Scares never fail at the Haunted Trail


SUBMITTED Meghan McLaughlin, Rebecca Bailey and Ashley Bietz await the crowds at last year’s Haunted Trail at McCrory Gardens. Students from Alpha Psi Omega, State A Thon and Alpha Xi Delta are working as actors for this year’s trail.

Jonathan Neswick

Halloween approaches, calling for frights of all kinds. The Haunted Trail in McCrory Gardens is an experience sure to scare this weekend.

Abigail Gebro, junior business economics major, said she went to the Haunted Trail last year and loved it.

“I like the adrenaline rush of being scared,” Gebro said. “It’s kind of like being on a roller coaster, except you’re being chased by people.”

Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre honors fraternity on campus, began the tradition two years ago.

Alex Garcia, the president of APO, said there is a lot to expect this weekend.

“This year has a combination of a lot of different things,” Garcia said. “We have nuns, clowns and zombies, and we are making one giant mess of scary.”

Billy Wilburn, a faculty adviser for APO, said the idea of creating an interactive haunted trail was well-received by McCrory Gardens.

“Once they enclosed McCrory Gardens we realized there was an opportunity to do something fun there,” he said.

Wilburn said this event has grown “tremendously” over the years.

“In the beginning, we had about 40 people involved in the whole thing. This year we have to have about 65 people on the trail alone, and there is about 80 people total that make this event happen,” Wilburn said.

This year, APO is working with State A Thon Thursday and Friday night and Alpha Xi Delta is helping Saturday night.

“It’s kind of like being on a roller coaster, except you’re being chased by people.”

Abigail Gebro, junior business economics major

Guests who bring a canned food item receive $1 off of their ticket. The canned items are donated to the Brookings Harvest Table when the trail closes. Garcia said he loves giving back to the community.

Wilburn said the money raised from the event will go toward scholarships for the theatre department. Alpha Xi Delta will put their funds toward Autism Speaks and State A Thon toward Children’s Miracle Network.

Many people who are doing the scaring on the trail don’t have a lot of experience in acting, so Wilburn has integrated his own model of a “Scare School” to help people learn.

“We are doing three one-hour sessions that are based on the science of scaring and how to get the best reactions out of people,” Wilburn said.     

Garcia said student feedback has been important in the Haunted Trail’s success.

“After the groups go out on the trail, they enter back in from where they came out, so there is a constant flow of positive student feedback and tell us what they liked and what they would like to see next year.”

Gebro said she liked seeing the diversity of the actors.

“I love all of the makeup and acting that I see on the trail. The cast members did a really good job at scaring us last year,” she said.

The group can’t disclose much about what is new with the trail this year, but Wilburn did admit to one thing they’ve added.

“This year there are some parts of the trail that are self guided,” Wilburn said. “I’m excited because that’s a new element of scaring that we haven’t used before.”

Wilburn said he gets most excited to see people who love getting into costume and scaring people.

“People come to me saying that they don’t know how to scare anyone, and I believe that everyone can,” Wilburn said. “Once you scare someone for the first time, it’s an exhilarating feeling.”

The actors are looking forward to helping get people in the Halloween spirit, Garcia said.

The Haunted Trail is open 8 p.m. to midnight Oct. 26-28 at McCrory Gardens. Admission is $10 per person or $9 with a non-perishable food donation.