Pumpkin-carving, costume contests and colorful candy-binging: The month of October is full of Halloween fun. In the mood for something a little more hair-raising? Christian County has just your poison.
Field of Screams is a new haunted attraction at Nixa sports complex Summers at the River. Its name, according to its cofounders, is a play on “Field of Dreams,” since the trail sits so close to baseball and softball fields.
It features terrifying props and dozens of actors ready to pop out at every turn of its almost mile-long trail. It’s inspired by horror classics, including “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and “The Hills Have Eyes,” as well as popular television show “American Horror Story.” The trail also plays on the Ozarks urban legend of the albino farm.
“The Cabin in the Woods”
Field of Screams cofounders Stephen Greninger and Derick Woods have been pals since the sixth grade. Today, they both work in marketing for Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts & Hotels.
“We used to travel for work, even together,” Moore said. “For a couple of years in the fall, we were always somewhere else, so we’d go to Halloween Horror Nights or a haunted house or whatever. Even at that point, we knew it was something we wanted to do ourselves.”
Moore and Greninger estimate they’ve both experienced at least 30 haunted attractions. After each scare, they tried to remember what they liked most—what they wanted to mimic if given the opportunity to petrify their own patrons someday.
It was in April when their dream came to fruition. After coming to an agreement with Summers at the River and laying down a mulch trail, it was time to begin creating the scenes that would keep customers screaming again and again. One of the first is a small, run-down shack.
“It’s made of two big, massive boxes from some guy who moved from Japan,” Greninger said. “They shipped all his stuff in them. We got them on Craigslist.”
Greninger and Moore also turned to Facebook Marketplace for props, planning out what each unique section of the trail might be suitable for. A section that leads along James River is used for Field of Scream’s very own version of Camp Crystal Lake, the setting for “Friday the 13th.”
“We couldn’t not play off that,” Greninger said
Despite the trail’s befitting geography, it was still hard working on it through the summer heat.
“Each scene that we started to build, we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll have that put together in an hour or two,’ but you run into this or that or you get pulled in another direction,” Moore said. “It took patience.”
Greninger said the haunted trail felt finished mid-September, when it held a soft opening in order to receive feedback. Field of Screams invited roughly 30 area businesses to test it all out.
“Because it’s so long, one piece of feedback we consistently heard was that there were a few dead spots, so with some time off, we’re building a massive tunnel,” Greninger said. He and Derick are determined to make sure customers get their money’s worth. The attraction costs $20 per person and runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 2. “We’ve added 10 more actors for the area, too.”
It might seem difficult to conjure up so many thrill-seekers willing to terrify others, but Greninger and Moore found more than 30.
“We did four or five interviews here at Summers. We posted a hiring event on Facebook,” Greninger said. “We had over a hundred applicants, and it was just about making sure we found the right ones.”
He and Moore wanted to know what would make each applicant stick out on a long, dark, wooded trail. One girl claimed to have the most blood-curdling scream.
“She was spot-on,” Greninger said.
John Holland plays the role of a clown, who might seem familiar to those of American Horror Story’s fourth season.
“It’s easy once you have the costume on. It kind of comes out naturally. You don’t think about it much,” Holland told the Headliner News. “It’s quite addicting. Once you start doing it, and you get a lot of good reactions, you want to do it again and again.”
Greninger and Moore also had to have a costume and makeup expert. They decided on a friend, Arianna Fiddick, to do the job. She began practicing stage makeup during theater productions in high school.
“I did go to college for a little bit out of high school to do theater and makeup,” Fiddick told the Headliner News. “I really loved my makeup class. I continued dabbling in it.”
Fiddick said applying makeup outdoors in all of the elements, such as the heat, is challenging, but it hasn’t taken away from her experience.
“It’s just been so fun,” she said. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.”
“The Watcher in the Woods”
Field of Screams isn’t to be confused with Nathan and Mary Powers’ haunted trail, The Forest of Terror, that recently received negative media coverage.
“Our first thought was maybe two in Nixa isn’t a bad thing,” Greninger said, but then things got a little weird.
“He was sending people that had won contests on his Facebook page to our place to pick up their free tickets,” he said. “People would show up with text messages from them saying come to Summers at the River.”
A week into October, however, The Forrest of Terror is no longer a concern. The first opening weekend a week and a half ago saw 247 patrons. Greninger and Moore hope for many more in the next month.
“We didn’t start this just to be average or okay,” Greninger said. “We want to be one of the best haunted attractions in the whole state of Missouri.”