Trail of Terror 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.

I first learned of the Trail of Terror many years ago when I was working in Masrhalltown. I had seen a small wooden sign along the highway, but couldn’t find any information about what it was. The following year, I somehow learned it was a fundraiser for Baxter Fun Days. I remember doing a video interview with them one evening after work while still in my work shirt and pants. Fun times.

Trail of Terror is held at the Ashton Wildwood Park in Mingo, Iowa. Upon my first visit, it instantly became one of my favorite haunts because of how many volunteers they had scattered along their half mile walk through the woods. It took about twenty minutes of continuous walking to get through it. The scenes were varied and fun, and most had multiple volunteers that would “tag team” to scare you. Someone would jump out on one side, and then someone popped up from the other, and so on.

Due to the rough terrain of the trail, they started making folks read and sign a waiver (read it; it is important).

They also loan each group a small flashlight to light the way. Use it. Keep an eye on the ground. There are some small steps, and some large ones. But also look around (and up) to see the various random decorations. One year there were trees full of baby dolls. For some reason.

It has been several years since I visited, and getting back there tonight was great fun. While the walk is the same long (LONG) walk I remember, that was about all that seemed familiar. There were multiple volunteers in each scenes, lots of body parts, baby dolls, and even a random butcher shop (in the woods?). There was a clown scene (loaded with far, far too many clowns), and a few loud surprises along the way. (One was very effective at getting your attention.) There were plenty of “low level” folks waiting along the path as well. (Again, keep an eye on the ground…)

And don’t fall for their dirty tricks. They love to try to get you attention while a few others leap out at you.

They let groups in five minutes apart, so lines can move quite slowly. BUT, this space makes for a better experience. During our 20 minute walk, we did not have anyone catch up with us, nor did we catch up with the group in front of us. (This probably will not be the case if you run; but DON’T run. The trail does not like running.) This also lets their volunteers mess with you for far too long 😉 You might find yourself with a few clowns (or other nasties) following you.

“Scary” is always subjective, but we heard plenty of screams while we were there. Some folks freak out when they realize they are being followed. Some folks find someone jumping out from dark bushes to be terrifying. And some folks just hate clowns. So many clowns.

This haunt has one of the cheapest prices of anything around here – $15. Since it is a fundraiser, the folks volunteering are doing so to help out, and not just for a paycheck. That gives it a fun vibe that commercial haunts don’t always have. The people here all seem to be enjoying themselves and having a blast. Even if a path with eight clowns doesn’t scare you, you can at least know your money went to help a community event.

If you’ve never been, and can handle the long walk, it’s worth the short drive to Mingo, Iowa.

Oh, and come hungry. They have El Meson Taco Shack they’re serving their “fluffy tacos” and other hot Mexican food. Tell Juan and Jesus the website guy says hi!

2022 season!

Well, the last two years have been quite … different. Many haunts didn’t operate at all in 2020. But, with less competition, the audience was funneled to the ones that did operate. I have been told that Trail of Terror had it’s best year ever in 2021. (I tend to believe them, since they are a fundraiser and not a for-profit business; seems every year the haunts will say ”this is our best year yet!” 😉

While I did visit Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (as well as seeing the new Halloween offering at SeaWorld Orlando), the only visits I made to local haunts was for technical support. (I can now say I’ve ”fixed a dragon” at two haunted houses.) I have similar tasks lined up this year to install new effects, and possibly produce a video documentary with a haunt operator near Clear Lake/Mason City area.

As far as this website goes, a few years ago, I invested in software with a yearly license fee of $300/year. It offered automatic features I had been doing manually on this site since 2010, so I really liked it. The downside is the listing went from a simple one-page ”easy to view” listing to dozens of pages, and a cumbersome directory that was hard to view on a phone.

I have currently let that license lapse, so only basic listing information will be available this year, and I’ll go back to manually doing the Map and Calendars. More work for me, but I think it makes this a more useful site.

Look for updates for 2022 to start, soon. And, if any haunts want to sponsor this site, get in touch with me. If I can generate $300 in donations, I’ll re-activate all the fancy features for this season.

COVID-19 Updates

Although COVID-19 is still alive and well, and there are still people very concerned about it around here, the majority of folks seem to be accepting that it is now just something we all have to live with. I have heard from many who will 100% still NOT go to haunted houses, but overall the mood is much more pro-haunt this year than it’s been the past two seasons.

Haunts

After failing to convince the City of Ankeny to grant them a permit last year, Ankeny Haunted Barn is now officially gone (for the second time, so maybe we’ll see it return for a third time some day). Their inventory has been sold, so if they ever re-start, they will be starting from scratch.

The new owners of Adventureland Resort owners (Parques Reunidos out of Madrid, Spain) are starting their multi-haunt Phantom Fall Fest. Admission at the gate will be $69, and there is a $9.99 fee on top of that to enter one haunted house. As always, this site will track any known discounts so you can save some money.

ScareDSM opened during Covid and lumber price increases. News reports last year covered the challenges of not being able to afford lumber. Let’s consider last year a test run, and see what they do for 2022.

Slaughterhouse continues to pull out all the stops, and is also staffing for the Adventureland event. This is a good sign, since many of the 10+ years of this site (including the years before Covid), the haunts I visited all struggled with getting enough reliable workers to fully operate their haunts. (I would count the number of empty rooms as I visited each haunt.)

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park was sold to Polk County, and we are in their final year or two of them operating special events there. While most expect/hope/plan for it to continue, it will be up to the government about what happens in future years. There’s even been talk of others renting the government park out for their own events in October.

Tormented Souls in Madrid is installing some new effects and scares for this year, but I won’t know the details until I visit them (hopefully soon).

Trail of Terror was the second haunt to contact me this season, making sure I know they are back. Their $15 long forest walk is still the best haunt value around. As a fundraiser, they are just stuffed with actors. Don’t go if you can’t keep up – it’s a huge walk.

Ames Haunted Forest hasn’t updated their social media in years, but they have announced dates for 2022.

Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House still has 2021 dates on their website, but I’ll share news when I have it.

…and I am sure there will be many more updates in coming weeks.

While price increases, inflation, gas price and other factors have put stress on many of our budgets, hopefully folks will still have a Halloween entertainment budget to get out and see some haunts this season. If we don’t support them, they will go away.

More to come…

2021 Weekend 1 recap

Last weekend was opening weekend for some of the area haunted houses. These included:

Next weekend, Ames Haunted Forest will join them, then the weekend after that, the Trail of Terror. On the weekend closest to Halloween, the haunted house for your vehicle Tunnel of Terror begins.

Normally I hear all kinds of reports from folks who ventured out, but this year has been mostly silent. After some prompting on the Facebook page, we did get some reports from folks who visited Linn’s (seemed like less actors than normal) and Tormented Souls (no lines). I’d look up some of the other comments, but Facebook is currently offline so I can’t get to that page. Thank goodness websites are still a thing 😉

Haunted Barnless

Haunted Barn’s new expanded outdoor section for 2021.

In the meantime, the Ankeny Haunted Barn continues to be a no-go in spite of a petition (requested by the governor’s office for some reason?) and now a GoFundMe to help raise support for relocating the barn for next year.

Waukeeless

The long-running Waukee Haunted House is also a no go for this season, with the decision to skip this year made back in August.

Covidity

While Covid-19 concerns do seem less this year, it is clear that there is still a significant portion of the population that is being cautious. Some haunts have had struggles finding enough actors, but that should come as no surprise since most places seem to have “Now Hiring” signs on display.

Other forms of entertainment, such as movie theaters, are seeing crowds return, but still not to the level they were before the shutdowns last year. This can no longer be blamed on the lack of content to watch since multiple Marvel movies and other “blockbusters” have come out.

Let’s hope for enough safe support for the haunts this year that we won’t lose any of them.

Your thoughts?

Be sure to leave a review for any haunt you visit this season. This is a new feature of DMHauntedHouses, and one that has only been tried a few times so I’m not 100% it fully works.

Give it a shot.

Then check back for more updates as the season progresses…

2021 Season…

Some quick updates on the 2021 season.

As expected, things are moving very slowly this year due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns. Haunts I have heard from so far include:

  • Ames Haunted Forest – will be operating.
  • Ankeny Haunted Barn – will NOT be operating, as of an announcement they made on 9/28/2021. The City of Ankeny denied their special event permit this year.
  • Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House – will be operating.
  • ScareDSM – a new haunted house, to be added to the site soon.
  • Slaughterhouse – will be operating.
  • Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park – will be operating.
  • Trail of Terror – will be operating.

Other haunts are either not operating, or have not contacted DMHH to help sponsor this site and be listed here.

Site updates coming by opening haunt season the first weekend of October…

2021 Haunt Season Preview

So far, we have heard from…

  • Ankeny Haunted Barn
  • Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House
  • Slaughterhouse
  • Tormented Souls Haunt
  • Trail of Terror (Baxter)

In this list are two haunts that did not operate last season. We are off to a good start.

Initial site updates began today, but full information won’t be added until later.

No Trail of Terror this year :(

The Baxter, Iowa fundraiser event, Trail of Terror, will not be happening this year. According to a post on their Facebook page today:

“Baxter Fun Days Trail of Terror is cancelled this year due to the Park is unavailable due to Covid!

We will be back bigger and stronger 2021″

Baxter Fun Days Trail of Terror Facebook Page

This is a bummer because it’s easily the largest and longest haunted attraction in our region, thanks to using a 3/4 mile trail and up to fifty of local volunteers.

We look forward to screaming in the woods in 2021!