by Steven Sanchez
Trick or Treat! Yes, Autumn is upon us. Goodbye triple digit heat and hello colorful leaves, jack o’ lanterns, and horror movies. There are certain criteria that need to be check-marked for Fall to be official: pumpkin spice flavored everything, decorations, football, sweet tooth cravings till the end of the year, and of course, plenty of scares. Raisin Hell Ranch & Haunted Corn Field been raising a lot of scares for the past few years.
Whatever other haunts do, Raisin Hell takes it to the extreme, and they like it that way. Located in Madera, they pride themselves on labeling their attraction as “More Extreme—More Terrifying—More Intense.” If you leave crying or a little bit traumatized, they’ll take it as a compliment. This year the folks at Raisin Hell are hard at work to make sure that this becomes a standout year for them. I got the chance to interview Sam Allgood of Raisin Hell Ranch, and we talked about what makes a good scare, the appeal of Halloween, and how this year is shaping up to be one to remember.
KRL: When this attraction was created, what was your jumping-off point to make it happen? How did you come up with the themes of certain sections? What kinds of characters, scenarios, and set-ups have you used to get scares?
RHR: We started out as a family-friendly pumpkin patch and corn maze; then we added the haunt at our current location. We decided to only continue the haunt. We design our scares around people’s phobias and horror movie scenes.
KRL: Obviously, Hobbs Grove in Sanger has been the local scary attraction during Halloween season; it has gotten a lot of local and national attention, as well. Once October rolls around, is that thought always in the back of your head, that it’s time to compete with them and, hopefully, your attractions will win the hearts of Valley residents over the other attraction?
RHR: We love our friends at Hobbs Grove. They have created a fun family experience that people flock to every year! We actually have a haunt swap day where we invite them to go through our haunt, and they invite us to go through theirs. We feel we offer different experiences and encourage everyone to try both Hobbs and Raisin Hell!
KRL: On your website, you describe your attraction is, “More Extreme—More Terrifying—More Intense…” So how do you go about doing that? Is it the number of scares per maze, the reality of the look of the makeup design? What is it specifically?
RHR: We listen to our customers, and make adjustments to improve every year to be more extreme, more terrifying, more intense. This includes adding in extra training days for the actors, updating scare scenes, etc.
KRL: With that motto, do you ever feel that you’ve ever taken things a little too far?
RHR: We feel we have given our customers exactly what they ask for, with still being fun enough to return year after year!
KRL: Universal Horror Nights, Knotts Scary Farm, and all of these theme parks have set the standard of what it means to put on a scary attraction. Do you ever take notes from these parks on what it takes to scare your audience and put on a production of a certain level?
RHR: We are always thinking of new ideas on how to scare, and see what works and doesn’t work for other haunt/scares. We attend the world’s largest haunt convention every so often to see what the latest technology and haunt ideas are! It’s like Disneyland for haunters!
KRL: What is going to make 2019 a more special year than the other ones?
RHR: We have found the best of the best this year in employees! They are all truly dedicated and passionate about what they do. We have also employed more [actors] than usual to keep you jumping at every turn!
KRL: What preparations do your actors go through to get in character to scare the crowd? And since there’s so much screaming and delivering terror that they do, how do they keep going during the whole season?
RHR: As a hiring manager, we start from the audition, we have all our scenes’ setup and characters in mind of who we want. We get to know our actors’ weaknesses and strengths very quickly and can easily put them into a scene where they will thrive! This year we had a wonderful group to choose from. We don’t scare easily, but this year some of our actors have made us jump, and we know our haunts inside and out! It’s truly the actors who make each scene come alive!
KRL: Raisin Hell was voted the “SCARIEST Haunted Attraction” every year from 2010 through 2015 by your customers! Obviously, their words mean a lot to you, but do you ever listen to their responses, and take into account their suggestions about what they would like to see, and do you try to make that happen?
RHR: As mentioned previously, we are always diligent in listening to feedback from our customers. Without them there would be no Haunt!
KRL: What is it about the whole Halloween mystique that makes people enjoy the holiday and look forward to it more so now than ever before?
RHR: We feel it is a time to just relax. Most holidays are stressful: setting up for family visits, cooking tons of food, lots of cleaning. It’s exhausting. Halloween is a time to pretend to be someone or something else from their everyday lives, and eat as much candy as they want without being judged. We know that’s why we love it!
KRL: More than likely, if you’re in the business of scaring people you must like horror films. Personally, what are your favorites, or amongst your employees what films do you find them talking about the most?
RHR: Surprisingly we are not true horror buffs. We do like the psychological thrillers. We are more into the creative side of building and creating something for people to enjoy.
KRL: You are introducing two new attractions. So what kind of mazes can we expect to see this year?
RHR: This year we have Chaos, which is a little bit of everything. And Hollywood Horror has classic cult movies with a few obscure horror films. We have Saw and Nightmare on Elm Street of course, and Hobo with a Shotgun and American Psycho, among others.
KRL: You’ve been scaring people for so long now that you have it down to a science. So for you, what makes a good scare? Is it the jump scare, the suspense, the imagery of how the character looks, the dark—what is it specifically?
RHR: It’s a little bit of everything, actually. It would be boring to do the same thing over and over, and not all our customers get scared the same, so we make our haunt all-inclusive for different types of scares.
KRL: You warn that that these attractions are NOT recommended for children 12 years and younger, and that parental discretion is advised. Is there a reason why these mazes are for mature audiences, and would you consider making the attraction more family friendly?
RHR: We go for the scare; anyone on our property is fair game. If parents want to bring their kids they can, but we do recommend 12 and older because we are scary. There is already a family friendly haunt attraction at Hobbs Grove, and they do a great job. We couldn’t compete.
KRL: The Central Valley isn’t known for scary entertainment during Halloween. It’s cities like Los Angeles that provide a lot of options. People may think that Madera can’t provide the same quality of production values that these other, larger, cities do. Is that thought in your mind as your drive to prove to people that your attraction is equal to other mazes in bigger cities?
RHR: To be honest we simply can’t provide the same quality production that larger cities can. We do not have the funds to do so. So, we work with what we have and give the best show/scare as possible. Our actors are what make us stand out. We are scary. Guest aren’t coming to look at makeup that took two to three hours to do, or how well-built a scene is. They are coming to get scared, and we do that with our wonderful actors!
For more information on the schedule and how to purchase tickets:
For some fun Halloween listening check out the last 2 episodes of Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast! We also have more Halloween events listed of all sorts on our Halloween event page, and a lot of fun Halloween articles all month!