Thursday, June 20, 2013
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
MECHANIC FALLS - It's hard to scare people when they feel sorry for you.
Upside-down reporter Ray Routhier, wearing a Frankenstein costume, gets tips on his role from Cote Hall, 17, left, and Amanda Lilley, 19, on a stage in the background, Oct. 12 at The Gauntlet, a haunted hayride attraction at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls. More Maine farms are adding entertainment to supplement their income.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
Reporter Ray Routhier takes a breather while playing the role of Frankenstein Oct. 12 at The Gauntlet, a haunted hayride attraction at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
I stood in the woods, in the dark, with about 30 pounds of fake legs positioned on top of my head and shoulders.
I was encased in a Frankenstein suit, with a black burlap screen over my eyes. My feet were crammed into size 10 monster hands. Yes, hands, because I was supposed to be an upside-down monster chained to a laboratory wall. On the outside of the suit, somewhere below my midsection, was Frankenstein's head.
In full Frankenstein regalia, I was supposed to leap out at a hay wagon full of folks, to make them scream, make them squeal, make them recoil in terror. To give them a shock when what they thought was simply a prop turned out to be something alive and moving.
My big moment came. I waited for the wagon as it approached. I steadied myself.
Then, when the moment was right, I leapt -- and tripped, falling to one knee near the wagon.
To make matters worse, it wasn't even my first try.
I was manning the Frankenstein station at The Gauntlet, a haunted hayride attraction at Harvest Hill Farms on Route 26.
I had asked the managers of Harvest Hill Farms to let me work The Gauntlet, as a reporter, so I could give readers an inside look at what it takes to put on a haunted attraction, especially one on a Maine farm.
Three or four haunted attractions will operate through October in southern Maine this year -- about the same number as in the last 10 years or more.
What is growing rapidly is the field of "agritainment," in which farms add family entertainment to their business plans to supplement their income. Harvest Hill is among the few farms in Maine that have expanded agritainment offerings with haunted attractions.
Over the past decade, dozens of other Maine farms have jumped into agritainment by adding things like corn mazes, zip lines, amusement rides, pumpkin festivals, and live music during apple-picking season.
Harvest Hill Farms began running The Gauntlet about three years ago. It also hosts a corn maze and an attraction for families known as Pumpkin Land each fall. Harvest Hill Farms raises and sells range-fed beef, as well as poultry and bison, on a 240-acre spread. In October, it can bring in more than 1,100 people on Friday or Saturday night for The Gauntlet and the corn maze.
Tickets cost $15 for The Gauntlet, $20 for the hayride and the maze. (Half of the farm's corn maze profits are being donated to food banks this year.)
The farm employs at least 40 people for its haunted attractions. Their job is to scare people. That's what I was hoping to do on my Friday night shift. But after I got dressed in the Frankenstein suit and realized I could barely move or see, I was pretty scared myself.
"You've got to be perfectly still, so they think you're not a real person, then you've got to jump out real fast," said Cote Hall, 17, the Oxford Hills High School senior who usually plays Frankenstein at The Gauntlet. "When I do it, I get some great screams. I'm pretty good at it."
Great, I thought: Not only do I have to avoid toppling over or being hit by a hay wagon, I've got to measure up to an athletic 17-year-old.
"There's a wagon coming; move your legs a little to the right," Hall said to me as I waited for my chance to scare.
So I stepped to the right.
(Continued on page 2)