One Tank Trip: Behind the scare at Field of Screams

 

It's not so bad in the daylight when Field of Screams in Lancaster County is more just like a field, with the sun shining and no zombies roaming.

You can see how it's done, how they put the scare in the show without having to look over your shoulder. As Field of Screams Co-owner Gene Schopf adds, "This is where monsters are made."

At the effects building, actors sign in and get their costumes. There are 1,500 hanging here. Each character has its place. Once they're checked in, they'll head upstairs to makeup where the transformation process takes anywhere from five to 20 minutes.

It's where they take you from not scary to terrifying.

"It takes about 200 to put the show on. We have about 400 that we draw from, but every night there's at least 200 actors and employees on the property." says Schopf.

They take a trek behind the scenes, darting behind buildings and walking along hidden paths so you don't see them before they scare you.

It wasn't always such a big-time production.

"In the barn behind me, the Den of Darkness, we had the Boy Scouts down and we would set up a little straw tunnel and they would go through and we'd do scares," said Schopf.

That was in the early 1990s, when brothers Jim and Gene Schopf thought of haunting as a hobby.

"We'll do it for a year and be done and people loved it so here we are 26 years later," remembers Schopf.

The only thing on the property then was this building, which was a house for their cow and the Frightmare Asylum, a chicken house.

"Everything else was just a product of hard work over the last 26 years. Every fence, every building, every queue, every scene, every set was just add-ons every year," said Schopf.

Farming went by the wayside. So did Gene's teaching job. The focus instead went to sets that take two years to build, intricate pneumatics, cylinders, valves and wires connecting just about everything. It's all timed, designed, planned out to the last detail. In 26 years, they've never tired of the screams.

"No, that's the sound of money and the one thing that I'm afraid of is rain on Saturdays in October, that's the only thing I'm afraid of anymore after all this," said Schopf.