Children of the corn
Sliding into the parking lot of the Cold Mountain Corn Maze, the smell of campfire and old, fallen leaves fills the nostrils.
Soon, the sounds of screaming fill the ears.
Coming into their eighth year, the Canton maze once again provides Haywood County with a safe and affordable atmosphere for children, teenagers and adults to congregate, socialize and partake in some of the finest activities fall has to offer, which includes pumpkin painting, hayrides, apple treats, an inflatable bouncing space and a haunted house. All proceeds raised throughout the season benefits The Good Samaritan Clinic of Haywood County.
“It’s a very comforting place,” said Kim Russell, who co-owns the maze with her husband Skipper. “This is something that people of all ages can relate to because everyone is together and having fun. You can have a kind of farm experience without actually being on a farm.”
But, that doesn’t mean some patrons won’t walk away a tad stunned and weary.
Covering around five acres of pristine farmland, the maze proves the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yes, it’s a field. Yes, you can navigate it (if done properly). But, don’t get too big for your britches when approaching it. For that sentiment ultimately leads to the mental demise of any who enter the hallowed grounds.
“It’s tricky,” said Josh Laws, manager at Cold Mountain. “You definitely can get scared and start running when it gets dark. You can get turned around real quick.”
The late afternoon haze soon gives way to early evening. Paths careening through innumerable rows of corn become dim. Voices, real of perhaps imagined, ricochet from positions unknown. Wandering down the well-worn dirt routes, one starts to think the maze is pretty simple. You’ve got this, right?
That exact drifting into confident thought has zoned your mind out, forgetting key geographical reference points. Your last left was mistaken for a right, while what was thought to be straight ahead was actually the incorrect way back. Now stuck, you’re in an ocean of corn, with the only comfort of civilization being the sound of a passing car on N.C. 110, which borders the maze on one side.
A breath of relief overcomes you when one of the lookout bridges appears. These bridges, which can stand several feet above the maze, provide the wanderer with a spot to reconfigure their current location. High above the field, patrons get a bird’s eye view of other manically searching for an exit in the field, moving around the different corners of the property like ants marching toward some destination.
“A couple people have gotten stuck up on the tower,” Laws said, pointing in the distance to the wooden structures. “That’s as far as they could make it. They’d get up there and start waving for us to get them or call us with their cell phone to tell us where they were in the maze.”
The workers know the field like the back of their hand, and Russell said each is well-trained to get in and retrieve anyone who simply can’t find their way back to their car.
“We’ve had a few start screaming from the tower for us,” she chuckled.
Locating one of the towers, several local teenagers lay claim to the platform. They sit perched on them, legs dangling, eyes aimed forward, yelling to others on another bridge across the field or pointing to all the different groups below. Teenager couples mill about the paths, sporting their letter jackets and holding hands, as if straight out of a John Mellencamp melody.
“Everybody just runs around,” said Vickie Rogers, a student at Tuscola High School. “It gives you something to do because there’s nothing to do around here. You get to hangout with people, get scared and get lost.”
Rogers has been coming to the maze since she was a little kid. She said she once got lost for almost an hour in one of the corners. When asked how old she was when the incident happened, Rogers took a moment to respond.
“This was just the other day,” she blushed.
You eventually locate the exit. A small group of Pisgah High School students are just beginning their quest. Within the group, Amber Williams has been “scaring” for the last three years, which is someone who dresses up in costume and jumps out at people who enter the field at night.
“I made a kid pee herself once,” she laughed. “I think more people need to start coming here because it’s really fun.”
Reemerging back into society, a wave of relief washes over those who safely, and someone successfully, negotiated their way out. Perhaps a candy reward or warm-up near the campfire is in order.
“Where’s the bathroom?” a bewildered kid asks, zooming out the exit towards the porta-potty.
Car engines rumble and proceed to head home. Waiting to pull back onto N.C. 110, another scream is heard in the distance. Another victim has fallen to the Cold Mountain Corn Maze.
“People are always amazed at how we do it,” Russell said. “It’s a lot of work and there’s a lot of upkeep for having a place like this, but it’s worth it.”
Ready to scream?
Cold Mountain Corn Maze
Open through Nov. 1, the maze will run from 4-9 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday and 1-9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It will also be open from 4-9 p.m. Oct. 29-31. Ages 4 and over is $8 per person, with 3 and under for free. Hayrides are $2 and season passes are available for $50.
4168 Pisgah Drive, Canton.
828.648.8575 or 828.734.5500.
Darnell Farms Corn Maze
Open through Nov. 1, the maze runs seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The October Haunted Maze will be open later hours.
2300 Governors Island, Bryson City.
Oconoaluftee Haunted Village
Running from Oct. 26 to Oct. 31, there will be a haunted trail at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, which will also include a Mountainside Theatre ghost walk. Tickets are $10 a person per attraction. Children 12 and under must have adult supervision. Both packages may be purchased at a discount of $18. Doors open each night at 7 p.m.
218 Drama Road, Cherokee.
An outdoor haunted house and self-guided walk through the woods, patrons will witness horror movie characters. Taking place now through Nov. 3, shows are 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, with a tour at midnight on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15.
2099 Asheville Highway, Canton.