Zombies. Swamp creatures. Creepy clowns. And scary dolls. Those are just a few of the nightmares in 13 – yes, 13 - different scenes that visitors will encounter (from the safety of their cars) at Northern Virginia’s first haunted drive-thru, at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

Joseph Wallen, the center’s director of performing arts, said the drive thru, called “Nightmare Alley,” is the first immersive, completely contactless drive-thru Halloween experience in the region.

This is the seventh year Workhouse Arts has hosted such an event, which is an extension of its performing arts program, allowing local youth to practice their set production and theatrical skills. Of course, because of coronavirus concerns, this year the event is in a drive-through format.

“Of course, we did research, for safety precautions for our guests and performers, but we also have moving vehicles. We’ve got technicians everywhere with radios; we’ve got people with glowing wands to help guide traffic,” Wallen said. “When you pull up to a scene, there’s a traffic light and the vehicle has to stop and turn off its engine before anything happens, and then we engage with the vehicle.

“The drive thru design of ‘Nightmare Alley’ will allow visitors to enjoy the Halloween season despite COVID-19.”

That sentiment seemed to be shared by Byrd Fitzgerald, who drove his family down from Laurel, Md., for the experience, noting he is quite aware of the history of Workhouse as a former prison.

“I’m a fanatic for stuff like this. This is money well spent,” Fitzgerald said.

“Just knowing where we are is creepy enough. It’s fantastic.” Fitzgerald said he was most impressed with the swamp scene. “That was intense!” Caroline Blanco, vice chair of the Workhouse Board of Directors and chair of the Workhouse haunted attraction design team, said about 60 actors and technicians are involved in the project.

“Building on last year’s Haunted Trail production of ‘Breakout,’ we found a way to create a hair-raising haunted attraction that is both terrifying and completely safe,” she added.


WHAT: “Nightmare Alley,” Northern Virginia’s first haunted drive-thru

WHERE: Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton

WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 31, 7-11 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 18, and Sunday, Oct. 25, 7-10 p.m.

TICKETS: All tickets must be purchased online at

https://www.workhousearts.org/nightmare-alley/ or