Getting chased by chainsaws in the Newberry Cornfield Maze

In the last few years, theme parks have made big bucks selling late-night tickets to Halloween-themed special events.  Busch Gardens has Howl-O-Scream, Universal Studios has Halloween Horror Night, Sea World has Spooctacular, Lowry Park Zoo has Zoo Boo.

And Hodge Farms has the Newberry Cornfield Maze.

OK, so the cornfield maze isn’t as big or flashy or scary as the shows put on by the big-shots, but it’s got a certain small-town charm that Universal Studios could never match.

The Newberry Cornfield Maze is held every year on a remote farm about 20 miles west of Gainesville.  For $9, you can walk the haunted corn maze as many times as you’d like and make one pass through the haunted house.  For an additional $5, you can ride a haunted hay ride around the farm.

Corn maze entrance

That’s about as ominous a maze entrance as I could imagine.

The corn maze was a lot of fun.  The maze wasn’t too extensive, but navigating your way through with flashlights and moonlight makes the event pretty spooky.  Of course, the masked, chainsaw-weilding psychos add some scares too.

Yes, that’s right.  As you walk through the maze, you will get chased by people with chainsaws.  They’ll be hiding in the corn, and they’ll jump out when you’re not expecting it. And if you look scared, they’ll follow you around, gang up on you, and rev their chainsaws so loud you won’t be able to hear your friends laughing at you.

The maze wasn’t really the type that you would get lost in.  We went through it twice, and neither time did it take us more than 20-30 minutes, walking slowly.  But there’s still something about being in a corn field, in the dark, with the chainsaws roaring in the background, that can make you feel uneasy, even if you’re not easily spooked.

Corn maze chainsaw

A masked chainsaw-er jumps out of the corn.

If you panic or are very easily scared, you’re never that far from the entrance or exit.  And the chainsaws don’t have chains, so you’re not in any real danger.

But isn’t the fun of it in the “what-ifs?”  What if you were alone in a corn maze at night?  What if you were being chased by a chainsaw killer?

And I can tell you, a cornfield is the last place I’d like to be at night.  The stalks creek and groan as the breeze pushes them around.  You can’t see more than a few feet in any direction.  There are absolutely no noticeable landmarks.  Every turn looks the same.

It’s like walking through a nightmare.

Corn and the moon

Walking the corn maze by moonlight.

Once you stumble your way out of the maze, it’s off to the haunted house.  We waited in line for about half an hour, and then climbed into the old school bus that serves as the entrance to the haunted house (itself mostly in a barn, as would be expected).

The haunted house takes about 10 minutes to get through, and it’s pretty darn good.  It doesn’t have an elaborate theme like the big theme parks, and the gory makeup looks mostly self-applied, but they did a really good job of making a haunted house that’s fun and scary.

The hallways are narrow, there’s lots of sharp turns (in haunted houses, those are always a bit intimidating), and zombies pop out of trap-doors in the walls.  There’s some gruesome bits – heads hanging from the ceiling, blood splatters, corpses – that might make parents of young kids uncomfortable.  But for the older crowd, the haunted house offered lots of screams and laughs.

Haunted school bus

The haunted school bus that serves as the entrance to the haunted house.

There’s also a haunted hay ride, although we chose not to fork over the extra $5 to ride.  But looking on, I could tell that the hay ride (in the back of a farm truck) took guests around the edge of the property, and at various times, the hay ride was boarded by masked villains.  I’m guessing that it’s fun to watch people squirm on that ride, because unlike the corn maze, there’s nowhere to run in the back of a truck.

Sure, a critic could find some things to complain about here – the corn maze was a little unorganized and not very big, at times it was so crowded that it wasn’t as scary as it could have been, charging extra for the hayride wasn’t expected, and the scare actors rely a bit too heavily on chainsaws (as in, every single one has a chainsaw).

But considering the cause – the scare actors are Gainesville High School students in the Future Farmers of America program and are raising money for that program – it’s hard to complain.  And on those crisp north Florida nights in October and November, it’s difficult to imagine a spookier, more unique way to get ready for Halloween.

Creeper chases kids

A monster chases a group of friends into the maze.

The Newberry Corn Maze is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Nov. 3.  It’s open from 3-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday.  The farm is located on State Road 26 (aka Newberry Road) about two miles east of Newberry.  Parking is free, but the parking lot, like the corn maze, is very dark – so bring flashlights.

There’s a few other things going on at the farm – a mechanical bull, a bonfire, a corn pit for the kids (a vat of corn kernels, like a fast food ball pit) – that are included in the admission price.

And a note on the photos here:  Sorry.  It was very dark, all I could carry was a cellphone, and the flash was reflecting off the thick humidity.  But, this should give you an idea of what the place is like.

They are not open on Halloween night, but they will be open the weekend after.  For $9, it’s definitely worth it.

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