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Here, you choose the spooky level

Haunted Shack and Ru-Ridge Corn Maze same place, different mission


October 9, 2020

Amber Nichols

Jenn Soukkala, Joanna Robnik and Adam Robnik explore the Ru-Ridge Corn Maze south of Carlton recently.

As the nights grow longer and Halloween approaches, there are some who gravitate toward the frightening and the macabre. Others don't.

There's a farm between Carlton and Wrenshall that can satisfy both ... they call it Haunted Ridge. (Cue the scary music.)

In daylight, it is Ru-Ridge Corn Maze, a place where children and adults can find their way through a uniquely designed corn maze, ride horses, commune with animals at a petting zoo, go on a hayride and tackle the kids' Ninja course.

When the sun goes down, the werewolves and ghouls come out, as the Haunted Shack opens up, along with its own haunted corn maze and haunted hayrides that pass by grisly and ghostly scenes.

Angela Line explains that the two businesses coexist, but don't overlap. They don't even share any paths through the 8 acres of corn on the farm, owned by Line and her partner, Jeremy Rubesh.

"We only overlap a few hours on Fridays," Line said. "We still have a lot of families come that don't want to do the scary thing and just do flashlight Fridays. The rest of the days we're usually closed so everyone is leaving when he's opening."

Ru-Ridge Corn Maze started four years ago. The couple run it with their five kids (ages 24, 22, 15, 15 and 12) and three foster kids. "Our son does all the hayrides, and our two daughters do all the horse rides," she said. "All the money from that is their own, so they work really hard as well as preparing all year long."

Line is the corn maze artist. Each year she will sketch out a design using pen and paper, then she goes into the corn when it's 4- or 5 feet tall with a machete and a roll of twine.

"The corn is planted in rows and in a grid, so I can just walk along and mark words and designs in the corn," she said. "I mark it and they come out and cut it."

Last year she wrote "Ru-Ridge" in cursive letters 100 feet tall. This year it says "EMS" with a heartbeat line as the main design, with smaller symbols for firefighters and law enforcement. They pick a different charity to donate to each year and this year the money is going to the Wrenshall volunteer fire department, which will be selling brats and hot dogs at Ru-Ridge on Saturday.

The pandemic has changed the way they do some things, but not much, said Line. They follow guidelines and keep numbers below 250, issuing a numbered wristband to each guest. While the maze is open Thursdays through Sundays for six weeks in September and October, they will open during the week by appointment if a family or group is high risk or wants to avoid crowds.

"A lot of people tell us this is the fall thing they look forward to every year," Line said. "It's simple. We don't want vendors or concessions. I love just looking over and seeing two women with babies on a blanket, just relaxing. We'd love to see our kids take it over someday, and the kids that are coming here now bring their own kids."

Walk on the wild side

Haunted Shack mastermind Pat Stojevich, on the other hand, enjoys hearing the screams of people frightened at any one of the three attractions at the Haunted Shack.

Thanks to Covid-19, he's reduced the number of live actors and staff members in favor of more pneumatic props and animatronics, and the shack and the haunted hayride have been gutted and redone, detailed and reassembled.

A pneumatic prop is run on compressed air, he explains, like a monster that would jump out at you like an actor would, usually triggered by motion. Animatronics are electronic props: they have a 6-foot-tall werewolf this year that will reach out, growl and snarl, moving its head back and forth.

"Each week we started on a different area and just went to town detailing it. The realism is greater than it's ever been," Stojevich said, adding that they also stepped up the sound, lighting and special effects (but that's all he will say, because he doesn't want to spoil it).

They've made other concessions to the pandemic and health guidelines to keep people safe. In addition to reducing the number of staff, groups going through the shack are limited in size (six or fewer people) and frequency. They are spraying down the shack every hour. There are more hay wagons and they aren't waiting to fill up a wagon before taking off, and handrails are disinfected between rides. Lines will be more spread out. People may be asked to wait in their cars when it's too crowded. Masks are mandatory for everyone, even staff (who got Halloween-themed masks).

Talking from one of his thrice-weekly kidney dialysis sessions, Stojevich said he never considered canceling the annual scarefest, despite kidney failure and a pandemic.

"I don't care how sick I am, I'm still gonna do it," he said. "Even if I'm 6 foot under, I'll still be there some way."


Two much fun

Amber Nichols

Charlie Robnik gets his first ride on a horse as Adam Robnik holds him in place at the Ru-Ridge Corn Maze.

Two businesses make their home side by side at 1781 County Road 1: Ru-Ridge Corn Maze and the Haunted Shack.

Ru-Ridge is open Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (it's flashlight Friday in the corn maze), Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, and is free for ages 2 and younger.

The Haunted Shack is open this weekend 7-10 p.m. each night, then Thursday through Sunday Oct. 15-18 and 22-25 and Oct. 29-31. They will have a kids' day (and for the faint of heart) 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 for $10 per person. Admission to all three attractions is a $15-per-person donation, with proceeds going to a number of local charities. Bring a coat to donate for $5 off and a nonperishable food item for $2 off.


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