June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Orchard hay ride scares apple butter out of patrons

A faux corpse hangs from a tree on display in Frank Kaminski's haunted hay ride (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI).

Most days, Frank Kaminski is out in his orchard picking apples or working in the Apple Cabin, the business he and his wife run.

On Thursdays they make cider.

But on Fridays and Saturdays in October, he loads hundreds of people onto hay-laden tractors, drops them off in the woods, and scares the apple butter out of them.

Frank Kaminski, of Lafayette Township, shows off the taxidermy barn at the front of his “Nightmare in the Wilderness” haunted trail, behind the Apple Cabin at his Lafayette Road home. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI)

This weekend will mark the end of Kaminski’s 21st year of the “Nightmare in the Wilderness” haunted hay ride.

He and his wife, Dorae, began the Halloween project in 1993 on their 100-plus acre lot at 7665 Lafayette Road in Lafayette Township.

“We would go to haunts with some of the people I worked with and we’d always be disappointed,” he said. “We’d say, ‘We could do one at least that good if not better than that.’ ”

And so they did.

A maze, a cemetery, a clown house, two vortex rooms and a butcher shop that offers human remains and other cannibal cold-cuts are just some of the attractions that have turned a quiet, happy orchard in southwest Lafayette Township into the county seat of terror.

More and more people have shown up over the years and on a good night — usually a Saturday — they’ll run as many as 2,000 people through the woods.

All of it is staffed by 120 people, including at least 90 masked actors wielding chainsaws, axes, machetes, and other devices of death and dismemberment.

“You have to have good actors,” he said. “That’s what really makes it; they have to be into it.”

Kaminski himself used to play Freddie Krueger until six years ago. He said a girl who works up front unloading terrified riders from tractors was scared stiff as a child many years ago and has never walked the trail again. She didn’t learn until recently that Kaminski was the man with the mask and knived gloves.

Even Kaminski, who is seasoned and desensitized to his macabre surroundings isn’t completely safe.

“The scarecrow guys are pretty wild,” he said. “They actually got me to jump this year. I thought it was a dummy and here it was a real person.”

Kaminski said it takes about 45 minutes to make it through the maze, unless of course someone gets lost. Then it could be a lot longer.

A retired electrician from Arcelor Mittal Steel in Richfield, Kaminski rigged upmost of the displays himself.

The tour of terror is open 7:30 p.m. to midnight, weather permitting. Admission is $17 for adults and $12 for children. Survivors can calm their shattered nerves with hot apple cider and caramel apples along with other fall favorites.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.