Circle of Ash rises again

Circle of Ash

Linn County Fairgrounds — opens Friday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m.

‘Tis the season to be terrified, and there is a flurry of activity happening in the eastern Iowa area with the single goal of scaring you as thoroughly as possible. Haunted houses, hayrides and (of course, because it’s Iowa!) corn mazes are kicking off over the next couple of weekends to keep you filled with fear through Halloween (see full list, below).

One of the grande dames of eastern Iowa haunts is Circle of Ash, formally started 15 years ago as Frightmare Forest on six acres of woods on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids. After moving to a downtown warehouse in 2010, the haunt decided to take a year off in 2015. Friday, Oct. 7 marks their triumphant return — an excitement that was almost thwarted by recent flooding.

Flooding at the Linn County Fairgrounds threatened the haunt's return. -- photo courtesy of Circle of Ash.
Flooding at the Linn County Fairgrounds threatened the haunt’s return. — photo courtesy of Circle of Ash.

“We were so close, and the flood really took us by surprise,” said Allison King, Circle of Ash marketing director. “It hurt at first, but we have so much support from all of our volunteers that by the time the water receded we were rallied and ready to recover.”

Circle of Ash is breaking in this new space for the first time. They signed the lease for the space at the Linn County Fairgrounds (201 Central City Rd., Central City) a year ago. Having the space allows them to expand from the traditional haunted house that they spent five years doing in that Cedar Rapids warehouse. Among other things, they’re bringing back Frightmare Forest.

There are a total of three rides and three attractions; the $20 wristband pass allows attendees to go through the three attractions — the forest, the house and the maze (Pandemonium) — as many times as they like over the course of a night. For an additional charge, you can experience the rides ($5 each) and the murder mystery, Halloween Homicide ($10 for the kit).

The spider pass at the original Frightmare Forest. -- photo courtesy of Circle of Ash
The spider pass at the original Frightmare Forest. — photo courtesy of Circle of Ash

“The more hardcore thrill seekers will have fun with the terrifying open trails of Frightmare Forest,” King says. “The puzzle solvers will love Halloween Homicide, and … everyone will enjoy the beautiful sets and story of Circle of Ash this year.” The attraction is rate PG-13, but they’ll be offering a family day on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 29 for the more tame-spirited.

King credits the success of the haunt to those same volunteers who helped them weather the flood successfully. “We always say we’re good because we have the best staff available,” she said. “We’re a volunteer-run attraction so we know the people who work with us are with us because they love Halloween and they love Circle of Ash.”

Hardcore fright fans have have four weekends to experience the terror. Circle of Ash is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between now and Halloween, and on Halloween night as well. It opens each night at 8 p.m.

A room in the Cedar Rapids warehouse location. -- photo courtesy of Circle of Ash
A room in the Cedar Rapids warehouse location. — photo courtesy of Circle of Ash

Area Haunted Attractions

Bloomsbury Farm Corn Maze & Hayrides: 3260 69th St, Atkins, IA
Circle of Ash: Linn County Fairgrounds, Central City, IA (Oct. 7-31)
Field of Screams: 2991 Black Diamond Road SW, Iowa City, IA (TBD)
The Heart of Darkness Haunted House: 5111 Osage Road, Waterloo, IA, (Sept. 30-Oct. 31)
House On Blood Hill: 1102 Elmhurst Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA (Oct. 28, 29, 31)
Madness in the Machine Shed: Winfield, IA, (Oct. 21-31)
Midwest Haunted Rails: Ghost Train of No Return and Ghostly Trolley, Midwest Central Railroad: Mount Pleasant, IA, (Oct. 7-29)
Pumpkin Patch Pizzazz: 16359 170th Ave, Monticello, IA
Scream Acres Maze: 3260 69th St, Atkins, IA, (Oct. 1-Oct. 29)
Terror Barn: 3650 Half Moon Ave, SW, Tiffin, IA, (Oct. 8-29)
University of Iowa CAB Haunted House: Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa City, IA (Sat., Oct. 24)

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