An October tradition that predates the pumpkin spice craze returns beginning this Friday.
The Waterloo Sportsman’s Club Haunted Trail begins this weekend, marking its 30th year of providing fun scares for thousands of people.
“We put on a pretty good trail,” said Carl Graves, chairman of the trail this year. “We’ve got food and drinks. We’ve got games for the kids to play. My wife has a game where she gives little kids bags of candy and stuff for free. It’s all just to make kids happy.”
The club took over the trail 30 years ago after an individual put on a haunted trail at the club grounds 31 years ago.
The response to that trail made the club decide to host its own haunted trail.
“When the guy did it, it went over so well we figured we’d have it ourselves instead of having somebody else do it,” Graves explained.
Since then, hundreds of volunteers have helped frighten and entertain the oftentimes over 1,000 people who walk the trail each night of the three weekends it is open.
The mile-long trail has also grown over the last three decades, as it has gotten longer and added more scenes and attractions engineered to amuse and frighten.
“It’s gotten better,” Graves said. “We do pretty good.”
A particularly memorable example was “The Last Ride,” which was introduced in 2009.
That attraction offered a simulated ride to the grave in a wooden casket complete with shaking, rattling, rolling and bouncing.
Cameras also lined the casket so friends and family could watch their loved ones experience the attraction.
Only 27 people dared to brave “The Last Ride” on its opening night.
This year, there are about a dozen big scenes with smaller scares in between.
Individuals will also experience “The Vortex,” which allows them to walk through a cylinder on a stationary walkway while the cylinder rotates and multicolored lights flash, creating a sense that patrons are almost defying physics with their movement.
Graves described the experience as having a “psychedelic” effect.
For youngsters, the popular Pumpkin Express is back.
That free attraction will take young children to a non-scary area with kid-friendly activities like inflatables.
The trail is open Oct. 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26 at 4903 Sportsman Road in Waterloo from 7-11 p.m. each of those nights.
It costs $15 per person regardless of age. The proceeds help fund improvements at the club. Parking is free.
The club now accepts credit cards, and an ATM will be available.
“A lot of people that go through it I’ve heard say it’s better than a lot of shows in St. Louis,” Mike Eichenseer, longtime haunted trail volunteer and club member, said. “It’s cheaper, and you’re supporting the local area.”
Call 618-458-9927 or visit waterloosportsmansclub.org for more information.