Field of Screams is a (dysfunctional) family affair

By on October 14, 2015

Darkness falls across Mountville. The opening hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl, across dilapidated houses and barns and through corn fields, presumably in search of blood, looking to terrorize the neighborhood. – Ode to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

By the opening gates stands a clown, every bit as ghoulish as you’d expect, with piercing green eyes and ghastly purple hair, alternating between chasing unsuspecting visitors and taking selfies with the brave few. A few feet away, a woman with a bloodied face clutches a doll against her stomach. The sounds of chainsaws fill the air as a deathly chill falls upon the countryside and the sky recedes to black.

Welcome to Field of Screams.

 

The crew at Nocturnal Wasteland, one of the thrilling attractions at Field of Screams, welcomes you to their nightmare.

The crew at Nocturnal Wasteland, one of the thrilling attractions at Field of Screams, welcomes you
to their nightmare.

 

With four hair raising attractions — The Haunted Hayride, Frightmare Asylum, Den of Darkness and Nocturnal Wasteland — this ultimate scare attraction has garnered national attention for its hair raising scenes, frightening characters and breathtaking special effects. It’s all made possible by a family of volunteers who work tirelessly to put together a one of a kind Halloween experience.

Denise Sellard of Ephrata works in the ticket office at Field of Screams, punching passes for those brave souls who dare to enter. The family’s road to Fields began five years ago when her oldest son, Joey, and his girlfriend started acting in a haunted attraction at a local campground.

 

Aspen Bollinger (left) of Manheim is working as a make-up artist at Field of Screams this Halloween season.

Aspen Bollinger (left) of Manheim is working as a make-up artist at Field of Screams this Halloween season.

 

“After two years of doing that, my daughter Caitlyn was bitten with the acting bug,” Sellard says. “She was looking for something a little more involved and that’s what brought her to Field of Screams.”

Now 15 and a sophomore at Conestoga Valley High School, Caitlyn acts and also works as a makeup artist at Fields. She won Rookie of the Year for her work as a deranged patient in the Frightmare Asylum, and her brother Joey was part of a group that won for Skit of the Year in Nocturnal Wasteland.

As for Denise, she just happened to be along for the ride.

“I was taking Caitlyn back and forth and I figured it was cheaper on gas for me just to stay until she was done,” she says, “so I decided I might as well go to work.”

 

Ephrata High School students (left to right) Kylie Helzer and Megan Snyder enjoy the thrills of instilling chills at Field of Screams.

Ephrata High School students (left to right) Kylie Helzer and Megan Snyder enjoy the thrills of instilling chills at Field of Screams.

 

Denise might not be in the center of all the madness and mayhem, but she is most certainly not all that far from the maddening crowd either. She has seen her share of frightened visitors in her two years as a volunteer, and the reactions are as unique as the characters that produce them. She refers to her time spent on the grounds as her “laugh therapy.” This year, her middle son, Blake Zimmerman, has joined in. He drives a tractor for the Haunted Hayride.

“Even though the four of us have made it a family affair, all the people involved at Field of Screams will be quick to tell you that everyone here is part of one big ‘Field’ family,” she added.

Denise says the volunteers keep in touch throughout the year. There is an annual awards banquet as well as a host of activities in the off-season that bring the volunteers together.

Another member of this extended family is Aspen Bollinger of Manheim, who first became involved as a makeup artist at Field of Screams three years ago. The Manheim Central student saw it as an opportunity to express her creativity since she has always had an interest in special effects.

 

The Ephrata mother-daughter team of Denise and Caitlyn Sellard enjoy spending the Halloween holiday together.

The Ephrata mother-daughter team of Denise and Caitlyn Sellard enjoy spending the Halloween
holiday together.

 

“I thought working with special effects makeup would be right up my alley, and it really has worked out great,” says Bollinger.

While Aspen has not yet decided on her focus of study as far as college is concerned, she’s thinking it might be in the area of special effects or graphic design.

She also helps out with her brother in the Scream Shop — a gift shop housed inside the main courtyard selling T-shirts and other souvenirs. The fun and fright doesn’t end there as she also volunteers her time in November for the Zombie Run — a 5K race with flag football rules in which participants run for their lives, figuratively speaking.

“I enjoy having the actors come in to makeup and finding out what attraction they’re going to be working in that night, and then deciding what makeup they should wear for it,” Bollinger said. “If they’re working in Nocturnal Wasteland, I’m going to go with a dirtied-up look. If they’re going to be in Frightmare Asylum, it’s all about the blood and gore. It’s so much fun making a character come to life (or death) like that.”

Aspen says the veteran actors will make suggestions since they have a good idea as to what will produce the most blood curdling reactions, but in the end it’s her call.

It’s this immersion of skill sets and experiences that makes for a truly one-of-a-kind experience every Halloween season. And as with any live performance, you can expect the unexpected.

Kylie Helzer of Ephrata can surely attest to that fact. The 2015 Ephrata High School graduate says you really have to be prepared for anything as an actor at Field of Screams.

“I don’t have any crazy stories,” says Helzer. “You just deal with either very nice customers or a few not so nice ones.”

Kylie is planning on attending EI (Elegance International) School of Professional Makeup in Los Angeles. The school offers programs for students looking to enter the fields of fashion, film and television.

As an avid fan of the horror genre, Kylie took friends up on an offer to volunteer as an actor at Field of Screams a couple years ago.

“I thought it would be an awesome time because I’ve always been a crazy horror and Halloween fan,” she says. “I was only planning on doing it that one night, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep volunteering.”

She mainly works in the Frightmare Asylum, but has also spent a few nights in the Den of Darkness scaring the wits out of visitors. She says this is where fight or flight response really comes into play, and as an actor it’s where you learn the meaning of keeping a safe distance.

Megan Snyder is one of those friends who convinced Kylie to try out. The Ephrata High School senior says she’s interested in studying nuclear medicine some day, which makes sense seeing as how she puts on a radioactive performance in the Asylum — a place she affectionately refers to as “home.”

 

You’ll have to look closely to find Chameleon in the Nocturnal Wasteland,

You’ll have to look closely to find Chameleon in the Nocturnal Wasteland.

 

From the time she was eight years old, Megan says she wanted to work at a haunted house, and her experience at Fields speaks to a person who knows how to make up for lost time. From the very first time she put on a straight jacket (no, seriously) she was hooked.

“You have to figure out who you’re going to be as a character, and then you have to jump in to that character and go,” says Snyder.

Last October, she worked every night, winning Actor of the Year for her work in Frightmare Asylum. As with many of the volunteers, Snyder wears many hats. She helped put together a “Psycho” skit, worked in the Den of Darkness, and then makes time for the little ones at the Corncob Acres venue.

 

Willie the Pig Butcher (below) will probably find you on the Haunted Hayride.

Willie the Pig Butcher will probably find you on the Haunted Hayride.

 

There really is an art to making things go bump in the night, and these volunteers have perfected it, which is why there are incentives for the scream makers. You earn a staff T-shirt for logging nine evenings, a sweatshirt for 18, and an embroidered jacket if you work 25 or more. There is a party for volunteers who work 18 nights, as well as events such as snow tubing and laser tag that take place throughout the year. An annual picnic kicks off the season, in which the volunteers get to prowl the grounds and see all the new upgrades.

It’s a great big, frightening family that resides in Mountville, and they’re just dying to share an October evening with dinner guests. Be warned, the welcome mat might be shredded to pieces and the grass is, well, it’s dead. But don’t concern yourself with those minor details. Leave that to the hosts. They’re a real scream.

Marc Anthony is a freelance correspondent for the Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments at marcanthony017@yahoo.com.

If you dare to go…

  • Field is Screams is located just off the Mountville exit of Route 30, 13 miles from Lititz.
  • The attraction is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Nov. 13, weather permitting.
  • Prices vary by date. Attendees can pay extra for V.I.P. “line-hopping” privileges.
  • For more information, visit fieldofscreams.com.
The entrance to the Frightmare Asylum at Field of Screams.

The entrance to the Frightmare Asylum at Field of Screams.

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