Ghosts and ghouls make their annual appearance at area's haunted houses
By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- At Hill High Farm, there's corn season, there's apple season and then there's scaring season.
When October rolls around, Haunted Nightmares, the haunted house located in a barn on the Winchester farm, is open for business.
The 5,000-square-foot barn preys on everyone's fears, from a narrow squeeze through a dark hall meant to induce claustrophobia to a room filled with maniacal clowns.
Vernon Wright, a fifth-generation farmer who's operated the haunted house since starting it 11 years ago, said it's gotten so popular that the waiting line stretches out the door.
He said up to 30 volunteer actors dress up in makeup and costumes to terrify the guests who take up the challenge.
One room at Haunted Nightmares is outfitted like a butcher's shop with severed heads hanging from the ceiling and an actor wielding a meat cleaver. Another room's walls are covered in realistic-looking cockroaches. Not far away is a series of bathrooms, completely clogged and overflowing with muck. A smell matching the scene lingers in the air.
Not only does every room have a soundtrack, Wright said, but also each room has a scent. He points to what looks like an air freshener on the wall and explains that he uses scents such as forest, burnt electrical and poop.
An average walkthrough might take between 15 and 20 minutes, but he said the doors to prematurely exit the haunted house are used often. He said he advises against people with heart conditions, pregnancy or children younger than 12 entering the house.
And although Wright said he isn't afraid of anything, he did admit that the live actors in the psych ward section give him the creeps.
"I lead groups through here and I know what's going on and I still get uncomfortable," he said.
Area haunted houses, tours and other Halloween events
Hill High Farm
- Where: Hill High Farm, 933 Barley Lane, Winchester
- When: Through Oct. 30; Thursdays and Fridays, 7-11 p.m.; Saturdays, 1-11 p.m.; Oct. 20, 1-5 p.m.; Oct. 27, 1-10 p.m.; Oct. 30, 7-10 p.m.; Oct. 31, 7-10 p.m.
- Cost: $10 for tours between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., $12 for tickets for tours after 5 p.m.
- Call: 540-667-7377
- Online: hauntednightmares.net
Strasburg Ghost Tours
- Where: Downtown Strasburg, starting at the Hotel Strasburg and ending at the community library
- When: Oct. 19, 6-10 p.m.
- Cost: $3 in advance, $5 the night of the event
- Call: 540-465-9197
- Online: hometownstrasburgva.com
The second annual Strasburg Ghost Tour, which attracted more than 500 people last year, takes guests on 10 new stops and stories, including tales of tragic murders and Civil War spirits. Mayor Tim Taylor said the tours aren't too scary, but said children ages 13 or younger must be accompanied by an adult. The tours, which start every 10 to 15 minutes and last for about an hour, cover less than a half-mile of walking distance.
Edge of Darkness
- Where: 261 Morningstar Road, Mount Jackson
- When: Through Nov. 2; Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween, 7:30-11 p.m.
- Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 10 and younger
- Call: 540-896-6100
- Online: facebook.com/FansOfEdgeOfDarknessMtJackson
This walkthrough trail meanders through various scenes, including a mangled wreck involving a tractor-trailer, evil clowns and the setting of the horror flick, "Wrong Turn." The trail is in its second year and takes about 20 minutes to complete. Edge of Darkness will give a dollar of each entry from this Saturday to the American Cancer Society.
- Where: Clearbrook Park, 3300 Martinsburg Pike, Stonewall
- When: Oct. 19, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
- Cost: $5 for ages 8 and up, $3 for children ages 4-7, Free for children younger than 3
- Call: 540-542-1326
- Online: visitwinchesterva.com
Bring your young witches and vampires to this event, which offers trick-or-treating from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and haunted hayrides from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Halloween Happenings also has games and pumpkin painting.
- Where: 1900 Valley Pike, Winchester
- When: Through Oct. 31; Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 7-11 p.m.; Oct. 29, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, 7-11 p.m.
- Cost: $15
- Online: thedevils-den.com
In the 1970s, a serial killer named Henry Lee Allen was terrorizing Winchester. Murders were going unsolved. Residents were starting to disappear. Venture through the house where Allen lived and experience 6,000 square feet of his disturbing mindset. The haunted house is now in its seventh year and is at a new location, formerly held at Jim Barnett Park. "People will go through and feel like they survived something," said owner Mike Sbandi. He added that it might be too scary for children younger than 12.
Strasburg Rescue Squad Haunted House
- Where: Rescue Squad building, 156 E. Washington St., Strasburg
- When: Oct. 19, 6-10 p.m.
- Cost: Free (donations are accepted)
- Call: 540-233-2250
- Online: hometownstrasburgva.com
The Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad transforms its building into a haunted house as a part of the city's Hometown Harvest Festival. A block away, the Strasburg Home Theater will be screening Halloween movies from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Spirits of New Market
- Where: Virginia Museum of the Civil War, 8895 George Collins Parkway, New Market
- When: Oct. 26, 7-8:45 p.m.
- Cost: $10 or adults, $5 for children ages 6-17, Free for children 5 and younger
- Call: 540-740-3101
- Online: vmi.edu
Follow one of these guided evening tours of the New Market Battlefield, lit by lantern and held every 15 minutes, as cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, Union and Confederate soldiers and the Bushong family share their experiences of the battle on May 15, 1864. Tickets can be purchased at the museum on the day of the event.
Belgravia Haunted Mansion
- Where: 1466 Belgravia Road, Edinburg
- When: Through Oct. 31; Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
- Cost: $10
- Call: 540-335-8144
- Online: belgraviahauntedmansion.webs.com
Whether the three-story mansion is actually haunted or not -- it was supposedly built in 1890 by James Cox and haunted by his jilted lover -- the fact is that it's still terrifying. "We've had people pee their pants, lots of people," said event organizer Beau Morgan. "People come up and get to the porch and turn around and leave." After the haunted house went through a hiatus last year, it's possible the ghostly activity has increased. "My mother told me it was just yesterday that she and a volunteer helping decorate were in the attic and heard footsteps, and there was nobody there," he said.
DarkWood Manor Haunted House
- Where: 104 N. Hawksbill St., Luray
- When: Through Nov. 2; Fridays and Saturdays, 7-11 p.m.; Sundays, 7-10 p.m.; Halloween, 7-10 p.m.
- Cost: $12 for general admission, $10 for Sunday nights
- Call: 540-743-2408
- Online: darkwoodmanor.net
A favorite spot to drive to on the October weekends, the Luray haunted house takes its scaring seriously and has been doing so for the past 13 years.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org