Things to Do

Trek Into Terror

Want to get really scared this Halloween? We test-drove Markoff’s Haunted Forest—and emerged shaken.

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There may not be any presents or turkey dinners involved, but Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. An excuse to put together an awesome costume? The chance to wander through an old warehouse while a high-schooler dressed like a zombie threatens me with a rubber knife? Count me in!

So it was with much anticipation that I trekked out to Dickerson, Maryland, this weekend with a group of friends to explore Markoff’s Haunted Forest. It was the second year in a row that we’ve made the trip. It takes a little more than an hour to get there from DC without traffic, but it’s well worth it.

Markoff’s makes your traditional haunted house look like amateur hour. Though the haunted trails through the woods are the main attraction, Markoff’s is really more of a haunted village. Huge bonfires are surrounded by a variety of other activities to keep guests entertained while they wait (often for upward of an hour) for their turn in the forest. There’s a haunted hayride that takes guests deeper into Markoff’s vast property.

As my friends and I rode through the dark farmland, we encountered a number of ghouls, who not only ran after us but actually climbed into the flatbed with us. I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say that some of us ended up hunkered down and cowering in the hay. There are also two old-school buses that have been conjoined and turned into another scream-inducing scene. The walk through them is so pitch-black and claustrophobic that it’s hard not to feel panicked as you sense that something sinister is following just inches behind.

But nothing beats the haunted trails. There are two of them—$25 gets you onto the first one, and an additional $15 buys access to the second. (Prices are lower on Thursday night.) You’ll encounter different horrifying scenes and characters on each one.

But one thing you’ll find on both is chainsaws. Lots of chainsaws. Though common sense will tell you that the chains—and thus the threat—have obviously been removed, that ominous buzzing sound somehow never fails to terrify. At one point, we found ourselves running from a chainsaw-wielding maniac coming toward us, only to be confronted by another coming up behind us. We were corralled together, screaming and dancing around trying to avoid the saws we could feel buzzing against our legs. Embarrassing? A little. A lot of fun? Absolutely.

A night at Markoff’s isn’t cheap—between admittance to both trails, a trip to the concession stand, and the other activities, we each spent about $65. But getting chased by crazy guys with chainsaws? That’s priceless.

Markoff’s is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night through the end of the month as well as on Halloween. Festivities begin at dusk.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.