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A Visit To The Headless Horseman Hayride & Haunted Houses In Ulster Park, NY!

Last year, we decided to go visit some family back in New York and make a fun Halloween season trip out of it. You may recall my article from last season about the Monster Mini Golf course we visited while on Long Island. Well, that was just one of our spooky seasonal stops last October, and since I didn't have enough time to cover our other excursions back then, I wanted to tell you about a special haunt we paid a visit to that's well known to people throughout New York state: The Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses!

I had read about this haunt on numerous occasions, and everything I had read made it sound like Headless Horseman was the greatest independent haunt on the east coast. Naturally, I had to check it out. So, after spending some time in upstate New York, we made plans to stop by their location in Ulster Park on our drive back down to Long Island. And I gotta say, pulling up to their huge 250-year-old family farm had me really excited from the get-go.

The Headless Horseman Hayride & Haunted Houses entrance!
[click to enlarge]

I mean, come on... how could you not get excited by seeing that sign at the entrance? It even has 666 in the phone number and spells out "boo". Excellent.

FACT: Skeletons love scaling pine trees!
[click to enlarge]

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention this giant skeleton scaling a tree just off of the highway to draw in attendees to the haunt. Even though it came after the entrance sign, the skeleton was the first thing we noticed, and it truly was one hell of a good way to get people's attention as cars kept slowing down as they drove by it. Wouldn't you? Never did find out what it was carrying in that demonic-looking sack o' treats. Well, let's hope they were treats.

Tight security at Headless Horseman!
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So upon our arrival, we were directed to park in a large dirt area that was already filled up with cars. We heard it was good to arrive early (just as the sun was about to set) to avoid some atrocious lines that this haunt is known for, and it's a good thing we did, because those lines were really bad later in the evening. I think it's partially because they have so much security at the haunt. Not sure why they needed that much security, as I swear I've been to airports with less strict entrance requirements.

So many choices...

Security aside, once we were inside the main park area, we were ready to go on our hayride. Sure, we could've checked out the gift and snack shops they had inside the main area, but we knew it would be better to begin the actual haunt before the lines grew exponentially.

I've got a golden ticket!

Unfortunately, they were extremely strict about not allowing attendees allow the actual hayride or haunted attractions to be photographed, to the point where I even had to sneak this photo of my ticket. So, from this point onward, I'll mainly be describing what we experienced to the best of my recollection from the notes I made. I'll also share some other random sights from inside the main area along a few blurry pics I was able to snap on my phone that night. But hey, the blurriness just makes them scarier, right? Work with me here, people.

All aboard the hayride!

To kick things off, they load roughly 20-30 people onto each hayride wagon, fire up the tractors, and then you're headed off towards unseens horrors. In my particular case, the unseen horrors quickly came in the form of being blasted by a water hose from some monster hiding up above as we moved through the forest. It was like that creature had a tracking beam attached to a super soaker that was targeting my back, which everyone got a kick out of. It was 60 degrees out at the time, so at least I wasn't freezing. Plus, I guess it's an honor to be the one person on the ride who gets sprayed... kinda like getting to drink from the fire hose at Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse.

Soon after, the haunt lived up to its name as we were chased by a larger than life Headless Horseman, riding on horseback. He circled around us, waving a huge sword in the air, then chased us from behind. I gotta say, his silhouette looked absolutely amazing as he rode off into the moonlight. Seriously, one of the coolest things I've ever seen on any haunted hay ride. They had another Headless Horseman before we got on the ride, and it was an animatronic that rose up on its skeletal hind legs.

The Headless Horseman claims another victim!
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There were also some huge scarecrows illuminated from beneath, and the lighting effect made them appear creepy as hell. We then saw women accused of being witches being burned alive thanks to some nice pyrotechnics. One woman was actually thrown in a steel box by a guard, then he shut the door on her and set the whole thing ablaze. Moments later, he opened the door to reveal a smoking skeleton. There were lots of these burn victims tied up on stakes too, and while most of them were props, one was a real woman and she leaned forward and screamed, which made lots of people on our hayride jump. Truly good stuff.

We went through a cave at one point and there was a psychotic prisoner behind bars yelling at us, and just as we started to pull away, he managed to push his bars forward, seemingly to the breaking point, and began cackling wildly. Later on, there was a Mer-man walking along some docks while a sea witch taunted us. Despite having a fishy face like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mer-man spoke perfect English. Go figure. The best part, however, was despite his perfectly eloquent verbosity, he still caused one kid to immediately burst into tears while the rest of us were laughing our asses off. Well done, sir!

Next, there was one guy with a comically huge circular saw that extended out above the cart we were being towed in so that it could drop down on all of us. While it was spinning, he announced, "there was an accident here recently." Always a good way to instill confidence in your audience, bub. We also rode past a small faux-town with random shops with murder scenes that had taken place within them (ie: a bloody dentist office). Another nice surprise shortly after was some guy with a chainsaw who quickly went flying just barely above us on a zipline. Totally came out of nowhere, so we all dug that lil' stunt.

Another unique section was the winery, in which some poor lady was literally crushed and her blood drained out the bottom to become wine for a giant ogre-like monster woman to drink. The best way I can describe the ogre woman is that she kinda looked like Buzz in Weird Science when he's changed into a disgusting blob at the end of the movie. And man oh man, she couldn't get enough o' that blood wine. Easily one of the best animatronics we saw the entire night.

Towards the end of the ride, there were two rivaling witches that we were stuck between at one point, and I guess they were supposed to have somehow ended up casting a protective spell on us by accident, which came in handy for the most unexpected thing of the entire hayride. Before we hopped off the cart, we pulled into a barn where the headless horseman suddenly burst into the room once again. But something was different this time around...

The Headless Horseman has some serious firepower!
(artist's incredible rendition that clearly belongs in a museum)

This time, he was carrying a minigun. Yes, you read that right... THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN WAS BRANDISHING A MINIGUN. That's the same gun they shredded a good portion of the jungle with in Predator. He blasted us with it, but nothing hit us thanks to that protective magical spell the witches cast on us. As far as taking liberties with Halloween folklore goes, giving the Headless Horseman a minigun takes the cake, and it's an experience I'll truly never forget, as you can tell from my amazing drawing.

As we hopped off the hayride, we prepared to enter the next haunted attraction - Lunar Motel. It began with a woman trying to check us into a room, even though I wanted to stay in the main lobby area cuz they had a really nice looking pinball machine. She told us all about how bacon was her favorite vegetable. "I sure do love bacon!", and then a pig-man burst through the door, squealing at everyone. She then yelled at him, "Bacon! What are you doing in here?" I guess bacon was her half-man / half-pig brother? Who knows. We continued onward and found more pig-men and other nasty looking chefs carving away at various forms of meat (humans included, naturally), and they were all too eager to show us their recipes. Bodies were also rotating on spits and hitting you as you walked by.

There was a hospital section with old medical equipment, then Glutton's Diner & Slaughter House began like a diner from the 1950s, but quickly devolved into a nasty slaughterhouse as the name would suggest. If memory serves, I believe this one also had some odors to make the rooms smell like decomposing meat. Yummy!

Slither's Pet Shop featured all kinds of prop animals & mutations in tanks. Giant tarantulas, two-headed lizards, snakes, and other oddities. Of course, there were also some scare actors wandering around in there, include a snake man who people thought was a prop, so he gave 'em a good scare. Really liked the huge snake they had resting above in the light fixtures too.

Sideshow featured all kinds of circus attractions in their own tents, including an invisible man (my personal favorite gag since nobody was there at all), a fortune teller who didn't actually tell our fortune, a woman who had grub / larvae for a baby, and some guy who was trying to sell us a screaming girl who had no lower torso. He told us how convenient she was, and how we could take her on a plane ride and not have to pay for her ticket since she'd fit in our carry-on luggage. Gotta admit, he had a point. Hell of a salesman.

Corn Maze was very dimly lit, which was great, and there were some fantastic scarecrows in it... many of which appeared to be victims. One guy was tied up to a post, turned into a scarecrow, and had a pumpkin smashed on his head. There were also several animatronic wolves 'n such on springs that were clearly set to jump out at you, but I think they were having trouble with them that night, because they just sat there. There were some other monsters in there too, including some skeletal pumpkin scarecrows that kinda resembled Pumpkinhead, only far creepier looking.

There was the Greenhouse, complete with all kinds of strange things going on. A wandering girl like something out of Alice in Wonderland warned us of the dangers ahead. Big flourescent snails glowing in the blacklight, a giant mutant bunny rabbit, oversized insects, and it all ended with a huuuuge Audrey II style venus flytrap plant bursting out of a door and coming within inches of chomping us. Audrey II would most certainly approve. And before we reached the final haunt, we were treated to an amateur magic show. Nice they provided attendees with something fun to watch while we waited for our turns to enter the last attraction, which by that time, there was a 20-minute wait to get into.

Waiting to enter Blood's Inn!
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Upon entering Blood's Inn, the final haunted house, we encountered a woman who was quietly sweeping up her room. Then, as we walked by her, she began screaming at us for not wiping off our feet before we came in. Really good laugh. I could've watched her yelling at people all night. Later on, we found ourselves in a room filled with mirrors, and they often had two mirrors facing each other to give the illusion of it being an endless corridor. Nice effect. They also had some inflated walls that you had to push yourself through, which is something I always get a kick out of at haunts. But the best part was the last section, which was made out to look like a haunted marina complete with a ghost pirate ship inside, and man did it look perfect. They actually projected flowing water onto the fog that was floating around the room, so it looked like we were treading through ghost water that came up to our chests. GHOST WATER!!!

Halloween Gourd Lamp RULES!
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Despite wanting to spend another hour wading through the ghost water, it was time for us to exit the haunt. Fortunately, before we left, we bought some delicious cider donuts (just thinking of them makes me salivate) and then we popped into some of their various gift shops, which surprisingly had some really amazing Halloween decorations for purchase, instead of the standard promotional stuff you'd expect. As you can see above, I walked away with an amazing Halloween gourd lamp! I'm absolutely in love with it. Why... you could even say I think it's gourdgeous!

Ok, that last joke is a crystal clear sign that I've stayed up far too late tonight to finish this post, so it's time to wrap things up...

Good Halloweeny times!
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It's very clear upon entering the Headless Horseman Hayride & Haunted Houses attraction that, while they may be an independent operation, they're far from amateur. These are seasoned haunt veterans who've been perfecting their craft for decades on a killer 65-acre farm. The mile-long hayride is phenomenal to say the least, and the fact that it drops you off to walk through roughly 8 unique haunted attractions is the proverbial icing on the cake. Now I know that Ulster Park, NY isn't exactly a convenient drive for most people, but sometimes you gotta go on those long trips to experience something out of the ordinary that'll make your Halloween season extra memorable. Hell, we had to fly across the country just to be able to see it. So if you're ever have the time and the means to check it out, I simply cannot recommend Headless Horseman enough. There's a reason they've been consistently ranked among the very best haunts in the entire world, and that's what drew me there in the first place.

Thanks for the memories, Headless Horseman Hayride!
[click to enlarge]

I may have left with my head, but I feel like they held onto a piece of my mind. Can't wait to visit again sometime!


User avatar

MasterD on 10/14/2015 1:14 pm

Knotts Scary Farm finally has some real competition. For some strange reason I pictured Doug Walker's voice narrating this blog. Either that, or I picture you, you should re-type this in ALL CAPS and then I can hear you scream it all, since that's the most I've heard of your voice (other than the 10 second cutscene "insert disk 666?") Anyway, the East Coast attractions don;t see much light, since I live in California and mid-west is about as east as I can get.


ColdFusion (Guest) on 10/14/2015 10:39 pm

It's official, ghost water is the new ball pit. I desperately need to experience it

It's too bad they don't dig photos. Do they not get that it's free publicity? Do they think anyone is gonna be like "well now I've seen the pictures, I can safely stay home having gotten the full experience.."


A-bomb (Guest) on 10/15/2015 9:16 am

I live in NJ and I'm surprised I've never heard of this before. Thanks for letting me know about something awesome I don't have to cross the country to check out!

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