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A strange silence fell across the fields and farmhouses as the sun slipped behind the trees, adding a chill to the air.
Wolflike monsters, skeletons, demon hounds, creepy creatures and blood-covered zombies poured from a makeup room and began the trek to their designated scenes. In the distance, the evening's first victims began to arrive.
Cedar Hall Haunted Hollow was coming alive.
"We have a group of hillbillies who are just morally and ethically twisted - out of sync with the rest of the world," said Richard Sklat, the show's director. "They have been made so because they are completely consumed by the evil in the land."
The land is the backwoods of Pungo in Virginia Beach, where visitors take a half-hour walk through a cornstalk-lined trail through the trees. Following the path, often marked by colored running lights, they arrive at scenes about the evil that lurks around them and a devilish drink called Pungoshine.
"They didn't just use corn to make Pungoshine," said producer Frank Lipoli. "They used body parts, particularly hands."
Welcoming people into the woods is Holly Veber; she and her husband, Paul, own Cedar Hall Farms.
"The Witch of Pungo's house was about a mile away from here," Veber said, pointing northeast across the fields. She plays the legendary witch, and her daughter Hope is the show's headless horseman.
"We want our customers to find themselves not just watching the show around them, but to find themselves smack in the middle as a participant," Sklat said.
Lipoli claims some history with this new show. He created the Haunted Forest at Norfolk Botanical Garden in 1990 to raise funds for Vietnam War veterans. It ran for 13 years. Then he partnered with Norfolk Public Schools to create the Blair Halloween Project in 2003. It lasted for four years.
This show is a fundraiser for the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Kellam High School drama club, which makes up about 80 percent of the 70 or so people in the cast and crew.
They work well together. When a small group of people set off toward the woods a big, black bell clanged, alerting the ghouls that more were headed their way.
"We want to give people an intimate experience, and it's easier to find the lost ones," Lipoli said with a laugh.
Surrounded by recent arrivals, he frantically asked a police officer on traffic duty, "Did you find anyone from last night that didn't make it out?"
Some youngsters nearby gave a concerned look at their parents. The sound of a chain saw, screams and baying hounds could be heard in the distance.
One young lady just about to enter the woods said, "I can't do this. I just can't do this."
She got a refund.
Lipoli heard over his radio that a visitor lost a shoe and a group of three were so scared they were running past the scenes and wouldn't stop.
Melanie Daugherty and husband Larry, both in their 40s from Virginia Beach, made it out OK.
"That was great," Melanie said. "The actors and actresses were really great. That was really cool."
Her husband was equally impressed. "The biggest thing we got a kick out of was that it's old school," Larry said. "They put a lot of thought into this."
if you go
What Cedar Hall Haunted Hollow
Where Cedar Hall Farms, 1501 Gum Bridge Road, Virginia Beach
When 6-10:30 p.m. tonight through Sunday
More info 214-5703, www.cedarhallhauntedhollow.com
Roy A. Bahls, 757-446-2351,email@example.com
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