“That name haunts us!” says Tammy Dawson, who along with her husband Bruce help their daughter Hope manage Adventure Acres Family Farm and Corn Maze in Bellbrook. “Everything we try to do turns into an adventure.”
First there’s the weather, best described in Gothic prose as “a dark and stormy night.” It rained every weekend of Adventure Acres’ first corn maze season four years ago. Relentless rain in the spring of 2011 turned a creek into a river and washed away the bridge connecting their two corn mazes.
This past summer was so hot and dry they struggled to grow enough corn to even have a maze this season. Careful seeding and fertilizing yielded a maze etched with a tribute to Ohio astronaut John Glenn and to all blood donors, including the Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drop logo and the message “Be a Hero – Donate.”
Yet when it came time for the Holiday at Home Parade on Labor Day, it poured.
“Everything was dripping wet,” said Tammy. “The costumes just fell off our cows. I believe the name is a jinx!”
Not all the maze mayhem comes from Mother Nature. “Some people come out with destruction on the mind!” says Tammy. “They run through the maze, stomping down the corn – we already have deer stomping corn – and we’re losing our yield. We still have to get a yield of corn to meet expenses.”
Then there was the visit by some area high school students, a school that is no longer welcome at Adventure Acres. They rented one of the fire pits for a school party that quickly got out of hand. They tore apart the maze and at one point where crawling over the farm wagons, pitching pumpkins and cheering as they exploded.
Another challenge in the corn maze business is rescuing guests who can’t find their way out, especially after dark. Usually, calling by cell phone and instructing the lost guests to toss their flashlights in the air is enough to pinpoint their location. But one night, when closing time came at midnight, a group of visitors had truly disappeared.
“Bruce was in the tractor, hollering,” said Tammy, but no one answered. Finally, at 1:30 a.m. the group casually emerged from the corn carrying camera equipment and proclaimed, “That was a lot of fun!” They had been filming their own hand-held, shaky video version of the popular “Blair Witch Project” suspense movie. “We were out of our minds,” the Dawsons told them, “and you added a lot to it!”
The movie-making disappearance turned out to be more prank than paranormal. But Bruce says the haunted side of Adventure Acres is not something you could easily catch on film. Just take the case of the barn door.
The Dawsons have long considered the barn haunted. Their research tells them of many souls that may be revisiting the place, and who sometimes reveal themselves in mysterious whispers. Bruce became a believer the day he tried hanging a new barn door.
“I would get it finished, test it out and it was fine, and as soon as I turned my back, it would fall off and hit me,” he said. “I did it again, same thing happened. Put it back up, same thing. Finally I just gave up. I think that spirit was having fun with me.
Fun and “adventure” does come with the name Adventure Acres, and often unexpected. If spirits are truly lurking on the farm, they may be counting the days with glee to another dark Halloween night among the silent rows of corn.