Hayrides and Haunted Houses
By Clifford Hart (Reprinted from October 2014)
Photos: © Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses
As the weather chills and the Hudson Valley takes on the golden autumnal hues it is famous for, thoughts inevitably begin to turn to Halloween. To be sure, the Valley is rich with haunted history, owing its reputation in part to Washington Irving and his famously-freaked-out school teacher, Ichabod Crane. As the legend goes, the hapless Crane was scared out of his wits by the sight of a headless man on horseback, and the only thing left behind from the encounter was a smashed pumpkin and poor Ichabod’s hat.
It is in that same vein of spookiness that Michael and Nancy Jubie dreamed up the idea for Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses over twenty years ago. Starting with an old farm on 45 acres six miles south of Kingston, he and his wife began building what has now become one of the largest attractions in the country devoted to scaring the daylights out of people, an impressive operation that now seasonally employs over 350 people.
The creepy fun begins at dusk, when visitors are invited to board hay wagons for a trip down a dark, winding road filled with devilish displays ranging from the grotesque to the ghoulish, and it is worth noting that these are a far cry from the mechanical freaks that pop out at your standard amusement-park haunted house. No, these are “living” horrors, meaning there are real people lurking behind those dark corners, just waiting to evince screams from unsuspecting visitors.
Ironic as it may be, it is the living aspect of Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses that makes its embracement of death so appealing. For not only do the horrifying creatures deliver more fear for the fiver than any robot or hologram could ever do, but they also deliver a compelling narrative of terror that changes from year to year, meaning your experience will be as frightfully new and unexpected this year as it was the last. Beyond the hayride there are a host of other terrifying attractions to whet even the most appalling appetites, including six haunted houses and a corn maze. All are smartly laid across the grounds to ensure that visitors keep moving smoothly through the experience.
And visitors there are. Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses only operates Fridays through Sundays from September 22nd until November 3rd, so there is a limited time to be freaked out. Indeed, it is not uncommon for dates to sell out completely well in advance, so it is recommended to book ahead at headlesshorseman.com/tickets.
But can you really handle the fear factor? The answer is, if you tend to be squeamish at the sight of ghouls and goblins, you may want to focus more of your time sampling the many gift shops and tasty eateries on the property, or better yet treat yourself and your younger tag-a-longs (Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses is not recommended for children under 10 years of age) to “A Tiny Taste of Terror” on Saturday, October 13th and Saturday, October 27th—a decidedly kinder, gentler Halloween experience.
And speaking of kindler and gentler, it is no small feat that Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses transforms itself in just a few short weeks into a winter wonderland of holiday-themed attractions called A Frosty Fest. For more information about Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, go to their website. █