In the woods of Scarborough you’ll find everything from your worst nightmares: Chain-saw serial killers, witches, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, goblins and killer clowns stalk the forest behind Scarborough Downs.

At least for the Halloween season, that is.

At the end of October, the witches pack up their brew, the clowns wipe off their makeup, the chain saw heads for storage and the werewolves hang up their furry masks.

But for now, the staff of Haunted Hayrides is gearing up for Halloween week’s big finale, where hundreds of people pay up to $12 apiece to be scared out of their wits.

The hayrides take everyone from kids to adults on a half-hour ride through the woods, where a crew of haunters waits to do their best to make people jump and scream. Three years ago, the business moved to Scarborough from Gorham, and now has an agreement with Scarborough Downs to haunt the woods during the month of October.

Last Saturday night, manager Josh Talbot prepared his crew of haunters for a long night of giving people everything from goose bumps to all-out creepy thrills.

“You guys are in for a long night,” he told the haunters in the early evening, just before a tractor pulled them out to their posts in the woods. Though the last scheduled ride was 10:30 p.m., Talbot estimated they wouldn’t be done until after 1 a.m. Rain the night before, which left the grounds wet and muddy for the haunters, also closed the hayrides down on Friday. Now, said Talbot, they were twice as busy.

“Wagons should be coming every minute and a half,” said Talbot. “You’ll have no problem staying warm.”

Talbot knows exactly what it takes to stay out in the cold waiting to scare wagon loads of eager customers. He has been with Haunted Hayrides for 15 of the 17 years it’s been in the business of scaring people. Talbot began as the chain-saw killer and worked his way up to manager.

“I love Halloween,” said Talbot. “I have the demented mind for it.”

Every summer Talbot goes through horror movies to find inspiration for the hayride. Each year, said Talbot, about a quarter of the ride is changed to keep it fresh. This year, for example, the newest addition is the killer clown duo, played by husband and wife Jim and Lauren Cabral of Saco.

Standing out in the cold for hours on end has its perks.

“It’s the only way you can terrorize people and get away with it,” joked Jim Cabral.

“It’s fun to see the reaction of adults and kids,” said Lauren Cabral. “No matter what the age.”

It’s all about catching people off guard, they agreed. The smallest touch can really send someone over the edge, added Lauren Cabral.

Brain Rounds, a monitor who rides along on the wagons to make sure the scares stay safe, gives the Cabrals’ killer clowns the top honor of scaring the most people.

When Rounds isn’t in costume for the hayrides, he teaches fourth- and fifth-graders in Windham. When Rounds sees his students on the hayrides, there’s a prime opportunity to be extra creepy.

“I can really freak them out by saying their names,” said Rounds.

For some serious Halloween fans, the hayrides are about more than fun and fright.

Rounds, who loves all things Halloween, met his fiancA?©e on the hayrides, and another couple, said Talbot, were married at the witches’ brew. During Talbot’s sixth year with the company, he met his wife on the hayrides.

“Haunted Hayrides is a tradition now,” said Talbot. “Just like people go look at leaves, it’s hayride time.”

For those who pay to have a few scares, the hayrides are about thrills and a night out with friends.

For Lynn York and her friends, the Haunted Hayrides offered something a little different and a night away from the kids, she joked.

“I’m just here to have a good time,” said York. “We might just make it a yearly tradition.”

York’s friend, Todd Meek was looking for more than fun.

“I want to get scared out of my mind,” said Meek.

Haunted Hayrides is located at Scarborough Downs

For reservations and hours of operation, call 885-5935

Adults are $12 and kids 6-12 are $8

Brian Rounds, left, Lauren Cabral and Jim Cabral prepare for a long night of haunting the woods around Scarborough Downs.Haunters are taken out into the woods in the early evening where they will put on their costumes and scare customers until the early morning.


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