It was a dark and foggy night. The air was damp and dreary with a full moon in the midnight sky. The howls of werewolves could be heard in the distance coming from the speaker on the back of the tractor in front of us!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning.
In the beginning God created monsters and zombies. They were lonely creatures with no one to scare… so He created man.
The second half of Jen’s and my two-fer night was the Fear Forest Haunted Hay ride and Insanetarium. We left the drive in disappointed having seen the zombie coming of age flick: Zombieland. Not scary, not gory, not funny.
We really needed a good dose of scary monsters right about now, so we headed over to Fear Forest hoping for the best. At 9:15pm the parking lot was barely full and we found a spot right at the front.
We bought our tickets for the hay ride and the Insanetarium haunted house. You can buy tickets for the hay ride or hay ride Insanetarium combo. Due to the location of the Insanetarim you can’t get solo tickets for just that. The hay ride should be called a hay-less ride, because… well, there was no hay to be found. They put you in a large 30 passenger open wagon pulled by a tractor.
With our tickets in hand we went to the line and waited.
The mood music for the line was haunting for the first three minutes but quickly became repetitive. It would have been fine for a short wait, but we were treated to almost 45 minutes of the same sequence of notes over and over and over. Seriously, could they not find more than a 60 second loop of haunt music?
There were about 10 people in front of us in line and another 10 on the wagon. I wondered why they didn’t fill it, assuming they wanted the appearance of a long line. Restaurants do that too.
After about 15 minutes that wagon took off, another arrived and the line started moving. Unfortunately for us we didn’t make the next cart, as again, they only filled it half full. So we waited.
While at the front of the line Jen and I tried to chitchat with the workers. There were three of them standing around and we quickly realized that they didn’t have a whole lot of information to provide us. “Why are the wagons only half full?” She didn’t know. “Can you purchase tickets for the Insanetarium but not the hay ride?” One said you could last year, the other said it’s never been that way. Mostly they just cared about getting “lunch” from the Dairy Queen next door. These were not the brightest bulbs I’ve ever encountered.
After another 15 minutes, the tractor and wagon left and the next arrived. We grabbed front row spots thinking this would give us the best view of the sights. We got the rules of wagon riding; no flash cameras, stay in your seat, don’t eat the dead people (I added that, they weren’t that clever.) And then we waited.
We were left on our own, with a handful of other passengers behind us, listening to the werewolf howls coming out of the speaker on the back of the tractor. After sitting there for 15 minutes, the tractor driver broke from his chit chat with another employee, boarded the tractor and started down the trail. All this was done without a word to anyone. No, this wasn’t a mood thing, he just didn’t care to interact with us tourists.
Finally, 45 minutes after we bought our tickets we were off on the “hay” ride. We quickly realized that our front row seats put us at a disadvantage. A lot of the action happened toward the rear of the wagon. Most of the monsters jumped out only after we in the front had passed by. We spent much of the time turned around watching the rest of the passengers get the scares.
Aside from our unfortunate positioning, the hay ride was far better than I had anticipated. The full moon and low fog contributed to a creepy atmosphere. There were tons of great props along the way, buildings, sheds, and an abandoned car (was that intentional or just white trash?). Monsters jumped out along the way and at times boarding the wagon for effect.
Not everybody brought their A game. Like the camper who came walking out toward us amidst his family slaughtered in their tents saying, “you have to help us” in monotone. He didn’t give the impression of being worried. Then there was the axe murder dressed in plain clothes without a hint of blood on him. But then, people always say how “normal” everybody thought they were.
I would have got more photos but we were told not to use our cameras. The flash blinds the monsters! At one point I tried to take a flash-free shot and found myself staring into the dark eyes of Michael Meyers. “I didn’t use the flash! I didn’t use the flash,” I was heard pleading as I was violently grabbed and then dragged away into the dark forest never to be seen or heard from again.
Oh, wait… I forgot, I’m the one who survives the horror movie.
There was a lot that was fantastic about the hay-free ride. They did a great job of setting up decoy distractions, taking your eyes away from the person or thing hidden in the bushes, waiting for the opportunity to pounce. A large cast of horror movie well-knowns were present. Michael Meyers, Jason, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface. Oddly I didn’t see Chucky. There were plenty of half-dead, mostly dead and in the process of being made dead people along the way. A few werewolves and other ghouly monsters showed their faces as well.
At one point the tractor drove through one of those spinning tunnels. Maybe it was the darkness and glow-in-the dark walls, but this was probably one of the best I’ve experienced.
The hay ride itself is worth the money if you don’t mind the wait. It took us a good 20 minutes to get through it all with plenty of good, scary action along the way.
The Insanetarium is at the end of the hay ride. It’s a small warehouse converted into a house full of monsters, serial killers and… well that’s funny…. I swear that I’ve seen that guy on Star Trek!
The Insanetarium is an indoor, walk through haunted house. It took us about 20 minutes to get through and not a second of it was wasted. As you walk through you’re treated to room after room of horror scenes, dead bodies, skeletons and monsters. Winding your way through, you never knew what to expect around the next corner, what might jump out at you or be following you from behind.
It was set up so you could go through with your own group without having to share space or scares with people you don’t know. I wanted to take my time walking through and I was able to do that without anybody catching up to us.
Near the end was another spinning tunnel. Again, this was one of the best I’ve encountered. I’m still dizzy.
The actors seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly. They weren’t there just to put on a show, but they were interacting with us as well. The last haunted house I went to in Reno was about 1/4 the size and didn’t even compare on the thrill scare.
Upon exiting the Insanetarium there were a group of employees huddled around the wagon re-loading zone. They couldn’t care less about us. No interaction, no making sure we had fun, no communication. That’s too bad. The experience with the Fear Forest sets and actors had been exciting, but the rest of the crew just pulled you right out of the experience back into the real world of part-time employees that don’t give a rats ass about the customer.
There were a lot of young kids, but I’d be careful about bringing any that scare easily. This isn’t just a horror movie, it’s real life people coming out at you with knives and chainsaws. But If the kids can hack it, bring them out have an ice cream or burger at Dairy Queen and enjoy the (hay-less) ride.
More Fear Forest Haunted Hayride Info
My Cost: 2 Adults, hay ride & Insanetarium combo; $28
Hats off: 4/5
Fear Forest website
6780 Tod Ave SW
Warren, Ohio 44481