If you have a sense of adventure, active imagination, creative side, and maybe even a little bit of a (healthy) fascination with the macabre, I’m guessing you appreciate Halloween like I do. I’ve loved this holiday ever since elementary school, when I was a ladybug and a sweet old woman tried to “shoo” me off her porch (after she gave me candy). When I was in high school and too old to go trick-or-treating, I helped my dad decorate our house in North St. Paul and took great pride in people calling it the “scariest house on the block.” In college, I went to Madison for Halloween and oh boy. The costumes there were crazy. After college, I went out with friends to Halloween parties in St. Paul or Minneapolis until someone (genius) realized it was cheaper to host a party. Those parties continued until just recently, when my friends and I experienced a widespread Baby Boom and hosting a party just felt like way too much work. And then those babies grew into toddlers and preschoolers and school-agers, and Halloween was reserved for taking the kids out trick-or-treating. I haven’t, however, surrendered the holiday to the kids. As with any phase in life, I’ve learned to adapt. Now, instead of buying a costume and morphing into someone else at a Halloween party, I pay to see other people morph into someone else, while scaring the wits out of me at the same time. (This type of fake scary, though, is entirely different than the real fear we experience as adults, which is part of the appeal.)
Last year a group of friends and I went to the Dead End Hayride in Wyoming, Minn. (north of Forest Lake). What an adrenaline rush! This year we thought we’d check out “Minnesota’s No. 1 Halloween Attraction,” aka Scream Town, located on the edge of Chaska.
From Uptown, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the muddy field (it had been raining all day), where we parked our cars in rows and secretly hoped we wouldn’t forget where they were afterwards.
I think the rainy weather kept a lot of people away, because we walked right up to the ticket booth (at 7:45) and ordered our tickets, opting for the slightly more spendy VIP ticket in order to see two extra attractions and stand in the Fast Pass lines rather than the longer, regular ones. After last year’s ridiculous lines at the Dead End Hayride, we figured the Fast Pass would be worth it. [We were right.]
My first impression of Scream Town was how clean and organized it was. My second impression was how spread out everything was, so you never felt crammed together. What would be our game plan? So much to see, so little time (the attraction closes at 11). Because I’m slightly claustrophobic (which is why I liked how spread out everything was), I skipped the first attraction in our lineup—the Phobia House. I waited while my friends went through, and from the stories I heard, germaphobes: Beware. (And yes, claustrophobics, too.)
The second attraction we chose to go through was the Oak Blood Forest, a self-guided tour of the creepy woods. The guy at the entrance was my favorite actor of the evening, dressed like a medieval monk, speaking in tongues. (I figured out he said “stay on the path” and “no laughing.” At least, that’s what I think he told us.) I was entirely way too busy watching for ghouls and creatures to jump out at me to appreciate the amount of detail that went into the displays, but others in our group were impressed. It took us about 15 minutes to get from start to finish.
The next attraction, Redneck Resort (because, you know, Deliverance so perfectly set the stage for hillbilly horror) was my favorite. My heart was POUNDING through this attraction. The actors really got into character (were they really crazy? Maybe they were? Maybe I was walking right into their trap!), a freaky enough setting when you’re with a group, made even more freaky when the demented kid at the front door separated the guys from the girls, then paired us off. Just when I was wondering “When will this attraction end?,” holding my friend’s hand in a death grip, one of the actors walked over to us and said “You’re going to finish this one alone.” There was no pleading or arguing (I tried). I finished that one solo, at one point breaking into a run when one of the chainsaw-wielding rednecks told me to “Run, Blondie, run!” (Ok! I’m running! I’m running! Just GO AWAY!)
Circus Asylum was filled with crazy clowns and psychological mind tricks, while Meltdown at Sector 666 was so pitch black at times I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. After that attraction, it was starting to sprinkle and we’d been at Scream Town for nearly three hours—with three more attractions to go—so we decided to get some hot chocolate and wait while my brother Nick and his girlfriend, Ashley, were brave enough to go through the Abandoned attraction. They were sent off into the dark woods with only a lantern to guide the way. They said it was the most harrowing attraction of them all, with creatures slithering out at them when they least expected it, and one ghoul even attempting to pull Ashley into the forest. (If that had happened to me, I’m pretty sure that actor would now be deaf due to my uncontrollable screaming.)
We missed the labyrinth “haunt” and Crop Spawn corn field (no thanks, Children of the Corn gave me nightmares for a year), and even without seeing the last few attractions, we unanimously agreed that Scream Town was well worth our time and money. The last ticket is sold at the box office at 10 p.m., regardless if there are still people waiting in line—so get there early (the ticket booth opens at 6:30; the attractions open at 7) and prepare to scream!
• Wear old shoes. I was glad I wore black boots and dark jeans, since I was covered in mud by the time we were done. My friend wore white tennis shoes, and I’m pretty sure those shoes will never look the same shade of white again.
• To skip the massive car back-up when entering, take the back roads and enter from the west on 212.
• Smoking and drinking are not permitted on-site. There are officers patrolling the area to make sure no one is “sneaking drinks.”
• Dress like you would if you were planning on spending a few hours outside on a late fall evening. It gets cold. There’s a bonfire if you want to warm up, but none of the indoor attractions are heated.
• There are no flashlights allowed.
• On Sunday, Nov. 1—the last night of the 2015 season—there will be a special “lights out” event to a limited number of guests. The lights will be shut off throughout Scream Town and participants will be provided a glow stick and nothing else.
• All haunts are self-guided.
• I wouldn’t recommend this attraction for kids under 12, maybe 10 if you have a really mature 10-year-old.
• Buy the Fast Pass. It’s worth it.
• Take turns being the first person through the different attractions, so that every one gets their chance to yell or scream. Sometimes seeing your friends’ reaction is as much fun as being the one getting scared.