Name of business: Ranch of Horror
Type of business: Fright factory
Location: Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, 900 N. Broadway Ave.
Hours: Thursdays through Sundays, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 28 – Oct. 31; (Ranch of Horror will also be open Oct. 30)
Contact information: 209-947-8999
Specialty: Zombie Escape
History of business:
The city is about to get a whole lot spookier this weekend as Ranch of Horror transforms the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds into the “fear” grounds – a thrilling, interactive experience with 13 different horrifying attractions that allows guests to shoot zombies, explore an asylum and even get up close and personal with the fabled Headless Horseman.
“This isn’t the same as going to the pumpkin patch and picking out pumpkins,” said Ranch of Horror marketing coordinator Heather May. “Hayrides and things like that are everywhere. This is something different to do, and it’s more grown up.”
This will be the Ranch of Horror’s third year of operation but first in Turlock, and May and the Ranch of Horror team have spent the last few months preparing the “fear” grounds for opening night, which is Sept. 28. Visitors will have plenty to choose from in the form of scares, like the location’s main attraction, House of the Dystopia.
“House of the Dystopia is our main haunted house, and there’s going to be a lot of fun stuff going on in there,” said May, giving the attraction a ’10’ on the scare factor scale. “I think people like coming to haunted houses because there’s something fun about knowing you’re going to be scared.”
Ranch of Horror is also home to the popular Zombie Escape attraction, which throws participants directly into a zombie apocalypse in a quest to find a cure for the outbreak. The Zombie Escape is designed in the style of an escape room, with guests looking for clues all while keeping the undead away courtesy of a paintball gun with glow-in-the-dark ammo.
“Every year, we want to create a new attraction that’s never been done before,” said May.
Last year, Zombie Escape was the Ranch of Horror’s newest attraction, but this year, the organization partnered with Oakdale’s SpecOps Live Play for an attraction called Rancher’s Revenge. Instead of paintball guns, participants in Rancher’s Revenge are armed with laser guns and tasked with escaping a maze filled with zombie animals.
According to May, guests will first start with laser guns, then work their way to an archery station, followed by an escape room.
“It’s a laser tag attraction with a twist,” said May. “It’s like going through a haunted house, but more interactive.”
Other frightening features at Ranch of Horror include a “fear” grounds version of the Sleepy Hollow story, complete with a horse drawn carriage, a “Jail Break” escape room, the Morbid State Asylum, described as a “paranormal-themed attraction that plays on all six of your senses,” a virtual roller coaster and a Zombie Shooter booth, where shooters can practice for the Zombie Escape by aiming at live targets.
According to May, many visitors underestimate just how scary the Ranch of Horror can be.
“Some people come because they think, ‘I can walk through and not get scared,’ and think they’re really tough,” she said. “Oftentimes, we surprise them.”
For those looking for less scares and more family-friendly entertainment, Ranch of Horror also offers a Stuff a Zombie station, where guests can make their own cuddly creature complete with a “death certificate,” a psychic experience, a Haunted Hayride designed by local 4-H and FFA students and a Ghost Busting House, where curious guests can go hunting for ghosts.
There is no admission fee into the Ranch of Horror, however, each attraction does have its own cost ranging from $5 to $25. Movies like “Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Hotel Transylvania” and “Corpse Bride” will also be shown for free every night, every weekend, said May.
“It’s free entertainment, and we have some great family-friendly fun that you can do at a low price,” she said. “I think it’s something fun to do that you definitely don’t get to do every day.”