Field of Horrors is an Entire Evening of Halloween Scares and Fun (4.5 stars)
On my Halloween season trip to eastern New York, I almost went to Nightmares at Liberty Ridge Farm, but then I learned that they hate gay people so much that they got in the news for a court battle. So instead I visited Field of Horrors, on the grounds of Capital Paintball Combat Zone, a 99-acre paintball field, and it was great.
Real torches light your path into the parking lot, where parking is free, and then you pass an archway into a large campus, a midway, with vendors selling candy apples, popcorn, snow cones, hot dogs, curly fries, cider donuts, fried dough, slushies, lollipops, chicken tenders, pizza, sloppy joe, waffle fries, coffee, cider, hot chocolate, and more. They have two campfires with tree stumps to sit on, to warm yourself or chat with friends. (Stumps are outdoorsy themed, but seats with back support, and more of them, might be better.) Meanwhile, actors dressed as Halloween monsters walk around to scare and entertain you, including a guy with his hand replaced with a circular saw, and a ghoul in a body suit who crawls on the ground. The actors have great energy! They’re having fun, so they make you have fun, too. There’s even a photo booth to get a professional picture taken with one of the actors. You’ll find an information booth (which needs better signage) and portable toilets. They play music in the courtyard but it’s not too loud for conversation, and if it’s not cloudy, you’ll see stars in the sky.
So you’re already having a good time, and you haven’t even visited the attractions yet. These are Toxic Terror, the Mummy’s Curse, Death Trap, Insanity, and the Trail of Terror Hayride. Like any Halloween attraction, lines can be long, and when there’s more than one attraction, waiting times can add up. As pioneered by Fright Kingdom, they should use a deli counter take-a-number system, which would free visitors to walk around the courtyard to buy more food and enjoy the campfire. The information booth has no signage and is too covered up to be inviting. (I literally walked over and asked, what is this?)
The best of the attractions is the Trail of Terror Hayride. It’s a 15-minute ride on the back of a flatbed on wheels, through the extensive paintball field, decorated for Halloween. The seats are angled for back support, and we didn’t smell tractor exhaust, just the evening air. If it’s not cloudy, you’ll see stars in the sky and it’s delightful just to be outdoors on a cool evening. Unlike most hayrides, which take place in a forest with limited views, the hayride takes place in a wide-open field. It’s dark enough that this doesn’t ruin any surprises, and it was interesting to see lights from the dioramas at the far end of the field.
Along the ride, it was hard to see the buildings because they are either behind you, so you would have to turn around completely to see them, or they are in front of you, on the far side of the truck, where you have to look over the heads of the visitors who are facing you, and then down over the side of the vehicle. However, we saw vampires acting out a scene on a raised platform, at the right height for easy viewing — a trick I saw everywhere at Field of Screams in Rhode Island — and one that Field of Horrors will hopefully expand.
The dioramas are mainly the unimpressive hideouts and cover that you expect to see on a paintball field: unpainted plywood huts, rusted car parts, an old refrigerator, a sofa, and RV, oil drums, and other junk, along with filler such as plastic sheeting, wooden fencing, and cobwebs. However, you’ll also see open flame torches and open campfires, a castle, a medieval village with torture devices, a cemetery with mausoleums. Some sites are theatrical and some need polish, such as the butcher shop, which is just a shack with hanging strips of cloth. Actors often wore just street clothing or rags, with basic makeup, but some had real costumes, as well.
However, the acting transforms the hayride’s appearance. As in the midway, actors had a lot of good energy! At most Halloween attractions, monsters just growl, but on the Trail of Terror Hayride, many of the actors had real lines to say. One said, “I can hear your heart beating”, and another said, “Welcome to The Purge!”. One monster went mad controlling demons, another said that he was hungry to eat us, and a crazy inventor spooked us with some dialogue. Elsewhere, women in bridal gowns scream. Actors also climb up onto the hayride, in the space in-between visitors sitting to left and right, and one guy did a stage dive for us, falling to his knees and skidding. Innovatively — I’ve never seen this elsewhere — each side of the hayride has a running board so that actors playing monsters can step up and ride along with you!
The big finish is that you exit through an entire small house that’s been built at an angle, so that its floors slope. The Devil’s altar was quite spooky, and they’ve sprayed goop onto the plywood walls to give them some texture.
Next door is Toxic Terror, a 3-minute haunt where a radioactive spill has created mutant monsters. Outside you’ll find piles of oil drums indicating spooky toxic waste. While there are no tripping hazards, the set design is unattracitve, mainly oil drums decorated with filler such as camouflage netting and cobweb strings from a spray can. The walls are unpainted plywood or wooden forklift pallets, which look better when sprayed with foam to give them texture, and worse where it’s just decorated with graffiti. Actors were few and had only basic makeup and costumes, but I liked the toxic guy with the giant hand. Toxic Terror contains my favorite special effect, a “laser lake”! This is a fog-filled room with a plane of laser light that a monster can hide underneath or “swim” through. Unfortunately, this one is placed behind a wall. You can see the monster there through a window, but not enter the “lake” yourself. If you had to skip an attraction at Field of Horrors, it would be Toxic Terror.
The next attraction is The Mummy. The ancient Egyptian artifacts and the friezes on the wall set the mood, but there was also a lot of basic plywood, and more cob web sprayed everywhere from a can. Every walkway had rope strands hanging down from above, hitting visitors in the face. This became annoying. Although actors had no lines to say, we enjoyed seeing the mummies, the UV lighting, the big bug mannequin, and the corridor so dense with fog that you had to feel your way through. This one was worth seeing, but you needn’t kick yourself if you don’t make time for it.
Insanity is a 10-minute maze made from chain link fencing. You walk through its corridors, which are so thick with fog and strobe effect lighting that you can’t see well, which is part of the fun. Actors playing monsters walk through the maze, with basic costuming such as wearing a sheet with blood. They didn’t contribute to the scare, because we couldn’t see well enough to distinguish monsters from visitors, the loud music made it impossible to hear them growling at us, and the corridors were too constricted for a monster to “come at” you. (Mannequins would have been better, because they can be made taller and more obviously non-human. Or give the monsters glowing effects so we can see them.)
The maze was fun, although its corridors might have been wider and I got bunched up with other visitors often. Thankfully, none of the dead ends were extensive, causing frustration. You get turned around pretty quickly. Also thankfully, there are plenty of emergency exits in case you get claustrophobic, but they should be better marked. I accidentally left by an emergency exit thinking it was the real exit, and there wasn’t a “big ending” at the real exit, which I believe is where I eventually got to. You will definitely want to see Insanity as part of your visit to Field of Horrors.
My second favorite attraction, after the hayride, was Death Trap. It’s a 5-minute haunted house themed like an Indiana Jones cave adventure. You navigate corridors trying not to fall into spooky, primitive traps of a Death God. Although the windows are great, with real bars on them, half of this attraction is filler: unpainted plywood walls, camouflage netting, and hanging cloth strips and rope strands. However, then you pass into an area where the walls are full of (foam) skulls, and a “cave” area where foam has been sprayed onto the walls to simulate going deep underground. That’s a fantastic effect, and you’ll find the only red-colored “laser lake” I’ve ever seen. It’s a fog-filled room with a plane of laser light that you walk through. The “top” of the lake, the plane of laser light, prevents you from seeing what is underneath. Of course it’s actors waiting to pop up! Delightful! The attraction has great spooky, ambient music, but the air blast was too loud for my ears.
You’ll also see simple homemade coffins, stone altars, and cross a wooden bridge that rocks from side to side. I’m not a fan of squeezy corridors where walls to your left and right are inflated, so that you must push through them with your body and your face. I always wonder if they clean these things, and how many faces go through there a night. This attraction has two, the first was not fully inflated — the sagging lower part of the ballooning wall can be a tripping hazard. Best of all, this attraction had plenty of actors. You’ll meet an evil nun, a swamp thing crouching on an altar, and many other monsters.
Owners Stacey Mulinio and David Mulinio kindly agreed to an interview.
Events INSIDER: What makes Field of Horrors stand out from competing attractions?
David Mulinio: It’s family friendly. You can spend 5 hours here to do whatever you want.
David Mulinio: Our first year the hayride was terrifying and we had complaints, so we toned it down to make it family friendly, so you can bring your 8-year-old kid to ride the hayride. The houses are more terrifying, so I don’t recommend that a 7, 8, or 9-year-old go to the houses, but the hayride is enjoyable for everyone. This is our fifth year. [Editor’s note: the hayride is still wonderfully spooky for adults. David means it’s safe to bring kids, not that it’s a “kiddie ride”.]
Events INSIDER: Thankfully I avoided the nearby Nightmares at Liberty Ridge Farm, which has so much enthusiasm for an anti-gay agenda that they’ve gotten in the news and the courts. I assume that Field of Horrors is different?
Stacey Mulinio: We welcome everyone. we are a big family here, with a wide variety of people from different religious backgrounds and identities… We have a very diverse group of people that work here, including a person who is gender neutral, two transgender persons, and many lesbian and gay people.
Events INSIDER: Do you sponsor any charities?
David Mulinio: We do an event for paintball for a charity for cancer, twice a year. [Outside of Halloween, when the paintball field is open, they’ve done helicopter rides to raise money for leukemia research.] This is a paintball facility, too.
Events INSIDER: Oh, so do you own the paintball field too?
David Mulinio: Yes.
David Mulinio: What also sets us apart is that every year we change. We change our maze, we change our hayride, we change our aesthetics. Next year we’ll do a walk-through event, about 500 feet, where you actually walk through the woods. We have no idea what it’s going to consist of, but we might do the Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy Krueger kind of scenes.
Events INSIDER: You said you have 140 staff, as actors, maintenance, and parking attendants. Your actors have great energy!
Stacey Mulinio: What I absolutely love is that many people who work here are creative, so we allow them to incorporate their own ideas. Some of our actors and actresses work on their scenes all year. It’s like their baby.
At Field of Horrors, the courtyard is a magical and warm place just to gather with friends for an evening. Actors in the hayride and courtyard, have some of the best energy I’ve seen in a Halloween attraction, and the hay ride and Death Trap showed theatrical creativity with even some lines of real dialogue. But the set design was often too basic for a full 5 stars, and some rough edges exist to the visitor experience, as I have whined about. Special effects are few, and I don’t recall seeing animatronics, although there was a great monster at the front archway. The courtyard could be fleshed out with non-food vendors, live music, a petting zoo, or outdoorsy games such as at Davis Mega Farm Festival or Headless Horseman Hayrides.
I was excited to hear that Field of Horrors will add a woods walk next year, and with their creativity, passion, and excellent location, am sure they are heading for 5 stars. This year, I’ll give an almost perfect 4.5 stars to Field of Horrors.