Virginia Beach, Virginia's - Haunted Hunt Club Farm
By Hauntworld Magazine
Virginia Beach Haunted Houses are some of the scariest and best in America! Hauntworld.com rates and review the best and Scariest haunted houses, haunted attractions, and Halloween events in America! Haunted Hunt Club Farm is located in Virginia Beach and has one of the scariest haunted houses in America! Prepare to scream! Sit back and prepare to scream through our review of Haunted Hunt Club Farm. This Halloween you can't miss the scariest and best haunted attraction in the entire state of Virginia, Haunted Hunt Club Farm.
To learn more about Virginia's Haunted Hunt Club Farm visit their websit below:
TO FIND MORE HAUNTED HOUSES IN VIRGINIA
For most of the year, the 23-acre family-owned Hunt Club Farm in Virginia Beach, Virginia is a family entertainment center, of sorts – the epitome of agricultural tourism. The farm operates a market and petting farm, hosts educational field trips, a 10-week summer camp, birthday parties, huge Easter Egg Hunt, Fall Harvest Fair and Winter Wonderland attraction, and has a full schedule of private parties, company picnics and wedding receptions. But come late September, the pulse quickens and the focus flips to full-on fear, when Haunted Hunt Club Farm opens for business. Haunted Houses in Virginia is fast growing state for Halloween and haunted houses to date its not one of the states that pop to mind when thinking about the biggest and best attractions. Virginia Haunted Houses and Attractions are coming up fast and sneaking up on the industry and now finally we are able to showcase simply one of the best haunted houses and scariest haunted attractions in all of Virginia. Over the next few years we expect to see Virgina as one of the biggest, and fastest growing states for haunted houses! Hauntworld is proud to showcase our very first featured article on a haunted house in Virginia Beach.
With more than 30,000-plus visitors each Halloween season, Haunted Hunt Club Farm is the largest privately-owned Halloween attraction in the Coastal Virginia region, an area of southeastern Virginia that is home to 1.6 million people – the fifth largest metro area in the southeast. It is also one of the longest-running haunts, not only in the southeast, but in the country.
In 2013, Haunted Hunt Club Farm celebrated its 25th anniversary – a quarter century of haunting visitors from around the country. Haunted Hunt Club Farm began in 1988 when owner John Vogel, who was already operating a farm market, offering Pumpkin Patch field trips and daytime hayrides, decided to start a haunted attraction.
He didn’t have to look far for inspiration, as his hometown, Virginia Beach, is known as one of the most haunted areas in the state for several reasons. First, its seemingly endless coastline is home to countless shipwrecks and remains of sailors who never completed their journeys. Also, in the early 18th century, the city was home to Grace Sherwood, perhaps the most infamous suspected witch in the country. And right in Vogel’s backyard stands a piece of real ghost history, a true haunted house. Known as Woodhouse Manor, the two-story Dutch gambrel brick home was built in 1760, and its history includes the untimely death of one owner, Willie Butt.
During the hurricane of 1936, Butt was trying to move his horses to safety and was struck in the head by a large piece of tin that had been ripped from the barn roof. He was knocked unconscious and carried by his family into the home, where he died a few days later, becoming the hurricane’s lone fatality. The ghost of Butt, known as “Willie” to later residents, has made himself known to the home’s residents and visitors for the past 50 years, but always in the friendliest of ways. According to different owners of the home, Willie has been most active – making noises and moving objects around the house – during big get-togethers (especially those involving children as Willie was a father of nine).
When Vogel decided to set up Haunted Hunt Club Farm, he had no interest in friendly ghosts like Willie. He wanted to scare folks in a haunted barn, but the required sprinkler system just wasn’t financially feasible. Vogel’s friend Kent Forbush suggested a haunted hayride instead. “A bunch of us thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,’” Vogel recalled.
Within days, and with the help of Forbush, Billy Gwynn and some friends, they had a group of teenagers from a local high school sports team dressed in scary gear, some toting flashlights and others cranking up chainsaws, hiding along a route in the woods, while two wagons crept through. “We had no power, tractors got stuck, but people loved it,” he said of the hayride, which cost guest $4 per ride at the time.
Vogel added power the second year and rebuilt the route so several wagons could run. He started purchasing props and hiring actors. “We had fun,” he recalled. “It wasn’t about making money.”
A few years in, a guy pulled up in a hearse and introduced himself to Vogel. His name was Jim Johnson, and he owned a haunted attraction at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront called the Haunted Mansion (which currently operates as Nightmare Mansion). “He’s been a big help to this day,” Vogel said of Johnson. “We’ve become best friends. He’s a mentor. I go to him a lot.”
Johnson introduced Vogel to fiberglass artist Mark Cline and he started buying props from Cline’s Natural Bridge, a VA based business, Enchanted Castle Studios, L.L.C. Vogel also hired Christian Anderson, AKA the “World’s Greatest Chicken Wire Artist”, to build props, having known the work Anderson did for Todd James at Cutting Edge Haunted House in Ft. Worth, Texas.
In 1996, Johnson wanted to take Vogel to SpookyWorld, which was located in Berlin, Massachusetts at the time. “That’s where I got the idea of a haunted theme park with multiple events,” Vogel said. So he returned to Virginia Beach and created the Village of the Dead, a wooded walk through with a dozen creepy shacks, a bell tower, swamp, black hole and dark claustrophobia tunnel.
Another idea pulled from Spookyworld was having celebrity guests. Having seen Tiny Tim signing autographs at SpookyWorld, Vogel decided to bring in Kane Hodder (the original Jason Voorhees) and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) during the second year of his new and improved attraction. “It was the worst season we ever had – it rained every night,” Vogel recalled. “We were closed, but people still came. It blew me away.”
In 1999, Vogel met Randi Fussell, a pharmaceutical rep who had recently moved to the farm and agreed to work part-time handling Halloween Group Sales. “That first year was so much fun,” Randi recalled. “I caught the Halloween bug, but whew - I saw so much potential.”
John and Randi married in 2000. Randi left her sales job and put all of her energy into the farm. “I met Randi and that’s when everything started changing,” Vogel recalled, laughing. “The party’s gone – Now it’s a business.”
With Christian Anderson’s help, the Vogels designed a daytime corn maze, which they converted into the nighttime Halloween attraction Field of Screams in 2000. While the daytime maze didn’t work out, the Field became an overnight success. It was a showcase for the most nouveau, truly obscure sets, costumes and props.
In 2001, the Vogels were approached by Clear Channel Communications to partner together to open a haunted theme park at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater, which Clear Channel owned at the time. With the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em mentality” (since the Amphitheater is less than three miles from the farm), the Vogels agreed to the partnership. J.D. oversaw the haunted house, wicked woods walk and 3D maze (the first in the area); Randi managed the three events back at Haunted Hunt Club Farm.
After two seasons of low turnout at the Amphitheater, the Vogels and Clear Channel parted ways amicably after the 2002 season. “It just didn’t work,” J.D. said. “It would take a long time to build up something like that, but financially, it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth the time and stress.”
Randi said the Haunted Hunt Club Farm experience is truly unique, “…a tradition that is hard to replicate.” She added, “The hayride especially is a great draw for people. There’s something about getting out in the cool fall air and huddling up with a group of friends on the wagon.”
After so many years of success, the annual Halloween festival is a local institution, featuring three main attractions: the Haunted Hayride, Village of the Dead and Field of Screams. Every year, each gets a new theme with fresh blood – by way of new actors that join an existing cast of over-the-top performers. Besides the dozens of support staffers required to pull off a successful season, Haunted Hunt Club employs 80 paid actors and 30-plus volunteers every Halloween.
The festival’s most popular attraction, the Haunted Hayride – Virginia’s longest-running – takes voyeurs on a rugged 20-minute ride through the deep, dark woods of Haunted Hunt Club Farm. Unprotected from the elements and all the things that go “bump” in the night, daring riders can always expect a grim and graphic display of murderous mayhem through the ride’s various elaborate scenes as a motley crew of blood-thirsty psychopaths walk alongside and sometimes jump onto the hay wagons, intimidating riders all along the way.
The haunted path through the woods is narrow, especially the one through the decrepit old barn, located just past the farm’s ominous graveyard. The wagons enter the barn known as “the tunnel”. The doors slam shut, and riders experience complete darkness and momentary silence, until the booming horror soundtrack starts and the “tunnel rats” put on their sinister show. This is the prelude to the hayride’s chilling grand finale, which finishes on the other side with flame throwers, air canons and the “end” of whatever the year’s storyline is. In its own twisted way, the hayride crew has covered everything from “Alice in Wonderland” to the Seven Deadly Sins to classic horror movies.
“The Haunted Hayride features moments of narration to move the story along and is easily the most intense, especially as the patron is stuck on the hayride itself, forced to move at the speed of the tractor pulling the wagons, and not at their own too hurried pace,” Halloween blogger Crossbones McKraken wrote in 2010.
The Village of the Dead is an outdoor wooded walk through with a winding path and overall medieval feel. The mysterious Village is packed with freaks in every form all with the singular goal of exploiting their visitors’ deepest fears. No matter the theme, guests can always count on facing claustrophobia, creepy crawly creatures and an overzealous clown or two, among other horrors.
USA Travel Guide summed up the experience in 2009: “The Village gets a little gory at times, but we love its sense of place. Too many haunted houses shuffle from one random scare room to the next. Benefiting no doubt from the outdoor space, the Village of the Dead has a lot going on, but it still manages to evoke its theme. This is one village you’d never want to visit.”
The Field of Screams, a dark and eerie two-acre cornfield, is tightly packed with 10-foot-high stalks and is crawling with zombies, as everyone around these parts knows that more than corn comes out of the ground at Haunted Hunt Club Farm. Regarded as the festival’s most up-close and personal event, the dark and winding maze puts the flesh-eating undead on the same narrow path with their prey. There’s no escaping the corn-stalking immortals; there’s only one way in and one way out of the Field, which features an eerie fog room and unnerving black maze.
“You might not think much of walking through a cornfield at night, but it was truly frightening, even when you saw the person running up to scare you,” recalled writer Jo Fegan in her 2013 article in The Captain’s Log. “The actors don’t just jump out at you either, though they do that in abundance, leaping out at any part of the group without prejudice. No, the actors frequently follow you and you won’t know until they growl right in your ear!”
The farm also received this favorable feedback in 2012 from Robert Morast, assistant features editor at The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, when his team of expert reporters dubbed the haunt “scariest” of seven area attractions, including Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream: “The monsters may chase you without reason, there are scenes of flayed viscera and it's not uncommon for a screaming girl in a baby doll dress to lower her voice and whisper threats in your ear. Plus, when you're on the Haunted Hayride and some freak, literally, jumps onto the ride from seemingly nowhere you know this was crafted by people who care about curating screams.”
Haunted Hunt Club Farm has received lots of positive press over the years, including six “Best of the Beach” awards, which are given by The Virginian-Pilot after area residents select their favorite local businesses.
Haunted Hunt Club Farm offers more than just three main attractions. Guests are treated to side shows like Krendl’s KreepShow (a horror-tinged freak show), high-energy performances by Seven Cities Spinners Fire Troupe, towering stilt walkers and a pair of chainsaw-wielding clowns named HeckLess and ReckLess, who like to chase screaming scaredy-cats around the farm. And every night, a local radio station hosts a catchy promotion. Visitors have done everything from smash pumpkins to spend the night on site for a “Fear the Farm” contest. (All of this, plus unlimited trips through the attractions is included with the All-You-Can-Scream Wristband for $25.)
The festival also features a full-fledged carnival complete with games and a Ferris wheel which pairs perfectly with the haunted events. Besides refreshments (like the farm’s hugely popular candied and caramel apples) and merchandise from various on-site vendors, the carnival attractions are the only thing not included in the price.
There are also a lot of good-for-the-community activities going down at the farm. Since Coastal Virginia is the east coast epicenter of military activity, each Sunday is “Military Appreciation Night,” where service members and their families receive a substantial discount off admission. Haunted Hunt Club Farm does a two-day blood drive with the American Red Cross every mid-October, where they give a pair of tickets to each of the 100 donors. And the Vogels are committed to supporting fundraisers, allowing school sports teams and other organizations to sell tickets and keep a percentage of the proceeds.
“We do a good job,” J.D. said. “We have very loyal customers, great neighbors and our employees and actors have been with us a long time.” Kathy “Bitch 1” Parsons has run the Haunted Hayride with her husband Terry since 1991. Rhonda “Mistress of the Graveyard” Rowe co-manages the Village of the Dead with Jason Lingle since 1994. And Russ “Redmon” Pruitt runs the Field of Screams with his wife Bonnie and friend Don “Doz” Turner since 2001. Although preparation is a year-round practice, this is the crew who starts officially planning each year’s themes in June of each year and also judges the August auditions. The actors leave daytime jobs as paralegals, social workers and military reservists, dedicating their nights to immersing themselves in entertaining the masses at Haunted Hunt Club Farm.
The Vogels attribute their continued popularity to great employees, including their dedication to keeping things fresh. “We used to have a lot of animatronics, but when it comes to an event like this, you can’t beat good actors. We allow our managers to use complete creative license. Because of that, we have three very unique events, and they are different every year.”
In terms of mixing it up, J.D. admitted it’s becoming harder to come up with new themes without repeating them, but the team continues to deliver. “That’s why we go to shows like the Halloween show,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see what people are coming out with.”
J.D. said Haunted Hunt Club Farm will continue to go for “good ol’ fashioned scary,” adding that he’s found that the dark and fear of not knowing are the easiest and best ways to scare guests and keep them coming back for more.
They’ll also continue to get the word out about their haunt. The farm’s website www.huntclubfarm.com
regularly gets just under 100,000 hits between September 15 and Halloween every year, and of those, nearly 70,000 are unique visitors. And through the site, Haunted Hunt Club Farm has built an e-mail list of nearly 17,000 addresses, which they use to send out coupons, general information and dates and times for radio promos.
The farm’s social media presence has taken off considerably in the past year. Between the farm’s two Facebook pages www.facebook.com/HuntClubFarm
, they have over 33,000 “likes,” and their following on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest continues to grow.
“I strongly believe heavy marketing, promotions and solid relationships with local media outlets have definitely contributed to our success,” Randi said, adding that these avenues have helped the farm reach a larger audience, increasing traffic from outside the state.
From humble beginnings with a $4 hayride to a haunted theme park with multiple attractions, sideshows and a carnival, Haunted Hunt Club Farm is THE go-to Halloween event in southeastern Virginia. Anyone who was raised in Virginia Beach probably has a memory of Haunted Hunt Club Farm, and if it’s up to the Vogels and their talented team of actors and support personnel, those guests’ children and grandchildren will create those same macabre memories in the future.