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Local fright factory provides up-close experience with undead
Angie 1
In terms of fright, the Zombie Escape at Snellings Ranch of Horror is a thrilling experience like no other. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

My story begins in the Snelling woods near the banks of the Merced River. My coworkers and I were faced with a terrifying situation: a zombie apocalypse had occurred, and as part of an extraction team it was up to us to help find a cure for the outbreak and save humanity.

Although it sounds like the plot to a Hollywood film, anyone can experience what it’s like to fight off zombies thanks to Snelling’s Ranch of Horror. The haunted Halloween tour is ready for its second season of providing the community with scares by way of zombies, ghosts and plenty of screams, and the Studio 209 crew was able to get a look at the fun offered this fall through their Zombie Escape attraction – a combination of an escape room atmosphere, paintball tag and zombie experience.

“We’re very excited about offering the Zombie Escape this year,” said Ranch of Horror marketing coordinator Heather May. “It’s very interactive…we came up with the idea to combine multiple attractions into one.”

We began our mission armed only with paintball guns and set out into a pitch-black town by way of a large truck, eager to save mankind. Suddenly, disaster struck. Our truck sputtered to a halt, leaving us stranded inside of the zombie-ridden compound. Rather than searching for the cure, we were sent on a quest throughout the town to find tools needed to repair our vehicle, all the while warding off zombies with our paintball guns.

As we kept an eye out for clues, we also needed to protect ourselves from being bitten by the undead by making sure they were unable to reach the flag football flags tied around our waists. If our flag was pulled by a zombie, it meant we had been bitten. Only one member of our team met this horrifying fate.

Through teamwork and determination, we were able to sift through the dark buildings and not only fix our broken-down vehicle, but find the cure to the zombie outbreak as well (and kill plenty of zombies while we were at it). Just as we drove away from the compound, a bomb was set off, illuminating the town and making visible the countless zombies we had managed to escape. Although it was hard work, saving humanity and having the opportunity to shoot zombies was well worth the struggle.

In terms of fright, the Zombie Escape at Snelling’s Ranch of Horror is a thrilling experience like no other. Waiting for zombies to pop out of the darkness so that I could shoot them with my paintball gun was exhilarating, but it’s important to note there are other frightening attractions at the Ranch of Horror.

May gave two of the ranch’s attractions, the Zombie Escape and the haunted house, a “10” on the fright factor scale. The Ranch of Horror’s haunted house has a theme of House of the Dead this year. The ranch’s feature attraction takes participants on a self-guided tour filled with terrifying scenes, but unlike some other haunted houses in the area, actors within the House of the Dead do not touch you as you walk through the frightening hallways.

“I think we’re unique because we have a little bit of everything in one place,” said May. “Most of our stuff is geared toward fright and scare.”

Other haunted attractions that Snelling’s Ranch of Horror offers include a Zombie Shooter station where players can practice for the Zombie Escape, a Haunted River Walk, a Ghost Busting Maze, a Gypsy Experience, Stuff a Zombie (much like Build-a-Bear Workshops, but with the undead) and Movies on the Ranch.

Attractions at Snelling’s Ranch of Horror range from $5 to $25. The House of the Dead attraction costs $12.50, while the Zombie Escape and Stuff a Zombie features are $25. Those who would like to book a Zombie Escape adventure can reserve a spot by calling 209-947-8999.

Snelling’s Ranch of Horror begins operation on Oct. 1, and will be open through Halloween. The haunt is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October, and on the last week of the month will be open Thursday-Monday. The haunted Halloween ranch is located at 15080 N. Snelling Road.