Fear Farm features 6 haunted attractions

CARY HINES, Assistant editor

Photo by Cary Hines
Zack Busse, Fear Farm general manager, stands outside one of the Farm’s six haunted attractions, “Undead,” Oct. 10. Fear Farm, off 99th Avenue between McDowell and Thomas roads in Phoenix, is open nightly through Halloween.

Photo by Melissa Fossum
Attendees stand in line to get into “Slaughterhouse” last year at the Farm.

What’s better than one haunted house this Halloween season?

Try six.

Fear Farm, which opened 19 years ago with nothing more than a corn maze on 99th Avenue between McDowell and Thomas roads in Phoenix, now offers six different haunted attractions.

The newest attraction, “Fallout,” is built out of shipping containers, or conexes.

“That was kind of his brainchild,” Fear Farm General Manager Zack Busse said, referring to his father, Robert, Fear Farm’s owner/creator. “We wanted to do something out of those conexes. So it’s sort of like a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-type show. The world resorted to chemical warfare and it didn’t work out so well for all the people that live in it, so now, that’s sort of like a compound of mutants and people mutating from radiation.”

Zack said the team is always brainstorming ideas for new attractions.

“There’s a lot of us that work on the show, so we all come up with different ideas and pitch them to each other. We love movies and pop culture and video games and comics and things like that, so we pull a lot of inspiration from all those things,” he said.

Robert said new attractions take six to seven months to construct, and even during that time, the team is tossing around ideas for the next season.

“As we’re building, we think of new ideas for what we want to do the next year,” Robert said.

The Phoenix Haunted Hayride is another fairly new attraction, this year being its third.

“That’s sort of dark carnival themed,” Zack said. “It’s all clowns, loosely based on a circus that came to town and never left and pushed all the normal people out and the clowns stayed there and took over their houses and made them their own dwellings and now they scare people.”

He said Fear Farm used to have a giant clown maze, which, after nine years, was torn down to make room for “Fallout.”

“We brought all the clowns over to the hayride rather than get rid of them,” he said.

“Undead” features zombies, and “Bunker Area-X” is based on an alien crash that turned the investigators into mutants.

“Legends of the Witch” is a turn-of-the-century Spanish Village with a cult that worships goats and witches, Zack said.

“So you’ll see kind of Spanish lore in there,” he said.

And last but not least is “Slaughterhouse,” a Fear Farm staple that is loosely based on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Fear Farm doesn’t have a minimum age for attendees, Zack said.

Fear Farm partnered with 13th Floor, a collection of haunted houses throughout the country, about five years ago, Zack said. Fear Farm is the largest of the 13th Floor properties.

“Five years ago, when 13th Floor partnered with us, they brought a whole structure and a culture, a way of doing things that maybe we hadn’t thought of before,” Zack said. “So we redeveloped, redesigned our performance team. A lot of it was an all-new cast and I kind of took over the training portion of all that.”

He said the actors “love it, live it and breathe it.”

“I always tell the kids when we’re hiring, ‘This isn’t just a 30-day temporary job. Some of these people become your new family.’ We see each other throughout the year, all year long, and they make lasting relationships out here rather than just working for 30 nights and then never seeing them again,” Zack said.

Fear Farm employs between 170 and 190 haunters. A local makeup artist team turns the humans into monsters.

“They’ve been working with us for quite a few years, so they have a lot of experience,” Zack said.

Zack has a lot of experience, as well, having been with Fear Farm from the tender age of 10. He’s been the general manager for about five years, but he got his start as a little haunter, unbeknownst to his father.

“We just had a corn maze at the very beginning and my parents didn’t want me to go through and act because I was only 10,” he said.

So he conspired with the older haunters, asking them to drag him into the corn while he went through the maze with an unsuspecting group of patrons.

“So I would go in and be friendly with the actors and tell them, ‘I’m Robert’s son, I’m Robert’s son, I’m going to come through with people and I want you to pretend like you’re killing me, like drag me through the corn or whatnot.’ So I’d go up to the front and find groups of people and tell them, ‘I got separated from my parents and I’m lost and I’m scared and I don’t want to go back in by myself.’ So these groups would let me go through with them and then the actors would come and grab me and drag me off into the corn,” Zack said.

When asked if he knew about his son’s antics, Robert replied, “Not in the beginning,” while shaking his head.

Zack said that’s how he got his start and then moved his way through the ranks.

“And here I am now,” he said.

Robert said Fear Farm has been a labor of love.

“Like Zack has alluded to, he’s been around here since he was 10 years old, and we started this out as a family operation and we’ve always had that feel, we’ve always wanted to make sure our customer base got everything they could for their money and we wanted to make sure that everybody was happy,” Robert said. “And even now, as we grow into this corporate part of our business, being part of several of the haunted houses across the United States, we still push to try to keep that family feel and do everything we can to make sure that we personally handle anything that happens out there and we make sure that everybody’s happy when they leave the door.”

Fear Farm is open nightly through Halloween. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.fearfarm.com.












Photo courtesy Fear Farm
Send in the clowns has a very different meaning at Fear Farm.

Fear Farm: It’s not just for Halloween

Fear Farm still has the corn maze it started with 19 years ago, but it’s not open to the public during the Halloween season.

“Because of the way the hayride is set up, it goes on the outer perimeter of the old corn maze, so it’s still there on the inside of the hayride, but we don’t open it except for special events,” Fear Farm General Manager Zack Busse said.

One of those special events is happening right after Halloween.

“After Halloween night, we’re open the following weekend two nights for a special event, and we call it “Blood Harvest,” he said. “And we release all of our scariest characters into the corn maze to roam around and chase you all night. So you buy a ticket and come through and get lost in the maze all night.”

He said this will be the third year Fear Farm has offered the Blood Harvest event. It is scheduled for 7 to 11 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3.

The scares don’t stop there as Fear Farm puts on a Christmas Krampus show, as well as a zombie apocalypse attraction in the spring when guests get to shoot laser guns at zombies.

“It’s pretty fun,” he said.

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