I spent all of the time I could muster in the woods, helping where I could with my limited carpenter skills and my expert ability to pick up trash and branches. I was dumbfounded every time I arrived in the hayride with the amount of work that was being done. Jack, Jason, Billy and Sandy spent more hours out there than anyone, by far, creating an awesome playground for our actors.
With change comes new obstacles, and we experienced some resistance from mother nature. We had a pretty bad rainstorm that dropped a tree in our graveyard area, but miraculously, it caused no damage. The flooding was our biggest issue, but with help from some pumps we got it mostly dry. That was soon followed by Hurricane Matthew, which was way worse than we ever expected. We had several trees down, one that split but didn’t fall, that we were able to have cut down before it could cause serious damage. The flooding washed away most of the graveyard, and left standing water everywhere. We remained determined, and were still able to put on a hell of a show.
Our cast this season had a lot of new faces, my family included. My oldest son, Talyn, started his second season with more a full time volunteer status, missing only one night this season. My wife, Amanda, and my younger sons, Jake and Hunter, joined us a few nights this season, catching the scare bug.
I know I cannot remember every name of every actor/volunteer we had this season, but I will try!
First Stage: Guard shack
Guests hear how the asylum is in chaos as the patients are uprising after finding out Dr. Lazurus has been using the inmates for his own twisted experiments. Actors: Gaylord Brown, Billy Joyner, Nate McGuiness, Patrick Wiley, Tom Dvorak, myself, Eric Baker
The asylums patients who have been buried here are rising from the grave. Actors: Liz Rodenfels, Avery , Takoda Carter, Jakob Donaldson, Hunter Donaldson, Taylor Vogel, Nick Vogel, Paul McHendry, Amanda Donaldson, Bryce Hawkins, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Jason Lingle
Stage 2: Mortician and Lucky
The guests are being warned of the presence of the smallest and most vicious of our inmates, LUCKY! Actors: Brandon Pierce, Tom Dvorak, Patrick Wiley, Nick Balovich, Justin Lee, Trey Pardue , myself
Stage 3: Pharmacy
The pharmacists offers relief to the passing guests. Actors: Eric Sobotta, Tiffani
Stage 4: TV Room and Psychiatrist
The old man watches static on his TV as the patient and psychiatrist argue. Actors: Stacy Turlington, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, myself, Amin, Tyler Owens, Eric Sobotta, Robert Phillips
Stage 5: Solitary Confinement
Dr. Stanley explains the purpose of the confinement, and how some our disturbed patients may have escaped.
Stage 6: Cafeteria
Hungry? Try some feetloaf! Actors: Amanda Winteringham, Alan Swack
The inmates are rioting, causing chaos and dismay for the doctors and guards. Actors: Noah, Talyn Donaldson, Rachel Matthews, Tiffani, Takoda Carter, Trey Pardue, DJ Liles, Gaylord Brown, Skylar
Tunnel: The Lab
The story of how Dr. Lazurus is using the patients to find a cure for his own dark demons. Actors: Richard Bergstresser, John Dikun, Gaylord Brown, Takoda Carter, Nate McGuinness, John Aldridge, Talyn Donaldson
Finale: The Failures
Earlier in the season, the doctor told you that this was your end. Later, the doctor is dead and the inmates are in charge now. Beware the experiment! Actors: John Aldridge, Nate Reep, myself, Tom Dvorak, Rachel Matthews, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, Justin Lee, Takoda Carter, Ashley Dennis, Avery, Brandon Lee, Eric Baker, Ken Gerlach, Kevin Lupton, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Sandy Chapman, Jack Chapman
My Character this season was named gniK (pronounced “Nick”). gnik is a maximum security patient that could be seen throughout the asylum, and on different stages throughout the season. I chronicled our season through his eyes on Facebook. We were given a lot of freedom with our characters and the use of cutthroughs that allowed us to attack the wagon in multiple places. I think this freedom made it easier to put ourselves in to the characters. I was able to adapt gniK to the psychiatrist stage, the guard shack, the mortician stage and the finale. Our story line made it very easy to change around characters and it gave returning guests a different show weekly. I found a companion in “Clementine”, a pick ax handle that gave me something to “threaten” guests with. On the first stage, gniK explained how there was an uprising, and he and Clementine took out the guard. On the mortician stage, I got to introduce “Lucky”, our resident leprechaun played by Brandon Pierce. This little dude is impressive, and he is one hell of a guy! In the psychiatrists office, I played opposite a skeleton I named Dr. Spaceman (30 Rock reference), and I actually went crazy one night when I was “forced” to listen to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” over and over for four hours. In the finale, I explained how I had killed Dr. Lazurus and we have taken over the asylum.
I have to tell a story here. One of our new volunteers, Bryce, was placed in the graveyard. I was on first stage that night, and as I came around the corner I saw him laying on the ground. I was curious as to why an actor would just be laying on his back, I stood and watched this…
I was so impressed I called him on it after the night was over.
Nate Reep, our veteran chainsaw runner and my forever brother, found a new apprentice in John Aldridge. Mad respect to John who made his first year a huge success. X gonna give it to ’em!
Alan, the kitchen cannibal, joined our lunch lady, Amanda, to create a disturbing scene in the cafeteria. I loved seeing what they did next.
Ashley came in last year as a make up apprentice who got thrown in to acting. She was very teachable and I have a lot of respect for her courage when the show started.
Billy has been an actor for a long time in Virginia Beach’s Nightmare Mansion as well as HCF. His character, Patient 14, was super creepy and the addition of his puppet, Truman, caused guests to fear flu shots. A true method actor.
Our “Jumpers”, Caveman Paul, DJ (Patient 09) and Travis (The Muffin Man), defied gravity nightly. They constantly put their bodies on the line, and I cannot respect that more.
The “little ones”, Avery, Tiffani and Liz, caused a lot of surprise in their ability to climb wagons. It was a joy to watch nightly.
Eric and Mariah brought the creep and energy every night!
Eric Sobotta, AKA Pinocchio, and Tyler Owens really stepped it up this year! I am so proud, brothers!
Rachel, your cheery disposition kept a smile on my face ALL season long!
Francine, Richard and Drake are another family that brings the scare. Richard being gassed every night was a highlight in the tunnel, while Drake playing the psychiatrist to Francine’s patient was a stroke of genius.
Gaylord…What can I say? A good friend and constant form of comedy. I love working with you!
John Dikun, the young doctor, had a good first season. The tunnel is a hard place to work, and your first year was a success.
Justin is a walking ball of sarcasm, which I can relate to. It was great working the finale with you.
Ken, for the time you were with us, you showed bravery in the face of adversity.
Kevin, dude, I am proud of you. ‘Nuff said!
Nate McGuinness never quit. When the mask came on, he was in character…wagon or not!
Doc, one of my best friends in the world! I am so glad you were able to come out and play. I am super proud of your first scare experience!
Patrick and Tom, you are always ready wherever they put you. You are crazy in and out of character and I always have a blast working with you two. I put you together because, as a trio, we have a chemistry in comedy.
Robert, you brought it dude. Great athleticism and shear will to scare!
Stacy, you are one of the sweetest girls and a disturbing psychiatry patient…sooo good!
Shut up, Trey
Takoda, you were everywhere and always energetic. It was fun watching you work!
TT, well done this year, little dude!
And lastly, my family. Thank you for being out there and understanding when I wasn’t home when you weren’t. Amanda, I am so proud and I loved watching your character come to life! Jake, You just wanted to be scary and you achieved it! Hunter, I haven’t seen a kid have more fun out there! Talyn, you seriously earned your place this year, you really made a lot of people proud!
Alright, let’s get star…SQUIRREL!
We found a new mascot! Henry is a young squirrel that seemed to have no fear of people
Our awesome makeup team helped so much, especially with the fact that we had so many first year actors. Jack Chapman, Ashley Dennis and Travis Chapman, thank you!
There would be no hayride without the “speed demons” driving the tractors. Mary Mary,Tyler “Deere Slayer”, Robert “Deere Whisperer”, Nate “Bearded Rusty Wallace”, Evan “Tractor Pull”, Josh “Mario Andretti”. You guys did an amazing job this year!
Our monitors have the task of making sure the guests know the rules, follow the rules and “put away your *%*&^$ cell phones”. Witchy Poo Anne, Kate (The inmate that was allowed to come and go), Teresa (Queen of lemony goodness), Ricky “Sparkles”, Trish (Created an atmosphere of comfort and ease, *snort*), Elisa (the evil gas lady). I love having people to interact with while on stage, and you guys really helped drive the show.
Of course, Jason, Jack and Sandy. Thank you again for providing a place that allowed creative flow in a playground that we couldn’t have imagined! Jack, you are a mentor to me. I appreciate everything you have taught me and trusted me with. Jason, this was our first year working together, and though we sometimes disagreed, we found common ground and I have a ton of respect for your skills in building, design and creativity. Sandy, our momma, you set us straight when we needed it, got our backs when we had conflicts, and you were a shoulder when we needed one, I cannot thank you enough.
Every night, before the show, we would meet in the tunnel and get hyped, here was the final nights session:
I honestly believe this was our best season ever! I love my hayride family! BooRa!
Pics by Gary Horton:
Pics by Attraction Chasers
Be sure to watch this year’s video and BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!