haunted trail

“We don’t have a lot of haunts in Cleveland, so it’s a really good way to reach out to the community. You meet a lot of new people that like to come out and volunteer," trail volunteer Jennifer Thatcher said. "It really helps the community altogether.”

The Post Mortem Haunted Trail is aiming to scare people to death this October—but for a good cause.

This haunted Halloween experience comes with a charitable twist. Guests are given the opportunity to support the Tri-State Therapeutic Riding Center, a local nonprofit focused on equestrian-centered therapy for those with physical, mental or emotional struggles.

Upon arrival, guests are directed by a path lined with tiny orange lights, leading them into the dark trail. Before even beginning their journey, guests are greeted by men in various masks with peculiar accents.

Ashton DeBallion was one of those men on opening night. DeBallion said it brings him joy to help disabled kids because he has Asperger’s himself. He said he didn’t get any help from a charity when he was younger, and his needs fell completely on the shoulders of his parents. This meant he could not attend counseling sometimes.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to have fun while also making an impact,” DeBallion said. “I think the charity definitely helps [disabled children] out a lot. I think it helps their parents also.”

Post Mortem Haunted Trail CEO Lesia Chapman said they chose this nonprofit as their charity because many of the volunteers had already been involved with the organization, and it needed some support.

“We just called around and found some organizations that were nonprofit and needed help, and the Tri-State Therapeutic Riding Center called us back and were excited for us to get started,” Chapman said. “A lot of our actors had volunteered for the actual charity before they got to us. It’s a really great program that changes people’s lives. They’re hands-on. So anything that we can do to help these guys is awesome for us.”

For volunteer Jennifer Thatcher and her daughter, participating in the haunt is a sort of memorial to a family member that passed. Thatcher said they are able to give back to others with the same kinds of disabilities.  

“[The charity focuses] a lot on kids and adults with cerebral palsy because riding horses mimics walking, and it builds their leg muscles up, so it helps them walk better for longer. My daughter and I have a family member that died from cerebral palsy when she was just five years old. This is our way of giving back,” Thatcher said. “It puts a positive spin on a negative situation that happened in our lives. By giving back and raising money for something that we were trying to get her to be a part of, it keeps her memory alive.”

For volunteers, including herself, Thatcher said the trail provides an opportunity to exercise her creativity in ways that engage the community.

“The creativity is my favorite part of the experience. We get to spin really twisted ideas and make them into a reality to scare people. The crazier, the better,” Thatcher said. “We don’t have a lot of haunts in Cleveland, so it’s a really good way to reach out to the community. You meet a lot of new people that like to come out and volunteer. … It really helps the community altogether.”

Not only do volunteers get to be a part of giving back, but admission proceeds support the organization, allowing guests to directly benefit the charity while enjoying a chilling Halloween experience. Cleveland resident Denzel Morrison said he appreciates how the trail backs a good cause without sacrificing the scare factor.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect,” Morrison said. “It felt good because I was having a great time while helping out because my money went to a cause that mattered, and it was all for a reasonable price.”

The Post Mortem Haunted Trail is open every weekend of October on Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight and costs $15 per person. For more information, visit their website. Find out more about the Tri-State Therapeutic Center here.

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