Bates Motel offers haunted thrill
After visiting Field of Screams, I decided that I could definitely handle another scare. My internet research revealed that there are a lot of haunted attractions in the area, some of which are ranked highly on the list of best haunts in America. Because the TV show “Bates Motel” is fairly popular among my friends, Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride, immediately stood out. This called for a Psycho movie night and an expedition to Randy Bates’ Arasapha Farm in Gradyville, PA.
The farm is located just over an hour away, to the southeast of West Chester. Field of Screams had a clear-cut courtyard, whereas Bates Motel was a bit more confusing. Admission into this area with the concession stand and gift shop were free, however you had to buy a pass to get into the attractions. The food and game options were more limited, but that’s not what we went to check out. Before heading inside, we met with Randy Bates, the owner of the farm and attraction.
Randy explained that he grew up on the property, which had always been called Arasapha Farm. The attraction began with a haunted hayride, much like Field of Screams. Originally it was just a hayride tour through the working farm, but Randy and his family turned it into “The Haunted Hayride” in 1991.
|Photo provided by Bates Motel
Then in 1996, they built the Bates Motel, which is the large haunted mansion on the property, and changed the name of the attraction to Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride. In 2004 Randy copyrighted the name. When the TV show aired in 2013, they tried to press the issue of the name with the Bates family, but realizing it was copyrighted, dropped the lawsuit. In fact, the attraction has nothing to do either the TV show or the movie Psycho other than sharing the name.
Randy gave us a tour of the costume area, where he explained that they made all of their own costumes and masks. He prides the attraction on its originality; all of the sets, costumes, and props are produced at the large onsite warehouse. Bates Motel is different than other attractions in the area because they don’t buy anything- instead, other attractions buy things from them.
The farm also has its own fire truck, which is kept right outside the costume shed. Both Randy and his sons are involved in the local fire department, and he said the fire chief wanted them to have a fire truck on the farm just in case. They’ve never had to use it, but Randy explained that it’s fun to drive.
The entire Bates family works at the farm, including Randy’s children and grandchildren. He says they have to explain to his grandchildren’s teachers that if they draw demons and scary things, it’s because they’ve grown up around a haunted attraction. His children intend to split the farm and keep running it when Randy retires. All of the employees are paid and over eighteen due to late nights.
|Photos provided by Bates Motel
Finally it was time to get scared. First we went on the haunted hayride, which was indeed very creative. It opens to a medieval scene, with a castle and a lot of fire (which explains the need for a fire truck!). The ride actually winds through the woods instead of a cornfield, which is actually better because you really can’t see what’s ahead or around you. At Field of Screams, the wagon stopped at different scenes, and actors got on the wagon. Here, the wagon kept rolling through scene after scene, much of which we had not seen at Field of Screams. Randy had explained that the attraction is set on a specific timer, with the driver travelling at a specific speed the entire time. The use of zip lines and technology was really impressive, and the actors were great at surprising us.
Next we moved on to the corn maze, which was actually a path cut into 12'-high high corn. This was my personal favorite attraction here. The actors waited around corners to ambush us, and they could follow us for as long as they wanted, which is like a horrific nightmare come to life. At one point, we were moving down the path, and an old woman in a rocking chair to the side told me, “You have the best defense against muggers – your face!” The actors were great at interacting with us here, and of course it ended with a chainsaw massacre.
The last attraction was the Bates Motel itself. You can see the first room in the house in the video, with the collapsing roof and actor to chase us out. Most of what I recorded is too dark to see, but two of the scenes from the house are in the video. Because we were a part of the press, we had permission to use a camera, so the light on my Go Pro attracted a lot of attention from the actors. They waited around corners for us and had creative ways to scare us – such as dressing up as a plant or a statue.
The rooms in the house were fairly standard, however, the use of technology was really cool. People came out of the walls and ceiling, which was freaky. There were moving bookshelves and paintings, as well as really cool lighting, sound effects, and projections.
Once we walked out, I unfortunately turned off the camera. As were standing there, two of the actors from the last room came outside, grabbed my arm, and dragged me back inside. I was entirely alone while they got in my face and screamed. They stayed in character the entire time, even though I tried to talk to them. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time.
The thing I love most about Bates Motel is that it is family owned and run. They are extremely accommodating, whether you have a question for an employee, or want to chat with Randy or a member of his family. They make the trip worthwhile. Overall, Bates Motel is a little more expensive and a further drive, but if you love haunted attractions, it’s a must visit. The use of technology is really a step up, and I’ll admit I screamed a lot more at Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride.
In a few weeks, I’ll be visiting Jason’s Woods, where I’ll get to talk to Ari Lehman, the actor who originally played Jason in the Thirteenth. Until then, happy haunts!
--Alyssa Van Lenten, LSNews.org Local Editor