Normally a peaceful, quiet place, the Town of Clifton will be filled Saturday, Oct. 29 with frightened, screaming people journeying along the sixth annual Clifton Haunted Trail.
The thrills and chills will erupt between 7-10 p.m., and $6 tickets may be purchased near the entrance, at Main and Chapel streets. But be warned — it's not for the faint of heart. It's geared to scare.
"It's great for teens and adults, but we don't recommend young children coming," said event co-chair Kathy Kinter. "I'd only bring children 7, 8 and 9, if they don't get scared easily." It's more for ages 10 and above, if they're brave.
The trail winds through the woods of Clifton's 8-Acre Park, and Kinter advises attendees to wear sturdy shoes and "bundle up because it's cold later." However, she's keeping as mum as a corpse about exactly what particular frights and dastardly sights await the unsuspecting who innocently set out along the Haunted Trail.
Last year's trail included crazed woodsmen wielding chainsaws and all manner of creepy creatures that jumped out at people. But only those who can summon up enough courage to go into the woods again this year will be able to find out what's there.
"I think it's nice to be surprised and not know about the skits beforehand," said Kinter. "We want everyone to have the scariest experience possible."
Co-chair Ester Pline said 10 skits and seven scary scenes will be set up throughout the park. "We have new actors and new ideas," she said. "There's a lot of creativity."
"They're sure to creep you out," said Kinter. "People will see some familiar characters, as well as lots of ghosts, witches and other spooky creatures."
ANOTHER NEW attraction this year is Clifton resident Deb Dillard, a professional astrologer, who will give tarot card readings for the public, just outside the trail.
And as in past years, Cox Communications will offer free Monster Movies Under the Moon, in a nearby grassy field. First will come "Hocus Pocus" for children, then "Young Frankenstein" and Vincent Price's "House on Haunted Hill."
With all that scary stuff going on, attendees are sure to work up an appetite, so Domino's will be selling pizza, soda and water, and a concession stand will offer popcorn, hot cider, hot chocolate, cookies, candies, brownies, cupcakes and other Halloween-themed ghoulish goodies.
The town of Clifton sponsors the event, and a portion of vendors' proceeds go toward the town. In turn, part of these funds will go toward the renovation of the town park.
Some of the local businesses, such as the Clifton Coffee Mill, will be open that night. "We hope to have shuttles to take people from the parking areas to the corner of Main Street and Chapel Road, near the 8-Acre Park," said Kinter.
Trish Robertson, the Clifton Town Council's representative on the Haunted Trail Committee, called it "an event the whole town looks forward to every year, and we're excited we were able to put it together again." She's also helping with some of the skits and says they're truly something to see.
"We're looking forward to lots of people joining us on a spooky, fun trail," said Robertson. "And I'd really like to thank Cox for making the movies available to us again. It makes it a whole family event for the evening. People can go on the trail and then relax and watch a movie with popcorn and cider."
Actually, said Kinter, "For a variety of reasons," this year's haunted trail was in jeopardy of not happening. But she and Pline couldn't bear to see something so popular — thousands of people throng to it from miles around — fall by the wayside. So they stepped forward and volunteered to organize and oversee the event.
"Thanks to the support of the Town Council and Mayor Jim Chesley — and their willingness to work with us — we've been able to pull off in three weeks what it took others [in the past] months to do," said Kinter. "And our husbands and friends have come on board to help. So many people in the community said, 'Whatever you need, we're there for you,' and we're so grateful to all of them."
The approximately 10-member planning committee has been hard at work readying the trail, planning the concessions, dealing with electricity and tickets and doing both skit and scene design and preparation.
Volunteers are still needed to help with set-up, cleanup and concessions and also to make baked goods. Call Kinter at 703-988-9565 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 100 volunteers will spring into action, the night of the Haunted Trail, including the performers, plus those working on things such as sound, special effects, parking and security. Since some of the skits were vandalized in previous years, this time security will be present.
"No contact with any of the actors or props will be tolerated, so anyone out to spoil others' good times will be asked to leave," said Kinter. "Sentinels with lanterns will be stationed around the park. They'll make sure people respect the rules, help with traffic flow and keep people safe on the trail by providing extra light. And since they'll be wearing creepy, black costumes, they'll also add to the atmosphere."
All in all, she said, hardy souls who can make their way through the wild and witchy woods that night should have a shockingly good time. "We're refining things and learning every year, and this year should be even more frightening than ever," said Kinter. "It really is scary, and it's in keeping with the time of year. People will have a lot of fun."
"It's been a great adventure, and I've enjoyed all the wonderful people this has allowed us to work collaboratively with," said Pline. "That's what makes it special. It's just amazing, the talent and energy that is in the town."
In the words of the bright orange flyer promoting the Haunting Trail, "We Cliftonites take perverse pleasure in scaring you, but good ... Oh, come on, give it a go. There's always the chance that this year you won't scream. And, even if you do, the chainsaw will drown out all but the shrillest of the shrieks. It's only eight acres of woods — what could possibly happen to you?"