The Haunted Farm: True Terror in Pleasantville
By Noah Wullkotte
City Blood speaks with Kim Hicks, owner of The Haunted Farm in Pleasantville, OH. This seamlessly innocent farm becomes a person's worst nightmare as darkness falls. Are you prepared to learn about this fall haunt tradtion or will you perish while visiting The Haunted Farm?
What's the history of The Haunted Farm?
This farm was owned by the same family since it was built in 1806 until we purchased it in 2000. The back barn was the first built. The front barn was built in 1825 the same as our house. The last of the family to live here were two brothers Marion and Neil Watson. They were very eccentric as which everyone was driving the tractor and it broke he would be the one to fix it.
Marion was known to take his pigs to market by taking the back seat out of his NEW car and loading the pigs into the back seat area of his vehicle. And it has been told that he could fatten up his pigs faster than anyone around. Neil Watson was an educator and committed suicide on the property because he was dying at the time and did not want anyone to take care of him. Marion was the last to live here and we purchased the historical homestead after he passed away. The family relatives still visit to this day both living and dead.
What can people expect to experience at The Haunted Farm?
The Haunted Farm consists of a haunted barn maze, haunted corn maze and haunted hayride. We have a bon fire, stage for live entertainment (i.e., bands, body suspension, etc.) and the crow’s nest shop which is our concession and gift shop. If they are lucky they just might get a visit or a touch from one of the family members. We have captured on security cameras two distinct figures walking through the front barn while not in operation, and numerous individuals from the hayride have stated that they have encountered flickering lights and an individual in the back barn.
What are people's favorite attraction at The Haunted Farm and why?
I have been told that the haunted barn maze is the best of the three attractions. It is an in your face scare and more extreme than the corn or hayride, and houses many of our icon characters. It is also the oldest of the three attractions. There is an outdoor courtyard in the center of the barn that contains a lingering fog which is not produced and is there every year especially during the Halloween season. This barn is also known for having items not function in the manner they were intended.
Last year we had a prop that was to move back and forth, and as I watched on the camera it started moving side to side. I decided to go to take a look and found it wasn't even turned on and was moving. So you never know what you might encounter.
What is involved in organizing a large event like The Haunted Farm?
The Haunted Farm is a year round process. As soon as the year has ended we start the planning stages for the next year. All of our key characters meet once a month to go through actor training, brainstorm on set design and go over things that may need improved from the previous year.
Tell us a little about the back story that's used for The Haunted Farm?
The back story was written by me when the farm was first put into operation in 2000. The story explains that the farm was once owned by the Watson family and was one of the largest farms in the area. It tells how drifters (people looking for work) were brought here to work, but never left and were hung on cross in the field where their blood was used to feed the crops. They were also fed to the livestock as nourishment.
It was said that farmer Watson made a deal with the devil himself to ensure that his farm, crops and livestock would flourish when no other farm would be successful. When work became more plentiful the town children started to disappear. The town people suspected the family and it was then that they found human remains around the pig and chicken pens, along with remains hung on crosses in the corn field. The Watson's were never found.
What are different ways you keep The Haunted Farm safe every year?
Every year the Haunted Farm goes through a life safety inspection from our local fire department. We also have several CPR certified individuals on staff at all times. The number of CPR certified increases every year as we have them locally trained.
How would you compare yourself to other haunts in the state of Ohio?
The difference between the Haunted Farm and other attractions is that we want to be different. Our attraction is different in the fact that it is located on a historical homestead and family farm. We try and keep the atmosphere as close to the environment as possible. Every haunted attraction is different in the shows that it develops and we are also great fans of other. So we would like you to decide for yourself.
What is your most popular item at The Crow's Nest Shop?
Out of all the items in the Crow's Nest Shop, I have found apart from the Haunted Farm Treasures that the sweat treats from the Checkerboard Bakery have been great favorites along with the beverages.
Are there any funny stories you can tell us about The Haunted Farm?
Every year the actors love to keep track of the customer reactions, (i.e., peeing pants, crying etc.), I was very startled to find out that it received a call for lights on because one customer had lost their DENTURES. I have had another call of a girl from OSU all dressed in white jump into the pond when the chainsaw started and refused to move, when I went back to the area she was still standing there but only for a moment. The character had decided that she was not coming out so he was going in; needless to say that she ran the whole way to her car without her shoes.It is always funny to watch the customer gag when they find out the butcher is cutting a REAL deer carcass and then rips a piece of flesh off in his mouth.
What haunts inspire you to improve The Haunted Farm every year?
I have several friends in this industry, swapping ideas and thoughts with them very often throughout the year helps to keep the creative juices flowing.
Is it hard to come up with a confusing design for the corn maze and why?
The corn maze last year was very confusing. We had some customers that were lost in the maze for over two hours. The corn had grown to a height of approximately 12 foot in places. Even the actors had a problem with it after we were open. Every year a design is created, but it never turns out exactly as planned.
Who are some of the people who are responsible for the success of The Haunted Farm?
There are really too many to count. Since we started the Haunted Farm we have been partnered with the local FFA organization. We have many individuals from that organization that have been with us for many years and one individual that has been here ever since we started. The Haunted Farm is more than just a seasonal thing, but has turned into one large family and everyone is responsible for its success.
How did you transform The Haunted Farm into a Christmas event?
Two years ago we created the Christmas Nightmare. The Haunted Farm barn maze was transformed from Halloween to Christmas. The barn contained evil elves, Santa, characters from Disney's Nightmare before Xmas. Before entering the maze you had to state whether you were naughty or nice; that determined how the characters in the maze acted. The plot was to find Santa in the maze and he would give you candy canes etc. All the skeletons and pumpkins stayed in place from Halloween and wore Santa hats and had candy canes. It was a very hard thing to accomplish in a 3 week time frame. Last year we did not do the Christmas maze, but it will be returning to the farm this year, along with many other holiday activities. Everyone will just have to wait and see as to what they are.
Describe The Haunted Farm in 2 words.
How about 3 words....FARM FRESH FEAR.....that pretty much says it all.
How has the haunt industry changed your life?
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. After starting the Haunted Farm I have made so many new friends and met so many interesting people that I would have not otherwise known. It has also given me the chance to help individuals that are less fortunate than us. So, that being said, I think it has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling goals that I could have ever accomplished.
What would people be surprised to learn about The Haunted Farm?
Every year before the opening of the farm we have visited the original owner’s gravesite, and every year the farm has flourished not to mention has had several seen and unseen visitors. I can definitely say the HAUNTED Farm does live up to its name.