one creepy old farmhouse, toss in a few dozen ghouls and monsters, then
mix with a healthy sprinkling of spooky music and lighting and you end
up with a deliciously frightful night on your plate with a side of
marks the 23rd annual Fright Farm, a haunted attraction in Smithfield
that has been named one of the best in the country. Founded in 1990 by
the Rich family who owns the property, Fright Farm was born from a wild
idea the family came up with one evening after surveying the stone
architecture is amazing,” said Michael Rich, one of the founders and
general managers of Fright Farm. “Our towers, our stone structures and
the entire house look like a big old mansion... it just has this creep
event consists of a haunted hayride, a maze and the mansion itself.
Every year has a unique theme. This year’s theme, “Farmageddon,” is
reminiscent of a cursed apocalypse.
explained each theme relies on his and his brothers Tom and Mark’s
combined creativity. Tom and Mark also serve as general managers for the
of the event begins in the summer months with June marking the
beginning of this year’s haunt. A crew of around 10 people begin by
tearing down the haunts and themes from the previous year and continue
to erect new walls and create new spooks. The attraction’s farm location
is an advantage as it allows for extensive landscaping for exterior
scenes. An on-site nursery provides materials for elaborate cemetery and
there it just keeps building,” Rich said. “I think by this past week
before we opened we had probably about 30 people on it.”
100 different scenes must be torn down and rebuilt each year throughout
the three haunted areas. Rich describes it as building a movie set and
doing their absolute best to create the most immersive scenarios by
stimulating as many senses as possible.
always say ‘when the show starts it’s just like you’re walking through a
movie.’” Rich said. “When people start the tour... they go through all
of the different scenes and because of all the different effects and
sounds they kind of get lost in the atmosphere.”
says that he takes a considerable amount of inspiration from famous
movie figures, particularly the work of Alfred Hitchcock who used three
aspects of fear in his movies: Suspense, shock and horror.
always say that there’s a fourth [aspect]: Humor. When you walk through
this you take an emotional trip. You want to feel happy. You want to
feel scared. It’s like a good movie which takes you all over the place
emotionally,” Rich said.
|A grotesque figure greets visitors to Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa.|
|Ray Thomas is transformed into "The Doctor" by Rich Geisinger |
for the 23rd annual Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa
Staffing for the haunts begin nearly two months prior to opening.
Fright Farm - Smithfield, PA
interview probably about 500 to 600 people for about 100 acting spots,”
Rich said. “We train them, we have acting coaches [and] our makeup [and
costumes are all] professional because we want to deliver real live
for the event is done by Rich’s daughter Allison who analyzes all the
talents of the actors and casts them in the specific roles based on
their skill sets and qualities.
roles require high amounts of energy or abilities to memorize lines
while other roles call for someone who can be silent and mysterious.
Rich recalls an actress in the early 1990s whose entire role was to lie
in an open casket and open her eyes when visitors leaned in close to
try and create all of our own characters while still giving each one a
specific flavor, so sometimes quiet is better,” Rich said.
the casting for the night is complete, the actors head inside to get
into costume and makeup. Westley Loukota, head of the costume department
says that actors begin arriving 2-3 hours prior to opening so that they
have enough time to get into costume and makeup since they only have
about 8 makeup artists for the hundred or so actors.
Smith is a first-year actress at Fright Farm and is cast in the role of
“The Salty Pig” butcher who chases away anyone who tries to steal the
meat that she processes. Smith says that she uses the time spent in the
makeup chair to get into character.
trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my scene and how to
handle to props in order to give the customer the best possible
experience when they come through the house,” Smith said.
went on to describe the training that goes into each role. Acting
coaches and choreographers are on-site to direct new actors in the
basics of the role to ensure that they know the concept of the role and
know all their lines.
whole a process of getting here, getting cast, getting trained, getting
into costume and then when the curtain comes up we’re ready,” said
Rich. “Everybody’s in place once it gets dark, the music is playing and
all you see is a big movie set.”
Farm runs Wednesday through Sunday up through the first week of
November. For prices or more information, go online to
from Joel Brewton