Workhouse Arts Center’s ‘Haunt’ is a fabulous display of spookiness and fun

'The ghouls could smell my fear.'

I should start with some facts. I don’t like to be scared. I am a self-proclaimed giant baby, whom my husband and my children (and so-called friends) revel in jump-scaring because my reactions are so easy and, to quote, “hilarious.” So then you might ask: Why would I voluntarily choose to attend The Workhouse’s annual Haunt? Well, like most things nowadays, it’s complicated.

Scene from ‘Haunt: Nightmare Harvest.’ Photo by Mike Stevens.

Haunt: Nightmare Harvest is a family-friendly event with food, drink, live music (on certain nights), and a haunted trail. The evening that I went, the food truck was hosted by Chalkboard Wings & BBQ, with sandwiches and a ridiculously yummy loaded mac n cheese w/ brisket and slaw. Bunnyman Brewing is the local, Fairfax beer supplier and a sponsor of the event. And, as any outdoor event must have, there’s a kettle corn stand. All located next to the north parking lot closest to Lorton Road and open for mingling, chatting, and enjoying the local fare.

Once you make your way onto the Workhouse main campus, the Rizer Pavilion is erected for you to check in for your turn on the trail. Colored wristbands are given to groups of 10 and each small group leaves at staggered times to avoid overcrowding and ensure every participant gets the full experience. The lights under the pavilion change to match the wristband colors when it is time for the next wave to depart. Our wristbands were red. An ominous color, for sure.

Scene from ‘Haunt: Nightmare Harvest.’ Photo by Mike Stevens.

Under the pavilion are long tables and chairs, covered with seasonal decor, and a bar cart is set up at one end, serving beer, wine, and specialty drinks so guests can sit and enjoy the music and cool fall air before and after their Haunt.

The atmosphere is wonderfully festive and fun. We were lucky to attend an evening with the band The Little Side Hustle Association, and they sang classic Halloween tunes like “The Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” But then the lights turned red and I began to get nervous.

We followed directions to the start of the trail and I was comforted to see that a small child was in our group in front of me. Whether my relief was because I thought it surely would be less scary since he was there, or because my pride might survive by not being the MOST scared of the group, I couldn’t say.

The path wends through the dark between the old prison buildings into more open areas with sparse lighting, then into a maze, around a rusted warehouse, another field, and raggedy shelters you have to pass through, all the while with a constant background of whispers, screams, and sudden load bangs on metal. Some of the performers are there to guide you, and urge you forward, to where they promise eventual safety. While other zombie-esque figures jump out, try to lure you away from the path, and laugh maniacally into the darkness.

But I came prepared with a human shield, i.e., my husband. With careful (read: panicked) manipulation, I was able to constantly have him blocking, leading, and covering me from all sides. On several occasions, I even lucked out by seeing the little boy in the group identify the next shock so I was more on guard. But the ghouls could smell my fear. They would follow closely behind, taunting me, trying to get me to engage as I looked away and meekly said, “Hi, no thank you. Okay. Bye.”

Scare actors in ‘Haunt: Nightmare Harvest.’ Photos by Mike Stevens.

And then, finally, it was over. My husband was laughing boisterously. I was out of breath, drenched in sweat, and doing that smiling-laughing thing you do when you’re so emotional that your face and your brain don’t know how to act. But we were back by the pavilion. The music was playing. People were wandering and waiting for their turn. We got a drink and sat. I caught my breath.

And it WAS fun. Even for someone that DOES NOT LIKE SUCH THINGS. Will I ever do it again? Probably not, but I’m glad I went and I plan to take my kids who will have a blast with the Haunt, while I patiently wait under the pavilion.

The Workhouse Arts Center has done a great job organizing this event and has created a festive experience with all the amenities needed for an autumn night as Halloween approaches.

Co-Production Supervisor Joey Wallen says of the event staff:

The entire project would not be possible without the administrative support of the Workhouse Arts Center staff, and the combined talents of over 100 seasonal contractors and volunteers who make up the team of scare actors, theatre technicians, ticket/concessions crew, and the build/paint/electrical team

Haunt: Nightmare Harvest is suited for children and adults alike, all in the spirit of the season. The staff does let you know that you cannot touch the performers, and the performers cannot touch you, which was a fun fact that kept me from falling to the ground in the fetal position. Everyone involved is fully committed to the experience and works together to pull off a fabulous display of spookiness and fun. Go check it out before it’s too late!

Running Time: The Haunt trail takes approximately 15 minutes.

Haunt: Nightmare Harvest runs on weekends through November 5, 2022, and on Halloween October 31 at The Workhouse Arts Center, 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA. Tickets ($30) are available to purchase by calling the box office at 703-584-2900 or going online. Tickets are limited and are sold for specific time slots.

Not recommended for youth under the age of 13.

Haunt: Nightmare Harvest Schedule
Fridays – October 14, 21, 28, November 4, 7 pm – 11 pm
Saturdays – October 15, 22, 29, November 5, 7 pm – 11 pm.
Sundays – October 16, 23, 30, 7 pm – 10 pm.
Monday – Halloween, October 31, 7 pm – 9 pm.

COVID Safety: Wearing a mask while inside a Workhouse building is strongly recommended.

Production Team
Co-Production Supervisors on behalf of Workhouse Performing Arts: Jennifer Deutschendorf, Joseph Wallen; Costume/Make-Up Lead: Rachael Norberg, Levi Peterson; Scare Actor Performance Coach/Leads: Farrah Elam, Levi Peterson; Lead Build/Paint Team: Justin Cimino, Farrah Elam, Jacob Grice; Front of House Music Talent Coordination: Liz Colandene

Nightmare Harvest Band Schedule
Each Friday and Saturday night through October 29, live bands will perform in the Rizer Pavilion near the Haunt Bar, where guests can purchase snacks and beverages. 
October 14: Jahnel Daliya & October 15: Chris Dinosaur
October 21: The Neuro Farm & October 22: Eat the Cake
October 28: Outerloop & October 29: LAVA FLW


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