Heed the warning…they leave screaming. Fear has a way of setting in when you approach one home in the Rivers Bend neighborhood, hearing screams coming from its backyard – at least on Halloween. For the last several years, a group of teenage boys have recruited their parents and a few friends to help create one of the scariest walks one may take through a maze, not just for fun, but also a way to raise money for a few favorite charities. This will be the final year for the horror-filled nightmare for their neighbors, two will head off to college next fall and their Halloween haunts will only be a memory.
Honor roll students, Austin Correia and Steven Dail, seniors at Thomas Dale High School and David Belisle, a junior at Clover Hill High School, were deep in the woods finalizing construction on the maze last Sunday, made up of six to seven zones which includes music, foggers, strobe lights, hanging dolls and anything they can find to scare people and accentuate the frightening characters the visitors will run into while traveling through the horror-filled nightmare.
The boys have been buddies for years and the scare tactics on Halloween started when Austin and his friends felt they were too old to Trick-or-Treat. “It [scare tactics] started when the boys were in the fourth grade,” said Mike Correia. “They had stopped doing Trick-or-Treat, so they starting setting up things to scare trick-or-treaters in the front yard.” Correia said it grew and grew over the years and the maze became a favorite stopping point for their community on Halloween. “It’s large, very large,” said Steven’s mom, Kelly Dail, also helping out on Sunday. The maze was moved to the backyard four years ago and has become a three-family activity.
The fund-raising from the maze came about when Austin and Steven had entered high school and became members of the Key Club. The boys had to raise money for UNICEF for their club. When Halloween came around and the maze was opened they had placed the UNICEF boxes out for visitors to see when they entered the maze, and the donations came in. Over the last couple of years the boys have raised enough money to be able to distribute the monies to the American Cancer Society, Junior Diabetes Society and the Richmond SPCA, as well as UNICEF.
Along with Correia and Dail enjoying the fun on Sunday were David’s dad, Scott Belisle; Steven’s sister, Lynn and good friend, Adam Gore.
“The boys do a lot of dumpster diving,” said Mike Correia. He was happy to see a kitchen sink arrive, which will be used in the Asylum zone. Correia and Belisle are engineers, as well as Ken Dail and Mike’s wife, Sharon, and are able to help construct the maze observing safety guidelines with the materials and placement of objects. “The boys tell us what to build, and we build it,” said Belifle. Kelly Dail also said the boys will spend their own money if materials are needed which cannot be found in the dumpster.
Now that the boys are older, the maze keeps getting scarier. “The most difficult challenge for us every year is wanting to go bigger and better,” said David Belisle. Even though they do have some of the same zones each year like the Medieval Zone, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Harvest Hollow, Hansel and Gretel and the Doll House, they try to change it up each year so previous visitors do not know what to expect.
When darkness falls on Correia’s home on the three nights the maze will be open, it will take seven to 10 minutes to walk through the nightmare. Correia said there can be a 35- to 45-minute wait for visitors to get their turn and while waiting, visitors can view a showing of “Beetlejuice” on a large screen playing in the front yard.
The remainder of the three families, mom Sharon Correia and Austin’s brother, Alex, dad Ken Dail, mom Patty Belisle and David’s sister, Krista, will be ready to play their parts come opening night this Saturday at 7:15 p.m. A rehearsal for family members will be prior to opening night. Halloween night the hours will be from 7:15 p.m. until 9 p.m. and the following Saturday from 7:15 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Lynn Dail sums it up saying, “I like to scare people. Lots of people,” she said. “Especially from school when they come here and they do not know it is me. I enjoy scaring people.”
Kelly Dail is proud of the boys and what they are doing. “Even though it is more about the fun, they are doing something good for the community and raising money for charities they believe in,” she said. “The subdivision has been very supportive. It is a community event.” The boys along with their dads will spend around 200 hours building and breaking down the maze.
“Make no mistake, they are having the time of their lives,” said Scott Belisle.