Volunteers transform an Aberdeen farm into Legends of the Fog

For Harford Magazine
Each year, more than 100 actors transform into creatures of the night for this Aberdeen haunted attraction.

The screaming comes from behind the cornfield, a good half-mile away. Recognizable as female, the sound is blood-curdling and alarming.

It is what Ceceliah Hutton is known for.

Wearing an ethereal, bloodied gown and contacts that make her eyes look entirely white, she has become remarkably good at frightening people.

"I hold the record for [triggering] two panic attacks," Hutton says. "I guess I shouldn't be proud of that. But I really am."

She is one of more than 100 actors who help transform an Aberdeen sod farm into Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction that drew more than 12,000 people last year.

The Barberry family has devoted about 100 acres of their 600-acre farm to the Halloween operation, which is open weekends through Nov. 5.

It takes about 90 minutes to experience the entire attraction, which includes a haunted inn, circus, corn maze, film screening and hayride.

Lines on peak nights can extend several hours, though the time passes quickly in the "midway" where a food vendor and live bands (or DJs) cater to the crowds. A "fast pass" option is also available, geared to customers who are trying to make it to multiple haunted venues in a night.

Legends' location just off Interstate 95 makes it convenient for those hitting haunted sites in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. But it's also become a destination in its own right.

"We have an awesome base of customers who return year after year," says 32-year-old Legends creator Patrick Barberry, who runs the farm with his family.

***

Barberry has been planning for this Halloween since New Year's.

He, his wife, Robyn, parents Mike and Charlene, other relatives and crew begin with a pitch party, sketching out possible story lines. There is a narrative arc from one scene to the next. (And even one year to the next — last year's orphanage has been bought by a developer and turned into a hotel this year.)

"We like things to make sense," says Barberry.

The overall creative thread is the "fog" that drifts into the area, changing people, bringing inanimate things to life and luring creatures into the cornfields.

Through the winter, the staff tweaks stories and adds costumes, and in spring, they begin training volunteer staff. Billboards go up in late summer, and films are shared on Youtube and social media.

The idea for Legends grew out of a college project by Barberry. Refined during brainstorming with friends, it opened in 2007 with a corn maze, a pumpkin patch and a haunted hayride with live action. It has grown bigger and more elaborate each year.

In addition to the Barberry family, several hundred volunteers are involved in the weekend productions.

There are people like Dan Boehm of Edgewood, a 40-year-old special effects specialist for the U.S. Army who helps with makeup and applying prosthetic masks, and Sarah Hawman, a 21-year-old Joppatowne college student, who serves as house manager for the "Farewell Hotel."

When a guest recoils at the bloody bathroom scene, Hawman, who started eight years ago as a china doll in a coat closet, has the opposite reaction: "It's awesome," she says.

That love of horror binds the staff together. The most dedicated volunteers are rewarded with perks such as a fully paid bus trip to see another haunted attraction. "We have about 100 on the bus every year," says Bob Wojtek, a hospital security manager who works the operations side of Legends.

About 75 percent of the volunteers return yearly, adjusting work and school schedules to fit their Legends commitment.

Hutton, now a 20-year-old sushi chef, was 11 when a cousin told her about Legends. Now, she says, "This is my family. Every year I get more attached."

It is hard to explain the appeal, says Barberry.

"There's the adrenaline of competition with the flavor of theater," he says. "You put on that mask and become someone else."

***

Brian Raymond becomes fire.

The 38-year-old retired Marine from Aberdeen works the hayride, jumping on the wagon in a custom red and orange flame silicon mask, black trench coat and combat boots, menacing the riders.

"October is my favorite month," says Raymond. "I love to scare the s--- out of people."

The father of three also has a knack for it.

"I once made a woman pee herself," Raymond says. "That she'd admit that — that's the greatest feeling for actors here."

Those that come talking trash about how not scared they are usually end up very quiet, he says. "I'll find something to get you."

Although, he adds, "Whether we get a scare or a laugh, it doesn't really matter."

The youngest actors this year are 10-year-old triplets who work the circus that Barberry describes as "an early American sideshow gone wrong."

Since early summer, Maggie, Abby and Marian Blasdell have been practicing their line, delivered in unison in their creepiest voices: "Come play with us."

There is not a firm age requirement for guests, though generally Barberry advises 10 and up.

"You have to know your kid," he says. "My 7-year-old is our biggest fan, but there are teenagers who won't come on the property."

The scariness touches on people's primal fears of being hunted, Barberry says. They might go home and shut their doors a little tighter, or check their closets before bed. If nothing else, he says, "It's a release from the grind."

Sharing the experience with family and friends creates "camaraderie" he says. "People who come here are buying memories."

 

If you go

Legends of the Fog
500 Carsins Run Road, Aberdeen
443-390-6900
legendsofthefog.com

Open Fridays to Sundays through Oct. 30. (Hours vary.) A special "Lights Out" event is held Nov. 4 to 5.

General admission is $30. A fast pass is an additional $10-$15 depending on the date.

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Legends of the Fog the numbers

20,000,000: Pounds of gravel installed over 10 years to keep guests out of the mud

500: Pizzas consumed by Fog actors per season.(About 4,000 slices.)

300: Bales of straw used for hayride. (They grow and harvest their own.)

150: Actors who participate in a season (100 to 110 per night.)

55: Gallons of fog fluid used in a season

25: Gallons of fake blood created by staff in a season

Source: Patrick Barberry, Legends of the Fog creator

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