I write this having just gotten home from an over twenty hour drive. We visit Maryland every year to see family and all the other things I miss since having to live in the wholly unpleasant Central Florida. Normally, we go up and come back by the time school starts, but this year we held off the trip as long as possible and did our homework online so I could experience October weather and fall leaves for the first time in seven years (I cried).
While we were there, we drove up to Pennsylvania to do one of the most Halloween things you can possibly do up in America's unicorn horn, the seasonal Field of Screams, which boasts three different haunted houses and a haunted hayride. Unfortunately, things like this don't allow photography or videos in the rides themselves, which is fair, since people might not even feel like they needed to go if they could just watch them on youtube, and if you've never been to a "haunt" attraction, I can't even fully describe for you how different it really is to actually be there versus seeing pictures and footage online. The ambience, the lighting, even the smells all contribute to the illusion.
That's why, even having taken a sneak video of one of the hayride's biggest surprises, I'm not even going to actually show you that. They put too much into it to spoil on a mere webpage.
What I will show you are a couple things just outside the "rides" themselves, some of which I'll actually just have to illustrate for you, and my favorite of which wasn't even their own doing. You'll see.
Around thirty to forty feet tall, this gigantic corpse awaits visitors immediately inside the main entrance, describing the different areas of the park on an infinite loop. My grainy little video doesn't even come close to capturing what it feels like looking up at this towering ghoul and his skeleton cohorts. The best thing about him is how just standing here repeating himself is still believable behavior for a magically animated construct of dead bodies.
The Giant Scarecrow
Another huge, impressive monster greets you before entering the haunted hayride, which is itself a hodgepodge of different scenarios. The awesome thing I chose not to show you was one of them, and yes, more amazing than even this colossal pumpkin demon. Even more amazing than the goo dangling out of his pumpkin jaws as he speaks. There's even one more giant animatronic in the "outer" park I'm not showing you, either.
One thing that kind of blows my mind is that we live near Universal Studios itself, and their Halloween Horror Nights - which cost around eighty bucks to get into - never have anything close to this awe-inspiring.
Toxic Waste Monsters
"Toxic Head Toss" was one of several available carnival games, and involved throwing skinless rubber heads (the same ones available at most Halloween stores) into different waste drums to win a black and red basketball. Neither the game nor the prize, of course, are as delightful to me as the poisonous green entities that advertise them. From a distance, you might take them for mere ghosts, but it's clear that they're actually dripping, ooze-like entities with burning chemical flames. That is awesome. Why haven't I seen toxic waste creatures done like this before?
Ragged Nuclear Corpse
See what I mean about pictures vs. actually being there? You probably aren't impressed by this at all, but in the dark, squirming and twitching, making curiously rat-like squeaking sounds, it was my favorite part of their "nuclear wasteland," which was already a beautiful winding trek through broken-down buses, rusty shacks, giant sewer pipes and a humongous, crackling "power core" with a real tesla coil, all thickly decorated with garbage, creepy dolls and fabricated gore, haunted by creepy post-apocalyptic country bumpkins and gas-masked mutants. A still-living body with only the tattered remnants of a head was just the perfect cherry on top.
The Mutant Guts
Even aside from my ethical concerns, I couldn't have gotten you a picture of this if I wanted to, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Towards the end of the "Insane Asylum" house - built within an actual decrepit, multi-story building - you have to pass through a filthy, gunk-splattered room where a dead (or is she?!) patient is strapped to a hospital bed, a gigantic, three-pronged fleshy tentacle protruding from her swollen stomach and swinging around the room. It did not have little googly eyes on it, but it did squirm and writhe convincingly, and its lack of immediate explanation or context added so much. You see a lot of fairly conventional "medical horror" throughout this house - mutilated bodies, mad doctors jabbing at you with fake syringes - but nothing really prepares you for a giant, tumorous branch of flesh flailing out of a dead body. The same room was occupied by some of the house's deranged nurse characters, most of them played by giggling, teenage girls crawling around on the furniture, and in this case, reminding every visitor that this, whatever it is, will happen to them next.
As you left the monster intestine room, there was even another little flesh-branch sticking out of a grate near the floor, seemingly operated by hand to brush at the ankles of passersby. Small, subtle, possible to miss entirely, and by far my favorite "monster" of all - even moreso than its bigger, more dramatic cousin. If I have only one critique of this and basically every other attraction like it, it's only that they rely so heavily on jump scares, loud noises and flashing lights to elicit a reaction. The best parts of any haunted house are the weird, eerie, atmospheric elements, and I'd love to see one of these attractions go for quiet, subtle horror some time. The intestine creatures
Giant Sky Ghost
Mere moments after the pumpkin monster sent us off on the hayride, I swear to gourd I looked up to see a picture-perfect scowling monster face in the sky, the moon itself glaring out of one of its eye sockets. I had already put my camera back in my pocket, so I only managed to catch this tail end as the great phantasm began melting away, its terrifyingly perfect nose-hole and left eye socket already filling in with cloud matter, but I hope you can see what I'm talking about. Every children's Halloween special opens on some unrealistically spooky shot like this, and for once, it was my Halloween special. I drove across half a dozen states to see the fall and do something seasonal nearer to my home town, and at long last, the pumpkin gods themselves showed up to smile upon it.
That's it for Field of Screams, but I'll leave you with this photo we took while visiting South Street in Philadelphia the same weekend. There were a lot of banners and signs advertising "Halloween stores" up and down this popular shopping district, but every single one of them was actually a porno shop, none of which appeared to offer anything Halloween enough to be worth entering, but at least there was this sexy mummy wearing nothing but devil horns and a scarab.
The bandages don't count as clothing, those are part of mummies, duh. You didn't know they're all technically naked?