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Don't miss the spooky attractions of Halloween weekend

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | OCTOBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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For some, Halloween is a time to dress up in funny outfits, eat candy, and spend some casual time with friends.

But for others, the spookiest holiday of the year is better spent weaving through a creepy house or field, avoiding obstacles of fake cob webs and severed limbs while trying not to scream at the sudden sound of a chain saw — all the while keeping an eye out for strangers around every corner.

Luckily, local Halloween attractions provide enough scares for even the most thrill-seeking patrons, from haunted houses and barns to corn mazes filled with spooky special effects and actors dressed to scare.

One of these is Bloomsbury Farms’ Scream Acres, a local staple in the haunting business since 2005. A three-tiered Halloween attraction in Atkins, Iowa (around 40 miles north of Iowa City), what was once just a corn maze now takes patrons through a carnival-theme haunted barn and “slaughterhouse” corn crib in addition to the maze, for a total 20-minute experience inspired by the “common” fear of clowns.

“You kind of have ‘to theme’ your haunts,” Bloomsbury Farms owner Karen Petersen said about Scream Acres, which is based on a legend of a circus-train crash in Atkins. “Each year, we change many scenes around. We have some of the same props, but we use them in different ways to put some really neat thrills and scares in there.”

Petersen said the Bloomsbury Farms’ staff members attend annual “haunt conventions,” where they pick up top-of-the-line equipment such as strobe lights, fog, creepy costumes, and finely detailed decorations. In addition, they hire around 50 actors to haunt their attractions from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“I hope that it just kind of takes them into another world,” Petersen said. “I’ve seen all kinds of emotions out here. I’ll see people that actually cry, but the majority of the people walk away going, ‘Wow, did you see that chain saw?’ And they’re laughing at each other — it kind of brings their group together.”

Carly Stamnes, 16, said the Iowa City attraction Field of Screams elicits similar reactions in her and her friends. A haunted corn maze hosted by the Iowa City and Coralville Jaycees, the Field of Screams offers jump-worthy sound and visual scares, such as a blaring truck horn and hidden creatures in costume. Profits from the $8 tickets are used to fund community projects.

“It’s cheap, and it’s a pretty good scare. It’s also for a good cause,” said Carly, who visited the Field of Screams since she was 7. “It usually leaves you laughing, so it’s a good feeling. It’s just good, ‘Octobery’ fun.”

But for those looking for indoor, close-to-campus frights, the University of Iowa Campus Activities Board will be hosting its annual Night Hawks’ Haunted House on the evenings of Saturday and Oct. 28 in the IMU Main Ballroom.

Night Hawks Director Deanna Dozer said organizers have built this year’s attraction on past events, offering such spooky scenes such as a mad scientist, a child-snatching witch, and an undead bride and groom, all interacting with visitors.

“We incorporate students to get involved, so many students have been helping to put it all together,” she said. “It’s something different from what you see around campus. Many organizations are just hosting Halloween parties, which are fun, but this is something that attracts students and is different for them to go to.”

Dozer said Halloween thrills can serve as good stress relievers for college students.

“It’s a time for them to kind of play a role other than their usual roles as being students,” she said. “I hope that they will be the ‘scaredest’ they’ve ever been and then realize how much they love it.”
Petersen said she strives to produce similar reactions in her site patrons.

“Some think it’s just fun, and some are terrified,” she said. “I just hope they walk away going, ‘Man, that’s the best damn haunt I’ve ever been to.’ ”

Don’t miss on Halloween weekend:

What: Scream Acres
When: 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Bloomsbury Farms, 3260 69th St., Atkins, Iowa
Admission: $20

What: The Field of Screams
When: 7:30-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: 2991 Black Diamond Road S.W.
Admission: $8

What: Haunted House in the IMU
When: 10 p.m. Saturday and Oct. 28
Where: IMU Main Ballroom
Admission: Free for students


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