Zombies overrun Freedom paintball park

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

There's been a prison break and the inmates have escaped to Freedom … Pennsylvania.

The “prisoners” now stalk the countryside.

Luckily, Ryan Krischke of Wexford has 240,000 rounds of ammunition in his garage.

Krischke owns Three Rivers Paintball Park, in Freedom, one of the state's largest paintball facilities.

To celebrate his 30th year in the business, Krischke wanted to add a new, family-friendly element to the experience. After attending TransWorld's Halloween & Attractions Show in St. Louis, he decided to turn his 70-acre property into a field of bad dreams - complete with a makeshift prison.

Zombies of the Corn allows patrons to fire paintball guns, called markers, at the undead without becoming targets themselves.

Modified wagons transport groups of 24 people, safari-style, through a wooded area teeming with “ghouls.”

Each rider is armed with a stationary marker and 120 paintballs, which are gelatin capsules filled with a non-caustic, water-soluble liquid. When the zombies attack, fighters are encouraged to aim for the head.

Art Shirvani, 27, a Three Rivers Paintball employee, doesn't mind playing dead.

“When Ryan (Krischke) asked me if I wanted to be a zombie and get shot at I said, ‘Yeah, I'll take one for the team,'” he says with a laugh.

Shirvani and his fellow zombies will be wear helmets, goggles, neck protection and padded suits under their costumes. Anybody interested in playing zombies must take a two-hour training course and have a flair for theatrics. The gig pays $8 an hour.

Zombies of the Corn doesn't rely on blood and guts; it uses mood lighting, sound effects and old-fashioned scare tactics.

“It's not extremely gory,” said employee Phil McPeak, 20. “Kids are not going to be traumatized. We want the younger crowd to enjoy it and introduce them to paintball.”

Turning the tables on the monsters is a bonus, he said.

“When you go through a haunted house and you see a zombie, what's the first thing you want to do?” he said. “You want to shoot it. Well, here you can.”

In addition, unarmed visitors will take a stroll through a one-and-a-half-acre, zombie-infested corn maze.

Krischke says the darkness - coupled with the rustling of the cornstalks - is guaranteed to send shivers up and down the spine of even the most macho man.

After a night of thrills, guests may warm themselves by campfires and visit the refreshment stand, where hot dogs and marshmallows will be available for roasting.

Storytellers will spin spooky yarns every 20 minutes and horror movies will be projected onto a big screen.

“If it all goes well, we'll be expanding greatly next year,” Krischke said. “We've come up with a lot of ideas during our brainstorming sessions.”

Kristy Locklin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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