Fear takes time

For 25 years, the Trail of Terror has created fear through volunteer work

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Fear takes time

Jessica Simms, Arts and Life Editor

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In Wallingford, Connecticut, during the Halloween season, a beloved haunted attraction opens up to ignite fear within anyone that chooses to stop by. 

This cherished and fearful attraction is known as the Trail of Terror. It was created by Wayne Barneschi, a resident of Wallingford, 25 years ago and was originally opened up as a home haunt. 

“It was in our house. It was a home haunt,” Barenschi said. “We did that for three years. People loved it so it filled my grass and my house. So I said ‘I have to move somewhere else.’ So I decided to do an official one. The Trail of Terror.” 

The big changes within popularity and what the Trail is  today began when Barneschi decided to move this Halloween attraction to its current location in Wallingford 17 years ago.

“The front line area, which we thought was going to be our parking lot, it would’ve filled up in minutes,” Barneschi said explaining how popular the Trail is now today. “Now we require a football field full of cars or a soccer field full of cars. That’s each hour, it’s not like the old days. Now we have timed ticketing, so people come in, they buy their ticket and they can leave. Before you buy, you had to be in line at a certain time and then several hours later they get in.” 

After having close friends and family help, the Trail of Terror is now a professional non-profit haunted attraction that has 100 volunteer performers and more than 25 volunteer staff that work together to continue bringing frightening entertainment to the Trail each weekend in October for the approximately 2,000 customers that attend the Trail a night. For some of these volunteers, working at the Trail is something they have been doing for years. 

“This is my eighth year (working at the Trail),” Natalie Campagnuolo, a volunteer at the Trail of Terror, said. “It’s my 13th year in haunting, but this is my eighth year here.” 

The staff and volunteers that work at the Trail of Terror spend hours at the Trail each weekend, preparing and working to put on the performance that will scare each and every person that steps foot on the Trail. Lots of hard work and dedication goes into each night at the Trail of Terror.

“Some people come all day and we prepare everything,” Barneschi said. “Some people are out back fixing what broke last night and everyone starts to come around three. Our makeup department and costume department come right after that. At 5 p.m. we start assigning characters in. Then, in two hours, we have to get 150 or more characters in costume, in makeup and everything else.”

This year, especially, some of the veteran volunteers have noticed a change in the number of ticket sales, making this current Halloween season one of the best years the Trail has ever seen. 

“From a business standpoint, (the Trail of Terror) has changed dramatically in a very positive way,” Campagnuolo said.“This, I think, is one of the quickest years we have ever sold out. The industry is ever changing in lue of code and building and stuff like that, it’s more strict now to keep everybody safer, which is not a bad thing.” 

Even within the staff, despite some hard times, the volunteers had a good time spending time with one another and working together to keep the Trail a fun and scary attraction during the Halloween season. 

“On a personal level, with seeing everybody (at the Trail of Terror), we’ve been going through some struggle years with keeping everybody high morale,” Campagnuolo said.“But I would say this year was the year that everybody had fun. It’s getting there.” 

For volunteers at the Trail of Terror, the experience is enjoyable, but also takes time and the ability to be cautious is very important in order for the customers to have a worthwhile and safe experience going through the Trail.

“There’s the difference between if you have a prop that you carry and just character wise because you have to be careful,” Jewel Munck, a volunteer who has to carry a prop during the Trail, said. “Because we could have lawsuits against us.”  

Change is a big part of what makes the Trail of Terror such a unique Halloween attraction. Each year, the Trail itself is different when it comes down to the overall theme, scenes and characters. This year, for example, is the Trail of Terror’s 25th anniversary, so the theme is called “Fear Takes Time.” 

“We change every year,” Barneschi said. “We change about 70% every year and next year we have big changes again. I always say I’m not going to make big changes, but we have big changes for next year and they are already in the works. So we already started, not built yet, but planned out already. We will start the day after we close or a few days before we close. We’ll start tearing things down and start getting ready.” 

However, some of the main scenes stay the same, to keep the originality of the Trail of Terror there for loyal fans. 

“It’s changed a lot since I’ve been here,” Munck said. “All the scenes change each year, except the main ones like the clowns and the chainsaws and stuff.” 

Another aspect that sets the Trail of Terror apart from other haunted attractions is that it donates to many different local non-profit agencies. Over the years, the Trail has donated close to a million dollars to nonprofit agencies such as the Wallingford Emergency Shelter, the Red Cross and has worked closely with the Community Revitalization Efforts of Wallingford to support students who provide humanitarian aid in areas that need it, according to Connecticut Visit. 

For many, the Trail of Terror is a place to go to for the Halloween season, but for many volunteers it has become a place that they can call their second home. 

“I love seeing my friends and my family every single day,” Campagnuolo said. “The Trail is kind of home at this point. All my best memories and people are here.”