Zombie Hollow date changes

Always check with the haunt’s official website or social media before heading out. Dates sometimes get added or removed. Or both, in the case of Winterset’s Zombie Hollow. From their Facebook page:

We’ve switched up our calendar a bit. We took out Thursday the 26th but added Sunday the 29th. Friday night is looking dry and just right! Come on out, grab a hot chocolate at Nick’s Kettle Korn located right at our front entrance and carry it with you as you enjoy the show! By Tuesday, we may be adding Christmas lights if the snow keeps up! ????????????❄️

Zombie Hollow on Facebook

Barnum Circus of Freaks also posted about adding an extra night this week.

For outdoor events, weather may also be a concern, with rain expected today and a potential to see some snow this weekend. Carlisle’s Haunted Woods has posted about potentially changing hours due to weather. Outdoor events such as these (and Sleepy Hollow, and Adventureland, and Trail of Terror, and…) can be impacted by wet or color weather.

Wrap up warm this weekend!

Barnum Circus of Freaks recap

DISCLAIMER: These posts should not be taken as reviews. They should be taken as my interpretation of what the attraction is like. See “what is scary” for more details.

The official title of this haunted house, according to their Facebook page, is:

Barnum Circus of Freaks: A Haunted House Experience

Their website describes it as follows:

Prepare to be mesmerized, horrified, and utterly captivated by the twisted and the bizarre. From spine-tingling spectacles to jaw-dropping curiosities, our haunted attraction is a chilling journey through the macabre. Dare to witness the eerie, the unsettling, and the supernatural as you navigate through darkened corridors and shadowy chambers. With every creak of the floorboards and every flicker of candlelight, you’ll find yourself immersed in a realm where the normal is anything but.”


This doesn’t really describe what is inside this nearly 12,000 square foot maze of rooms, passages and total darkness. I’d call it a “twisted creepy sideshow funhouse” but that doesn’t look as good on a sign.

When we arrived on Saturday evening, there did not seem to be many folks in line. We learned they use a timed ticket system where visitors will get a text message when it is their time to enter. If the weather is bad, folks can wait in their car. If you drive by and say “oh look, there’s no line!” you may be disappointed to find you still have a wait.

During the time I was there, the courtyard filled up as folks gathered to watch Sabba Circle, a fire show. Fire shows seem to be popular at area haunts — I’ve seen them at at a few other haunts in the area.

I suppose this gives folks an incentive to hang around and get a snack at the Kool’s Sweets & Treats food tent. The food included circus fair such as cotton candy, funnel cakes and hot dogs. There is also a photo backdrop featuring a circus wagon.

On with the show…

When it is your turn, you walk up a long ramp to a doorway. A “circus performer” bursting with happy enthusiasm will welcome you inside. From there, you go from room to room, either through openings, doors, slitted plastic or large flaps. Sometimes you are in a completely dark hallway where your pace becomes very slow as you navigate the twists and turns waiting for something to jump out at you. Other times, you cross through open rooms with barriers keeping you on one side. You later discover than your path will take you through the other side of the same room. Sometimes you encounter other groups heading in the opposite direction, and wonder if they are going where you just were, or if you are headed to where they are.

One room had a small stage and a performer on it – a contortionist, but the looks of the shape they could bend themselves in to. Should you stop and watch? Or will lingering get you some undesired attention from something else nearby?

The rooms all have a general circus/carnival type theme. Our favorite was probably the funhouse area. If you go looking for a creature in a cage, you probably will find it. If you wonder where that smell of cotton candy is coming from, you definitely will find it. If you are observant and notice details, you might even find out what happened to circus legend P.T. Barnum.

And yes, there are clowns. There are also a few automated props — the first one actually caught me off guard and made me jump. Our favorite character was probably the mime that you run in to several times as your path winds in and out of its room. It is a very clever and efficient way to have an actor be able to cover multiple scare zones. The mime was funny, as he pulled us towards him with his invisible rope.

The entire walk takes about 20 minutes, but I could see it taking longer if you were hesitant to approach something at the end of a hallway. And, although “haunted house” appears in the description, I think the key word is “experience.” You are walking through a twisted circus-themed funhouse of lights, sounds, and creatures. This is not your typical “walk in to a room and someone jumps out and screams at you” haunt, though there were plenty of those moments.

I find it hard to describe, and even remember all the scenes (it just kept going, and going, and going), but I know I enjoyed it. It was not what I expected, and I want to see it again. I think a second time through would be even more fun. The first time, we were constantly on the lookout for folks to jump out and scream at us and likely missed plenty of details.

This haunt has a number of jump scares, but if you can handle those, I think it is more accessible to a wider age range than some extreme haunts are. We saw families with young kids coming out without any signs of trauma. While there were some minorly graphic scenes (butcher shop, some random body parts), it was not at all a gory splatter fest. It’s a circus, after all. Just a weird, dark, and twisted one.

Barnum Circus of Freaks was actually the first area haunt to reach out to me this year and invite me out to see what they were up to. I was too busy and did not have time to event start working on this website until mid-October. I regret not making time to visit with them earlier. I feel like I was late to this party.

If you go see it, tell them DM Haunted Houses sent ya. Thanks.

Barnum/Bussey Circus of Freaks

I previously hosted the website for Circus of Freaks in Bussey, Iowa. The last time I posted about them was in 2020 when they announced they would not operate that year but stated “huge things are coming for the circus. (Ah, Covid, we lost so many things to you that year).

At the time, I had a site category of “Circus of Freaks” for them. With the new-for-2023 Barnum Circus of Freaks, I kept accidentally using the old “Circus of Freaks” category in posts about them. I have now renamed both categories so we will have:

  • Bussey Circus of Freaks
  • Barnum Circus of Freaks

And they both start with ‘B’ so I’ll try hard to select the correct one. For now, I think I have the Barnum posts updated to use their new category.

I also added a new tag in the Directory for “Women Owned“, assigning it to Barnum. I may need to add “Women Managed” as well since in her recent video interview she mentioned this.

I need to see if there are more. Tormented Souls Haunt is led by Kumari Henry (she’s the Walt Disney of that operation), and Haunted Woods is led by Marilyn Harris. They might need one or both of these tags added. I am not sure how many women-owned haunts we have had in this area, but Ankeny Haunted Barn was ran by Mindy Bales after her husband passed, then later ran by her daughter and sons. Going back twenty years, several of the haunted houses at Sleepy Hollow were designed and managed by women. Have there been many/any others?

More to come…