Recharging the Batteries with a Trip to the Dark Side

Everybody, you ready for another week? Ready to paint that smile on your face and press forward valiantly  I’m not sure that I am, but as usual lots of coffee and writing should get me through in a semblance of sanity. Let us pray that it works.

Now, I typically don’t talk too much about my weekend, or even day-to-day, activities on this blog. It’s hard to cite any one reason for my reticence. I guess I just don’t feel that many of those activities relate to the goals of this site, save for my writing and writing-related activities, and I mean, what am I going to do, update you on my daily word count? Nah. I don’t roll like that. I do enjoy telling you good folks about the development of my works, but even that can get tedious after awhile.

But hey, I’m lucky this week, and very happy to share something of my weekend with you folks. You see, this past weekend the wife and I attended first the Cox Farms Fall Festival, and then something called the Fields of Fear. Given the connection to horror and to the sorts of things that inspire my writing, I felt there was some relevance to offer to you, the reader. And if it’s not relevant, at least you can enjoy the pretty pictures.

So let’s be clear on one thing: I love Autumn. Seriously. My love of the season dates way back to at least age nine or ten. Back then I loved creeping around the deserted streets of my small hometown, watching the place settle down as the sun first set and then night fell. I thrilled to the sound of the wind through the skeletal branches that towered over me. I loved the aching feeling that I got in my bones when I saw nice warm lights in houses. It was desolation, but a nice sort of desolation.

It’s become very important for me to celebrate the arrival of Autumn and Halloween; every year I try to find some way to mark the passage of time, as my thoughts increasingly turn to my own mortality and the idea that I have one less Autumn remaining in my lifetime. Sure, that sounds morbid, but it reminds me of just how important it is to relish these things and celebrate them. It helps me to understand the root of the Halloween celebration.

This trip has become one of our shared traditions, and we both relish it. Thus, I feel fortunate to share some of it with you.

Let’s start by talking about the Fall Festival. This is, essentially, the more family-friendly, child-friendly version of Fields of Fear. We’re talking farm animals, lots of talk about what goes on down on the farm, hayrides, and…well, I’ll let some of the pictures talk for themselves.

The trip had an inauspicious start, as I first forgot to dig out the directions and then compounded the problem by not accepting the wife’s offer to print directions (male pride, hoooo). The real coup de grace on my dignity, however, happened when the GPS on both of our phones crapped out. So there we are in the sticks of Virginia, trying to find this place and knowing that they would stop allowing new visitors through the gates in the next 20 minutes. Moods were not exactly high, but I managed to stumble upon the right path, and we arrived with minutes to spare.

Hey, this guy was happy to see us.

We both really enjoy the day-time version of the festival – it’s “soft”, yes, but it has an enjoyably cheesy quality to it. And I mean, hell, who doesn’t want to see fluffy ducks and baby pigs? I don’t want to meet the person that doesn’t enjoy that sort of thing.

And I mean that.

Still, like all good carnival atmospheres, there’s an element of the sinister hiding there, if you know where to look. It’s especially pronounced with how the place transforms at night.

Particularly crazed versions of popular characters count, yes?


Some of these elements are most prevalent in a place called “Cornundrum” (at night, it becomes the Cornightmare, and don’t worry, we’ll get there in due time). It’s a cross between a corn maze and a sort of fever-dream wonderland. Here’s a sample of the daytime goods:

This the entrance to “The Vortex”, a spinning tube that turns your perception on its head more than any psychedelics I’ve ever ingested.

Loads of funhouse mirrors. Boy on the right? Not having a great time. The little girl was having a blast with her “fat butt” in the mirror, though.

The Internet.

Cards, yo.

Bones, bones…


Remember this wall. It’s important in part two of this tale.

I have loads of other pictures, but I think you get the idea. Day time is good, cheesy horror(ish) fun. No real scares, but some macabre stuff at points and a real weird sensibility.

They close down the park at six to make the transition to the Fields of Fear, so we scooped up our complimentary pumpkins, picked up some fresh apple cider, and headed to a favored Mexican joint to wait for round two. Boy, let me tell you, round two did not disappoint, either. We’ve done the Fall fest many times, but this was our first time at the night program, and it’s going to become an annual tradition.

The entrance didn’t look TOO transformed, just fun.

We soon discovered that they had strung lights along the paths to keep us from killing ourselves. They also sold plenty of glow-in-the-dark apparel and accessories, as flashlights and camera flashes are pretty strictly prohibited, and thank God for that.

Difficult to photograph with no flash, but you get the gist.

We made a beeline for “Cornightmare”, as we’d paid extra to get into the damned thing and wanted our money’s worth. And besides, what’s something like this without a few scares?

Well, let me tell you. These folks *got it*. The place quickly takes on a survivor, us-versus-them feeling, as cast members can pop out at you from any corner, accost you, and disappear into the corn. Nothing untoward, mind you, but we heard a pretty constant stream of screams from elsewhere in the corn, which managed to unnerve us a bit. Thankfully, I had thought ahead to purchase a glow stick and didn’t feel completely lost, but even with the stick at times I recaptured that old feeling of standing beneath the trees as a child. The transformation in that corn maze was pretty astounding. Let’s take “the bug room”, for instance. Here’s what it looked like in the daylight:

Okay, nothing special.

Kind of creepy.

They also lined the path with things like giant reapers that reacted to sound and movement. I tried to get a good shot of one, but again, no flash, so you have to settle for the burning eyes:

Yeah, bump into that in the night.

We also saw a pond on fire and a really creepy “crypt”.

Love the effect.

Possibly my favorite picture of the night.

We encountered some other fun stuff like a “demon” that appeared to be animatronic then jumped out and chased you, but I only had a few jumps to this point. Fun as hell, but nothing untoward.

Then came the clown room. Remember that picture? Yeah, and that’s the crux of this whole post.

Looks a little more sinister at night, no?

You could only exit this portion of the maze through the clown’s mouth. On the other side laid a kaleidoscope of fluorescent colors under the black light. I tried to take a picture but it came out looking like a bad trip:

By this point I had gotten used to assessing every “threat” as I entered a room (bad habit from horror videogaming), deciding which might be hidden cast members. This room fooled me BADLY. I immediately dismissed both occupants of the room as animatronic figures – they were too damned thin to be real people. I proceed to snap a picture of this one figure because I dug the costume, and…well, it came alive and at me with a fake chainsaw.

In some other reality, this is a “last photo taken” in a trial.

That thing is blurred because it was moving and I was already in motion. Apparently I bolted across the room, a look of panic on my face. Wife realized I wasn’t playing along, started cracking up at my obvious distress, and then fell backwards out of the room when she missed a step, giving both me and the “killer” a terrible scare.

She was okay, but good lord what a ride. At that point, we were done. We took a haunted hayride and returned to chill by the bonfire and play some games (like autopsy table, a giant, live-action version of Operation).

Best part of the night?

All in all, we had a blast, and it really recharged the creative batteries. I feel so much more excited about writing horror again, which translates to some benefits for readers. So worth the time? Probably, and if you’re in the area, it might be worth a try.

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  1. Ha ha ha – I will never forget the look on your face when the dude with the chainsaw was chasing you! I could have lived without falling on my ass in the dirt, though. 😛

  2. I’m such a baby at these places. I run and scream and freak out. Looks like you guys had a great time though!

    • Haha, I think we heard lots of folks like you in the maze. But I think that’s just as much fun. I wish I could have more pure reactions like that!

  3. This is my favorite blog post of the week. The photography gave an immediacy and familiarity, and of course your voice threading all of them together made it a great read, too. I know you tend not to want to blog about your day to day adventures, but I am glad you shared this.


    • Thank you! I really want to do more like this, it’s just so tricky and time consuming from an experiental POV. Still, worth considering…

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