Cheeseman Fright Farm
147 Kennedy Rd, Portersville, PA 16051View All Details
Free Parking, Restrooms On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Outdoor Attraction
Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this attraction on September 30, 2017.
Final Score: 9.09
Sometimes you just can’t decide which type of haunted attraction to visit : hayrides are nice, but too long on the trailer makes my Sciatic weep; trails are cool, but after too much walking my feet get sore; I love corn mazes, but it just takes too LONG to get through them…
Fortunately, Cheeseman’s Fright Farm in Portersville, Pennsylvania has the perfect solution for you! One part trail, one part hayride, and one part stroll through the corn rows, the Fright Farm blends together these different elements of haunted attractions into one continuous horror experience.
Oh, plus, there are, you know : the monsters, lots and lots of monsters – waiting for you behind every fog-enshrouded stalk…
So come on out to Portersville for a frighteningly good time at the Fright Farm!
Oh the difference a year can make.
For anyone who read our review from last season, we didn’t mince words concerning our disappointment in many of the Fright Farm’s actors’ performances.
We are happy to report, however, this season’s crop (that’s a pumpkin farm joke) is much improved. Before we had actually entered the real “scare zone,” we noticed that our trailer had picked up a straggler : a masked fellow who presumably was just catching a ride back to his usual haunting ground. However, as soon as we were in motion, he was making the best of the situation, interacting with customers, and playing along with whatever jabs the clientele offered up. It was a simple gesture of maintaining character regardless of personal circumstances, but was appreciated and positively foreshadowing.
Approximately 70 actors were active the night we visited, and that seemed to be the appropriate number to fill the Farm’s scenes, maze, and trail, excluding two segments (one being “the mineshaft,” the other the clownhouse/funhouse) that definitely needed more haunted miscreants (incidentally, we chose the single day that said miscreants weren’t present in the former; Fie, luck!)
It was impossible not to note a hearty exuberance from most of the actors absent from last season’s iteration. The number of truly interactive characters remains somewhat low, but was appropriate for the type of attraction Cheesemans represents (who wants to hear an extended narrative from a scarecrow demon while blinded by fog and strobes, really?) The most notable of those available, though, were a pair of clowns that we encountered before entering the funhouse. After spending a minute or two being playfully berated by the elevated clown-barker, it became known that a member of the group in front of us was celebrating a birthday (the accuracy of which, I’ll never know). After being forcibly instructed to do so, all present broke into a cacophonous rendition of the traditional birthday tune (decreed as “sing her song… badly) that must be heard to be appreciated. These clown-folk did an excellent job adapting to the circumstances and conducting an entertaining performance.
There were many solid performances throughout the maze, including a bizarre actor walking around with a pseudo-baby, a bloody rabbit, and a rat-girl who didn’t enjoy being erroneously labeled a clown. The other actors roving the maze, though, remained just as creepy and intimidating as we could have asked for. The trail portion, in whole, was much improved this year, and featured an abundance of deliciously-malicious energy from the actors.
To finally give the hayride segment a deserved shout-out, the final scene – a gruesome victim/assailant affair – was also well-acted and believable. Excellent job by both characters.
It’s inevitable that I will begin several categories with a comparison to last season, so allow me to get that out of the way : costuming was much better this year. We noted a much broader variety of crazed folks and slavering beasties this season, particularly inhabiting the corn maze. This year, each character felt like a unique creation, with singular make up, masks, or costuming to match.
The most impressive make up display that we saw, though, involved an actor imitating a prop (intentional vagueness so as not to stifle the surprise), the quality of which allowed for one of the better startle-scares of the evening.
Many of the monsters inside the corn maze were camouflaged in creative ways to allow them to blend into the stalks in anticipation of startles, but the most effective of these occurred immediately upon reentering the maze after exiting a turbulent side path. Outside of the maze, the single mineshaft monster, hefting an unfriendly weapon of war bore the greatest costume design.
Overall, though, nearly every actor that we experienced had acceptably-vile physical alterations that enhanced their characterizations. Not many were overly-extravagant, but all were adequate.
Customer Service: 9.5
Though the Fright Farm is located in about as middle-of-nowhere an area as you’ll experience, it’s surprisingly easy to find it, and being the only real sign of life in the region, when you’re close, it’s obvious. As we approached the parking lot, a bevy of parking spotters directed us to an open spot.
Cheesemans is more than just a haunted attraction. The main floor of the building that we first encountered contains various fall-flavored essentials for perusal and purchase – pumpkins, gourds, costume accessories, t-shirts, etc. Below deck, though, is, to this author’s standards, where the real magic happens. A wide swath of culinary goodness awaits including their legendary pumpkin pie and delicious apple cider. I need to clarify something, though. It’s true that I have raved about these two particular gut-filling delicacies in rightly-earned praises, HOWEVER, until this season, I had overlooked a third, equally appreciable offering, offering it only a brief after-mention… UNTIL NOW. Friends, the homemade pizza at Cheesemans is excellent; superb. I am deeply ashamed to have excluded it from the cherished (now) triumvirate of Fright Farm essentials. This season, please allow me to tip my cap to this wonderful demonstration of doughy perfection.
Speaking of food, have you ever been haunted while stuffing a nacho into your face? Oh, you thought you were safe double-fisting pie slices in the cozy dining area at Cheesemans? The vagabond line monsters respect no-such illusory boundaries. They slyly encroach upon your safe-space regardless of where you try to hide. We felt that they did a good job of keeping patrons properly unsettled in anticipation of the horrors to come.
Also of note : the hype-man who stirs the crowd up as they board the wagons was quite good, as was his less altruistic counterpart betwixt the hayride and trail. Essentially an in-character “rules man,” this Alanis Horrorsette (I really hope someone whose been through the attraction gets that joke) snidely provided his decrees and ushered us off the hayride and onto the trail with hilarious derision.
There are bathrooms available and an additional, free kid’s hay maze near the main waiting line – a great distraction for antsy youngsters, as well as plenty of music broadcasting across the grounds.
Every staff member that we met was great and very helpful. Extra special shout-out to Jenn, Chuckles, Vic, and the “handlers” (at the end of the attraction) for being so kind and welcoming to us.
Fortunately, the wonderful atmosphere has not changed at all this season, so, again, I am just going to quote this illustrative description from one of the true masters of wordsmithing…uh, me :
The drive out to the farm is legitimately scarier than 47% of the haunted attractions I’ve been to. Small, windy, country roads in the middle of an October night have haunting power all alone. Five minutes through this foreboding hillside, you reach the attraction. There may be other homesteads around, but you would never know it. When you begin the attraction, you start on a pretty unassuming hayride, but as you are towed away, slowly, from the bright pomp of the main hub area, the creepiness begins to settle in. By the time the scaring starts, you have ridden maybe a quarter-mile and watched the friendly, welcoming barn disappear behind you. Cue fear.
Maybe you’ve been on scary hayrides in the woods before. I’ll grant you that. However, remember, you’re assuredly working your way further from the barn now – quite certainly in the middle of nowhere as we finish our hayride and then… out you go. “Wait, what?” Yes, far removed from any semblance of humanity, you get deposited from your cart and the main section of the haunt begins. It is an absolutely FANTASTIC environment; it really needs to be experienced to fully appreciate. No cars driving by, no “bright lights/big city (heck, not even a small city)” – it’s just you vs an army of monsters that have been waiting all night to have their turn at you.
We were able to introduce a pair of team members to the attraction this year, and the above still rung true.
Special Effects: 8.81
The Fright Farm doesn’t employ a vast array of hi-tech gadgetry or stunning special effects, it’s just not in the haunt’s DNA (excluding a whole lot of strobes and a king’s bounty of fog juice), but we were surprised at how effective they were at utilizing the occasional technological marvel.
A certain oscillating walkthrough was very well done and the 3D section (including 3D glasses that ACTUALLY STAYED ON MY FACE – perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like haunted attractions can never actually get decent 3D glasses – which was MUCH appreciated) featured a lot of really interesting designs – most notably its whirling walkway and the impressive double infinity hallway at its end. Also of note was one of the often-seen zombie video effects, except displayed on the largest screen I’ve ever experienced that effect being used for (which was actually really cool to see), and a well-placed man-amatronic.
The best segments of the entire affair, though, still occurred within the corn maze. The maze itself seemed significantly longer, with a broader stretch of its best component. We’re all accustomed to the standard pitch-black hallways experienced in every haunted attraction – they’re a fundamental at this point, but Cheesemans utilizes different conjoined effects to generate a similar myopic outcome. Thick fog mixed with bright strobes combine to create a unique, hazy, dreamlike atmosphere that is both entrancing and blinding. There were a few long pathways befuddled by the mixture and they were easily the most effective segments of the attraction. There were monsters, I am sure, twisted up in the thick, throbbing mist, but the unique environment created by the fog, the outdoor sensations, and the impediments of the corn maze, that I’m confident the experience would be nearly as enjoyable traversing empty (but for the effects) aisles.
Even along the stretches of corn maze that weren’t inundated with the ghost-mist, its design was clever and a bit tricky, with multiple actor-impersonating props catching us off-guard.
The attraction was a bit light on sound effects this year, but what they did have was appropriate to the setting.
Fright Effect: 8.54
The Fright Farm prefers the direct approach when greeting customers – most of their scares were quick and to the point – though a few handfuls of other varieties of menace were available. Of the former, performances were much fiercer this year. Due in no small part to Costuming improvement (see above) the actors in the corn maze were better able to surprise patrons and scare up legitimate reactions.
Our perennially favorite scare returned to the hay ride again, and was vastly improved this year. Admittedly, its appearance had become fairly predictable, but alternate timing, as well as a much more vigorous execution really seemed to increase its effectiveness this season. A few environmental hazards entreated the hayride as well, with an unexpected facade “conducted” toward the wagon.
A few actors hoisted props at us, with one employee slinging a…well, actually I’m not sure what it was; slinging an intimidating artifact toward my face, allowing it to stop inches away. The spatial considerations worked out quite well.
Of course there was also a birth canal, and a tight one at that, so for claustrophobics, it doesn’t get much scarier.
One of our favorite diminutive haunters is back this year as well, and brought along a whole family of scaly friends. Depending on one’s proclivities, these little darlings are either lovely or horrifying.
Twenty-five minutes after boarding the hayride, we were safely returning to the farmhouse – we only lost one this time. Hooray! 15 dollars will purchase a ticket on Sundays, or 20 dollars on Fridays or Saturdays, putting the relative values at 1.67 and 1.25 minutes of entertainment per dollar spent.
Exiting the attraction was a sigh of relief, honestly. It’s no secret that Cheesemans is one of our groups cherished attractions. Being forced to give them pretty low marks last season in the sake of honesty was not a pleasant experience by any means. THIS season, though, the demeanor of the entire attraction has improved – the actors were spirited and animated, the corn maze was long and well-designed, and the fog was extra blinding. Those elements combined to create an attraction that we can whole-heartedly recommend once again. And not a moment too soon : the hallowed trifecta of deliciousness isn’t going to just eat itself – get yourself down to Portersville, enjoy a great haunted attraction, and wash it all down with delectable homemade yums because that’s the Halloween way!