Giant drive-thru haunted house experience opens in Bay Area

Talk about a scary moment.

The Fields family was facing the real possibility of having to cancel its annual Pirates of Emerson Halloween haunt at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, unable make dollars and sense of the reduced capacity and other social distancing restrictions that would need to be in place this year.

“We wouldn’t have been able to put the numbers through to justify opening up,” says Brian Fields, who has helped run this popular haunt with his parents, Patty and Karl, for 29 years.

Instead of throwing in the towel, they decided to do something different — something bold — that would work in this COVID-19 age.

“Being the creative family that we are, my dad Karl, Patty and myself put our heads together and came up with this idea of doing this drive-thru,” Fields says.

So load up the car, remember to buckle in tight and get ready to be scared as the Pirates of Emerson evolves into something new for 2020. This massive drive-thru haunt, which covers nearly 10 acres at the Pleasanton fairgrounds, opens to the public on Oct. 2 and runs Thursday through Sunday through Nov. 1.


Although the format has changed, the fear factor certainly hasn’t. The Pirates of Emerson should elicit as many screams as ever – perhaps even more – as riders make their way along a mile-long track that runs through a vast array of menacing and macabre sights.

Fright fans will pass through, among other things, a cemetery, a haunted house, a jail and, of course, a pirate ship. And we mean “pass through” in a very literal sense here.

“You are driving through the pirate ships and you are driving through the haunted houses,” Fields says. “You are not driving by them — you are inside them — which is really cool.”

The fog machines will be pumping, blasts of fire will soar into the sky, and the special effects and props will be coming at you from all directions. Combine all that with very active costumed actors, who will be working hard to strike fear as they wield chainsaws, knives and other instruments of pain.

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