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Clowns, chainsaws creep Trail of Terror patrons

MINGO — The woods are a creepy place. From the woodlands near Crystal Lake to H.P. Lovecraft’s Enchanted Woods, forests have always been known to hide some truly terrifying monsters.

Whether you leave a trail of breadcrumbs or document your findings on a video camera, many horror stories suggest if you enter the woods, you are not getting out. And no one can hear you scream.

“The wind and walking through the woods at night is already spooky. You add in the lights, the other stuff they bring and stuff hanging in the trees, that is just another dynamic of it,” Des Moines resident, Jacob Keeney said. “It isn’t your typical haunted house.”

For the third year, the Baxter Fun Days committee returned to the woods of Ashton Wildwood Park for its horrifying fundraiser, the Trail of Terror.

“It wasn’t very fun,” 6-year-old Ava Maxwell said with a smile. “There was a lot of screaming ... The scariest thing was the lady with the can in her eye.”

Like it or not, nothing puts you in the Halloween mood better than attending a walk-through scare attraction. Whether they braved through it, like Ava or ran through screaming like her mother, Katie Maxwell, about 180 trailblazers enjoyed coming out Friday for the fundraiser’s opening night.

“It is fun. It is spread out and you get to experience the whole Trail of Terror,” said Katie Maxwell, who lives in the Baxter School District. “It is a great way to support the community.”

Unlike traditional haunted house attractions, the Trail of Terror is set up on a poorly lit trail in the middle of the forest thanks to the approval of the Jasper County Conservation Board. Armed with only a dimly lit flashlight, patrons are asked to walk about three-quarters of a mile through several typical Halloween scenes. Awaiting right around every corner are a variety of Halloween favorites, from pig-masked serial killers to crazed asylum patients, who are ready to greet unsuspecting passersby.

“It kind of has the ‘Hills Have Eyes’ feel to it ... We have eight to 10 scenes this year. Some play into pop culture, with ‘It’ coming out. There may be stuff like that in there,” committee member, Chad Maxwell said. “It usually takes 15 minutes to get through it. If you are really scared, you can get through it in three minutes.”

The committee president said this year’s trail features more scenes compared to years past. With about 40 volunteers a night, each scene guarantees a good amount of scarers to jump out at patrons at the perfect moment.

“There was a moment where you are on a bridge and there was just a single balloon. That got me,” Keeney said. “The reference to ‘It’ — that was a good one.”

With the proceeds of the event benefiting the small town’s annual celebration, Baxter Fun Days, several patrons said the fundraiser was a perfect way to support the community while creating unforgettable, Halloween memories.

“The best memory I have had was when the Newton Daily News lady came out last year and got down to the first corner, turned back around and came right back,” committee president, Justin Smith said. “I’m not kidding you, that was the funniest moment. It was great.”

The Trail of Terror received the “Best Actors” and “Can We Just Rest A Bit?” awards in 2016 from Des Moines Haunted Houses.

To encourage patrons to document their adventure in true Blair Witch Project fashion, the Baxter Fun Days committee created a Snapchat filter catered specifically for the fundraiser.

After canceling its operations due to weather Saturday, the haunted trail will be open for two more nights — from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission costs $10.

For more information about the annual fundraiser, call 641-227-3120, visit or find Baxter Fun Day’s Trail of Terror on Facebook.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at

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