Down in the ‘Swamp,’ inside the ‘Graveyard’

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Things are going to be spooky… and swampy… for the next few weeks on the border of Bristol and Southington.

That’s because Lake Compounce’s Haunted Graveyard has cleared out the Zombie Forest.

And they’ve dug up a Voodoo Swamp.

Ernie Romegialli, the creative force behind the Halloween attraction at the nation’s oldest continuously operating amusement park, was keeping the new dimension of the spooky attraction under wraps until opening day. But he said the Voodoo Swamp, which replaces the Zombie Forest, had a pair of inspirations. First of all, it was logistics. The performers who worked the old Zombie Forest had some concerns that needed addressing. Secondly, Romegialli said a trip to New Orleans gave him an idea.

He was told about the swamp tours that are conducted in Louisiana. It gave him visions of gators and more creatures from the dampness of the Big Easy.

From there, the ideas flowed.

Scary ideas.

For Romegialli, the key to the Haunted Graveyard is classic horror thrills and chills.

“He really likes his scares,” said Lake Compounce’s general managerGerry Brick. “(Haunted Graveyard) is not too gory.”

“Gore is easy to do,” said Romegialli. “All you have to do is splatter something.”

Classic horror scares give him the opportunity to spend time on details, said Romegialli.

Brick said, Romegialli revels in misdirection. While you’re paying attention to one thing, the scare comes from somewhere else unexpected.

That said, the Haunted Graveyard is not completely gore-free, Romegialli said. He said there are two spots that may cause you reason to pause—the Slaughterhouse and Trail 2 near the Saw Mill.

So beware.

Haunted Graveyard also has attracted a good deal of talent to populate the scares, said Romegialli. People from as faraway as Lyme, Conn. have made the trek to Bristol to spook the pants off th patrons on the trails or create the frightening characters by providing the facepainting needed for an affective human to ghoul transformation.

Brick said Haunted Graveyard first started at Compounce in 1999 after being moved from Romegialli’s house in Middletown.

Romegialli said, “We were an amateur show in 1999 compareed to what we do now.”

Even if you came to see Haunted Graveyard five years ago, said Romegialli, you haven’t seen anything like what it has become.

For instance, Romegialli noted the detailing on the painted brickwork and the higher walls that make the attraction seem more foreboding. “It feels different when you walk inside.”

The Haunted Graveyard brings in patrons who normally wouldn’t head into the amusement park, said Brick. The patrons of the Graveyard tend to be older—- teens and young adults—out with friends or on a date night and looking for scares, he said. The amusement rides typically tend to bring in a more family-type crowd. And some of the typical patrons don’t go into the Haunted Graveyard, said Brick. For instance, his own 11-year-old daughter and his wife will not visit the Haunted Graveyard.

The Haunted Graveyard at Lake Compounce is open weekends through Oct. 29.

Lake Compounce is open each night of Haunted Graveyard and will feature special Halloween décor and live actors roaming the midway streets, dressed to scare. Lake Compounce opens at 5 p.m. and will have 17 rides available. The Haunted Graveyard is a separate attraction located at the north end of Lake Compounce and will open at dusk. All guests must enter via the main gates, and are encouraged to arrive early.

Haunted Graveyard and Lake Compounce tickets are available for purchase online, www.LakeCompounce.com or at the main gate.