Dead Land Haunted Woods
Dead Land will be open 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays now through Nov. 2 as well as on Halloween night. It features three attractions: two trails, The Curse and the new Portal: Movie Madness, $15 each; and the Maze of Screams, $10. Admission for all three is $30 or one trail and the Maze, $20. For more info, go online to deadlandwoods.com. The spooky site is at 7040 Murfreesboro Road (Highway 231), about a mile-and-a-half past the entrance to Cedars of Lebanon State Park on the right; Directions from Lebanon: Take Highway 231 South about 8 miles.
Trails, maze star 80 spooktacular characters
“If you throw some blood on me I’ll be ready to go,” hollers Tracy Lambert, who walks out of the makeup barn looking something like Annie from the horror flick “Trick or Treat.”
Welcome to Dead Land Haunted Woods, where Lambert of Lebanon is but one of 82 actors, ranging in age from 10 to 60-something, who will entertain thousands of normally sane people paying good money to be frightened out of their wits throughout October.
Dana Chapman, the mastermind behind Dead Land Haunted Woods, poses with Screw Loose (Lebanon’s Jerry Etheridge), a not-so-funny clown, at the entrance to the Maze of Screams. Chapman’s fifth edition of Dead Land features 80 actors doing their dead-level best to scare the living daylight out of those brave enough to challenge its two trails and maze.
Sue Rogers as a schoolteacher
Tyler Carden as Herschel Walker
Shayna Thulman as a voodoo priestess
In the guise of Freddie Krueger from “Nightmare on Elm Street” fame, Richard Muir of Murfreesboro greets Dead Land visitors as they approach The Portal.
The scary forest just down the road from Cedars of Lebanon State Park was concocted in 2009 by the monster-minded Dana Chapman, a fun-loving horsewoman from Lascassas in Rutherford County.
“Dead Land is an event where you’re gonna be able to make memories with your friends,” Chapman said. “It’s more of a Halloween experience. A lot of (commercial) haunted houses you go in and get popped out in the end, and that’s it. Here it’s more about hanging out with your friends and making memories.”
As for what’s new this year, Chapman describes the Maze of Screams saying, “It has colorful, moving lights and rave music. It’s a pallet maze full of clowns, and some people will buy a ticket and won’t even go in it because it’s so scary.
“You walk through a clown’s mouth to get in it. I guess if you’re terrified of clowns you shouldn’t go in,” she warns.
Meanwhile, the Portal Trail has received a cinematic makeover. Titled “Movie Madness,” it stars such familiar film characters as Jason from “Friday the 13th,” Freddy Krueger from “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Chucky, Pennywise, Van Helsing, Candyman and others from the chillers “Pet Cemetery,” “Walking Dead,” “Scream,” “The Ring” and “8-Legged Freaks.”
“We have our traditional trail, The Curse, with Herschel Walker and the zombie schoolhouse, and the Curse has been updated. One other cool thing we have this year are zombie dancers that perform at 7 every night,” the mistress of scares said.
Dead Land is open 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays now through Nov. 2 as well as on Halloween night.
Chapman’s inspiration for Dead Land came from home Halloween parties she hosted for family and friends that grew more elaborate each years. She and her father, Bob Mossburg of Lebanon, conceived of the haunted woods as a project that proved cathartic while Dana’s mother was battling colon cancer.
“The parties got bigger and bigger and bigger to where we were making little haunted houses and acting out skits. It was a family and friends thing that lasted one night that kind of turned into Dead Land,” Chapman recalled.
Helping the fright-minded impresario put on her show this year are 82 actors from such places as Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, Murfreesboro, Norene, Watertown, Smyrna, Smithville, Hermitage and Antioch.
Returning for his fifth season is Tyler Carden of Lebanon, who portrays Civil War ghost soldier Herschel Walker.
“I’ve been a vampire, a werewolf, a clown, a little bit of everything,” said Carden, who wears contact lens to give his orbs a spooky aura. “I enjoy the reactions of the people. This is awesome. We’re like one big family, never a dull moment.”
Another constant presence has been Jessica West of Watertown, who wears the guise of Anna from the movie “Van Helsing.”
“I’ve been here since the very first audition,” West said. “We had one trail and about 20 actors in a mile and it’s become 80 actors, two trails and a maze. I enjoy getting to come out here and celebrate Halloween for more than a day. It’s fun to get dressed up and become someone else.”
Making his debut this season is Richard Muir of Murfreesboro, who looks dashing and slashing as Freddy Krueger at the entrance to The Portal.
“I have friends who have been coming here since they started. I love it. There’s not many places where you scream for fun. I’ve had people jump, cry and run away,” Muir said.
Marilyn Cave does double duty as one of the four makeup artists and playing the bride of Chucky.
“The challenge is getting all the actors done in time and making custom prosthetics. I do the more gorish zombies, some ripped flesh, some of the witches and detailing with the airbrush,” Cave said of her skills.
Chapman said the trails and maze take about 25-30 minutes each to traverse and the spooky site is appropriate for ages 9 and older. A Halloween party will be held Oct. 31 with live entertainment, a costume contest, pumpkin-carving contest, games and prizes.
Treats and potions will be available each night as the concessions include hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, chili, chili-cheese fries, frozen Snickers, hot chocolate and Smores for the campfire.
Dana, who boards horses at Chapman Quarter Horses in Lascassas, lived in Wilson County from 1989 to 2005. Besides her father, who helps with construction, electronics and emotional support, she is assisted by her sister Denise O’Connell and her husband Gerald Chapman, who “runs around all night long making sure all the stuff is running and keeps me on my budget.
“I run around here like a chicken with my head cut off,” laughed the Queen of Dead Land, who one night just might qualify to play the Headless Horsewoman.
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.