Photo by Griffin Mancuso. CCAT staff reviewing liability waivers outside the Haunted Garden.

A dollar for your screams: the CCAT Haunted Garden experience


by Griffin Mancuso

On the edge of campus, the sound of Michael Myers’ theme floated up from the entrance to the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology’s Buch House. The garden, normally home to a variety of edible crops and other plants, was transformed into a maze with shadowy figures lurking in every corner. Guests in a variety of costumes from Little Red Riding Hood to Sonic the Hedgehog paid the one dollar entry fee and vanished into the maw of a green monster with curled horns.

CCAT’s Haunted Garden event on Oct. 28 garnered lots of attention from students and community members this year, and I had to see for myself if the scares were worth the one dollar entry fee. 

After I passed the toothy threshold of the maze, four small pumpkins with “CCAT” carved into them were the last remaining comfort before I was enveloped in darkness. A string of colorful fairy lights outlined the pathway and added to the whimsical atmosphere, but did little to illuminate the surrounding decor. Going in, I was aware that there were volunteer scare actors, but I greatly underestimated their dedication to their roles.

Photo by Griffin Mancuso. The entrance to the CCAT Haunted Garden.

I started my journey through the haunted garden behind a group of guests, so I got a ten-second notice before any upcoming scares. Unfortunately, it was so dark that I couldn’t tell where they were coming from or what they looked like.

A mysterious figure wearing a ragged newspaper mask, who I initially assumed was a part of the group in front of me, suddenly turned around and gave me the most uncomfortable eye contact for a solid 20 seconds. The eye holes in the mask were small, black pits that I couldn’t bear to look away from.  I expected them to eventually scream or lunge towards me, but they eventually stepped to the side, watching me closely as I rushed forward.

I became highly aware of my surroundings after that. I passed another actor who had finished scaring a group ahead of me and decided to watch me silently, crawling around in a way that I don’t think humans are supposed to move. I turned around to make sure no one was following me, only to notice a decapitated torso near the trail’s fairy lights (a fake one, thankfully).

Following the steady incline to the upper level of the garden, a disembodied voice whispered, “Boo!” I whipped my head around to see an actor dressed in all black smiling at me, crouched behind a bush. I decided to try being funny, raised my hands in the air, and loudly went “Ah!” The sound of their ominous giggling followed me as I continued.

As I walked along the upper ledge, a rare source of light from a workbench area appeared ahead of me. As I got closer, the roar of a weed wacker met my ears as an actor revved it in the direction of a group ahead of me. I was not initially startled, but my face twisted into an uncomfortable frown as I saw who was holding the weed wacker. The actor wore a dull, flesh-colored mask with no features besides a large mouth with sharp, bloodstained teeth.

I was caught off-guard twice after that. As I walked along the upper ledge, I was startled by an actor in a clown mask whose blood-curdling scream made me jump out of my skin. I rushed forward through a section of the garden that was lined with tarps. As I turned around a corner, I screamed again as a witch with a shrill cackle lunged towards me. I cursed my tendency to easily startle and pressed forward.

Hiding in a corner just before a short descent was a person in a full body black suit with large googly eyes pointing in opposite directions and a toothy grin. While this actor’s costume was almost comedic, it was a little less funny once they started shuffling towards me while making intense googly eye contact. They reminded me of a spider, but one of those terrifying, giant Australian kinds.

Just past the last source of light in the maze where a three-foot tall skeleton lounged in an Ace Hardware wheelbarrow, I heard a stream of chilling laughter behind a corner. I approached nervously and found that the laughter was coming from a ghostly nun with black lipstick. I was more impressed than anything and felt compelled to tell them. They seemed flattered.

I stepped out of the maze back onto the blacktop leading up to the Buch House, slightly frazzled but satisfied with my experience. For a haunted maze set up in a small garden with a limited budget, it was definitely worth more than a dollar.

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