Trail of Fears at Hagerstown Elks raises money for charity
The sky was gray and foreboding when CJ Stevens, dressed in a bright yellow slicker, came out of his van to chat about Trail of Fears.
As the rain drizzle increased and what was left of the sun slowly faded away, it all seemed to be the makings of a great horror movie beginning.
Stevens is the director for the Trail of Fears, a horror trail on the property of the Hagerstown Elks, off Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown.
Halloween has become a hobby of his and he likes to scare people as a way to help raise money for some local causes.
Trail of Fears kicks off Friday, Oct. 5, with the trail being open from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Saturday, Oct. 27, and a finale on Saturday, Nov. 3.
“The trail is a little bit over a half-mile long, there’s winds, curves and a bridge,” Stevens said. “There’s some ghouls and a bloody campsite. There’s quite a few different things. We do have emergency exits for those who can’t make it through the half mile.”
Stevens said he was approached by the Elks to help them put on a fundraiser. He used to help for many years with the Apollo’s Haunted Theatre, as well as several local haunts over the years. Part of the monies raised from the event will benefit the Elks, who will also have a concession stand at the trail. Stevens said they will give a portion of that money to the Elks’ Drug Awareness Program. The money that Stevens and his ghouls raise will go toward the Alzheimer’s Association. He said they held an event in August in Shepherdstown, W.Va., which raised $1,700 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The basic trail took about two weeks to plan how the trail will be laid out, “then we modified it after that,” he said.
“We had the route, but we didn’t know everything we were going to have on it. It kind of evolves,” he said. “As we have people working on it they go, ‘I have this great idea for this.’ We go, ‘Great, that’s perfect!’”
He has a crew of around six to 15 people who help build the trail and also man the trail as ghosts, ghouls and the like. In the off-season, he and his group of friends get together for karaoke, but between September and November, they come together to scare the living stuffings out of people.
The trail, he said, is really a group effort. Many of the ideas for the scares come from the people who work for Stevens.
“We have returning people who have been with us for three years. And what I tell them, you have an idea, you build it. We have costumes, but a lot of them buy their own costumes and props,” he said.
Stevens has long been a lover of Halloween, going from dressing up as a kid to attending haunted houses to getting involved to finally running his own. That’s why he said he makes sure everything is not only fun but safe for both his crew and the guests.
There’s a firm rule that guests can’t touch the ghouls, and the ghouls can’t touch the guests.
Stevens said they have added some special activities including tarot card readings from Oct. 12 through Nov. 3.
The recommended age for the trail is 8 and older, but Stevens said they’ve had guests as young as 5 years old, depending on the child.
“We don’t want to shock them into having nightmares, so we ask the parents to try to use their discretion in bringing their children here,” he said.
Those who want a more gentle and kid-friendly experience can come from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, for the Not So Dark Trail.
“They can walk the trails and the spooks will give them treats,” he said.
Stevens said they’re hoping to raise at least $10,000, but said they have guaranteed the Elks they will donate $2,500 to their causes.
Every week, Stevens said the scares will change slightly so that people can come back for a different experience.
For Stevens, he hopes that those who go on the trail will be able to have fun.
“We hope they’re going to go ‘Wow, that was great! I want to do it again!” he said.
Top photo: CJ Stevens stands on one of the makings of the bridge as part of the Trail of Fears in Hagerstown. (Photo by Crystal Schelle)