October has made its way back to us, just as it always has around this time of year. You can tell it’s arrived when the local Dollar Stores you barely noticed before look as if they’ve been possessed by the spirit of Halloween itself — or whatever the commercial equivalent of that might be.
Enduring the hilariously bad music that fills every goddamn one of these stores despite having absolutely nothing to do with the holiday that summoned them is as much of a tradition as groaning at the cheesy posters that plaster their windows. You know, the ones that show goofy-looking people who are clearly only half-committed to pretending to be okay with the fact that they’re a full-grown adult dressed like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
We live in a world where the frightening majority of haunted attractions will suck for everyone over the age of six and that’s why finding a great one feels like you’ve just been given a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a neighborhood where everyone exclusively hands out Necco wafers.
Anyone can take a stranger’s money before dragging them into a dark room to make them scream. It takes more than a superficial understanding of what’s scary to make something special, and that’s exactly what the folks behind Hysteria at Connor’s Farm have achieved with their sprawling rural tribute to the best of the major holidays — that qualifier is there now that I’ve discovered Bolas de Fuego, in which the citizens of El Salvador celebrate volcanoes by hurling balls of fire into the sky.
Located just north of Danvers, Massachusetts, Connor’s Farm is another of those increasingly common “scream parks” where multiple Halloween-themed attractions accumulate in one place in order to reap maximum monetary gain from our shattered psyches.
Unlike the vast majority of the scream parks I’ve visited, Connor’s Farm offers more variety in their attractions. I got there at 9pm, leaving just enough time to conquer the flashlight maze and haunted farm. Skipping the zombie paintball was a tough decision, but it’s a sacrifice I had to make so that I could become who I was always meant to be.
For thirty glorious minutes, I was the indigenous man-fiend of the Connor’s corn maze.
The maze is meant to be more of a family affair, but I was far too busy hunting innocent maze-dwellers like a famished Velociraptor to care. It’s not lit so as to encourage you to navigate its strategically paved paths with the flashlight you’re given at its entrance. I shed those societal guidelines the moment I became the new me, eschewing lighted paths for darkness and a predator’s instinct.
Sure, I took a few cobs of corn to the face. Am I okay with that? Fuck yeah I am. Next question?
Also, the maze itself is themed, apparently, though I didn’t learn that until after the fact.
Now about that haunted farm. For starters, as haunt aficionados may already be aware, the average haunt tends to house roughly 15 minutes of scares. Connor’s Farm doubles that.
The last thing I’d want to do is go into specifics, as that would ruin the surprise. However, I will say that this haunt may have a set or two that will look familiar if you’ve seen any of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre flicks or that one good Silent Hill movie.
That’s not to say Connor’s Farm rips its sets right out of the movies, it’s more subtle than that.
Continuing that comparison to movies is the general quality of the sets, several of which I could easily picture recreated on a Hollywood sound stage. They’re aided by the genuine 17th century cemetery and swamp that border the farm, as well as the general feeling of unease that settles in if you’ve spent far too much of your life in loud, busy cities. There’s something sinister about corn stalks, like every one of them is hiding a secret. Corn secrets.
Growing up in Kansas City, MO, I was always a short drive from some of the best haunts in the country. I spent a not-insignificant portion of my childhood inside The Beast’s disorienting rooms and roaming the five-stories that make up the now 40 year-old behemoth that is The Edge of Hell.
I didn’t know it at the time, but these dazzling haunts were ruining me. The bar had been raised high enough that could only be reached by a dozen or so haunts scattered all across the country. So when I say I found a stellar haunted house in a sea of pumpkins and corn bathed in spooky lighting and Rob Zombie tunes, you know I’m saying that with a very serious look on my face.
Seriously, if you live anywhere near Danvers, Massachusetts, make the trip. It’ll be worth it.
You can learn more about Hysteria at Connor’s Farm by visiting its website.