MADERA, Calif. -- The haunting business is in full swing ahead of Halloween, and some people wait all year to get the chance to spread some scares.
"I couldn't believe the first year they've actually paid me to scare people," said Amy Roberts, one of the actors you'll see if you head to Raisin Hell Ranch Haunted Cornfield this fall. 2019 is her sixth year with the group; this year, she's playing a cult leader.
"It's addicting... we have a goal: to scare the pants off these people," she said.
That's the general sentiment from owner Darren Schmall too. In addition to farming almonds and grapes and running ApCal, a popular concert venue in Madera, Schmall also leads the team at Raisin Hell.
"We say that we're the scariest haunt in the Central Valley, and we try to meet those expectations," said the area native. "We often have people that have to leave partially way through the attraction."
"We don't recommend this for anybody younger than 13 because we think it's that intense," he said.
The cornfield is open for 21 days during the season (Halloween is your last chance to check it out), but Schmall estimates it takes 4-5 months to build and months to tear down, so three weeks of actual scaring turns into a nearly year-round operation.
He estimated Raisin Hell is employing about 90 people during this season, spread between actors, people in the ticket booth, security, etc. The payroll is expected to be over $100,000 by the end of the year.
"The actors get to be themselves the rest of the year, but every Halloween they get to come out and scare the hell out of people," Schmall said.
"Suzi Perri works at The Old Spaghetti Factory and as a kickboxing instructor the rest of the year, but Halloween is her time to get her fright on.
"This year I'm playing an insane asylum patient," Perri said, covered in fake blood. "Everybody wants to get that escort... they'll yell out escort and then security will come walk them out and everyone is trying to get the most escorts. So we kind of just compete with each other that way," she said.
"Last year I got the most escorts," she said with a smile.
"We can growl at people, yell at people, hiss, whatever we want," Roberts said. "It's actually a big release." She said she's moving to Colorado soon but is already making plans to fly back each year to take part in Raisin Hell. She also sports a Raisin Hell Ranch tattoo on her shoulder.
"I have to do this every year," she said with a laugh.
Raisin Hell Ranch features two themed haunted cornfield experiences and a family-friendly corn maze. Raisin Hell Ranch will be closed after Halloween. For more information, click here.
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