Maybe it's the decorations or the costumes but Halloween is a passion for some people. For the past four years, the aptly named Adams family finds that its passion is less about the holiday and more about bringing joy to local families and children through their own backyard haunted trail.
The trail began four years ago when friends of the couple's two smallest children mentioned that they had never been to any kind of haunted attraction.
"The parents didn't have any money to take them," patriarch Sam Adams said. "I couldn't take every one of their friends on an admission-based trail but it occurred to me that I could make them one. I know we have Frightland but that can be expensive for a family with several kids."
The family starts building and setting up at the beginning of October. Sam's wife Jennifer said those first few decorations cause the neighborhood kids to start asking about the trail. And, while the trail isn't as big as an admission-based attraction (it typically takes less than 10 minutes to get through it), it still manages to scare up plenty of frightened adults and children.
"You would be surprised at the number of adults that run out screaming," Jennifer said. "One woman ran through the trail and ran out, leaving her son behind."
She added that they don't force anybody to go through and visitors can back out at any time. She said there is no shame in just coming up to the cauldron, collecting a Halloween treat and leaving. But, she also said that haunting seems to have no age limits because they've seen visitors as young as five years old as well as visitors closer in age to a grandparent.
In the safe light of the next day, the family often finds cell phones, wigs and candy bags dropped along the path, which can be intense thanks to all the help they receive putting things together. Just this year, more than five local businesses have helped out with donations or labor, including Elana's Broad Street Florist and Gifts, Middletown Towing, Immediato's, Sully's Irish Pub, Dogtown and local special effects specialist.
"We've been overwhelmed with the kindness of people," Jennifer said of the people who've donated materials and candy. "We never ask for money and we don't want any. But, the help with materials, supplies and parts is what helps the trail happen."
Without help, the cost would be especially prohibitive. In the last two weeks alone, Jennifer estimates that her husband has spent more than $300 on paint and building supplies in an effort to outdo last year's trail and keep the visitors guessing. The Adams' family doesn't seem to mind, though.
"Sam [Adams] and his friends enjoy this so much," Jennifer said. "I think they do it as much for the fun they have building it as they do for the kids."
Page 2 of 2 - It's not just the couple, though, participating. On Halloween night, nearly 20 friends and family members usually help out, including the couple's four other children collectively and even Jennifer's mother.
"My mom comes and dresses up and our older kids have been coming back every year, too," Jennifer explained. "They all love scaring the kids and hearing all the squeals and screams."
They tweak the trail every year, moving around the bigger, permanent haunts while also adding smaller scares along the way. This year, they've announced a big change that they hope will produce nothing but squeals of delight: a preview night scheduled for this Friday.
"Because of the curfew in Middletown, we hear every year from people who can't make it," she said. "Sometimes, it's neighborhood grandparents who go to see their grandchildren in their own neighborhoods and can't make it back in time. Other times, it's people from outside of the neighborhood who just couldn't get here."
They mulled it over and Sam said that it just made sense to add another night.
"He said, 'we do all this work, let's just add another night," Jennifer said, adding that the preview night will also be free.
Jennifer, herself, is excited for an extra night of happy hauntings.
"I love seeing the kids come through and seeing people line up for it," Jennifer explains, excitement coming through in her voice. "It's just so much fun."