Our History

Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction has an incredible history of producing the best haunted attractions in all of Iowa. While our story was not always easy or smooth, we continue to strive to be the best haunt in the midwest. This is our history.

Circle of Ash History

Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction, as it is now known, was started by Chad Canfield in the late 1990s as Frightmare Manor, a “Home Haunt”. It was mostly done for a Halloween Party, and originally in the garage of Chad’s house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In subsequent years, Frightmare Manor expanded to the basement of his house, as well as his backyard.
In 2000, through a chance meeting at his day job, Canfield was offered to lease about six acres of land, mostly a wooded pine forest, just west of Xavier High School on Cedar Rapids’ Northeast side. The owners, the Seeman Family, had run a haunted attraction in the woods before, and “Wanted to bring Halloween back to the Forest”. With that, using few props, some garage work lights, and boom boxes for sound, Canfield’s Frightmare Forest was born.
Throughout the early 2000s, the Frightmare Forest grew not only in attendance, but in volunteers, and in quality utilizing more high-tech props, controllers, sound systems, and more. However, at the same time, Chad’s life was taking a turn away from the haunt. Chad approached some of his friends and veteran haunters about being business partners, and they soon formed Frightmare Forest Productions, LLC in 2003. In 2005, Canfield stepped aside, as other members of the LLC stepped forward to lead Frightmare Forest into the future. As, the haunted attraction continued to grow in technology and volunteers, the number of victims, err… guests grew as well, reaching 1000s per night in some cases.
In 2009, it was discovered that Iowa Highway 100 would be expanding that the land that the Forest utilized would be sold for that expansion. Following that season, all of the walls, props, costumes, electrical equipment, and everything else needed was packed up and moved to a warehouse in Downtown Cedar Rapids.
In 2010, Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction was born, starting with a show in time for the annual Freedom Festival, just seven short months after moving. A first for the area, an “Off-Season” Haunted House Show, Red, White and B00! Following, that the build out continued with more detail, and more scares. 2011 featured an all-zombie show, Red, White and Brains, followed by Terror at West Medical in October, as learning continued about how to do an indoor attraction. Following the season, Circle of Ash acquired some of the items from Nightmare Manor.
2012 brought about major change. A Valentine’s Day show was added as an off-season show, to bring an alternative to the cliché flowers and chocolate. The summer show featured our take on the classical movie monsters, and ended with hosting hundreds of visitors during a Cedar Rapids stop on the annual RAGBRAI ride across Iowa. Throughout the year, it was realized that the physical space had really been maximized, so to continue to grow, the same space had to be used in different ways. The classical haunted-house experience was deemed, “The Haunt”, while a murder mystery show, “Halloween Homicide” and, an intense, high impact show, “Lockdown” were both added to the fall lineup. In addition, Circle of Ash also began serving as host to Operation Combat Hospital, as one hundred and fifty Army Reserve soldiers from the 4224 United States Army Hospital occupied the 13,000 sq. ft. facility and conducted mission simulations.
In 2013, It was determined to drastically change the look and layout of the maze used. Because of this massive undertaking, the off-season shows were discontinued. In preparation for the fall season, most of the walls and scenes were renovated. The biggest undertaking was the introduction of Chromadepth, a three-dimensional painting process that is used to make colors and props “pop out” from the walls.
In January of 2014, as some of the old guard had faded, it was determined again, that fresh blood was needed to take Circle of Ash into the future. Four longtime volunteers stepped in and became equal partners with four owners from the long-standing partnership. It was at this time, that it was determined that once the lease was up, that the haunted attraction would again move, in a search for a place with more room and more flexibility. The search for that next location began immediately, while continuing to work on the attraction for the final season downtown. 2014 saw the best show and the biggest crowds of any in the warehouse. Though the search had been on, no location had been secured by the end of the season. All of the materials were packed into two large storage containers and moved to a secure location, while the next move was being plotted.
As the calendar rolled into 2015, the search intensified for a new location. Because of the unique needs, several locations were considered, even offers submitted, but by summer no location could be found that met the needs to build the kind of attraction that is demanded. At that point, it was decided to take 2015 off, as an active haunted attraction. That fall, the cast and crew saw many other attractions that they couldn’t otherwise see, as they were usually open on those days. Meanwhile, a location came into the fold that seemed to meet the needs. Tours done, and proposals submitted, and on October 15th 2015, the new lease was signed, the Linn County Fairgrounds would be the new home of Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction. The location, allows the flexibility needed, including bringing back Frightmare Forest as well.

Circle of Ash has a unique history of serving up the best haunted attractions in the midwest. Our history makes us proud to continue to produce the scariest rides, the spookiest attractions and the best experiences for all of our guests. If you are interested in getting involved with Circle of Ash Haunted Attraction please visit hauntacting.com or contact us on facebook!