Troy's 'Field Of Horrors' Opens For Seventh Season
In a year where the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out most traditions, pumpkin farms, corn mazes, and haunted houses are still ringing in the spooky season in New York state. WAMC’s Jesse King got a sneak preview of Troy’s Field of Horrors before its official reopening Friday.
Co-owner Stacey Mulinio says hype for the Rensselaer County attraction’s seventh season is at an all-time high. Considered “low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment” under New York’s COVID-19 guidelines, the field’s haunted houses are ready and open for business – even if its staple hayride, the Trail of Terror, is not. While the state allows for hayrides to continue in a “drive-thru” format, Mulinio says the idea felt too risky.
“We considered it, but the liability of having the general public drive with our actors...we were a little bit afraid," says Mulinio. "You know, not everybody’s the best driver, so. And then the liabilities with the vehicles as well.”
Luckily, the Field of Horrors still has plenty of scare to share. It boasts five haunted houses this year, including: “Insanity,” “Death Trap,” “Return of the Mummy’s Curse,” “Condemned Manor,” and “Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House,” the Lake George staple that the Field of Horrors bought and revamped earlier this year.
Normally, Mulinio says the houses hold about eight patrons at once, but this year they’re sticking to families and small parties, one at a time. Groups are asked to maintain a distance of at least three feet while in line, and keep their masks on at all times. Between runs, they can warm up by the bonfire at the field’s center, or fill up on cotton candy at the concession stand.
Krest Winchester runs “Mr. D’s Photo Booth,” where visitors can take a picture with Dr. Infecto, a towering mad scientist dressed in a gas mask and hazmat suit.
“Every single one of our models has their own individual costume and a special little quarantine bag for everybody. And [we have] this booth so we don’t have too many people crowd over. So we’ve taken all the steps we possibly can to make sure people can still have fun, and also still be safe and protected and feel comfortable," Winchester explains.
Nathan Gross — a.k.a. Dr. Infecto — has been acting with the Field of Horrors for years now. His view on the new season is a bit...different than Winchester's.
"My role is to bring them in. I scare them, and I bring ‘em in so we can chop ‘em up! Chop ‘em up into little pieces!" he growls. You can't see it, but the smallest break in character suggests he's smiling behind the gas mask. "You know, at least we can have something semi-normal during the crazy time.”
“Semi-normal” is the ultimate consolation prize this year, as cities and states weigh what is and isn’t safe this holiday season. The state of Illinois banned haunted houses and hayrides last week, as did some cities and counties in California. Haunted houses and trick-or-treating are off the table in Springfield, Massachusetts, leaving families scaring up other ways to celebrate.
In New York, attractions must require masks and limit crowds to a third of capacity. Troy’s Field of Horrors cut its acting staff down to 50 people, but its max capacity pre-COVID was 4,000 — so turnout for its “sneak preview” last weekend was still larger than what many might be used to right now. Walking around the field, you’ll still see long lines, crowds pooling by the food trucks, and actors jumping in people’s faces. Mulinio assures it’s all kosher.
“From what we were told, that’s why we wear masks. Because the social distancing — you really can’t social distance when you’re at an event like this," she says. "So that’s why we ask that our customers wear a mask, and our actors are double-masked.”
While all employees were masked, some customers had to be reminded to wear theirs properly. For the most part, the young crowd didn’t seem to mind. Jack Bryant and Lauren Uhler were just happy for the slice of normalcy.
“I’m honestly surprised that they had it this year,” Bryant admits, eliciting a quick nod from Uhler.
"Yeah, 'cuz they didn't have any, like, fairs or anything around here," she adds.
“This is the first festival-type thing that we’ve had since like, last year," says Bryant. "It's crazy."
Troy's Field of Horrors is open weekends in October from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., with tickets available online.