A ‘Haunted Farm,’ complete with paintball zombie hunting, set to open on eastern edge of Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

An old pickup truck rests next to the abandoned saloon building at Garrett's Haunted Farm, which is under construction in eastern Lawrence.

Zombie organization can wear a fellow out.

As an owner of a new seasonal business on East 23rd Street, Eric Garrett has heard all about it. A big part of his family’s Garrett’s Haunted Farm will be a zombie hunt, where visitors take a hay rack ride while armed with paintball guns to “defend” themselves against zombies that are roaming the property.

The business — which is popping up at the intersection of Franklin Road and East 23rd Street, near the Douglas County Jail — really is a family project, as Garrett’s 8-year-old twin boys and their 5-year-old brother have been giving a lot of input on zombies.

“One of my sons told me the other day that he doesn’t have time for school anymore,” Garrett said. “I told him I know how he feels, but that he’s going to school.”

But the boys still will get the bulk of the credit for inspiring the idea of a Haunted Farm. Garrett said his kids had told him how there wasn’t anything to do in Lawrence for kids.

“I told them that I can’t do something fun all year, but I can do something fun for a month,” Garrett said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Work is underway to convert the open field at the intersection of Franklin Road and East 23rd Street into a Haunted Farm. The site will have several “buildings” from the town of Franklin, which was a historic settlement in Douglas County during the Bleeding Kansas period.

The Haunted Farm indeed will be open for about a month. Opening day for a portion of the business is set for Sept. 28. The first night for the zombie hunt portion of the business will be Sept. 29. The business will be open through Halloween.

The second part of the Haunted Farm business is geared to be less frightful than the zombie hunting attraction. It is a family fun zone area that will operate during the daytime hours. That zone includes a pumpkin patch, a straw bale maze, face painting and something called a corn pit. If you aren’t familiar with corn pits, they are wooden enclosures filled with corn kernels. Kids can wade and “swim” through them, much like they do in a ball pit.

“We’re even going to have a slide with this one,” Garrett said. “We think it will be one of the largest corn pits in eastern Kansas.”

Garrett also is hopeful of having a small train ride for kids. The train would be similar to what you see in parks and zoos. Garrett said he’s still working with the supplier but is hopeful the train will arrive in time.

The fun zone charges kids $5 for entrance and an additional $5 for a train ride, while adults are admitted free of charge. The zone will run 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Work is underway to set up a Haunted Farm seasonal Halloween business near the intersection of 23rd Street and Franklin Road in eastern Lawrence.

As the day turns to evening, that’s when the zombies come out. And they won’t just be roaming aimlessly. They’ll be populating the old town of Franklin. If you know your area history, you may remember the area on the east edge of modern-day Lawrence once was home to the community of Franklin.

In real life, Franklin was the site of some harrowing experiences. It was a pro-slavery stronghold, which, of course, created much tension with Lawrence, a fierce abolitionist community. The abolitionist John Brown once attacked Franklin in retaliation for an attack on Lawrence. In another skirmish, Lawrence Free Staters attacked the town again and captured “Old Sacramento,” a cannon that the pro-slavery forces had fired upon Lawrence previously.

Garrett is creating an entire Franklin scene that zombie hunt participants will be driven through via tractor and trailer. That scene includes facades of a Franklin church, a bank, a high school, a hospital, a saloon and other such structures.

Garrett said he hopes the Haunted Farm introduces the idea that Douglas County used to have a town called Franklin years ago. Today, more people probably are familiar with the fireworks stand that has been a July 4 staple for decades than they are with any Franklin history.

Garrett’s family operates the fireworks stand, and they also operate a much larger fireworks business. The family has its own line of fireworks, and a wholesale operation that sells fireworks far and wide.

That fireworks business continues to go well, but the family is always looking for new opportunities.

“Basically, my wife, my mom and I wanted to do something fun and different,” he said.

How different? Perhaps a camel zombie. People who have been in Lawrence long enough remember that the Garrett fireworks stand at that location set itself apart by offering free camel rides. Garrett said he doesn’t have a camel zombie ready to go as part of the zombie hunt attraction.

“But I really should have thought of that,” he said.

Perhaps that will be a future attraction. Garrett said his family bought the 17-acre site at 1387 East 1650 Road — technically the property is in the county, although it has much of the city around it — a few years ago. Owning the property has given the family more freedom to think of other ways to use the property.

“We hope this Halloween thing is a success,” Garrett said. “If so, maybe there will be some other seasonal businesses we can do too.”

People who want to participate in the zombie hunt are encouraged to make reservations online at garretts-haunted-farm.ticketleap.com. Admission prices are about $30.

A building facade has been set up as part of Garrett’s Haunted Farm in eastern Lawrence, shown Sept. 21, 2022.


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