Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses
Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses – Field of Screams
By CHRIS ALEXANDER
Splattered across a sprawling 45-acre farm in Ulster Park, New York, Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses is a force to be feared. Established 21 years ago by a couple of ghouls—namely husband and wife Michael and Nancy Jubie—with a passion for all things haunted and a farfetched idea (one that naysayers close to their nucleus swore would never succeed), this cabal of chills offers eight attractions: a hayride, a corn maze and six scary houses, plus an outdoor haunted walk, midnight gardens and sideshow, five gift shops and four eateries, operated by a staff of 350. Fango spoke to Nancy Jubie about the frightful farm, a staple attraction for locals and tourists alike.
FANGORIA: All bias aside, what do you think makes Headless Horseman such a standout haunt?
NANCY JUBIE: Well, this is a major theatrical production like no other. The hayride and haunted houses incorporate hi-tech special effects, expansive movie-quality sets and illusions, monsters, animatronics, costumes, makeup, sound and pyrotechnics. Research, set and costume designs, storylines and scripts are underway the November of the previous year by our sister company, American Made Monster Studios. In addition to the hayride, there is a corn maze and six themed attractions. The haunted-house sets incorporate authentic antiques, illusions and animatronics.
FANG: The houses, like the Lunar Motel, are pretty nifty. Can you talk about them?
JUBIE: That one transports you back in time to an original 1960s roadside motel, occupied by a murderous cult leader and his followers. This is the first of the six haunted houses at Headless Horseman. When you check out through the back room of the motel, you end up on a path in the cornfield that takes you to the underground Root Cellar, which in turn leads to Glutton’s Slaughter House. This attraction was carefully recreated to resemble a 1940s slaughterhouse: the sounds of tortured, dying animals, the odor of decaying meat, giant water features, freezer rooms, slaughter stalls, a human grinding machine, hundreds of carcasses.
Escaping the Slaughter House leads you into the four-acre Dark Harvest Corn Maze. You find yourself wandering through the endless labyrinth of 10-foot-tall corn stalks, encountering countless scarecrows, a crow house, shanty shacks, giant pumpkins and larger-than-life insects waiting to attack and devour you. Then there’s the Nightshade Greenhouse, an authentic 19th-century antique nursery with an evil Alice in Wonderland theme. That leads to Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Sideshow.
FANG: The house that really did us in was The Feeding—a very brutal and clinical haunt that was a tad too real!
JUBIE: Yeah, it’s a Saw movie on steroids! The detail in the house staggers the mind. A complete 1930s dental operatory, including x-ray machines, early dental chairs and tools, water chambers, flyover cages and the entire contents of a period hospital are recreated with painstaking detail. A complete early physician’s exam room and an authentic embalming chamber, purchased from the estate of the first licensed female mortician in New York State, leave nothing to the imagination. The lab is inhabited by the Collectors, which haunt the hallways.
FANG: Last on the list is Dahlia Blood’s Manor, which is very Victorian and Gothic.
JUBIE: Yes, and it comes with a collection of taxidermy specimens that are accented perfectly with human remains. A haunting room comes alive with sound effects. Walls and ceilings cave in on you. As you wander through the library, giant stacks of books sway as if to topple upon you. The main house holds a secret door that leads you through a hidden morgue, and as you exit, you find yourself transported to the year 1888 on the back streets of London, England as the infamous Jack the Ripper stalks you from the shadows. Your only escape is through the haunted harbor, as the sounds of a wicked storm of earthshaking thunder and bolts of lightning shatter what is left of your withered soul. Then, of course, you exit back onto the midway.
FANG: True to your name, a love of horses is alive and well on the property—a true sense of the natural world blended with the supernatural fantasy elements.
JUBIE: Well, horses have always been our life; we have both owned and ridden them since we were kids. We opened for our first year 30 days after closing on our farm, and it has been a dream come true—and sometimes a nightmare—to incorporate our love of horses and all things haunted into our business. The setting of an 18th-century historic manor encompassing 45 acres of orchards, rolling hills, woodlands and ponds, set in the haunted Catskill Mountains/Hudson Valley region of New York State, was the perfect back-drop, and so Headless Horseman was born.
FANG: What would you say is the secret sauce that keeps such a massive operation running smoothly?
JUBIE: We coordinate our attractions with teamwork, professionalism, managers and assistant managers for each theatrical attraction, security, communication, a command center and many dress rehearsals, plus a “Be Safe, Be Smart, Be Scary” employee program. We have thousands of loyal customers who come back three or four times a year, each time bringing more friends with them.
Find out more about the hayrides and houses at www.headlesshorseman.com.