by Haley Goetz
Returning back to the cornfield of chainsaws brought me a certain sense of peace every October. Beginning in my pre-teen years, making the trip to Haunted Overload became a tradition. Located in Lee, New Hampshire, Haunted Overload is a winding walk through chilling environments. Getting out of Haunted Overload with your wits intact is a feat unto itself. You must be ready for people in masks to jump out at you with chainsaws (the chains are non-functioning, of course), along with dealing with a wide variety of other ghouls scaring you along your walk in the dark at any possible moment.
I first learned about the volunteer program through my friend Leslie during my freshman year in high school. We were sitting together in our World Cultures class when she told me about it. About two weeks later, there I was in the so-called “mine” section of “the Haunt,” as it’s affectionately called by those who volunteer as actors there. Leslie’s older brother Brandon was also with me in the mine, as was my dad on a few occasions. We were all dressed as miners, and I was wearing an actual hard hat that my dad gave me (authentic, I know). I remember my three “scares” quite vividly from my time in the mine: jumping out at people from this sort of alcove that was tucked away against a wall, clapping in their faces in one of the smaller mine shafts, and jumping out at them and/or writhing on the floor of the actual mine shaft itself. It was all quite fun, until the leader of our section fell ill one day and my dad and I were left in charge of a huge swath of land. Essentially, if any part of our little establishment caught on fire or some drunk person became rather unruly, we were fucked.
I took two years off from Haunting after that. My parents just weren’t that comfortable with me doing it, especially because I would be alone outside a lot of the time and sometimes the people that walked through Haunted Overload weren’t in the best of mindsets (if you know what I mean). When I became a senior in high school who had a car to drive, I got to Haunt once again. This time around, I was a scarecrow. My friend Isabelle and I started off in the cornfield section. Even though it was densely packed with actors, we still had our fun. Isabelle would jump out at people from behind walls or stalks of hay, while I hid in the barn. I had a fake bloodstained knife that I gleaned from a Spirit Halloween store, so that certainly helped my act. I elicited more than a few screams as a “demon scarecrow.” At one point, however, it became so unbearably crowded in the barn and cornfield proper that I ended up moving to the “beehive,” another silo-like outpost that had a repeat track on of bees buzzing at full volume. It was a mutual decision for Isabelle and I to move to the mummy/hunting lodge section. We were somehow allowed to be placed here, even though we were still in scarecrow form.
Once Isabelle and I moved out of the cornfield, we truly shined in our Hauntings. My crowning achievement included climbing a ladder to hang from the ceiling rafters of the lodge, where I would then silently put my knife to people’s throats. I was featured on the local news doing just that to a group of screaming girls. It was great. My favorite part about this style of Haunting was that I didn’t have to speak. I could instead utilize my fear tactics all while being silent, and I was just as terrifying this way. It was cathartic in a way to see the looks on people’s faces as I scared them. Sometimes they wouldn’t even realize I was a person until my knife was nearly on their body. My experience at Haunted Overload brought with it such a frenzied release of unbridled energy. In high school, especially toward the end of it, I was a rather reserved kid used to not being in the limelight. While I was Haunting, however, I was at the center of everyone’s attention and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as gleeful as I did there, hanging from the ceiling rafters.