Diamond Hill haunted trail has new name, but still scares galore
CUMBERLAND – Diamond Hill Park’s annual Halloween show is under new management, in a way, but don’t expect any serious changes from the past when it opens Saturday night.
That’s because the new 13th World haunted trail on the former ski hill’s wooded grounds will be run by the same duo, Richard Valliant of Woonsocket and Zeke Fortier of Bellingham, who have created the trail for town over the past 15 years.
Town Recreation Director Michael Crawley was in charge of the former Haunted Hill exhibition for the last nine years and said this week he has no worries that Valliant and Fortier’s now privately operated venture won’t do just as well.
“I went through the trail the other night and it is just incredible, they do a great job,” Crawley said.
As has been the case in past years, 13th World is made up of a series of mazes and horror moviethemed live performance venues where the World’s cast of characters will give those paying the ticket fee just what they are looking for— a big scare.
Yes, you will still be able to find Freddy Krueger, Jason, and scary clowns on the grounds and also few local specialties like a setting from “The Purge,” the most recent edition having been filmed in Woonsocket, and local creations like the Hillbilly Housing Authority with buzzing saws and other simulated frightening threats.
Crawley said the move to lease out Diamond Hill to 13th World was made to reduce the burden of running the three-month-long setup, operation, and closing of the seasonal event through his office and the town’s accounts.
While the former Haunted Hill would bring in over $40,000 for the town’s recreational department programs on average with a good weather season, the need to comply with town accounting rules and purchasing also made that process a vastly more complicated one than if it is run by a private company, according to Crawley.
Under the town’s purchasing rules, Crawley said he would have had to get bids from three businesses for the purchase of something like bales of hay or light equipment whereas as a private operation can simply go out to a store and buy a needed part or effect when something breaks or has to be replaced.
It also means a lot less work for his department, he noted. “It is really something that is too difficult for one person to do all that purchasing,” Crawley said of the added work he took on in addition to his regular day-to-day recreation duties. The town did benefit from the trail proceeds and he noted some of the funding when to improvements such as the new playground at the town’s Monastery property, a $47,000 purchase and also the train ride for kids that is set up for town events like Winter Wonderland.
13th World is paying $15,000 to the town for use of the park but will bear all the costs of setup, operation, and breakdown during the run of the event from September 30 through Oct. 28, under the new arrangement, Crawley noted.
Tickets for Friday and Sunday nights are $17 but a $2 savings coupon is available at a number of town locations. Admission on Saturday nights, the busiest night, is $20.
The town will still be gaining funding for its programs and won’t have to shoulder the event liability coverage that it has carried in the past as another expense. 13th World has obtained its own coverage as part of the property lease agreement.
The good thing about the change is that Vaillant and Fortier won’t have a start up learning curve since they have been putting the trail together for the past 15 years, Crawley noted.
“It is a great event and they do a great job,” Crawley said.
Valliant said on Thursday that everything is just about set for tonight’s opening night and noted visitors will find plenty of things to be scared of when they head out onto trail in the dark of the night.
“13th World brings you into our world which is pretty scary,” he said.
The trail up the hill and through the woods is set up with 13 base stations of horror, each with its own set of characters or unique setting.
Some are based on the traditional horror movie concepts and a few others are just out of the minds of Vaillant and Fortier and their cast of show members. The trail followers might run into Hell Raiser or Samura of Lord of the Rings, or that Hillbilly campground thing where they will probably want to get through as fast as possible.
“Every part of trail here is fun in an intense way and of course people come here because they want to be scared,” he said. “That is what we do,” he added. The trail is set up as fun for mid teens and older and Vaillant said 10-years-old is a good cut off for families to consider.
The trail has a wide range of special effects to help out besides the live costumed characters. Special lighting and even laser show beams create the eerie mood as do the sound effects, and fog generators. “There is a little bit of everything on the trail,” Vaillant said.
Since 13th World is now on its own in running the fright trail, Vaillant said its staffers have worked especially hard to make this year a big draw for the Halloween season. “This should be our best year by far, shoulder to shoulder,” he said.
13th World opens to visitors at dusk and the last tickets are sold at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sundays. The discount coupons can be found at various locations in the area including Spirit Halloween at Park Square, Woonsocket, Aero Trampoline Park at Walnut Hill and also at Brunswick Bowl in Woonsocket.
Michelle Somers of Manville, her mother Linda Somers, and Michelle’s twin sons, Jordin and Jharis McGonigle, 8, were found check out the trail highlights on Thursday and gave a thumbs up to the upcoming Halloween activity.
“I think it is awesome. I went through it years ago and loved it,” Somers said. Her friends have gone through the trail in more recent years and said it has become even better,” she noted.
Jharis and Jordin McGonigle hang out at Diamond Hill Park where the town has traditionally held its Haunted Hill Halloween exhibition. This year the haunted trail is back under a new name, though it is still run by local scare-specialists Richard Valliant, of Woonsocket, and Zeke Fortier, of Bellingham. The trail, now dubbed 13th World, opens tonight.