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Step into the unknown in Jason's Woods

You'll be warned to turn back many times, but you'll be too intrigued not to continue explored these haunted Lancaster woods.

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The crunch of dry leaves and a laughing skeleton bid me luck when I stepped onto the Horrifying Hayride at Jason’s Woods near Millersville, unsure of what to expect next.

I’m no stranger to haunted hayrides and scary attractions — every day in the real world is a terror attraction when you’re afraid of clowns, and their smug pranks are popping up all over the place — but I’m not exactly fond of seeking out activities to illicit fear.

Eventually, the ride came to a slow halt at the first stop, where creepy masked figures jumped onto the wagon, grunting and rattling riders by getting right up next to you.

This went on for another ten to fifteen minutes at different breaks along the path, broken up with blasts of fire stationed at a few of the stops.

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We encountered rogue wanderers from the forest coming forward whose deranged appearances came with warnings of terrible creatures. Riders are cautioned not to continue into the woods — one such warning came from a comical Beetlejuice type hanging about in a cage; these warnings were inevitably followed by attacks from monsters and vampires armed with chainsaws, knives, ancient curses — you name it — who ruefully embraced the chance to cut loose on sprees of terror.

Something as simple as a hand on my shoulder had me shrieking, courtesy of the Hellraiser himself.

I have to say, I was pretty relieved when the wagon turned a bend and the structure where the ride began was within sight.

Still eager to explore the rest of Jason’s Woods with the most frightening aspect out of the way, I moved onto the Chamber of Horrors, an ominous looking mansion towards the back of the horror arena.

I spent the next ten minutes stumbling through a nearly pitch black building with creepy coos of “Where are you going?” being whispered into my ear. Among the occasional shrieks and hollers from menacing figures slowly coming towards me, wielding weapons, some also stepped aside to reveal others being tortured on tables or wrapped up in chains.

After putting myself through these two harrowing experiences, I decided to bail on the Carnival of Fear (stemming from that long-running fear of clowns I mentioned) and the Zombie Apocalypse — the undead woman hurdling towards me in front of the exhibit was enough to convince me that I didn't want to go inside.

I did decide to take a stroll through the Lost in Jason’s Woods walking tour, which is a self-guided journey into the dark, where you’re met by many of the same characters who stop you along the hayride.

During your time on the walking tour, however, there’s a little more interaction as they can follow you around, block your path to the next destination or barrel into you out of nowhere. The walking path also creates a little more of a diversion since there are darkened twists and turns not just along a dirt path, but also through tunnels and bridges that you have to feel your way through until you make your way back into the main field connecting the attractions.

For those seeking a somewhat more spine-chilling evening, there is a Psycho Circus tent set up along the edge of the field, a funhouse in which you are maze beleaguered by a clown. Needless to say, I did not participate in this attraction.

Along other edges of the field, an “Escape from Oz” maze that you navigate in the dark seemed like a terrifying spin on a beloved childhood movie – aren’t flying blue monkeys creepy enough?

The open fields in the center of Jason’s Woods make the surrounding forest that much more ominous – awaiting your curiosity to see what could be out there, lurking in the trees.

If you go: 

What: Jason's Woods

When: 7 to 10 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 30; 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday, Nov. 5

Where: 99 Stehman Road, Millersville

Cost: $25-$40; visit