The Haunted Stadium, Lake Elsinore, CA
Post holiday blues got you feeling like everything is just dead and dark outside? Need something to warm your spirits again? Well, we’ve got just the thing for you! You see, last Halloween season, we actually visited several more pro haunts and Halloween attractions on our own, as non-media, that we never got around to sharing. So over the next… however long it takes… we’ll be posting some retro reports about said attractions!
Today’s offering is Field of Screams: The Haunted Stadium. We visited this haunt last year for the very first time, and while there was commendable effort by the young talent participating, if we were to be completely frank, the production was not the most impressive. Theming-wise, we felt that this ranked among the bottom of haunts that we had visited. And it was a shame, because based on what we were told, “back in its heyday,” this was quite a nicely developed haunt!
In 2018, however, Field of Screams got a new injection of life through the intervention of Sinister Valley, haunted attraction designers who took a keen interest in this longtime Inland Empire haunt and wanted to restore it to its former thrills! With that in mind, we (actually, just me, solo) took a trip out to Riverside County one chilly, Monday haunter’s night to see how the makeover came across!
Last year’s revamped Field of Screams was still located at the baseball stadium of the minor league Lake Elsinore Storm, so the approach still required guests to come in off the I-15 and navigating local streets for a few minutes before pulling up into the stadium parking lot. There was no signage, unfortunately, so reliance on GPS or just knowledge of the area was needed. And while most sporting venues are lit up even while non-operational, the Storm Stadium was not—presumably to preserve the creepy ambiance of the haunted attraction.
Layout-wise, Field of Screams still featured a series of mazes built across the concourse behind the ground level bleachers. Stretching from behind home plate to out toward right field, Field of Screams features four mazes this year, down from last year’s five. However, where quantity was reduced, quality was certainly elevated. Right from the top, Sinister Valley’s fingerprints were evident with a more unified theme (spooky western town with plenty of skeletons in the closet), both from the sets and theming to the character direction and costuming. This was quite promising, but how would the mazes fare?
Unless they happened to spy a sidetrack, guests were actually immediately funneled into Field of Scream’s first maze, Hallowed Grounds. This trek featured a sort of wilderness theme and was the weakest of the four Field of Scream mazes last year, but even its limited length and somewhat confusing story (were we in a jungle? why were we in a jungle? what’s with the exotic creatures?), the set dressing and quality already exceeded that of the previous year’s Field of Screams.
The highlight of the maze was its sudden distraction finale featuring a monster in the shadows and a strobed lion roaring into guests’ faces out of the darkness. The lion animatronic was actually pretty impressive, and the surprise was more out of the randomness than actual terror (except for guests with ailurophobia), but it was a memorable beat in the maze.
Guests exiting Hallowed Grounds didn’t have long to go before they encountered the second maze of the event, Miner’s Paradise. Starting out with an extension of Hallowed Ground’s jungle scene, guests quickly reached an entrance to an old mining exploration, shifting into a long-abandoned shaft.
Or was it? It seems there might be some supernatural activity in this mine, or at least some creepy creatures. In fact, a gremlin-like fellow in the middle of the maze provided both grave warning for those foolish enough to continue as well as a taste of some of the cool animatronics loaded into the redone Field of Screams.
The back half of Miner’s Paradise was where things started getting colorfully intense. True to word, those who continued suddenly found their lives at risk in the form of multiple explosions out of nowhere! Tripping booby traps laid across the mine shaft floor, a series of flashing detonations thundered through the cavern, set off without warning as guests passed by. In the finale, a mischievous skeleton was revealed to be the culprit. But not only that, in the fog and cacophony, the finale explosion featured a horrific creature scurrying through, taking guests by surprise. It was pretty clever to set up some effects scares, then repeat the after the initial startle to lull people into false security, and conclude with a live talent scare for a mix up. The pschology of Miner’s Revenge was pretty laudable!
Rocking Horse Tavern
Rocking Horse Tavern presented probably the closest to a traditional haunted house maze. Here, guests ventured into an old saloon with a grisly secret: a murderous butcher intent on harvesting human flesh for food supplies! Could visitors escape his barbaric clutches, or would they be turned into cannibalistic meals as well?
This maze was one of the more difficult to photograph, in part to its extended stretches of dim lighting intended to create more of a creepy ambiance. The theming here was not quite as extensive as Miner’s Paradise or the last maze (keep reading) in our series, but it more than established ambiance for the story. The scare actors were also a little more sparse here in my pair of trips through, but that could have been luck of the timing.
The story itself was pretty straightforward—the general bloody killer trope—and it was carried out in a solid and effective format. The final room, with the butcher dragging a fresh corpse in between a pair of meat grinders, definitely played upon the fear of being cornered. I would have liked to have seen a little more intensity and intimate threat, as opposed to the butcher just standing there looking menacing but not quite doing more. However, overall, compared to the 2017 Field of Screams mazes, Rocking Horse Tavern was still a notable improvement.
Silver Bullet Outfitter’s Lodge
Saving the best for last, the maze at the far end of Field of Screams’ extents was the Silver Bullet Outfitter’s Lodge. This one had a creative premise: guests are adventurers attending this sportsman’s retreat for the chance to hunt monsters. However, once they check in, they quickly realize that perhaps the pursuit has turned the other foot, and they are the game!
Silver Bullet Outfitter’s Lodge was by far the best maze of Field of Screams. Whereas each of the other mazes had excelled in a couple of areas—theming, lighting, animatronics, live scare actors—Silver Bullet put everything together for a fantastic grand finale. Also the lengthiest maze, Silver Bullet provided a fleshed out, sinister, well-paced story reinforced by detailed rooms and dedicated actors. My favorite scene occurred in the chapel, where the scareactors skillfully played a before/after possession-type scene to perfect timing, incorporating a great surprise “out of nowhere” startle scare as well.
An escape to the outdoors might have seemed like relief, but as guests soon realized, there was danger in the woods as well. A ferocious werewolf lurked in the fog, and evidence of its ravaged campground victims could be found nearby. It was a fun conclusion to a very well put-together maze!
Field of Screams definitely made a great comeback in 2018 after a subpar 2017 offering. The addition of Sinister Valley was a tremendous improvement, and those folks deserve a pat on the back for their more focused and sophisticated designs, storytelling, and scenic treatments. Kudos also goes to the actors who also put in some great effort into their roles.
If this the direction that Field of Screams is trending, I’m excited to see the further improvements coming this year!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.