Josh Hamilton, of Salem, receives airbrushing from Joe Glenn in preparation for his zombie character whoweilds a chainsaw at the Canfield Scaregrounds on Thursday evening.
Josh Hamilton, of Salem, in preparation for his zombie character who weilds a chainsaw at the Canfield Scaregrounds on Thursday evening.
Justyn Newcomb of Niles prepares for another weekend at the Canfield Scaregrounds. He is sure to scare a few folks as they make their way through the haunted house and hayride.
If you go
The Canfield Scaregrounds brings in an average of 100,000 people each year since its opening in 1992. This year, the attraction features 120 live monsters that lurk inside the haunted house, the haunted hay ride and the new Mist of Madness maze. The Scaregrounds are open Thursday through Halloween.
Thursday and Sunday: 7 to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. to midnight.
House and maze: Adults, $12; children 10 and under, $7.
Hay ride and maze: Adults, $10; children 10 and under, $6.
House, hay ride and maze: Adults, $20; children 10 and under, $10.
By Elise Franco
Those brave enough to step onto the Canfield Scaregrounds should remember one thing: Once you cross through the gate, you’re not safe anywhere.
The haunted house and hayride, which have been Halloween traditions in the Mahoning Valley since 1992, are among the scariest, most hands-on haunted attractions in the country.
This year, more than 120 “monsters” wander the grounds, ready to make thrill-seekers scream, jump and maybe even cry, said one Scaregrounds manager, Pyro Blaziack, 23, of Youngstown.
“We’ve got that in-your-face, creeping-you-out factor,” he said. “There’s a scare every few feet, so there’s no time to calm down.”
Blaziack said he began 11 years ago as a monster and warned that not everyone is cut out for the level of creepiness that comes with working at the Scaregrounds.
“Once you’re a monster, it’s in your blood,” he said. “Everyone here has an energy factor and an appreciation for the job. ... Nobody really has that though, until they hit that first scare.”
Tara Stitle, park manager, said the focus is on live monsters scaring patrons rather than props and animatronics. “People always say they like live, active people,” she said.
Blaziack said that during his time as a monster he’d seen people cry, pass out and wet themselves.
“One year I had the ambulance here five times,” he said. “I was too scary, so they had to make me a manager.”
Stitle said the 100,000 or more people who enter the Scaregrounds annually expect major scares while on the hayride and walking through the haunted house or Mist of Madness maze.
What they may not expect, she said, is the risk of zombie attacks, vampire bites and chainsaw-wielding psychopaths while waiting in line for any of the three main attractions, crossing the Midway to grab some food or even walking to your car.
“There are monsters everywhere from the moment you set foot on the grounds,” she said.
But these monsters would be nothing without the makeup that transforms them into the undead.
Joe Glenn, manager and makeup artist, said he does about 30 faces each night, which usually takes two to three hours.
“It’s great to watch the reaction a customer has when they see,” he said. “They always ask, ‘Is that actually his face?’”
Glenn said some of the characters take only a few minutes of airbrush painting to achieve the desired effect. Others, such as Josh Hamilton, take a little extra time.
Glenn prepared to make Hamilton, 22, of Salem into a grotesque-looking zombie. He spread a homemade-paste concoction, which dries to look like dead skin, on Hamilton’s face.
“In the end, it’ll look like his skin is rotting off,” Glenn said. “I pull sections of it off and airbrush it over for the whole effect.”
One look from Hamilton after his 30-minute makeover would send even a seasoned haunted-house aficionado running for the exit.
Hamilton said seven years of scaring has made him love the job even more than he did at the beginning.
“It’s the adrenaline rush,” he said. “It feels amazing. Sometimes I get more pumped up than the people who are coming through.”
Blaziack said the makeup is one of the most crucial aspects, second only to the monster’s scaring tactics — especially for those lurking on the Midway.
“They’re the first people customers get to see when they come in,” he said. “They set the pace.”
The Scaregrounds are open Thursday through Sunday, but Blaziack wouldn’t reveal if they’ve got anything extra horrifying planned.
And with the creepiest grin he could muster he said, “They’ll just have to come out and see.”