While some college students prefer to celebrate fall indoors sipping on pumpkin spice lattes and watching scary movies, others prefer the thrills of experiencing their deepest fears up close and personal.
Hampton Roads offers a variety of fear-inspiring attractions for Halloween enthusiasts. Best known for haunted houses and terrifying hayrides are Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens and the Halloween Festival at Hunt Club Farm.
Junior Troy Mickens recounted his own experience at Howl-O-Scream. He said a lot of the attractions really capitalize on common fears, doing so without making any physical contact with guests.
“There was one [maze] that went over all of the basic fears like water, heights, clowns and all of that stuff. For people who are used to it and like being scared, it’s still pretty scary,” Mickens said.
Outside of character, some Howl-O-Scream employees are eager to let customers know they are not really mean and scary.
“Some of the people in costume are actually really nice. This one guy that was dressed up as a butcher and after he scared a group of people, they asked for a picture, and he took one with them,” Mickens said.
However, not all guests are lucky enough to see the ‘nice side’ of the scary actors. Junior Julie Ainsley explained that a lot of times, the more afraid visitors are, the more likely they are to be targeted.
“They’re easily avoidable and if you keep a straight face they won’t pick on you as much,” Ainsley said.
Ainsley said that one friend was so noticeably terrified by chainsaws on her visit to Howl-O-Scream, that she was chased around practically all night by an actor carrying a loud chainsaw.
While this sounds like unwanted torture, hundreds of people still flock to Howl-O-Scream to experience this kind of fear.
“People like to experience things that are out of the ordinary for them because it produces adrenaline,” Ainsley said.
Robert Sutton ’16 explained that the appeal largely had to do with being out of control.
“I like the adrenaline rush of not being in control. When you put yourself in a situation where someone else is in control you can really observe life and get the experience of life instead of trying to make the experience of life,” Sutton said.
Sutton explained that Howl-O-Scream has become an annual tradition, and he intends to continue to go.
“I’ve gone [to Howl-O-Scream] the past few years. I’m always interested to see the new things they do and I also like going to ride the rides and the way the atmosphere changes at night when everyone starts screaming,” Sutton said.
While Hunt Club Farm’s Halloween Festival is smaller, it offers a wide range of activities, including different places to escape a variety of scary characters chasing you with a chainsaw.
Randi Vogel, owner of Hunt Club farm is an alumna of VWC.
“Our most-feared attraction, the Haunted Hayride, takes visitors on a bumpy ride through the deep, dark woods of Haunted Hunt Club Farm. The Field of Screams, celebrated as the festival’s most up close and personal event, is a dark and winding corn maze that puts thrill seekers and Nightmares on the same narrow, dimly lit path of peril. In The Village of the Dead, visitors must escape the wrath of the Wicked Sandman on foot,” Vogel said.
Vogel also noted that there are plenty of other attractions for those visitors who don’t necessarily want to get up close and personal with one of the 75 live actors who are there to scare but enjoy the seasonal fun.
“For guests less inclined to the “Haunted House” experience, we offer late-night carnival rides until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Guests can also visit our Market, open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. to purchase pumpkins, gourds, locally made gifts and homemade candy and caramel apples,” Vogel said.
Junior Lauren Bryant explained that the Halloween Festival is perfect for college students who are too old to trick-or-treat and want an attraction more thrilling than a pumpkin carving party.
“It’s fun because they have a little maze and then a haunted forest. It’s not as commercial as other haunted houses,” Bryant said.