Scarefest Scream Park has been frightening visitors since first opening in 2006. The Lenox Township theme park offers thrill seekers four frightening attractions, including the Hayride of Doom, Castle of the Dead, Terror Zone Haunted Maze, and a walk through the forest in the Carnival of the Dead. In addition, there's a heated bar tent where they have DJs and live music to entertain those who need a break from the horrors that await. Bonfires are placed throughout the grounds for patrons to keep warm.
With ghouls and monsters roaming around, empty coffins to take photos in, a fortune teller and a hearse, Scarefest has created an environment that celebrates the thrilling aspects of Halloween. Of course, their main focus is to instill terror, and creep out those who dare enter the park, but where they really succeed is in creating a fun atmosphere.
On the Hayride of Doom, passengers are taken on a tour of the abandoned town of Sowin, where pagans settled to practice the dark arts without persecution. The ride is narrated by a ghastly figure, who was actually closer to a stand-up comedian rather than a tour guide. One of the charms of the attraction was the back and forth the guide had with the group. He managed to be genuinely creepy, entertaining and hilarious as the tractor trudged through the forest.
What is admirable of the Hayride of Doom is how much time and effort was put into the props, effects and the story. It's all the more impressive considering that the route is over a mile long. The back story of the grounds on which the hayride travels is both elaborate and horrifying.
It all started in 1842, when a successful oil man named Virgil Sowin settled there with his pagan followers. The rural area was secluded enough to practice their rituals and sacrifices without the prying of outsiders. Or, so they thought.
When they found out what was really happening in Sowin, they took action and formed a mob. The outsiders swept through Sowin, killing the pagan men, women and children, leaving Virgil 'til the very end. Supposedly, his two sons, Jack and Bruce, were out hunting while their town was under siege.
When the sons returned to find what had happened to the people of Sowin, and their father, they turned their anger against the mob, managing to slaughter every last person. After the bloodshed, Jack and Bruce gathered the bodies of their dead relatives and neighbors. Then, with the wood that remained from their village, they built an effigy of a man, and threw the corpses in. Jack and Bruce joined their kin in the pyre and set it ablaze. To this day, Virgil and his followers haunt the area, to keep unwanted visitors away.
Bruce Sowin, who was a high priest in the cult, now watches over the town, replacing his rotting body parts with discarded machine parts and limbs and organs he digs out of the ground. He's the grotesque visage that terrorizes passengers for nearly the entire hayride.
While, Scarefest Scream Park does succeed at scaring the daylights out of people, they approach things with a good sense of humor without taking themselves too seriously. There is enough going on at the park to keep you entertained, whether you feel like a few thrills or not.
Photos by Jessica Krutell