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Cornfields at the Warner Farm turn haunted

In addition to the traditional corn maze with all its attractions, Mike Wissmann is adding Mike’s Haunted Corn field to the mix this year.

Recorder/Franz In addition to the traditional corn maze with all its attractions, Mike Wissmann is adding Mike’s Haunted Corn field to the mix this year. Purchase photo reprints »

SUNDERLAND — For eights nights in October, two acres of the Warner Farm will turn into a narrow, twisting haunted cornfield. On Oct. 12, Warner Farm, renowned for Mike’s Maze, will open Mike’s Haunted Maze.

In the middle of the 180-acre vegetable farm off North Main Street, a small farming village will transform into a ghoulish town. As visitors to the village will discover, the townspeople are inflicted by a supernatural sickness, turning them into walking zombies. To escape, visitors must find their way through the 10-foot-high cornstalks, knowing at any moment they may encounter something diabolical.

This is the sensation the maze’s makers say will terrorize those who walk through the cornfield.

The haunted maze evolved this winter when farm owner Mike Wissemann met Robin McLean, a UMass professor and artistic director of the maze, in the center of town. The two agreed that Wissemann would provide the cornfield and McLean, along with her friend Scott Salus, will do the theatrics.

Twelve actors and actresses have also joined the team and have rehearsed scenes and lines to make the maze’s first year a truly terrifying experience.

“If you get yourself in the frame of mind, it’s pretty scary,” Wissemann said. “The secret for a haunted house or cornfield is less is better because it’s the anticipation of something to come.”

The haunted cornfield is separate from Mike’s Maze. As maze-goers traverse through the tall cornstalks and answer farm riddles, feet away in another cornfield, people will scream in terror. Wissemann, separated the two fields so maze’s carefully crafted design is maintained.

This year is the farm’s 13th year for its popular corn maze, in which people can get lost within eight acres of the 200-acre farm. This year’s maze, created by Wissemann and Will Sillin, winds people through a cornfield facsimile of the famous 1850 oil painting, “The Sower” by French artist Jean-Francois Millet. Mike’s Maze is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to
5 p.m., while the haunted maze opens at sundown.

As Wissemann, McLean and Salus teamed up, they wanted to create a haunted cornfield that felt authentic.

“When we did the haunted maze, we didn’t want people to just walk through and say ‘boo.’ We developed a story line,” Wisseman said.

For three weeks, a group of 12 actors, made up of mostly University of Massachusetts-Amherst students, have rehearsed on the farm, preparing for the haunted maze’s opening night in two weeks. A rehearsal Wednesday night lasted four hours.

The haunted cornfield is essentially a theater in a cornfield with actors playing ghoulish roles. The haunted cornfield will be treated like a theater production. There will be three showings per night so groups don’t collide in the maze. The crowd will be divided into groups of six for each showing.

“We’re taking students interested in theater and turning them into zombies,” McLean said.

Mike’s Haunted Maze is open weekend nights from sundown to 10 p.m. Dates are Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, 28 and 31.

Admission is $15 for adults and $11 for students. The haunted cornfield is not recommended for children. But parents may bring children at their own discretion.

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