This past week, I was able to cross off an item that has long been listed on my Halloween Season bucket list: a trip to the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, New York. After finally experiencing the vaunted attraction firsthand, I can happily report that its renown is well deserved.
The night journey began with the hayride, which delivered plenty of thrills. As the riders sat with legs dangling off the sides of the wagon bed, we were brought frightfully close to the woodsy scene and the various sets adorning the trail. Spooks cropped up from every angle, but what completed the immersive experience was the ongoing narration about the Headless Horseman (who shows up both in saddle and on foot). My only complaint was that the hayride guide on our particular wagon droned her lines in such monotone voice, she made Ferris Bueller’s teacher sound like a revivalist preacher.
Next patrons had to navigate a series of themed haunts, including the Lunar Motel, the Horseman’s Tomb, and Two Raven’s Manor. I was dazzled by the darkly gorgeous arrangements, the grandness of their scale and their attention to fine detail. The scenes are nirvana for avid home-haunters, and if not for the slew of harrying actors hurrying visitors along, I would have been content to just stop and admire the incredible decorating.
Probably my favorite portion of the whole attraction was the corn maze; this agricultural labyrinth proved ripe with creepy ambiance. Uncanniness abounded, as the travelers could never quite be sure if the figures lurking in the stalks were mere props or momentary mimes waiting to spring into startling action. Timely as it was terrifying, the maze also managed to scare the It into people via the simple placement of a singular red balloon.
When respite from the terrors became necessary, there was an entertaining outdoor stage show conducted by illusionist Ryan Dutcher. The gift shops teemed with stunning (if steeply priced) decorations. And the titular treats of the Deadly Donuts cafe were truly to die for.
All in all, the event made for a memorable autumn evening. For anyone residing within a few hours’ drive of the Historic Hudson Valley, I highly recommended heading out to the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses.