Scream Acres: From Hay Bales to Halloween Haunts

Dylan Ryfe, Reporter

For 14 years, Scream Acres has been the hotspot for anyone in the Halloween spirit. Boasting four haunts, the theme park has been the main target for high school students looking for a night full of scares.

“The atmosphere is great,” Thomas McMillan ‘20 said. “I go there almost every year.”

Scream Acres was started in the fall of 2003 by husband and wife duo Karen and Dave Petersen. Wanting to expand Bloomsbury Farm, the two started a halloween themed hay bale ride as a small hobby. The park was unable to gain large scale popularity for a few years, mostly due to the tornado that shook the farm in 2004, until they added The Haunted Cornfield attraction.

“It took a few years to market and build up the popularity [Of the park],” Karen Peterson said. “It got to a point where we were trying to get people through as fast as possible to keep up with the people waiting in line.”

The commercial success of The Haunted Cornfield brought three new haunt managers and an immense amount of resources to further expand the park.

“We didn’t build the park to be weather dependent, so we thought about creating some indoor haunts,” Karen said. “The building of Carnival Chaos allowed people to still come if it was pouring rain out, which really helped the business.”

The addition of the Carnival Chaos haunt in the late 2000’s promoted a different type of Scream Acres. Rather than being a place that people visit along with Bloomsbury Farms, the theme park became a separate, more twisted identity.

“We’re always changing the park each year,” Karen remarked. “I think that’s what makes people come back, they want to be scared in a completely new way, and I love that.”

Inclusions of the Slaughterhouse and Cell Block Z attractions in 2012 and 2015 propelled the status of Scream Acres immensely. The park became known all over the state, and in 2016, became the top rated haunt in Iowa.

“It’s amazing to see how the park is put together,” McMillan said. “There’s always something new to find.”

The commercial and emotional success of Scream Acres has left many wondering what’s in store for its future. Beginning in November, the theme park will go on the Legendary Haunt Tour in Pennsylvania, which showcases three of the most popular haunts in the country, followed by the the TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show early next year. As for new attractions coming to the park itself, those will most likely be unveiled sometime next year.

“[The haunt managers] want to completely flesh out their ideas before they buy the supplies,” Karen said. “Give them time, and we’ll see what happens.”