Children’s screams were audible from down the block from the trick-or-treaters who dared to enter the Fishel Fright Fest on Halloween night.
A 16-foot Grim Reaper loomed over the front lawn of the Riverhead home and a sign posted at the entrance of a “Spooky Walk” warned visitors to be aware of “spiders, monsters, witches, skeletons, ghosts and zombies.” The path took trick-or-treaters past a skeleton graveyard and shipwreck. And hiding in the shadows, volunteers in ghillie suits waited for just the right moment to startle anyone who walked past.
The Halloween extravaganza is the work of the Ofeldt family, who have been building up their annual spooky display since 2014. They spend weeks putting together all the pieces in preparation for Halloween night.
“My husband and I absolutely love Halloween,” said Christina Ofeldt. “This is like our Christmas.”
The process begins in about the second week of September. They decorate the left side of the lawn at the Fishel Avenue home with 10 inflatable Halloween figures, including the large Grim Reaper that was added to the collection this year. Younger children not ready for the full scare can take photos with their families and enjoy the “No Scare” walk, where they stroll through a path with all the blow-ups.
The right side is transformed into a the Spooky Walk, complete with volunteers in costume jumping out and scaring participants. At the end, Ms. Ofeldt’s mother, Pat Artale, who owns the house, hands out candy from her front door.
“I’ve always decorated, but then I met my husband and it just got a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger,” Ms. Ofeldt said.
It started out as a small walkthrough for kids to look at the inflatables, and when they saw how much people loved it, it sparked their creativity. Every year, they try to incorporate something new by adding new attractions or inflatables. All their material has been accumulated over the years, and often purchased after Halloween so they can take advantage of the sales.
“It just gets bigger and bigger every year,” she said. “We love to do it for the kids. We love to do it for the community. We love to hear them scream.”
Bryan Ofeldt used to work upstate at Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses as security and he draws a lot of his inspiration from that.
“We don’t want to make the haunt the same every year,” Mr. Ofeldt said. “Every year, the walkthrough changes and it becomes something different. We try to change everything up so people come back.”
It is free for anyone who wants to partake and it is only open on Halloween. Last year, they got approximately 400 children. They just started a Facebook page called Fishel Fright Fest so they can see everyone’s photos.
“When you see someone else who has no idea what’s coming, it’s hysterical,” she said. “We decided to make Facebook group so that people can post their own photos.”
One of Ms. Ofeldt’s favorite memories is from about two years ago, when a small child and his brother came to get candy and ended up walking through the spooky walk. About half an hour later, they came back and asked to go through the maze again because the kids hadn’t stopped talking about it since.
“That’s what does it for us. We just love it and we get a lot of people,” she said.