Behind the scenes at Camp Spookynaw
● By Steven Hoffman
In its second year, Camp Spookynaw has doubled down on the frights—and the fun.
Visitors to the haunted camp in Oxford will enjoy a trio of terrifying new attractions this year: The Wizards and Witches Tour that includes ten buildings of scary fun; Beneath Cabin 13, a nightmarish maze that celebrates some classic elements of the horror genre; and the Shriek of the Scarecrow Hayride, a harrowing journey through the camp’s horrifying woods.
Everyone knows that a rule for horror movies is that the sequel always has to top the original when it comes to terror, and the creative team behind Camp Spookynaw has certainly pushed the eerie envelope for the second year, while carefully maintaining a fun-for-all-ages atmosphere.
“We have significantly expanded the attractions,” explained Mike Petkov, whose family has owned and operated Camp Saginaw since the mid-1980s. “The reviews have been phenomenal.”
Indeed, Camp Spookynaw is already creeping up the on the lists of the Philadelphia area’s scariest Halloween haunts thanks to this year’s frighteningly fun attractions.
Mark Moyer, who partners with the Petkov family and was a driving creative force behind the creation of Camp Spookynaw in 2014, explained that the team did a lot of research between year one and year two to develop a concept that effectively utilizes the camp’s setting in the storyline.
As Kris Dumont, one of the actors explained, “With the Halloween haunts, you have to change it up to keep it exciting. It makes people want to come back.”
Everyone is impressed by the imagination and talents of the design team that put together this year’s attractions.
Chris Clark is part of the design team. “I love designing the set pieces and working with the team,” he explained.
As visitors learned last year at Camp Spookynaw, everyone is afraid during their first night in camp, and that’s especially true this year for anyone who dares to venture through the Beneath Cabin 13 maze. The theme of Beneath Cabin 13 is that campers have had their dreams taken away, and the maze is filled with nightmarish images, including severed limbs, skeletons, and an animatronic tree beast.
Dumont explained that the creative team worked hard to make Beneath Cabin 13 a frightening feast for the senses—in addition to the nightmarish images, there are spooky sound effects that disorient the visitors. Even the textures of the macabre displays have been carefully planned to disorient visitors. There are always live actors popping out to scare the unsuspecting visitors.
“Our new actors are great,” explained Dumont.
According to Keith Moyer, one of the lead actors at Camp Spookynaw, what stands out about the haunt are the high production values and the quality of the acting. Moyer himself is a professional actor and a producer, and he has had roles in “The Wire,” “Enchanted,” and “Invincible.”
“We have a few professional actors from film and television here,” the West Chester native explained. “We have someone here involved with television production.”
There are approximately 60 staff members who perform as part of the experience at Camp Spookynaw, and many of the actors and actresses come up with fun backstories for their characters. Moyer is one of the people who helps the other cast members with their performances. He also portrays Riddles Conundrum, a character that he describes as Monty Python meets the “Game of Thrones.”
Laura Lynn Cottrel is one of the lead actresses at Camp Spookynaw. The West Chester, Pa. native is a professional actress who has worked on television and in film. She earned her Screen Actors Guild card for a role as a cheerleader in “The Replacements.” One of her responsibilities is to help some of the cast members with their roles. When she’s not helping the other cast members, Cottrel plays “Seraphim,” a bipolar vampire who is always nice to children, but not quite as nice to adults. Her character illustrates how Camp Spookynaw blends frights with fun. The goal is to offer enough scares to satisfy those who want to be terrified, but to also keep it fun and entertaining for children.
Cottrel’s son, Tyler Ollis, plays one of the more unusual characters at Camp Spookynaw. He disguises himself as a bush and hides in the middle of real bushes, waiting for the perfect moment to jump out at unsuspecting visitors as they walk by.
“He’s one of our top scarers,” explained Cottrel proudly.
The cast members say that they love performing for the visitors, and many are like Dominic Pirocchi or Aaron Guthrie, who both said that they love Halloween and scary things. Guthrie portrayed a man working in the boiler room in Beneath Cabin 13.
“We get tons of scares,” Guthrie explained. “It’s a scary maze to walk through.”
Tyler Johnston, a resident of Oxford, said that his favorite new attraction is Beneath Cabin 13. He plays a mental patient in the infirmary.
Yasmin Koudstaal portrays Patricia, a young woman who met with misfortune in the infirmary. She said that her favorite part of working at Camp Spookynaw is performing alongside friends.
The Wizards and Witches Tour offers ten buildings of scary fun on the sprawling camp.
Guests who take part in a 15-minute harrowing hayride will see everything from a werewolf to a witch to a haunted bride to an area full of zombies.
Rugarth, the enchanted and mysterious dragon that was the star of Camp Spookynaw’s debut season plays an important role this year, too.
Camp Spookynaw is open from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in October. Camp Spookynaw is located at 740 Saginaw Road in Oxford. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.campspookynaw.com or call 610-553-6000.