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These Maryland residents will spend 30 hours in a coffin — voluntarily

Elkridge resident Steve Graham won an office Halloween costume contest in 2016 when he outfitted himself as The Babadook, the title character in a 2014 thriller. Graham is one of six Marylanders who will voluntarily spend 30 hours in a coffin for Six Flags America's Fright Fest.
Elkridge resident Steve Graham won an office Halloween costume contest in 2016 when he outfitted himself as The Babadook, the title character in a 2014 thriller. Graham is one of six Marylanders who will voluntarily spend 30 hours in a coffin for Six Flags America's Fright Fest. (Steve Graham)

Diamond Quigley has big plans for her coffin.

The 24-year-old Severn resident is studying to be a mortician at Community College of Baltimore County and says she has no qualms whatsoever about spending this weekend inside a partially closed casket as part of Six Flags America’s 2018 Fright Fest.

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She’s one of six Marylanders — and among more than 100 adults nationwide — who will voluntarily allow themselves to be interred for 30 hours beginning at 5 p.m. Friday as part of the theme park’s Fright Fest 2018. The announcement late last month that the entertainment complex was looking for the real-life, grown-up equivalents of Wednesday Addams — the fictitious television daughter in “The Addams Family” who bedded down each night in satin-lined coffin — touched off a viral sensation.

The St. Louis franchise alone received more than 45,000 applications from candidates, according to Denise Stokes, communications manager of the Maryland franchise. She said the local chapter received about 500 applications from prospective coffin dwellers living in a dozen states, including Arizona and Texas.

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“It just took off,” Stokes said. “And the people who applied all had amazing stories.”

After being “laid to rest” at 5 p.m. in caskets that are seven feet long by two feet wide, the lids will be shut from the chest down, she said. The coffin commandos will receive six-minute bathroom breaks each hour, occasional limited cell phone use, meals in their caskets and unannounced visits from the Fright Fest freaks.

It’s not that the, err, winners of the competition will get rich from a weekend spent supine. Those who complete the 30-hour marathon will receive a pair of 2019 Six Flags season passes, a pair of VIP passes to the haunted house and seats on the Fright Fest Freak Train. They’ll be paid $300 — and they get to keep their coffins.

“I’m really excited to win a coffin,” Quigley said. “It is going in my dining room. It will be on display.”

Less than a week before children and adults all over the country will be donning costumes meant to transform them into someone (or something) else, the debate over what constitutes an offensive Halloween costume, and how much people should care, rages on.

This won’t actually be her first experience preparing for burial. During a recent visit to Six Flags, Quigley and her friends found a coffin on display advertising Fright Fest. The pals took turns posing inside and snapping photos.

Quigley acknowledges that she’s more comfortable with death than are most people she knows.

“Death is normally looked at as taboo,” she said. “But it’s part of life. We have to learn to be more accepting of it.”

Other Maryland participants in 2018 Freak Fest are Betty Smith of Edgewater, who is related to the family that owned the land in Upper Marlboro where Maryland’s Six Flags is located; William Briggs of Olney, who wants to get used to tight spaces because he’s training to be a firefighter; Michele Briley of Cheverly, who said she couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate her 60th birthday; Nicholas Stiles of Silver Spring, who jokes that as a die-hard fan of three New York sports teams (the Jets, Mets and Islanders) he’s used to feeling dead, and Steven Graham of Elkridge.

As the father of two adolescent daughters, Graham said he’s become inured to experiences that would terrify most mere mortals.

“Lily is 11 and Sophia is 14,” Graham said. “They are very skeptical that I can accomplish this. But Halloween is my favorite holiday. I am determined to impress them and show them that I can be a cool dad.”

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