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5,280 Feet of Freakish Fright

October 18, 2011

While standing in line at the Morrow Road Haunted Trail on Friday, October 14th, Ashley Hickman of Clay Township asked if she could talk to Francis J. Sampier, the creator of the trail and director of the upcoming movie, Morrow Road. She wanted to tell him what happened to her on a summer night seven years earlier when she was just 19.

She and a friend went to the bridge at Morrow Road when the road was still a narrow dirt road and stood on the bridge at 3:30am. She turned off the car, pushed the car horn three times (part of the legend) and waited. She saw an eerie light coming toward them and then a blast of cold air came through the window. Feeling a sense of dread, she tried to start the car but it wouldn’t start. She put the foot on the gas and tried again and again and finally got the car started and took off. She said that on the next day, there were handprints all over the back of her car which only came off at a local car wash. She had not gone back to the road since that night but was so shaken by her experience that she contacted Black River Paranormal to investigate Morrow Road. Black River calls itself “a paranormal group that brings scientific thinking” into their investigations.  They claim that “90% of all paranormal activity can be dismissed through investigation of the claims” but also that their “founding members have both had personal paranormal experiences while growing up which led to their interest in the paranormal.” Still haunted by memories of that night, Ashley has written about her experiences and the legend of Morrow Road for her class at Baker College.

The Morrow Road Haunted Trail is a self-guided walk-through trail which is just over a mile long, takes about an hour, and has dozens of volunteers stationed at various locations. The mission of the haunted trail is simple: to scare the living daylights out of those who travel its treacherous path.

The haunted trail is now in its fifth year of operation. It was voted Best Trail in Michigan in 2009 and 2010 and was nominated for Best Attraction in Michigan in 2009. It runs only on four Fridays and four Saturdays in October for a total of 8 nights. Francis says his goal for the trail is to help raise money for the movie and also to get food donations for a local charity. The ticket price is $18 for adults and $15 for students, which is reduced by a dollar off each ticket (up to a maximum of $3) if the customer brings canned or dry food goods. Customers are shuttled back and forth from Algonquin Middle School at 9185 Marsh Road in Clay Township to a house on Stone Road. The woods in back of the house, part of the Morrow Woods, are only a short distance from the legendary Morrow Road.

The first weekend in October was unusually warm and packed with over 300 people thrilled, scared, terrified, and ultimately relieved and satisfied. It was less busy on the second Friday because of football homecoming games in surrounding Algonac and Port Huron. After the Friday night rains had passed in the morning, the wind died down, and the temperature was relatively mild. But the rain and wind from earlier that day had to be dealt with by Sampier. He spent hours, making sure torn off branches were removed from the trail so that no one would get hurt in the nearly pitch-black darkness along the trail.

On Saturday night, October 15th, 164 people traveled to Clay Township, a few miles from Lake Huron. Adults and young children, teens and older people alike, stood in line, ready to face their darkest fears. Some had been on the trail the previous year but most had not and either heard about the trail or read about it in Fear Finder Magazine (www.fearfinder.com), a guide to haunted houses and trails in Michigan. Francis stood at the front of the line, welcoming his guests, explaining the legend of Morrow Road, about a woman who died mysteriously in 1893 while searching for her lost child.

People who love to feel fear came from all over, from Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Hungary, and other areas across southeast Michigan to check out the award winning trail. Many of those who knew about the legend lived near Morrow Road, in Marine City, Anchor Bay, New Baltimore, and Algonac. Some had visited Morrow Road recently and many had stories about their own experiences at Morrow Road. Beth from the Clay Township area told about her experience 40 years earlier when she was a teen and visited the road on a snowy winter’s night with her future husband. Her boyfriend’s old car got stuck in the snow near the famous Morrow Road Bridge. They sat in the car and saw a streak of light flying their way. She said she could remember that long flash of light like it happened last night. Yet, what was most disturbing to her about that night was the noose she saw around her future husband’s neck which he confirmed. They were freaked out by the light and noose but when they tried to move the car out of the deep snow, it didn’t move. And then, she said, her young boyfriend got out of the car and lifted it from the snow as if he were a world class weight lifter. He was finally able to get his car out of Morrow Road, away from any ghosts, away from their intense fears.

While Beth and dozens of other stood in line, waiting to see the trail, various trailers, teasers, and information about the Morrow Road movie ran along the side of the trail, including the new HD trailer (http://www.morrowroad.com/street_sign_temp.html), which won the best of the October Mitten Movie project in Royal Oak, Michigan. Every five or six minutes during the 3 ½ hour night, Francis yelled out to some of his many volunteers whose mission was simply to frighten willing participants, “Are you ready for your next victims?!”

Francis and his longtime friend and co-producer of the film, Jeff Arwady, grew up in Algonac, surrounded by the legend of the woman still searching for her baby boy. They read about it, saw it on television, and heard many of the stories from others. It was no surprise that these two cinema enthusiasts always wanted to make a movie and decided their first feature film was to be about Morrow Road. They studied the legend as well as the making and marketing of horror movies and wrote a script, made an extensive business plan, and secured a talented cast and crew which includes all three ladies and Hal Delrich, four of the five actors from the classic made-in-Michigan Sam Raimi horror film, The Evil Dead.

Sampier’s focus in the last year has been raising the money to film his horror movie. He and Jeff have spent hundreds of hours developing the business plan, getting the cast and crew, filming trailers, raising awareness for the project, developing a website (www.morrowroad.com) and Facebook page, and creating an incredible Morrow Road office in Shelby Township. Getting the right executive producers and investors is the final piece of the puzzle before finally making Morrow Road into a frightening, hypnotic, suspenseful film.

October is the true month for horror and Halloween, for scary movies, for paranormal activities, for fear and hauntings, for the dark side of the world. There are four more nights left of the Morrow Road Haunted Trail, ending two nights before Halloween, on Saturday night, October 29th.

Experience the ultimate in terror and thrills in the middle of a mile of darkness. As the Morrow Road Haunted Trail website says, “We will see you and your friends there. Have a Killer Time!”

From → Movies

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