For a holiday that - commercially speaking - celebrates ghosts, goblins and ghouls one night a year, Halloween occupies the minds of South Jersey's haunted house and hayride organizers for much longer.
"We start talking about the hayride in July," Mike Fiedor, chief of the Scullville Volunteer Fire Department in Egg Harbor Township, said Friday. "Actual planning starts at the end of July."
Fiedor said the department's annual haunted hayride and maze - in it's 10th year this month - takes nearly two-and-a-half months to prepare and 130 volunteers to orchestrate.
The department's volunteers are not the only ones to offer an attraction with the purpose of raising money and making people tremble in their shoes. Other organizers said they dedicate hundreds of hours to preparing for the spooky season.
Rich Collison operates two corn mazes at R and J Farm in Galloway Township - one called the "Cornfield of Terror" - and said he starts thinking about new scare tactics in January.
"You've got to think through ideas," he said, adding visitors want the "best scare" if they are paying money for any attraction. "They pay money to be scared."
Collison said each year he thinks of new ways to update the event because there are many options when it comes to where people opt to get their scary fix.
"To try to give ourselves a financial advantage, we leaned toward nighttime," he said.
That's why he added the Cornfield of Terror two years ago.
The field, which consists of a winding path and plenty of places for actors to hide, is outfitted with all the Halloween essentials.
The first stop of the trail is a cemetery complete with tombstones, a fog machine and strobe lighting. It's a prime place for one of the 17 actors to sneak up behind an unsuspecting visitor and prompt the first terrified squeal of the night.
Collison said the best compliment he received about his trail last year was from a State Police officer. At the end of the trail, it was disclosed that "one pair of shorts" wasn't enough for the walk that terrified the traditionally brave individual.
"I pride myself on the scare," he said.
Hope Perez, a volunteer with the Nesco Volunteer Fire Co. in Hammonton, said their haunted house is prepared in September and is operated by volunteers. The hayride is operated by both firefighters and community members.
Perez - who admits she likes the thrill of a good scare - said people typically go to the annual event to support the fire department but stay to see what new skits or terrors have been added.
"It's ... a really good fundraiser," she said, when asked why people voluntarily attend scary attractions. "But people love this stuff."
While it seems most people enjoy looking over their shoulder and anticipating the next masked monster to jump from behind the trees, Collison and Fiedor said it also is important to offer something the whole family can enjoy.
The corn maze Collison creates every year is open both day and night.
At night, people of all ages go through the maze with a flashlight without the fear of actors jumping out at them.
"Our main objective is to bring families together," Fiedor said. "It's a family night out."
In addition to the haunted hayride, visitors at the Scullville event can play carnival games, grab a bite to eat and sip on steaming apple cider.
If you go
R and J Farm, at 723 W. Herschel Street, Galloway Township, runs its corn maze from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The flashlight maze begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Cornfield of Terror is open from about 6:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Scullville Volunteer Fire Department offers its haunted hayride from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 7 to 10 p.m. Sundays at Flemings Junkyard, 353 Zion Road, Egg Harbor Township.
Contact Caitlin Dineen: