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HILLSVILLE — Before the ghosts and goblins took up residence in the FFA's Haunted Corn Maze, organizers had to exorcise an occupant firmly rooted in the natural world.
The fall corn maze on the campus of the Hillsville Elementary School was a project of the Carroll County High School Future Farmers of America chapter, and it transitions to a haunted one in time for Halloween.
The maze, held along with the elementary school's fall festival last Saturday, attracted probably 200 people and one surprise guest, said teacher Randy Webb.
"We just had put about seven people in the corn maze," he recalled. "A student and I were standing there when a bear come over the hill."
Webb had always heard that bears, despite their size and their claws, are as scared of people as people are of them.
That didn't look like the case when Webb raised his arms and ran at the bear ee* and the animal did the same to the teacher.
The bear veered off into the corn maze, where some people were going through until a student warned them to seek the closest exits.
Webb called Animal Control Officer Terry Woods to scope out the maze with him. "Terry and I went through ee* the bear had cleared out," the teacher said.
Webb suspects the bear had been staying in a silage corn field, recently cut, and it had sought another place to stay.
It felt right at home in the corn maze. Webb and Woods found a place with completely flattened stalks and about 20 gnawed cobbs.
It had raked the food in. "You could tell it had been eating quite well," the teacher said.
During the haunted corn maze, organizers plan to make a racket the bear wouldn't be able to hibernate through, with a Ford Ranger with straight pipes and a generator running.
Webb didn't expect to have a fright of his own in the corn maze. "I guess that's been the scariest experience I've had since I been teaching," he said.
• The Haunted Corn Maze is open from 8-11 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $4 each. To get there, take U.S. 221 north of Hillsville for about three miles and turn left into the Hillsville Elementary School parking lot.