One of the most innovative, intense, and popular attractions in the country, Field of Screams, continues to be a leader in the industry and grows each season. Celebrating its opening weekend, we had the honor of interviewing Mr. Jim Schopf, who owns and operates the attraction with his brother Gene. Jim and Gene are industry pioneers and leaders in the industry, and it was an honor to speak with Mr. Schopf.
Electroshock Entertainment (EE): Can you please provide your background and brief biography of your work in the haunt industry?
Jim Schopf (Mr. Schopf): I have been interested in haunting ever since I was a child when I would turn the barn on our family’s farm into a haunted house. I entered this realm professionally in 1993 when opening the Field of Screams Haunted Hayride alongside my older brother Gene Schopf. Field of Screams is located on our family farm in Mountville, PA, and has grown leaps and bounds since the inaugural 1993 season. Since that time, Field of Screams has grown into a multi-faceted event that includes four unique haunted experiences, a vast entertainment area, escape games, “extreme night,” and a 5K Zombie Fun Run! We have been leaders in the Haunt Industry in helping the PA Dept of Ag develop standards for inspection and regulation of haunted houses throughout Pennsylvania. Gene has also served as the Vice President for the Haunted Attraction Association, which is the international association that promotes and supports the Haunted Attraction Industry. This season we have focused on implementing a COVID-19 safety program to ensure our customers, staff, and families are safe.
EE: What is your philosophy on “haunting”? How do you plan and grow your business each season?
Mr. Schopf: “Our approach to the haunting is to create a safe and fun environment for the entire family to enjoy. While we still believe that a haunted experience should be intense and high energy, we feel that it should also be appealing to the mainstream and non-offensive. We don’t believe in promoting overly gory scenes, demonic or satanic scenes, or scenes with foul language and things of that nature. We have always pushed the envelope by creating scenes and environments that have never been done before. We invest heavily in making improvements to the show every year and will continue to do so.”
EE: Can you describe a night of operations? How many actors staff etc?
Mr. Schopf: “Except on peak nights when we open the haunts as early as 4pm, most nights at Field of Screams begin with the “Den of Darkness” and the “Frightmare Asylum” opening at for victims at 6pm and the two outdoor attractions, the “Haunted Hayride” and “Nocturnal Wasteland”, opening at dusk. These opening times mean that the FX, make-up, and costuming begins at 3pm. On one of these average nights, there are about 200 staff members that are participating in different parts of the show from parking to ticket taking to tractor driving to scaring.”
EE: Where do you see the industry in the next five to ten years? What challenges face the industry?
Next five to ten years. People like to be entertained, they enjoy the thrill of being scared in a safe environment, and they like to seek unique and fun things to experience. Every year there are more haunted attractions popping up. The ones are well organized, and that put the passion and investment into their productions seem to be able to continue. The ones that just think they can make a quick buck or do not have a good management team seem to fizzle out after a year or two. It’s tough to enter this industry now with so many haunted being mega-haunts. I feel that the biggest challenge for the haunted attraction industry (other than the weather) has always been and will continue to be safe. There is a lot of potentials to create unsafe situations when creating a haunted attraction and if safety is not at the forefront of your mind when you are putting the entire industry at risk. Every year there are accidents at haunted attractions that could have been prevented. Learning from our mistakes and, more importantly, being proactive in an approach to safety should take higher precedence to haunt owners than creating a scare.”
EE: What inspires your work? How do you maintain excellence in your attraction’s operations?
Mr. Schopf: “Field of Screams has a fantastic team of veteran haunters and designers. Most of our full-time team has been with us for over 15 years of our existence. We push each other to greatness and hold each other accountable for excellence. We do not settle for anything less than perfection, and we enjoy seeing the fruits of our labors. Our entire team is on the same page in thinking that we can always do better and be better at what we do. We love the challenge of building on what we currently have and improving the attractions for the following year. We never rest in achieving that goal. We begin making improvements and changes for the next season while we are in our current season. This work ethic, drive, and passion is what propels Field of Screams to the top of the list of Haunts.”
EE: Any advice for those looking to enter the industry?
Mr. Schopf: “Entering the Haunted Attraction Industry in 2019 is much different than when we entered it in 1993. In 1993 the bar was pretty low. You could get away with putting a mask on while wearing your street clothes and jump out and say boo! 2019 is an entirely different world. The bar set by the mainstay mega haunts is exceptionally high. Due to these haunts, customers’ expectations are incredibly high. If someone is considering entering the haunted attraction industry, I would first and foremost urge them not to cut any corners on safety. Safety must be everyone’s primary concern. Secondly, prepare to invest a lot of time and money. Thirdly focus on giving people a good scare and a good time. And lastly, set your price where it makes sense.”
EE: Thank you for your time and we look forward to visiting this season!