Corn maze full of spooks, scares

By Aaron Wiens

The sounds of gas chain saws filled the air. Every half minute, another group of wanderers is frightened at the Jonamac Orchard, 19412 Shabbona Road in Malta.

About 15 people, mostly high-school students, dress up in any number of spooktacular outfits and fill the maze from sunset until 10 p.m.

Today is the final opportunity to visit the orchard and experience the thrill of a good scare.

The most coveted costume by the ‘spooks’ is the one that strikes fear in the heart of its victims: the hair-raising, spine-tingling screams that can only be achieved with the aid of a chain saw.

Dressed in all black, so he can hide in the corn with ease, Don Tinsley pulls his hoodie tightly over his head so his victims only see a white hockey mask when he jumps out of the corn.

Just before he pulls the trigger of his saw, he usually lets out a grunt to give the customers an extra-special double scare.

“This is my fourth year working here, but only my first with the saw,” he said. “I told them I was not going to do it this year unless I got to use it.”

The 20-acre maze of Johnny Appleseed and his apple tree is protected with plastic netting to keep the corn in its place.

To keep people in their place and ensure a fun time for all, something else is used.

Corn cops patrol the maze, watch for illegal actives and help lost patrons find their way. They are also the only people who can stop Tinsley from stalking his prey.

“Every once in a while someone will come through and they have already had enough so I will give them a free pass,” he said.

Crouching down in the nearly seven-foot-tall, double-rowed corn, Tinsley has worn a trail between his favorite spots where most of his victims get their money’s worth.

Tinsley said after the initial screams subside sometimes people shout and scream, “That was great” and “Holy [cow], that was awesome,” but mostly they just keep wandering.

Tinsley knows he is doing a good job when customers ask for a snapshot to remember the moment.

“I really like it when people take my picture after I scare them,” he said.

Ah, the thrill of a scare forever saved on a photo.