(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Surround sound, pneumatic systems and authentic aromas are among the effects used to place visitors right in the middle of the fear at Phobia Farm.
The theme park-caliber haunt attraction officially opens tonight on Beggs Family Farm located north of Sikeston.
"This is an attraction. It's not just a haunted house. You will be experiencing that environment. We're pulling you into the whole story line. You are not coming to be scared but to be entertained," said Shawn Keeney, effects specialist for Oak Island Entertainment Group based in Tampa, Fla.
For the past several fall seasons, Beggs Family Farm has offered a 12-acre corn maze and other family activities. This year, farm operator Donnie Beggs added Phobia Farm, which is a separate attraction to the family farm.
"We've wanted to do a haunt for a while, and we finally felt like it was the right time," Beggs said.
Dubbed as 400 acres of fear, Phobia Farm depicts the fictional story of William Phobe, an immigrant from mainland Europe who settled in the southeastern Missouri farm during the Great Depression. Unbeknownst to Phobe, the land has a dark and bloody history. When a deadly food poisoning outbreak occurs, Phobe is blamed by the others and his farm cursed. He eventually becomes a recluse and is never heard from again. For the next 60 years the farm sat deserted until the county claimed the farm and started cleaning it to construct a new highway over the land. As workers were getting ready to tear down the barn on the farm, one of them made a gruesome discovery, which is what visitors to Phobia Farm will also see.
Beggs said the creation of Phobia Farm began after he talked to a friend who used Oak Island Entertainment Group to create a major haunt, and he recommended the group to Beggs.
"This is a professionally designed haunt," Beggs said. "We hired a company that designs for Disney, Six Flags and Universal to install this for us. It's not your regular haunt."
Oak Island Entertainment Group, which provides entertainment-oriented attractions, events, services, effects and products primarily for theme parks, fun centers and production studios, constructed and installed the attraction for Beggs.
"Visitors will feel like they're in that environment," Beggs said.
Each scene of the 15-room farm-themed haunt has its own scents and sounds. For example, when entering one scene depicting a distillery, visitors will smell the aroma of whiskey. Another area of the haunt featuring a bee hive scene smells like honey.
The walk-through haunt is packed with attractions and effects as visitors wander from scene to scene along the pathway. A butcher shop, horse stall and chicken coop are among the different scenes visitors will witness.
"Claustrophobic" areas are also created inside the haunt. Beggs said for visitors who get too scared to complete the attraction, there are exits located within the haunt. He also noted the attraction is not for children under 10, and those ages 10 to 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
"The haunt attraction at Beggs farm is comparable to what one would see at big theme parks," Frank Aridamo, creative director for Oak Island Entertainment Group. "What makes Phobia Farm so unique is it's not the classic haunted house."
Complementing the attraction's high level of scenic props, lighting, audio and pneumatic effects are actors who will be visible (and hidden) within Phobia Farm. The actors, who were schooled by an Oak Island Entertainment Group professional, are employees/volunteers of Beggs Family Farm.
Logan White, an employee of Beggs Family Farm, will moonlight as a character in Phobia Farm.
"This is definitely the spot to come to for Halloween," said White, who has acted in other local haunts before.
Phobia Farm will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 1 Although Phobia Farm is a separate attraction from Beggs Family Farm, combination tickets can be purchased for the two, Beggs said.
He also encouraged visitors to go online to view the full story behind Phobia Farm before their visit.
"People will see things they've never seen before," he assured.
What: Phobia Farm: Only Fear Grows Here
When: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 17,18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 & Nov. 1
Where: Phobia Farm (Beggs Family Farm near Blodgett)
Other: To get the background behind Phobia Farm, visit www.phobiafarm.com.
No one under the age of 10 will be admitted, and children ages 10 to 13 must be accompanied by an adult.