Halloween season is full of mischief, mystery, screams, frights and everything in between. For millions of folks, October 31 would not be complete without a visit to a haunted house, or a dark theatre, or an eerie maze. So, if you’re a Halloween fanatic, add these scintillating scares to your spook-tacular agenda. Here’s witching you a Happy Halloween!
FARMINGTON FRIGHT NIGHT (www.supportourtroopshh.com) The dates for the 2019 Haunted House are Friday and Saturday evenings, October 4, 5, 11, 12, at the 4-H Building on the Dakota County Fairgrounds, Farmington, MN. Germaine Beyl is the president of the Support Our Troops Haunted House Organization, now in its 17th year. This year’s event is “Fright Night, Cell Block 13”, and it is set in a haunted prison. Welcome to “Cell Block 13”. Our facility was in operation from 1888 – the early 1900s. It was the site of biological experiments and other crimes involving the people incarcerated here. No one is quite sure what exactly happened, but there was some kind of disturbance. When the authorities stormed the building it was strewn with bodies. Because of the horrifying acts committed here, this building is believed to be haunted by victims of those crimes and those who committed them. Over the years there have been several ghostly sightings and unexplained activities reported in the building. “Cell Block 13” is open to the public, and it is for those who are brave enough to enter its halls. Once you leave this room, there are no guarantees. Keep your hands to yourself, and hope that the spirits residing here will do the same. If you do, by some unfortunate chance, encounter any of the tortured souls left behind, do not make eye contact! No matter how desperate they appear, do not follow them. They are not asking for help, but rather they are looking to make anyone pay for what happened to them. Enjoy your visit. “We are a military family. All proceeds from the haunted house go to support the military in one way or another. The haunted house is free to all service men and women and their immediate families. This includes veterans and all those who served (proof of service required). The Haunted House is geared toward ages 12 and over; at a cost of $5.00 per person.
SCREAM TOWN, CHASKA (www.screamtown.com) Voted one of America’s must visit haunts and a Minnesota “must do”, Scream Town in Chaska is back for its 12th year of fear! If you want scary, go to the other place, if you want absolute terror of nightmare proportion, come to Scream Town. Can you handle the Convent? It’s six intense rooms of multiple terrifying experiences; plus thousands of dollars of new sets, scenes, and special effects. Scream Town has over 400,000 square feet of haunts, making up 7 incredible attractions. Join them again for the fabulous food, terrifying fun, entertainment, and amazing new additions! And be sure to check out the Ultimate VIP ticket to Scream Town, which includes the all new Abandoned Hayride event, right next to Scream Town. The Abandoned Hayride is the newest and most exciting haunted attraction in the metro area. Nowhere in Minnesota or in the nation will you experience a hayride and haunted house combination like this. You’ll be surprised and terrified, within moments, at a hayride that is actually scary…fire, magic, and so much more! Four separate attractions are included in the price, one which leaves you abandoned in the woods. Upon your exit, if you make it, various vendors, tarot, and an oddities shop await. Prices start at just $20.
NORTHERN FRIGHTS (www.northernfrightsmn.com) Northern Frights is back for another season! Opening night is Sat., Oct. 5. It runs Fri. and Sat. nights through Nov. 2; and is also open on Thur., Oct. 17, for MEA week. Northern Frights, Southern Minnesota’s largest haunted attraction, is owned by Eric Weiss and his parents, Bob and Becky Weiss. “We are in our 4th year and have expanded yet again. Each year we employ 80 actors and staff, retaining almost all of them from season to season,” explained General Manager/Set Designer Jen Nielsen. Located at the Blue Earth County Fair Grounds, just 10 miles south of Mankato, the 150-year-old acreage is set under gnarly, old-growth oak trees at the bend of the Watonwan River. Several of the original buildings are utilized to set the scene for the amazing haunt and attractions. The Weiss staff serves an array of food and refreshments, from hot chocolate and soda, to walking tacos, chili, and caramel apples. Vendors include a local favorite, AJ’s Onion Rings and Mini Doughnuts. This year’s attractions include: MN Legends, Killer Clown’s 3D, Phobia’s, Bloody Backwoods, Gauntlet, and Terror Tunnel, and Zombie Paintball, as an addition. “We sell wristbands for $22, which allow you unlimited access to all the attractions. Everything is indoors except the Bloody Backwoods, that runs along a trail by the river. We have covered outdoor Que lines in case it rains,” Nielsen said. MN Legends is the largest attraction, set in a 5,000 sq. ft building, filled with original haunted MN-themed rooms. “I love to stand at the back of that building and watch people run out, screaming. Killer Clown’s in 3D is something I am proud of. That building has been painted on the floors and walls in a special paint that works with 3D glasses to create a rainbow depth effect; then throw in a dozen high-energy Killer Clowns and it is hard to beat!” exclaimed Jen. Phobias is as it sounds. It is basically an ever-changing list of phobias that the rooms are themed after; with dark halls in between and always a surprise at the end. New this year are the Gauntlet and the Bloody Backwoods, and they are awesome. Northern Frights attraction is unique in that it is set at the fair grounds, which means it must be torn down and rebuilt every year. “While it is a ton of work, it allows for a new guest experience year after year, and no two builds are ever the same,” Nielsen commented.
UNRAVELED ESCAPE ROOM (www.unraveledescape.com) Ryan and Jackie Steiner are the owners of UNRAVELED Escape Room – an entertainment facility where groups of 4-10 people get locked in a themed room of their choice and have 60 minutes to find all the hidden clues and solve all the puzzles in order to escape! “All three of our themes have thrilling, eerie, and intense situations that your group will experience,” said Ryan. Escape From Alcatraz – you get blindfolded, handcuffed, tossed in jail, and have 60 minutes to bust out of prison before the warden gets back; fast-paced and thrilling. Spirits of the Asylum – based on a true story of a murder that happened to a psychiatric patient at the old Rochester State Hospital over 100 years ago. The man was killed by a few of the hospital staff themselves. Unravel the mystery as you enter the Asylum with nothing but battery-operated candles; very eerie surroundings and a compelling story. CSI: Rochester – you and your team of newly graduated forensic scientists must enter the apartment of a deranged serial killer in order to figure out WHO will be the victim; before YOU become the next victim; intense movie soundtrack and situations will get your heart racing (located in the basement of the old Wonderbread factory; 300 11th Ave NE, Rochester). “We are the busiest from Oct.-Jan., when families are planning their holiday activities and most corporate groups are doing their team-building events. So make sure to book far enough in advance to reserve your group’s day and time! Check the calendar at www.UnraveledEscape.com,” Ryan explained.
SINISTER FOREST IN WASECA (www.facebook.com/Waseca56093) Steve Bakken is executive director of Lost In The Dark, which is the name of the non-profit organization that puts on Waseca’s Sinister Forest Haunted Trail event. Just in its third year as a “premier scare”, the Sinister Forest was spawned from a haunted corn maze. “We secured a new location at the historic (but spooky) Maplewood Park. No longer under the umbrella of Farmamerica, we re-structured, and Lost In The Dark, LLC, was born,” Bakken explained. This year’s haunt is Oct. 18, 19, 25, and 26; the last two weekends in October. The “fates that await” are the feeling of being utterly alone and lost, as you walk through the dark, and down the nearly mile-long trail; which winds through the ancient Maplewood Forest. But you are not alone. Sinister creatures lurk around every turn and wait in the darkness to prey on and exploit your deepest fears. Some of the spookiest encounters include the run-down old buildings you must walk past, never knowing what beast will come crawling out after you; or perhaps the spine-chilling sound of a chainsaw, echoing through the trees, and never clearly revealing the creature behind the buzz; and don’t forget Abigail, who is always present, waiting, looking for someone new to play with her. The event is outdoors, however there is a lodge at the end of the trail, complete with food vendors and a roaring fireplace. It’s wheelchair accessible, but is a natural terrain trail. More information can be obtained at www.lostinthedarkwaseca.com, or on Facebook, under Sinister Forest in Waseca.
THE ESCAPE CHALLENGE (theescapechallenge.com) Nathan Schroeder is owner and Chief Puzzler at The Escape Challenge in Rochester. Escape rooms are themed adventures that require you to use observation, teamwork, and problem solving to complete a mission and escape a locked room. All of the rooms have a specific theme and mission. Some of the themes are more adrenaline based, like disarming a bomb or creating an antibody to save a doctor’s life. “We currently have two scary themed challenges: Creature Room and Dr. Frank N Stein’s Laboratory,” Schroeder explained. Creature Room: Your car broke down while on a detour in the middle of nowhere. You went to the closest house to use the phone. When you knocked on the door, it slowly opened in front of you. You stepped in to get out of the rain and make a call for help. The door slammed shut behind you. Up on the wall it says “Supper” with a timer counting back 60 minutes. You don’t know what you are locked in here with, but you know you don’t want to be here at supper time. Dr. Frank N Stein’s Laboratory: You have just finished your residency, and have been invited to a dinner party at Dr. Frank N Stein’s home, with the promise of being part of his newest experiment. You clink your glasses to toast, and that’s the last thing you remember. When you wake, you find yourselves locked in his study. While looking for clues as to how you got here, you find a clock counting down from an hour, and a nasty note of warning from Igor, “You don’t want to be any “part” of this study…be gone before he returns in an hour”. The two events are scary themed, but neither is a full-out haunted house. Escape Rooms are intended for adults, but they also work very well for families (ages 10 and up suggested). Creature Room is a little less scary, so that is the room we generally recommend for families that include kids. Dr. Frank N Stein’s Lab has a little more gore to it, but still isn’t as scary as a traditional haunted house. Nathan’s Escapes are more about the problem solving and puzzles, with some scare thrown in to keep folks on their toes. Fates that await: at the end of the hour: You’ll be supper for the creature, or you’ll get hacked into pieces to be part of a new experiment in Dr. Frank’s Lab. That is, of course, unless you figure out how to escape before time runs out. Each mission is set for one hour. Groups can range anywhere from 4-12 people completing a challenge together. You have a game master monitoring your room at all times. He or she can provide you additional hints and clues within the room as needed. If you complete the challenge with three hints or less, you make the monthly leader “boasting” board.
NIGHTMARE IN FOUNTAIN (www.nightmareonfirststreet.com) Horror awaits at Nightmare in Fountain! The time is nearly ripe for the re-emergence of Fountain, Minnesota’s Nightmare on First Street (Field of Screams & Haunted Barn); known by many as “The Best Haunted Event Ever!” This scary and spooky non-profit fundraiser (benefitting Good Earth Village), is again set to chill and thrill patrons for its ninth year. Each year Nightmare is different from the past. Routes are changed, walls are moved, and spooky scenarios abound. Attendees can expect creepy scenes, hand-carved pumpkins, a labyrinth, screams and moans, surprises and scares, live actors, and maybe even an apparition of DEATH. This year’s theme is Haunted Holidays; where you may discover rabid groundhogs, blood-dripping hearts, evil leprechauns, vicious man-eating rabbits, a zombie Uncle Sam, witchy pilgrims, Christmas ghosts, and so much more! Expanding to eight nights this year, Nightmare is created and hosted by the Little family of Fountain and spear-headed by Paul and Regan Little. Depending on how quickly you negotiate your way and manage to escape, expect Nightmare to be an approximate 20-to-30-minute scary endeavor. The gory glory runs Oct. 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 31, Nov. 1; from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. each night. Nightmare on First Street: Field of Screams & Haunted Barn, lurks around and behind 609 First Street, the Dead End in Fountain (minimum donation requested is $8 per person; more info at nightmareonfirststreet.com and Facebook).
FRIGHT AT THE FARM, HAUNTED OLDE PINE THEATRE, & HEMP MAZE MINNESOTA, Zumbrota, Pine Island (www.rochesterhorror.com) Ted Galaty, aka “DRACO” – along with his wife, Tricia, operate and supervise activities at Willow’s Keep Farm, Zumbrota, and the Olde Pine Theatre, in Pine Island. Rochester Horror Presents: FRIGHT at the FARM enters its 12th historic and glorious season; haunting for just the 5th season at Willow’s Keep Farm on Hwy. 52. The cast haunted the History Center of Olmsted County for four years, prior to moving it to the new, permanent location. With circa 10,000 square feet of indoor haunts and haunted outdoor paths, this eerie attraction is truly designed to frighten and amuse. One entry fee allows access to all of the attractions/mazes. Dare to brave all of them; and don’t be left for dead! Check out the Haunted Cannabis Maze; The Canna-Bus; The Butcher Shop; The Barn of Nightmares; The Swamp; GMO/The Clown’s Fun House; and Alley of the Dead. Come experience the Blackout Event, every Friday from 10-11 p.m. All the lights will be extinguished in the mazes, so try to find your way out, if you dare. The actors will startle and disorient you along the way. “We also have three Lights On Presentations for those who do not want to be scared. They are on October 12, 19, and 26, from 5-6 p.m.” said DRACO. The Haunted Olde Pine Theatre began last year. “We purchased and reopened the Theatre in the summer of 2016, as a performing arts venue. The Haunted Olde Pine Theatre was born after our children played a game of hide-and-seek in the dark theatre,” explained DRACO. The stage lights go out after the performance and then the paranormal activity begins. Come explore the Olde Pine Theatre in the dark. This is a fully immersive haunted attraction with live actors that will startle and scare you as you navigate your way through an authentic 1950’s theatre. Be prepared to be terrified! Hemp Maze Minnesota (rooted CBD, the farm store) is open Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. “We sell drinks and pre-packaged snacks, as well as CBD products derived from the industrial hemp plant. We also have clothing, jewelry, and other hemp-derived products available,” suggested DRACO. (Hemp Maze Minnesota was established to educate and inform the public about the benefits of a vibrant hemp industry in Minnesota. The maze is located at Willow’s Keep Farm just south of Zumbrota, on Hwy. 52. The hemp maze is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. thru October 27. Hemp Maze Minnesota is fully licensed. It is unlawful to remove any hemp from the pilot field. This includes seeds, leaves, or any other parts of the plants).
THE SCARE FACTOR is a world-wide haunted house review site and directory, with a plethora of haunts listed in Minnesota. These include haunted houses, haunted trails, corn mazes, haunted hayrides, and more. Some haunts will also stay open past Halloween, into the first weekend of November. This resource is a great tool for anyone seeking a super scare during the Halloween season. Scares are an awesome and unique way to spend time with friends or significant others because they are extremely exciting! Haunted houses are best experienced in groups and lots of studies show that experiencing fear in a safe environment can actually be therapeutic (www.thescarefactor.com/haunted-house-directory/minnesota).
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer