John Murphy grew up watching scary movies with his mother, which inspired him to start his own haunted attraction.
“My mother loved Halloween, so with me it just grew (sic),” he said. “I love Halloween … It’s just a wonderful time.”
Murphy, who is one of the owners at Murphy’s Farm, runs Field of Screams — a business that takes people on a three-part haunted journey through a field, woods and a corn maze. Hiding in the each section are actors dressed up as scary creatures, Murphy said, but he would not go into specifics in order to keep the element of surprise.
Field of Screams is located in Coolville, about half an hour away from Athens, and is entering its last weekend for the season. It opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Monday and tickets cost $10.
Murphy said this is the first year for Field of Screams. He began working on the attraction over the summer, which included building shacks and cutting down corn stalks by hand and hauling them out of the field.
“The work is tremendous,” Murphy, who is a former athletic director, said. “It’s like putting on five varsity football games at once.”
Murphy said he drew from different storytellers such as Tim Burton, M. Night Shyamalan and John Carpenter, who are known for directing horror movies.
“I go back to my memory of watching different movies and seeing different pictures and I kind of put it in aspect, like what you would see as a customer of Field of Screams,” Murphy said.
The participants’ adventure begins in an “old, classic army truck,” Murphy said, in which they travel through a field. At the end of the ride, the passengers disembark and walk down an old road in the “Wicked Woods.” In the woods, patrons will meet many different creatures lurking in its depths, he said. When people exit the forest, a hay wagon will be waiting to take the customers to the haunted corn maze.
“Don’t think that just traveling on that hay wagon or any of the (vehicles) that you have sanctuary from anything that may be creeping and lurking in the night,” Murphy said.
Bridget Schwert, a senior studying exercise physiology, visited Field of Screams three weeks ago with a group of friends. Schwert said most of Field of Screams was not scary to her because she lives in Cleveland near the Seven Floors of Hell Haunted Attraction.
“My friends thought it was scary,” Schwert said.
She did find the Wicked Woods to be scary, though.
“The woods part was pretty scary because people chase after you and it’s pretty dark,” she said.
After the hayride, attendees then enter a haunted corn maze that is about half a mile long where different “things” live, Murphy said.
“I’m always thinking, ‘You never know what’s around the next corner,’ So that’s my theme in this corn maze,” he said.
Josh Barton, a resident of Coolville, is one of the actors in the corn maze. Barton portrays a scarecrow-like “Creeper” from the film Jeepers Creepers.
“The corn is the scariest part,” he said. “(It) keeps people on edge. Everyone is there to have fun and get scared.”
Barton said he has scared many people so far, but one instance stands out. He said a group of about 20 people came up to him and the man leading the group had a particular reaction to Barton’s character.
“He immediately covered his privates and said he peed himself,” Barton said.
Barton did not have the opportunity to scare the next group that came through because he was laughing so much, he said.
Murphy employs 20 to 30 actors each night, stationed throughout the different sections of Field of Screams.
“My favorite part is scaring someone so freaking bad that they (gasp) or get the shakes or where they’re traumatized for that split second and go into a laughter,” Murphy said.
Field of Screams has attracted people from as far as Sistersville and Wheeling, West Virginia, Murphy said, and customers have been giving it favorable reviews.
“I’ve never had one negative (review) out of all the hundreds of people,” Murphy said. “We believe not to have people waiting, treat people with respect, show them a good time and give them a good product. Those are the things we try to do every weekend.”