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Local Life

Mazes offer scares, family fun

Venues work to offer a challenge, atmosphere


There are many features that make a good haunted house, but there’s one none can do without — atmosphere.

That’s a tricky thing to create artificially, but few places have it in spades like a cornfield at night.

“A good haunt is all about atmosphere, and outdoors at night just has that naturally,” said John Hopwood, the owner of Reapers Hollow, a 100 percent outdoor haunted experience in Parker’s Flat Acres Farm. “We want people to get off their phones and video games and get outside.”

Flat Acres, the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Farms, and Thornton’s Maize in the City have all found ways to expand their seasonal offerings by opening their corn mazes during the day for families and children, and providing a more adult, haunted experience in the evenings.

“With the growth of haunted houses all over the area, people are looking for a haunted attraction this time of year,” said Larry Vickerman, director of the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. “A lot of people think we’re just a maze, but at night we get to try something different.”

Activities during the day at the mazes vary from location to location, and include everything from pumpkin patches to vendors, petting zoos and children’s mini mazes.

“One of my favorite things about being here is showing kids our nine-acre pumpkin patch,” Vickerman said. “A lot of them don’t know pumpkins are grown, so to see their faces at our pumpkin patch is a lot of fun.”

When it comes to designing a maze that people enjoy, the best thing one can do is not make it too easy, explained Joe Palombo, co-owner of Maize in the City.

“There are multiple ways to get through it, because people want the fun of a challenge,” he added. “We have a smartphone game people can customize for the kind of event they want, which makes it really challenging and personal.”

Since the haunts are outside at all three locations, more actors are used than animatronics or other technologically driven scares. Which is what the customers want, Palombo found, when they come to Haunted Field of Screams, Maize in the City’s haunted counterpart.

“We have about 100 actors who work with us during the season,” he said. “Human interaction is a great way to have more real scares.”

A good haunt actor needs to be high energy and maintain their characters, Hopwood explained. At Reapers Hollow, he lets his actors do a lot of ad-libbing and improvisation.

All three haunts have multiple haunted attractions, included a haunted hayride at Chatfield, the Zombie Paintball Massacre at the Field of Screams, and the Dead End Motel in Parker.

By giving visitors two options, both in the day and evening, these places provide a little something for everyone.

“We have a lot of families in the day, and during the nights we get a lot of couples on date nights,” Hopwood said.

The mazes also serve as a form of expression for their creators.

“What we do is a great creative outlet for me,” Palombo said. “It’s fun to share it with people, and think of new things every year.”


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