Mecosta and Osceola county buildings, forests and corn mazes fill with ghouls for haunted house season

NOTHING TO FEAR: The faint of heart need only remember, haunted houses are a combination of public theater and maniacal interior decorating. Use of light and shadow makes props come alive at the Haunted Halloween Barn in Reed City, a perfect distraction while creatures creep in the darkness. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

NOTHING TO FEAR: The faint of heart need only remember, haunted houses are a combination of public theater and maniacal interior decorating. Use of light and shadow makes props come alive at the Haunted Halloween Barn in Reed City, a perfect distraction while creatures creep in the darkness. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

 

Weekend nights for area residents will have a whole lot more things going bump as ghosts, goblins, gremlins and other monsters are unleashed for another year of haunted attractions.

Paranormal activity was reported on 5 Mile Road between 220th and 230th avenues in Morley where members of the Morley-Stanwood High School Band prepared a trail of terror. The trail is open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 17, 24, 30 and will remain open after 10 p.m. on the evening of Halloween, provided there are willing victims.

“What makes this really scary is we’ll have so many fake creatures out here and so many real people you don’t know which is which,” said Daniel Young, a junior helping construct the haunted trail. “We have ghouls, zombies, vampires, gravediggers, all kinds of monsters.”

Scaring people takes preparation, but the scream has risen to the top and the band has refined its trail since opening in 2012.

“You want to have a good combination of people who are hiding in plain sight and people who are hidden,” said senior Patrick McLaughlin. “You want to have everybody spread out so there aren’t any un-haunted spaces.”

McLaughlin has worked on the haunted trail every year since it first opened. The band has developed a secret system for keeping the screams coming, he said. But sometimes, lying in wait for unsuspecting victims can be a chilling proposition.

“Everybody’s got to take their own precautions for staying warm,” he said. “If we get a long pause without any customers we can take a break by the fire.”

Risking life and limb on a haunted trail doesn’t come without benefits. Rewards await the courageous in the form of warm drinks and sweet treats at the end of the journey, McLaughlin said. This year, the haunted trail also will include spooky party games, he added.

Visitors to the trail will have the opportunity to pummel a poltergeist with potatoes and take a chance on the coffin coin toss to win prizes.

The trail is on the property of Judy Dowell. Dowell is a band mom so dedicated she continues to help even after her children have graduated, she said. After her daughter and friends suggested the idea of a haunted trail in 2012, the marching band cleared and decorated a path. The trail has grown each year and has even attracted a sponsorship from the Stanwood Lions Club, which provides generators and insurance for the event, she said. All of the proceeds from the event still benefit the band.

“The band always needs money,” she said. “And this is a whole lot more fun than selling candy bars.”

The Morley trail is one example of an area haunted attraction that supports local groups. But residents also can make the journey to Four Green Fields Farm in Rodney, where a different group of fundraisers haunts the corn maze from 8 to 10:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night through the rest of October.

“The maze messes with people’s minds,” said owner Kevin Courtney. “The scary guy in the mask is part of it, but what’s really frightening is the mental aspect – the dark cornfield lets you play on people’s natural fears.”

The rustle of wind through the corn stalks and the eerie way the dried leaves melt into the form of waiting monsters as the mind tries to make the irregular patterns into a recognizable shape will set haunt-goers on edge. But, in order to prevent too much terrified wandering, markers have been added to make the maze easier to navigate, Courtney said.

“We want to make sure people are walking where the creatures are lurking,” he said.

Half of the money raised each evening is donated to a charity of the maze-haunting group’s choice. This year, the haunting groups include the Ferris State University Men’s Basketball team, the Chippewa Martiny Fire department and more. For a full list of the organizations participating and the nights which benefit them visit fourgreenfieldsfarm.com

The Haunted Hatchery in Paris Park is another example of local groups frightening area residents for a cause. The Kiwanis of Cadillac organize the event, while the Ferris State University Circle K provides the manpower, said Ron Kanitz, Kiwanis advisor to Circle K. The Hatchery will be open from 7 to 10:30 pm on Oct. 23, 24, 29 and 30 and will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Halloween.

All of the proceeds from the haunted hatchery, which has been operating for more than 20 years, is recirculated into the community, Kanitz said.

“The money is redistributed in various ways,” he said. “For example, we take names off the Salvation Army Christmas Tree and prepare Easter baskets for foster children. It all gets back to the community – Kiwanis is all about helping kids.”

The hatchery also supports local food pantries by exchanging a canned good donation for $1 off admission to the haunt, which has a family-friendly lower level and a more intense second floor for older guests, Kanitz said.

The Haunted Halloween Barn at 23019 Meceola Road in Reed City is a family-owned and operated haunted house that recently added a second floor of fright. The barn opened in 2013 and has grown every year, said owner Oshonnah Wolf. The barn is open from 8 to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Halloween.

Tight passageways lead the way between grotesque scenes in the barn, with a variety of decorations and a host of menacing creatures. Last year, the barn donated several hundred dollars to charity each week. But this year, the family is trying to recoup the investment it took to expand the fear to a second floor, Wolf said.

“We bought a lot of new stuff,” she said. “We don’t want to go into debt over the barn; we want to have fun with it.”

Area residents will also have an opportunity to trek along a paranormal path during Evart’s Haunted Park event. The park will fill with dozens of volunteer creatures from 7 to 9 p.m on Saturday, Oct. 24. The Haunted Park will take place in Riverside East, with proceeds benefiting the Evart Chamber of Commerce and Evart Parks and Recreation.

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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