EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 22, 2006

Fall fright:Haunted hayrides and winding corn mazes come with the season

Hay is for horses, corn is for cows? Hardly. It's harvest season, and we humans are having farmland fun, thanks to hayrides and corn mazes.

In addition to Halloween haunted houses and costume parties, October is also the time to take in the outdoor fall sights, whether they're spooky, colorful - or just plain corny. See what the region has to offer for hayrides - both friendly and frightful - and cornfield mazes.

Hay, hay, hay!

Getting spooked in a haunted house is one thing; soon enough, you know you'll be out the door. But when you're on the back of a haywagon surrounded by unfamiliar woods, it's another story - a scary one.

Local farms take the spooking outside with haunted hayrides, bringing wagonloads of brave souls on tractor-drawn tours through wooded trails lined with ghosts, ghouls and the occasional mad woodsman with a bloody mask and a (fake) chainsaw gone berserk.

Long Hill Orchards in West Newbury is in its 14th year offering haunted hayrides. The expeditions start out friendly enough; guests gather around a campfire and roast marshmallows before the wagon comes by and takes them through a portion of the farm's 150-acre apple orchard. The wagon winds through rows of apple trees and open fields where 50 haunters lurk.

Long Hill's creepiest creature? The Grim Reaper himself, says farm owner Cindy Adams.

"He will pretty much follow a wagon," says Adams, who co-owns Long Hill with her husband, John. "You'll see him roaming the campfire in the beginning."

The "cool crisp nights," Adams says, are the ultimate for these spine-chilling excursions. "You can snuggle right into the hay."

Although they're sure to stir up a scare, Adams assures that the Long Hill hayrides aren't gory and are OK for families.

Not up for a fright, but still want to experience some fall festivities? Some farms steer clear of the woods at night and stick to daytime hayrides through the fields. North Andover's Boston Hill Farm offers leisurely weekend rides.

"It's so pretty out there with all the leaves," says manager Cheryl Farnum.

And while you're taking in the foliage, you can also scope out the jack-o'-lantern material.

"You can get off and pick a pumpkin, and enjoy your time out in the field," she says.

The corn maze craze

This fall, get lost. In a corn maze, that is.

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