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Haunted Hayride Succeeds In Serving Up Terror
The crowd of clowns, "the floating head" and the huge spiders, both those crawling on the ground at the entrance and those descending from the trees in the woods, were among the most popular scary scenes at the Halloween Haunted Hayride, according to one viewer.

Others found the group of headless corpses sitting watching an outdoor horror movie at the far end of the ride disturbing, while a bloodstained surgery scene also added to the eerie feeling.

Riverbank Recreation Department staffers, with the help of many volunteers including most of Riverbank High's drama students and members of the Karate for Kids school again staged their close encounter with horror in the dark woods of Jacob Myers Park on Friday and Saturday evening.

Actually, it wasn't a hayride this time because the organizers had substituted real wooden benches in the trailers for the itchy but authentic hay bales the riders used to sit on. The number of riders this year seemed "lighter," said Scott McRitchie, who joins Scott Pettit each year in loading the wagons, five of them doing three runs per hour carrying 15 people apiece. He estimated 450 riders for the Friday hayride and 550 on Saturday.

The actual figures, according to a Riverbank City Hall spokesperson, were 370 on Friday and 591 on Saturday including children of three and under, who rode for free.

Pettit complimented his volunteers from Karate for Kids who ran a snack bar at the event and raised funds for the coming Christmas festival and Riverbank Cares that dispenses food and toys to the needy over the holidays.

The karate school donated hot dogs and popcorn plus hot chocolate and coffee to all the hayride helpers, McRitchie noted.

One of the most elaborate scenes on the ride was the first on the right where Craig Gamble with his neighbor Aaron Gobel and a granddaughter and stepdaughter had built a graveyard with skulls on posts, spiders, a raven, an open coffin and the figure of a white faced monk standing guard at the entrance. There was a lot of detail in the scene by day that was not obvious in the darkness lit only by flashing strobe lights.

Across the way on the left, several hooded actors from the high school drama department hovered over a figure whose entrails they appeared to be tearing out of his chest. They were planning to have a witches' cauldron and practice for the scene from Macbeth due for performance at the high school next week, they admitted, but had mislaid the cauldron and had to improvise.