the Claustrophobia Crypt, the Haunted Library, the Hall of Whispers, Back from the Dead and the Bug Room. [Note: Any chance we can skip out on that last one?]
Adult admission: $15 for a basic ticket; $25 (includes admission to the Firegrounds, one Dark Side Hayride, one entry to Cornightmare and one to The Forest: Back 40)
Non-terrifying off season and daytime activities: Llama petting
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in October 2012.