Conner Prairie’s Headless Horseman Fall Festival Returns With Tricks & Treats For All
The customarily calm prairie gets a hearty dose of Halloween during the month of October. Orange smoke puffs out from under the covered bridge as a jack-o-lantern light swirls overhead. One-third of the prairie land is combed back for a haunted corn maze, and the smell of kettle corn and apple donuts fills the air.
Drawing in nearly 300,00 visitors, the Headless Horseman shocks visitors both young and old.
The Headless Horseman combines a traditional fall festival with the spookiness of Halloween. Thrill-seekers and cautious guests alike can appreciate the event in a variety of activities and shows. Conner Prairie’s staff caters to all ages in details that go above and beyond other events.
The hayride, a fall staple, is amplified during the Headless Horseman. The tractor zigs through almost all of Conner Prairie’s historic grounds while lights, sound effects, animatronics, and actors awe riders. When the sun goes down, the ride gets spookier with creatures jumping out at the carts.
To get more of a scare, a section of the corn maze is dedicated to adrenaline junkies. After dark, those who dare can enter the haunted maze and be spooked by costumed volunteers. These eerie actors follow and jump at the maze runners. It’s great for older children that want a bit of a thrill. There’s also separate long and short routes for those who prefer a traditional corn maze experience.
Conner Prairie’s corn maze is ranked eighth in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. Senior manager of programs Mark Wehlage says Conner Prairie’s setting sets the almost 12-acre corn maze apart. The prairie setting amplifies as the foliage glows orange and yellow. October is Wehlage’s favorite month at Conner Prairie. In fact, it’s become a family tradition.
“I couldn’t wait to bring my daughter to the Headless Horseman,” Wehlage says. “And now, she’s expecting, and I can’t wait to bring my grandkids to the festival.”
Wehlage’s daughter and son-in-law helped out in the haunted corn maze last year, making it a family affair. He knows he’s not the only one sentimental about the festival.
“Because this festival has been around for so long, I think people enjoy the nostalgia of bringing younger generations to this event,” Wehlage says.
One of the kids’ favorite parts is sitting alongside their parents watching the marionette show. The show tells a 10-minute version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” while incorporating modern pop culture. It puts a twist of unpredictability on a classic.
“Parents walk away scratching their heads, but the kids say it’s their favorite show,” Wehlage says.
Other shows include a rhythmic experience for the little ones or a magician that always wows the crowd. Various characters tell spooky stories throughout the event too.
In a craft called the “White River Monster Maker,” kids can make a popsicle-stick puppet or a refrigerator magnet. It’s customizable, so their monsters reflect their imagination.
More hands-on activities are scattered in the Midway Games. Kids dive into a pit of thousands of corn kernels to dig for bones. Some just enjoy the sensory stimulation of the kernels running between their fingers. Others line up for the classic test of strength, hoping to ring the high striker bell.
There’s a giant plinko board with a candy coin, pumpkin bounce houses, pirate ring toss, and graveyard mini golf. Everything is styled for Halloween, like the pumpkin bowling game. The pins look like zombies, and the bowling ball is painted to look like a pumpkin. Each win gives a raffle ticket for prizes like Conner Prairie memberships and gift cards.
Rooted in Indiana history instead of Halloween is the 1859 Balloon Voyage, available for an additional fee at Headless Horseman. It commemorates Indiana inventor John Wise’s air balloon that brought the first successful airmail delivery in the U.S. Conner Prairie releases their helium balloon 370 feet in the air for guests to experience a piece of state history.
Headless Horseman is a Conner Prairie favorite. Bring the little pirates, princesses, superheroes, and ghouls for an October adventure. The night will bring giggles, cheers, smiles and maybe even a few screams.
Conner Prairie is located at 13400 Allisonville Rd in Fishers. The Headless Horseman runs on select dates throughout October. Visit connerprairie.org/explore/things-to-do/headless-horseman/ for ticket prices and more information.