As each Halloween comes each year, the Haunted Cornfield always reopens in Putnam County.
By Josh Ellerbrock
OTTAWA - Sunken ships, hanging corpses and eerie lights greet frightened children and teenagers. And one step from the maze of terror, Brad Maag is making sure that no one is triple parked - a situation more disruptive than anything Maag and his team of volunteer monsters can dream up at the Haunted Cornfield.By Josh Ellerbrock
OTTAWA - Sunken ships, hanging corpses and eerie lights greet frightened children and teenagers. And one step from the maze of terror, Brad Maag is making sure that no one is triple parked - a situation more disruptive than anything Maag and his team of volunteer monsters can dream up at the Haunted Cornfield.
Every year, Maag and his cohort of friends, family and neighbors put together the Putnam County Haunted Cornfield for elated residents who brave the maze throughout the month of October.
The Haunted Cornfield was first put together 21 years ago, and since then, it has become the premier Halloween attraction in Putnam County. Maag acquired the business in 2004, and he has kept the scares coming. Though he himself doesn't put on a mask and lurk in the dark, (he is usually making sure the night runs smoothly for all involved) he has a following of devoted and enthusiastic volunteers who have the act of chain saw-revving down to an art. And they do so enjoy it.
"For people who work here, Halloween is their favorite holiday," Maag said. To grab a spot on the roster, desire is needed as well as personally knowing another monster. Interested parties just need to ask that inside-person, and from there, another monster takes them under their literal or proverbial wing to teach them the best way to scare. Finally, student monsters are given a spot in the maze, and when a frightened adventurer walks by, they jump as taught.
Besides the scaring, monsters need to know how to put a good costume together. All of the monsters do their own costumes and makeup when they work. According to skill, some costumes require full makeup while others are as simple as Carharts and a mask. They range from terrifying clowns to long-faced baboons. Each one can scare depending on the heart of the maize-goer.
"It's a way to make themselves original," Maag said. And besides, no one wants to wear another monster's sweaty costume after running around in it all night, he added.
Monsters also tend to not reveal their identities to those other than close friends and family. That way, the illusion is maintained.
"People aren't as scared when they know what's behind the make-up," Maag said.
Besides make-up, knowing the way of the hammer is definitely a plus for any hoping to be a part of the monster crew. Depending on the year, Maag and his group start planning and building next year's Haunted Cornfield as early as February. Everyone gives a hand, or a claw, and they meet at the cornfield one night a week to prepare for the following Halloween. As October nears, they can work two nights a week to make sure the maze is completed in time.
Each year, Maag and his volunteers look at what worked and didn't work in the past. They add and subtract certain variables to the maze and each year's maze is just a little different. Throughout the years, they have expanded the maze by building a few trailers and another wing for anyone hoping to walk through. In that way, the Haunted Cornfield becomes a constantly changing attraction for those who use the cornfield as a holiday tradition.
"A lot of people don't know what is involved," Maag said. "It's not like going to a movie, where everything is enclosed. The weather can make it difficult."
And they work to keep the maze safe. Monster volunteers must be at least over the age of 18 and mature enough not to hurt anyone. Monsters aren't allowed to touch anyone physically, and patrons are warned to not throw any fists. Those chain saws, though scary, hold no spinning chains.
Even without the danger of physical harm, patrons are warned to withhold from walking the maze if pregnant, claustrophobic, prone to seizures, heart attacks or respiratory problems.
As each Halloween comes and goes, the Haunted Cornfield will keep being a Putnam County tradition, even with the growing number of other farms-turned-thrill-ride around the area.
"I don't see it going anytime soon," Maag said.
The Haunted Cornfield, located at 13360 Road 12, Ottawa, is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights leading up to Oct. 27. The cornfield will not be open on Sunday, Oct. 28. Tickets sell from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and cost $12.