Worth the Trip
Haunted hayrides & corn mazes
Haunted hayrides & corn mazes
If you opt to take a haunted hayride during the fall spooking season at Sandyland Acres in northern Kentucky, better watch your back getting out of your car. An extremely unsavory character may pop out of the darkness and chase you all the way to the ticket booth. But don’t worry: he’s just part of an amazing agritainment offering that, for two years out of the three years it’s been open, garnered the honor of Best Haunted Attraction in Kentucky by Haunted House Reviewers, a group of five credentialed, creepy Web sites.
“Some visitors get so scared, they run back to their cars,” laughs Gene Webb, who came up with the idea of a haunted hayride a few years back to help generate more income from the 200-acre cattle, corn, and tobacco farm in Petersburg. “But it’s all good, clean family fun. We’ll scare you, but we don’t push the blood and gore issue.”
That focus seems to work, as more thrill seekers show up each year.
Beginning the third week of September from 8 p.m. until midnight, 1950s- and 1960s-era tractors rev up to pull 25-person hay wagons along narrow paths winding through a dark woods and through fields of 8- to 9-foot feeder corn stalks. Tucked among the trees and stalks are 17 carefully designed scenes from popular horror movies, such as the Halloween series and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
During a 25-minute journey over 35 acres, the wagons stop for a minute or two at each set to watch actors re-create an actual movie scene. Between stops, more actors in terrifying makeup leap up onto the wagons to jack up the fear factor.
“In a traditional Halloween haunted house, the scary actors are often behind a cage,” Webb says. “Ours are in your face and stay there. There’s nowhere to run!”
Usually about 40 actors, including Webb and several other family members, participate. Dedicated horror movie fans, he, his wife Brenda, and stepson Jed Hirsch (who makes all of the ghoulish masks) stay busy in August holding a job fair for new actors and constructing sets in the summer heat. This year, the Bates Motel from Psycho will loom new and ominous come Halloween season, when some 500 people a night will pay $10 a ride to have their socks scared off.
“All the time people say, ‘Your costumes and actors look so authentic, I felt like I was in the movie,’” Webb says.
To add to the frightful melee, this year’s September 18 opening night featured a showing of the original 1930s classic Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff. Also new is a Halloween night costume contest. Many guests tend to dress in terrifying togs anyway.
Locals get an annual taste at the Florence Labor Day Parade. Winner of the best float vote the past three years, Sandyland mounts a hayride scene on a wagon and ghoulish actors hand out, not candy, but fake vampire teeth to kids in the crowd.
Gene and his family have fun with it all and share that their land is said to be historically haunted as well.
Sandyland Acres Haunted Hayride
4172 Belleview Road, Petersburg
Haunted hayride featuring actors in 17 haunted movie scenes; pumpkins. Open through October 31, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.-midnight.
OTHER AREA FARM HAUNTS
Come harvest season, a slew of Kentucky farms shine bright with tasty autumn treats and fun fall activities for the entire family, many featuring hayrides, corn mazes, and animals.
Benton Family Farms
1196 Old Lexington Pike, Walton
U-pick pumpkins, hayrides, corn maze, honey, corn shocks, straw, gourds, mums, pony rides, and barnyard animals. Open October, Saturday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
Christian Way Farm
19590 Linville Road, Hopkinsville
U-pick pumpkins, corn maze, country store, tractor/wagon rides, animal feeding, story time, antique equipment displays, and guided group tours. Open through October, Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
10007 Old Union Road, Union
Five-acre corn maze, hayride through farm to feed cattle, petting zoo with baby animals, and 100-year-old log cabin. Open weekends through November 2, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
7172 Strodes Run Road, Maysville
Five to 7 acres of U-pick pumpkins and gourds, 2-acre haunted corn maze, hayride, USDA-certified petting zoo, call-ahead school tours, Pumpkinfest with greased pig contest, Coca-Cola Classic qualifying talent show, and children’s pageant. Pumpkin patch open October 3-4; corn maze open October 30-31.
Two Sisters Pumpkin Patch
5000 Van Thompson Road, Owingsville
U-pick pumpkins, horse-drawn hay wagon rides, corn maze, farm animals, and Sicilian donkeys. Open through October 31, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Katherine Tandy Brown
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Year-round, but especially in the fall, people of all ages depart for destinations across Kentucky to learn about—or perhaps even meet—the dearly departed.
Patti Starr is a certified ghost hunter, leads a ghost tour in Bardstown, has a ghost hunting information and supply shop in Lexington (www.ghosthuntershop.com), and is a lecturer, instructor, and author on ghost-related topics. She also co-founded Scare Fest (www.thescarefest.com), a horror and paranormal convention held each September in Lexington.
As a young child, Starr began detecting the presence of ghosts, news that horrified her parents. They hurriedly dismissed what she’d seen as the result of an overactive imagination or vivid daydreams, but Starr began to suspect otherwise.
“As I grew older, I realized it was not my imagination and that there was something very weird and wonderful out there,” she says. “…and I liked it.”
After working jobs in the retail sector, Starr decided to launch a career in ghost hunting and began researching the field in earnest, even visiting European castles in the 1970s to see what specters their ancient walls held within.
“It was just phenomenal,” she says.
She formed Ghost Chasers International in 1996, and has also taught ghost hunting courses at Bluegrass Technical and Community College.
Despite all her ethereal experiences, Starr finds it difficult to divine why people are so fascinated with otherworldly encounters, only the fascination they hold for her.
“I can’t really answer that question for others, but for me I wanted to know as much as I could about the possibility of ghosts being real,” she says. “The possibility that there could be more life after death, that we are immortal—I like these possibilities.”
Louisville native Mr. Ghost Walker, aka Robert Parker, is also intrigued by the shadowy residents of the afterlife, and has written a book, Haunted Louisville, with 16 spine-tingling stories about haunted places.
As his alter ego, he leads 90-minute seasonal weekend ghost walks, as well as private parties by reservation.
“I’m a believer in the paranormal, and they’re with us,” Parker says. “I can speak from firsthand experiences, what has happened to me.”
While on his tours, some guests have photographed orbs thought to be the marks of ghostly impressions, detected strange smells such as cigars or antiseptic, heard unexplainable sounds, or seen dark shadows.
“It does excite people,” Parker says.
Along with co-creator James Smith, Roger Slade developed the Cynthiana Ghost Walk, now in its third year.
Ghost walkers here will experience an hour-long haunted history of Harrison County, Slade says, followed by another half hour of evidence presented inside the Rohs Opera House that the building is haunted.
“It’s history and it’s ghosts and it’s science behind it,” Slade says.
Bardstown Ghost Trek
(859) 576-5517, 8 p.m.
Saturdays, June-October, Old Stable Restaurant, 116 W. Stephen Foster Avenue, $15.
Louisville Ghost Walks
Departs 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from first-floor lobby of Brown Hotel, reservations (502) 689-5117, $15 adults, $5 children.
More ghostly events
Augusta Ghost Tour
(606) 756-2183, 7-11 p.m. October 24, downtown Augusta ghost stories, food, and music. Adults $6, $3 children 12 and under, call for reservations.
Cynthiana Ghost Walk
(859) 234-9803, tours depart 7, 8, and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturdays in October and by appointment, Rohs Opera House, 133 E. Pike Street, 90 minutes; $8 adults, $5 under age 12.
Elizabethtown Downtown Ghost Walk
5 p.m. October 24, downtown. Pumpkin drop, hayride, ghost walk; each $5 per person. Spooky films shown at Historic State Theater Complex.
Halloween Haunted Train Rides
Bluegrass Railroad Museum, Versailles
8 p.m. Oct. 17, 23, 24, 30; $10 adults, $11 seniors, $10 children ages 2-12.
Haunted Hollow Express
Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Stearns
7:30 p.m. last three Fridays-Saturdays in October. Reservations required. $10 adults, $5 children ages 3-12. Trick or Treat Train for Tots departs 6 p.m. last Friday and Saturday in October; same cost.
Haunts of Owensboro
Creme Coffee House, 109 E. Second Street
Ghost tours Friday and Saturday nights, 8 p.m., $15 adults, $7 under 12.
Kentucky Railway Museum
136 S. Main Street, New Haven
October 24, Halloween Masquerade Mystery Theatre & Train Ride, $35 adults (not for children),
3 hours. October 31, Halloween Train Ride for Kids, trick-or-treating, friendly Halloween characters on board, 90 minutes, $17.50 adults, $12.50 ages 2-12; reservations required.
Kentucky’s State Parks
www.parks.ky.gov/calendar, click on “Month” then “October” for a host of Halloween events and other statewide events.
Mill Springs Battlefield Ghost Walk
In Nancy on W. Highway 80 from Somerset
6-9 p.m. November 7, $3.
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