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Scare-seekers head into the woods

GREENSBORO — As local legend goes, angry spirits haunted the city of Greensboro during the Great Depression. Many people died from despair and lack of food and supplies as they faced the worst economy in the nation’s history. Few could even afford proper burials for the dead. The spirits, bitter about their deaths and lack of graves, tormented residents of Greensboro at all hours of the day, stealing their valuables and disrupting their sleep patterns. The frightening era had no end in sight until Priest Eddie Howie McMillian came along.

McMillian, the legend goes, exorcised the spirits and bound them to a plot of land 12 miles outside the city limits. Today McMillian’s great-great-grandson Eddie McLaurin, owns the land. McLaurin has turned this tract of land into one of the country’s most popular Halloween attractions, the Woods of Terror.

Located at 5601 North Church Street in Greensboro, the haunt—which is on MSNBC.com’s list of the 20 best Halloween attractions in the United States—features 10 stations of uniquely horrifying experiences that vary from year to year, and the entire attraction takes about an hour to complete. Those visitors brave enough to take on the woods—which, despite the nearly hour drive, still lure Duke students—start in The Tomb, a 2,000-square-foot pitch-black maze. Actors stealthily walk around the maze and periodically scream at the people walking blindly through the maze.

Thrill-seekers then venture through the Tour of Terror, the Backwoods Slaughter House and the Hillbilly Hayride before they arrive at an attraction that is literally straight out of the movies. The Killing Fields recreates a scene from the Hollywood film Jeepers Creepers. Ticketholders walk through a school bus where monsters from the film appear and chase everyone through a giant cornfield.

“I think I sprinted through the corn stalks,” senior Kristen Markham said. “I don’t even remember because I was so scared. All I knew was there was a guy with a chainsaw right behind me.”

Participants then walk through the Heavy Metal Nightmare, the Funhouse of Fear, the 3-D Experience and the 3-D Vortex, a tunnel that makes those walking through feel like they are turning sideways.

“I really liked the 3-D Vortex,” senior Curtis Asbury said. “Even though I knew it was an illusion, I still had a tough time walking straight.”

For all the fun of the haunting experience, senior Mary Jordan Mullinax said some parts were a little too creepy for her.

“Starting at the funhouse, this scary clown started following me,” Mullinax said. “But he was right behind me, breathing on my neck for almost five minutes. I thought that was a little obnoxious.”

In addition to creating a large-scale Halloween adventure, McLaurin attempts to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ with a video at the entrance to the Woods of Terror and then upon visitors’ exit by handing out Christian literature.

“Woods of Terror has worked hard to spread the Gospel where quite frankly, no man has gone before,” McLaurin wrote on the Woods of Terror website. “The last place you would expect to hear about the plan of salvation would be at a haunted attraction. This is why I have tried to network with local youth groups to get them involved and to give them a bit of something fun to do at the same time.”

In the end, most were pleased with the 2004 version of the Woods of Terror.

“I would recommend it,” Asbury said. “It was a good value and it was worth the drive. I’m glad I had two girls with me because it made it scarier because they were screaming the whole time.”

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