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Zombies a new target at Zywiec’s highway haunt

With more than 20 rooms inside The Manor House, twists and turns inside Scummo's 3D Nightmare and the haunted hayride, visitors to the Haunting Experience at Zywiec's have plenty to fear. (Photos courtesy of Zywiec's)1 / 3
Owner Bill Zywiec gives the new Big Zombie Hunter attraction a try along with visitors to the haunt. "I foresee this being a hot ticket item this year," he said of the event which gives riders 100 paintballs to unleash on attacking zombies. (Photos courtesy of Zywiec's)2 / 3
Scaring patrons aboard Zywiec's haunted hayride is second nature to haunter Adam Peck. The hayride weaves through the property's cornfields and trees taking riders through the remnants of the Kenzington party. (Photos courtesy of Zywiec's)3 / 3

Each Halloween season, the garden and landscaping showrooms at Zywiec’s in Cottage Grove transform into a terrifying horror extravaganza where thrill seekers can get the wits scared out of them at a reasonable price.

For more than 25 years, owner Bill Zywiec has upped the scare factor within the three haunts and around the hayride route, but this year he concocted a zombie paintball course, an addition he said is just plain fun.

“Big Zombie Hunter allows you to shoot live zombies in the field,” he said. “There will be six to eight live zombies along the route and you get 100 paintballs and you just go to town.”

Visitors board a 10-person trailer and pick a paintball gun. The roughly 15-minute ride through the paintball course gives shooters the opportunity to pelt zombies.

“This was a two-year project for us,” Zywiec explained. “We first heard of this a couple years ago at a haunt down in St. Louis. I had a guy working with me last year that was into paintball and he took on the project and designed the trailers for us.”

Since the haunt opened two weeks ago, Zywiec said roughly 250 go through the paintball course on any given night.

“I foresee this being the hot new item this year,” he said.

Big Zombie Hunter costs riders $13, which gives them 100 paintballs. The event is recommended for riders age 6 and older.

Three haunts, more scares

Throughout the years, Zywiec has prided himself on constantly reinventing the Haunting Experience. He said about 30 percent of what patrons saw last year is drastically changed this year. 

“We like to keep things fresh and we continually like to up the fright factor,” he said. “This year the haunt is a little more grown up and it gets a little more intense every year."

Beginning at dusk, the three haunts — Manor House, Scummo’s 3D Nightmare and the haunted hayride — come alive with the help of more than 40 haunters who hide behind corners and jump out when you least expect it.

In the Manor House, more than 20 rooms are set up to reflect everything from classic horror scenes and haunted bedrooms to botched medical procedures and everything in between.

Inside Scummo’s 3D Nightmare, evil clowns roam free. Patrons twist and turn through neon colored walls wearing 3D glasses, never knowing who or what is behind the next turn. 

“To get through all the houses it takes about 45 minutes,” Zywiec said. “That’s the one thing that’s unique about us, we scare you for 45 minutes. You can’t get that everywhere.”

In keeping with the haunt’s 25-year tradition and the storyline of the twisted, murderous Kenzington party, the haunted hayride winds through the property’s cornfields and forestland and takes patrons on a ride through the remnants of the family that was said to have survived on cannibalism. 

“There are so many different styles of haunts here which I don’t think is available everywhere,” Zywiec said. “Being one of the only places that still incorporates a hayride, I think that sets us apart.”

Once making it through the three haunts, visitors can try their navigation skills inside the corn maze. But beware, lurking in the maze are eight zombies. Visitors can seek out the answers to their trivia questions along the way and turn in the answer sheet for a chance to win a ride aboard the Big Zombie Hunter trailer.

Bonfires, concession stands, live entertainment and carnival games are also available with a ticket purchase and a weekend beer tent is open courtesy of the Cottage Grove Lions Club. In case of inclement weather, tickets will be discounted.

“I have a group of people here that just love Halloween and have helped me build everything from the ground up,” Zywiec said. “We’re still plugging away.”

For details or to buy tickets online, visit the website at Zywiec’s is located at 10900 East Point Douglas Road in Cottage Grove.

If you go

The Haunting Experience is open from dusk until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. The price of admission is $17 per person and includes all three haunts and activities on the grounds. There are several group rates available. Cheap Chills Nights this year are Oct. 16 and 17, and 23 and 24. Admission is $15 and includes all three haunts and activities on the property.

The Big Zombie Hunter is open along with the haunts and is $13 for admission. The price includes 100 balls and usage of the paintball guns. No outside paintballs or paintball guns will be permitted.

The corn maze is open every day from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m Sept. 21 through Nov. 2. Admission is $8 for ages 12 and older, $6 for those 12 and younger and free for those younger than 2 years old.