No comfort zone on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2000

the Ariton

Haunted Hayride


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Features Editor

Any dark, misty night, those brave enough to climb aboard a rickety wagon and ride through the hollows of Halloween are likely to encounter a raging headless horseman who will sling his head their way and knock them right out of their comfort zone.

That’s just one of the many "thrills" awaiting those who take the Halloween Hay Ride of Horrors at Ariton’s "Halloween" Hollow a.k.a. Christmas City.

During the spookiest time of year, Christmas City takes on a completely different look as it decks out for horror.

Few people have an opportunity to buy a "city" but, when Pike Countians, Jim and Chellie Phillips and brothers, Jeff and Tommy Parish, heard the knock, they jumped to open the door.

"Buying Christmas City was

a chance to do something out of the ordinary," Chellie Phillips said. "We all wanted to open a business that would allow us to use our imaginations and be creative and have fun and, hopefully, make a little money on the side."

Jeff Parish said the possibilities of owning a "city" were greater than at just one season of the year.

"Christmas City’s not just for Christmas anymore," he said. "People seem to really enjoy Halloween and haunted places, so we decided to try a haunted hayride. So, we built it and people are coming and getting the scare of their lives."

Parish said the hayride is "scary but not that scary."

"But, we don’t recommend it for small children, people with heart conditions or pregnant women," he said. "Otherwise, those brave enough are invited to take the hayride of horrors."

The hayride includes eight frightening "living dead" scenes and then there’s no guarantee that there aren’t creatures of the dark roaming the woods looking for prey.

The dark wagon trail sets the mood right away and the eerie sounds that echo through the woods are enough to make the spine tingle.

And the fear-fests along the way make for scary fun.

"The body chemicals that make you feel terrified are the same ones that make you feel happy," Phillips said. "So, it’s a scary-happy hayride."

But once that wagon stops and the hayriders enter the haunted barn, the word "happy" might be dropped from the experience.

"Oh, yeah. The haunted barn is very scary," Parish said. "You have to find your way through a pitch-dark maze and you never know who or what you’ll encounter along the way. There’s a thrill at every turn."

The Haunted Hayride is more than Halloween horrors. It’s a lot of Halloween funny fun, too.

The "city" is decked out in the colors of Halloween and the shops offer lots to see and do.

"Of course, we have the concession stands to fatten you for the kill," Parish said, laughing. "We have the Little Bit of Horror shop that has different kinds of Halloween trinkets that kids like, such as the neon necklaces and rings and bracelets and masks and vampire teeth. A lot of Halloween things in a creepy setting."

For added entertainment, there are two large screen televisions, one in the HO-Down and the other in The Chatter Box.

"One screen shows a horror movie and the other shows a Casper the Friendly Ghost-type movie for kids," Parish said. "We also have a performing magician who entertains while riders wait for the wagon or for the faint-hearted to wait for the return of the riders. There will be plenty of fun for everyone."

Students from Ariton High School and Carroll High School of Ozark are assisting with the Haunted Hayride or Horrors. In return, a sizable donation will be made to their schools.

The Halloween Hayride of Horrors opens at sundown each night Thursday through Sunday until the week of Halloween when it will be open nightly. Admission is $5 and includes all of the happy horrors of Halloween.