By Jeanne Starmack
The last half-mile to the Pennsylvania line on the Stavich Bike Trail is not for those who frighten easily.
By day, bicyclists pump contentedly along the pavement, enjoying the fall leaves and glimpses of wildlife.
But by night, fog rises off a nearby swamp as the damp, thick darkness closes in. The creatures that roam there wait, patiently, for any unsuspecting human to stumble down that path.
“They laugh at me ’cause I wont’ go down it at all,” said Tonya Boggia, who knows of what she speaks.
She’s seen the monsters that lurk there.
A witch. A haunted boat on the swamp. A chainsaw-wielding fiend. A nightmare from your childhood — is that a troll, under a bridge? And wait, is that — a woman on a golf cart? What?
Well, every group of monsters needs a monster-wrangler. They get thirsty and cold, too. So the monster-wrangler brings them hot chocolate. Sometimes, they wander off their mark. So the monster-wrangler makes sure they’re where they’re supposed to be.
Lori Wildes, who by day is the president of the Lowellville Women’s Auxiliary, will be the monster-tending, golf-cart rider of the night as the group teams with the Firefighters Association to scare up some money for the Lowellville Volunteer Fire Department.
The Haunted Bike Trail, a Halloween happening that’s hair-raising and fundraising at the same time, promises to be frightfully good.
“The kids are excited we’re bringing it back,” said Boggia, who’s president of the Firefighters Association.
The two groups had haunted the trail before, patiently taking down and putting up scenes of horror every day for a month when they first tried it about six years ago. But that proved to be a cumbersome chore, and it was hard to find “scarers,” Boggia and Wildes said, to help inspire the blood-curdling terror that kept the customers satisfied.
“Some people have said it’s better than the Canfield [Scaregrounds],” Wildes boasted.
This year, the trail will have lots of “scarers,” who by day are high-school kids and the youth ministry group at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. It will be open for two days only — Saturday, from dusk until 11:30 p.m., and Sunday, from dusk until 10 p.m. The starting point is 804 E. Liberty St., near Garland Welding.
The trail’s frightening fiends will have some pity on their victims. There will be tiki torches and glowing pumpkins to light their way and bonfires to warm their hearts grown cold with fear. A hayride will take them back to the start of the trail, where they can either escape or — dare to do it all again. At $4 a person or $12 for a family of four or more, Wildes and Boggia say, the trail is affordable for kids who want to go more than once.
As for Boggia? She’ll leave the wrangling to Wildes. “I collect tickets,” she said — and that’s as far as she’ll go.