A real… SCREAM!

Zombies, ghouls, vampires and other creepy characters roam Bear Den Haunted Woods at night looking to frighten and freak out its guests. (Photo courtesy of Hendren Productions.

Haunted woods offers hair-raising outing



By Vanessa Lenz

Staff writer

                  During the day, the grounds at Bear Den Zoo and Petting Farm paint an idyllic fall picture most could only dream about.

                  Set in 22 acres of farmland, the lot is an oasis of fall colors – its barns full of exotic and farm animals and customers enjoying hayrides and pumpkin picking.

                  At night throughout the month of October, however, the family-run farm is transformed into one of the area’s biggest haunted attractions – Bear Den Haunted Woods.

                  “People ask me how long it takes to get through the woods and I tell them it depends on how fast you run,” said owner Sue Rausch.

                  The haunted adventure begins with a ride in a hearse.

                  After crossing a pond, eager customers are then left to wander the darkness of the haunted woods, which Rausch says is packed full of frights.

                  She said customers will encounter various scare zones inhabited by actors wearing ominous-looking costumes ready to unleash spooktacular surprises.

                  The attraction is weather dependent and closes when it rains or following a downpour due to the mud.

                  Rausch said the site has always gotten good reviews during its 16 years in operation and was even voted No. 1 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as southeast Wisconsin’s scariest event.

                  Every fall, the Waterford woods bring in crowds from surrounding areas, as well as a growing number of people from across the state, to experience its bone-chilling features.

                  Even a few people from Illinois, Indiana and other states have driven to the countryside to see what Bear Den Haunted Woods has to offer.

                  “People come from all over. Its uniqueness is because of the woods. A lot of people say haunted forest and they put up some fake trees. This is a real woods,” Rausch said. “It’s got a lot of little fires lighting the trails and you feel the eeriness in the air.”

                  After operating a zoo that is home to both exotic wildlife and farm animals for a decade, Rausch was inspired to open the haunted woods based on her love of the Halloween season.

                  Rausch said she knew they had the perfect location for the haunting business, but just had to get her husband Tom on board.

                  “It started out as a haunted hayride and then we figured we couldn’t scare people enough because they were sheltered by the wagon,” she said.

                  Through the years, Rausch’s family, including son Matt, daughter Melissa and other extended family members have worked to improve the haunted woods’ props and make the attraction even scarier.

                  They also change the scene every year so annual attendees don’t see the same thing.

                  Rausch said the endeavor is labor intensive with everyone in the family working long hours during the month of October and spending the rest of the year making the haunt bigger and better than before

                  “We do get tired by the end of the season, but when January comes around, I’m already bored without it,” she said. “I like getting to chit-chat with people and seeing kids that came here as little ones coming back with their children.”

The lowdown

                  The haunted woods is not recommended for ages younger than 16.

                  For the young and faint of heart, Bear Den offers fall activities and hayrides paired with its popular animal exhibits during the day.

                  The DNR and federally licensed zoo and petting farm features animals such as a bear, monkeys, lemurs and kinkajous, as well as those native to Wisconsin.

How to visit … if you dare

                  Bear Den Haunted Woods, at 6831 Big Bend Road (Highway 164), is open on weekends from 7 to 11 p.m. through Oct. 29.

                  Admission is $12 for adults (cash only).

                  The zoo and petting farm are open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and varied hours Monday through Friday.

                  For more information, visit or call (262) 895-6430.

They’re out there … waiting to scare you

Here is a listing of other area haunted house and Halloween attractions:

Wisconsin Fear Grounds

                  With more than 55,000 square feet of terror, the three haunted houses at the Waukesha County Expo Center grounds are ranked one of scariest attractions in the country.

                  Details: For ages 13 and older. Open 6:45 to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6:45 to 10 p.m., Sundays and select weeknights through Halloween; $13 for Morgan Manor, $25 for a Speed Pass and $30 for all four houses, $45 for a Speed Pass; Waukesha Expo Center Grounds, 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha, (262) 844-5611 or


Seventh Circle Haunted Forest

                  See goblins, ghouls and ghosts in a tour through two buildings and a haunted forest.

                  Details: For ages 13 and older. Open Fridays and Saturdays at dark and Sundays from dark to 10 p.m.; $10 admission; Shadow Hill Ranch, 2305 Lance Drive, Twin Lakes, (847) 553-5072,


Dr. S.Cary’s Haunted House

                  Back for its fourth year, Dr. S.Cary’s Haunted House returns with more than 6,300 square feet of terror, including a larger haunted house with a new design.

                  Details: For ages 13 and older. Open 7:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29; $12 per person. Bring two eligible food items and receive $2 off admission; Jellystone Park, N551 Wishing Well Lane, Fort Atkinson,

Fright Factory of Janesville

                  Voted Janesville’s No. 1 haunted attraction, the Fright Factory features the Rock Aqua Jays Waterski show team running an abandoned 8,000-square-foot factory featuring over 15 scenes and two mazes.

                  Details: For ages 13 and older. Open 7 to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 and 30; $15 for Fright Fast passes, $10 for general admission; 1405 Riverside St., just off Highway 51, Janesville,



                  This year’s theme at one of Milwaukee’s biggest haunts is Hollywood Halloween featuring demons and murderers from horror films of the past.

                  Details: For all ages. Open 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays, 6 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, and 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31; $15 for general admission, $20 for Straight to Hell RVIP admission (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays), $25 for Straight to Hell RVIP admission (Fridays and Saturdays); 1200 S. 84th St. at Wisconsin State Fair Park, Milwaukee, (414) 282-4386 or


Shockwave Haunts

                  The Fuzzy Pig promises to shock the senses with its rooms of realistic horror and dark labyrinth mazes.

                  Details: For all ages. Open Fridays and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. through Oct. 30; Admission varies from $7 to $10; N8660 Clover Valley Road, Whitewater, (262) 473-4574,

Fin ‘N’ Feathers Haunted Woods

                  A walk through a 10 station haunted woods featuring a mix of live and electronic attractions. Full facilities and bar with refreshments.

                  Details: Open 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29; $15 for adults, and $8 for children 6 and younger (cash only); N2765 Hardscrabble Road in Palmyra, (262) 894-7137 or


Mars Haunted House

                  Mars Haunted House is located in the haunted second story of a commercial building from the late 1800s in the Historic Mitchell Street District in Milwaukee. Mars specializes in startle scares, with a blend of interaction and detailed sets.

                  Details: For ages 10 and older. Open every weekend in October; $12 for adults and $10 for children younger than 12 (must be accompanied by an adult), $11 per person for groups; 734 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee, (414) 384-7491 or

Sleepy Hollow Haunted Hayride

                  Dan Patch Stables will host its eight annual Sleepy Hollow Haunted Hayride at Grand Geneva Resort and Spa. The first ride each night is a special family friendly hayride.

                  Details: Open 7 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday night and 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday nights through Oct. 31; $12 for adults and $6 for kids younger than 6, ticket sales begin at 6:30 p.m.; Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, State Road 50 at Highway 12, Lake Geneva, (262) 215-5303 or


                  Ride the Halloween Express at the East Troy Electric Railroad for a family-friendly spooky ride. The railroad’s turn-of-the-century trolley departs weekends every 45 minutes.

            Details: Open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and   Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21-23 and 28-30; 2002 Church St., East Troy, (262) 642-3263 or

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