Nat. & World News Editor
Freshly carved jack-olanterns, sickeningly sweet candy corn, smooth and delicious apple cider, and never-ending corn mazes are abundant this time of year. Grocery stores are stocking up on candy with festive decorations on the packaging, and some commercials harp on themes that symbolize the essence of October. Students begin to consider unique costume designs for this year’s party and newly-hung orange and black decorations appear in porches and windows. All of these signs must mean one thing: the Halloween and fall spirit has truly settled in.
The fright appeal of jack-o-lanterns and spider web decorations seems to have faded throughout the years, as an ever-increasing amount of fear seekers go to haunted attractions for a scare. One of these haunted attractions, Jason’s Woods, is only a few miles from Millersville and has successfully scared people since 1986. “We have been recognized as Pennsylvania’s first haunted attraction; this is our 27th season,” said Bob Hershey, owner of Jason’s Woods since its inception.
Jason’s Woods used to be farm land, but making a sustainable profit from farming is incredibly difficult. Hershey’s family and close friends had to make a difficult decision: potentially lose their farm to a harsh economy or do something unprecedented for income. They decided to risk everything on converting their Lancaster farmland into a haunted hayride attraction.
“Our very first attraction was a haunted hayride, but few people showed up that first season,” said Hershey.
Marketing for the first haunted attraction in Pennsylvania was exceptionally challenging. Residents in the region didn’t know what to expect at a haunted hayride.
Those few passengers on the first haunted hayride must have told their friends about Jason’s Woods or advertising for the attraction was finally effective, because customers swarmed to Jason’s Woods during its second season.
“The most surprising thing in all my years here is the amount of people who came to our second season,” said Hershey, “There was a 300 percent increase in the number of people from season one to season two, that’s when we realized that something special might be occurring here.”
Attendance at Jason’s Woods has increased ever since that amazing second season. This season, Jason’s Woods has five main attractions, hundreds of dedicated employees, live music from local bands, and numerous food vendors. Turkey Hill and PNC bank also show up on various nights throughout the Halloween season to offer free prizes for all guests. Jason’s Woods has transformed into a model for successful haunted attractions and a profitable venue for local business and bands.
Justin Fabian, guitarist and vocalist for the band Room 105, played with the band at Jason’s Woods for his first time this season. “This is our first gig outdoors and there are going to be a lot of people here. We believe this could open a door for the band; people could discover us and appreciate our music,” said Fabian. Room 105 played for a couple hours and many Jason’s Woods attendees were grooving to the attractive music throughout the night. Customers like 16-year-old Emily Kennedy are satisfied with their Jason’s Woods experience.
Kennedy travelled all the way from Maryland with her dad and brother to visit Jason’s Woods. Kennedy said, “This is my first experience at Jason’s Woods and I would definitely like to return. I don’t scare easily, but these attractions are shocking and fun in a good way.”
The employees and set designers are clearly dedicated to creating a spine-chilling atmosphere at Jason’s Woods. A large and ominous 50-foot tall grim reaper figure looms on top of the admissions booth and watches over the area with its evil eyes. Bloodied and grotesque figures roam the grounds and have the tendency to loom behind unsuspecting visitors. Looking them in the eyes is not suggested. Aside from the props and employees, being in the middle of what was once farmland is unnerving. Besides the attractions and vendors, a quick look around will reveal nothing except hay bales, rolling hills, and trees in the distance. The atmosphere is eerie and chilling at Jason’s Woods.
The staff at Jason’s Woods is devoted to offering a superior haunted attraction experience, and they truly care about their customers. “I just want to say how much I appreciate all my family, friends, employees, and customers. Without them none of this would be possible,” said Hershey.
On most cold October nights, Hershey be seen riding around on an old golf cart, wheeling up to vendors and friends to ask how they are doing and what he can do to help. The point of Jason’s Woods is to scare people, but the people who work there are very friendly. If a trip to Jason’s Woods doesn’t entertain even the toughest critic, the story behind Jason’s Woods and kindhearted owner Bob Hershey certainly will.