Workhouse Haunt brings spooky trail to Lorton this Halloween season

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Workhouse Haunt (Part 1)

Are you looking for something spooky to do in the D.C. area this Halloween season?

The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia is scaring visitors at its seventh annual Workhouse Haunt, which kicked off Oct. 1 and runs through Nov. 6.

“It is a haunted trail,” Director of Performing Arts Joseph Wallen told WTOP. “We walk through the woods, we walk past some of the abandoned structures of the former prison and then some other scenic units that we have constructed just for this attraction.”

After parking in the north parking lot, you’ll check in at a ticket booth in the central quad.

“Four of the nights, we will have a live band,” Wallen said. “All of the nights, we will have an à la carte bar selling beer, wine, soft drinks and a specialty drink. We will have light fare, mostly snack sort of things, you can enjoy while waiting to get dispatched to the trail.”

Once on the trail, you’ll encounter 80 actors and technicians trying to scare you.

“It’s not just a haunted trail where you’ve got a vampire over here or a zombie over there jumping out,” Wallen said. “We think it’s more compelling when there’s a storyline. … The experience will be that of being immersed in an atmosphere. You’re walking into a storied environment.”

What is the specific storyline this year?

“Every year at harvest time, a mysterious carnival appears after dark at the edge of town,” Wallen said. “All the locals know to stay away, because if you go, you may never come back, but all the newbies and tourists don’t know and don’t believe in the superstition nonsense, so they go.”

You’re plunged into a sinister world by walking into a vortex tunnel.

“It’s a big, turning tunnel that provides an optical illusion as you’re walking through it,” Wallen said. “Once our guests come out of that vortex tunnel, they realize they’re not in a carnival. They’re in something much deeper, much darker and that’s where the bad stuff is happening.”

Due to fear factor, the event is recommended for ages 13 and older.

“No touching is allowed, but the actors are allowed to get pretty close,” Wallen said.

In total, expect the experience to last approximately 30 to 35 minutes.

“We definitely recommend comfortable walking shoes,” Wallen said. “Guests will be walking over both paved surfaces and mulched pathways through the woods.”

Tickets cost $25 per person or $30 on premium nights. Groups of 10 receive a discount.

“We are selling tickets in timed entry and there’s only a limited amount of tickets per time slot,” Wallen said. “We are doing that purposefully: No. 1, it helps reduce wait time for folks when they arrive. If I bought a ticket for 7:15, I know my party will be going onto the trail between 7:15 and 7:30. … [Secondly], we are trying to be responsible and keep the crowd sizes smaller.”

The outdoor event with reduced crowd sizes are perfect during the pandemic.

“We are following COVID protocols,” Wallen said. “We are dispatching groups of guests to the trail in small groups of no more than eight. Guests are required to be masked. … You get a lot of screaming, so we decided to keep the masks even though we’re outdoors. … All of our staff is required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test no older than 48 hours.”

The goal is to stay as safe as possible — even with the illusion of danger.

“We want to have Halloween back as close to normal as we can,” Wallen said. “Ironically, we are not out of the woods with COVID, even though we’re going into the woods with Halloween.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Workhouse Haunt (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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