AYER — Halloween. Darkness falls early. Branches, stripped of their colorful leaves, rattle in the late-autumn gusts.
Many cultures have traditions revolving around spirits. Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead, complete with skull candies.
Jack-o-lanterns are lit in the United States, perhaps a carry-over of an Irish tradition driving away evil spirits by placing a light in a carved turnip.
For generations, children have gone door-to-door, trick-or treating in search of sugary goodies.
Some seek scary Halloween thrills. An Ayer man has just the thing.
Warren Maxwell welcomes visitors brave enough to enter his “Hospital of Horrors” where staff and patients have been trapped ever since the 1950s.
They are only allowed out on Halloween, said the owner of “Third Degree of Terror.”
Visitors will brave six scenes inside his 20-foot by 24-foot garage. All of the medical paraphernalia that strikes fear into hearts is on view: x-rays, needles and skeletons.
Live actors will interact with guests. Music will raise the suspense. And, you will never know what is just ahead of you, until you get there.
As Dr. Rotmetzger, which translates to Dr. Red Butcher, Maxwell will greet visitors at the door, sending them inside to the nurse behind the screen.
The scare-level will be tailored for individual groups, he said. If young children are present, he’ll call out “pediatrics!” Average visitors will be announced with “geriatrics!”
For visitors that look like they can handle a good scare, the code word is “colonoscopy.”
Maxwell started out as a home haunter before becoming part of the haunted house industry. He worked at Ghoulie Manor in Taunton as an actor, scene designer and prop builder.
During that time he still ran his own, free, haunted house for the neighborhood.
“It’s great,” Maxwell said. “This is my year-round passion.”
This is the seventh year he has welcomed guests to his garage. It is the first year that it will be open more than one day.
Already he is planning for next year’s theme, “Cathedral of Chaos.” A castle facade for the garage door is all ready to go.
“For me, Halloween is about making great memories for the kids,” Maxwell said. “Halloween allows your creativity and imagination free rein, whether you’re making a costume or building a spooky walk-through like my garage haunt.”
Visit the Hospital of Horrors at 9 Third St., Ayer between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.
The mini-haunted house is free. No matter what your age, the thrills and chills will leave your heart beating faster and a smile on your face.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.