CarnEvil to haunt Merriweather Park - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

CarnEvil to haunt Merriweather Park

A hundred years ago, the wooded area that’s now Merriweather Park was home to a popular amusement park, where families enjoyed rides and laughed at clowns.

Everything was great – until it wasn’t. Suddenly, the park’s beloved owner, Mr. Archibald Evil, died. The amusement park never recovered and deteriorated and was closed, causing the clowns and performers to seek shelter in the woods, never to be seen again.

Until now. The performers have returned, but they are intent on wreaking terror to those who set foot on the hallowed grounds where Archibald is laid to rest.

Good story, right?  Is it true? Who cares – it makes for a fantastic explanation as to why the entertainment venue in the heart of Columbia has been transformed into a haven for killer clowns, a wolfboy, a bearded lady, zombies and other freak show performers and creatures.

It’s called CarnEvil, an experiment concocted by Howard County resident Gene Ryan that combines a haunted walk in the woods with amusement park-style games and of course, lots of fair food and alcohol during 14 select nights from Oct. 13 – Nov. 5.

“Merriweather is a strong name when it comes to arts and entertainment, so why not have killer clowns and zombies?” Ryan said. “The way it works is the later the night gets, the scarier it gets. This isn’t a haunted house. This is something you experience while you are walking as opposed to entering a house.”

Killer clowns will take over Merriweather Park for CarnEvil beginning on Oct. 13. (Photos by Donna Jean Rumbley)

But Ryan said CarnEvil isn’t just about terrorizing guests.

“It’s a festival that has music, midway games, food and all kinds of beverages,” he added. “It is as scary as you want it to be.”

CarnEvil uses actors, actresses and robotic devices that emulate humans and demonic creatures to create a terrifying walk in the woods for those brave enough to enter. The rules, however, are simple: contact between crew and guests is prohibited and guests can’t wear costumes.

Ryan said the gaming and concession areas, which feature jugglers, firebreathers, bonfires and music, are fun for all ages. The first two shows each night at 6:30 and 6:45 are kid friendly, meaning there are no actors, animatronics or disturbing scenes. But once the clock hits 7 p.m., he suggests that no one under 16 enters the woods, though all ages are allowed.

“The later it gets, the scarier it gets,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d recommend taking a child into the woods. They could be overwhelmed. I’d say high school age or older.”

Admission includes all the attractions, though games, food and drinks are extra. Proceeds from the event are donated to Disaster Preparedness DC, a non-profit that reduces disaster-related loss of life and human suffering by directly supporting first responders’ training and equipment needs. The charity organization elevates social consciousness of catastrophe preparedness through public advocacy and provides immediate support to local public safety agencies during emergency disaster responses.

“We want to build our communities’ resiliency when these disasters happen by making them more prepared to deal with them,” said Ryan, who founded the charity two years ago and is a sergeant with the D.C. Fire Department. “We started the charity because we needed $25,000 to buy a search and rescue dog and it took off from there.”

CarnEvil, which is in its first year, could provide an economic boost to a venue that is mostly empty in the fall or winter, when the summer concert season has concluded.

“Merriweather has Wine in the Woods and Books in the Woods when there are no concerts,” he said. “So why not have zombies in the woods?”


When: Oct. 13-15; Oct. 19-22; Oct. 26-29; Oct. 31; Nov. 4-5

Shows: Kids shows at 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m.; Adult shows are every 30 minutes from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Park

Tickets: Kids: (12 and under): $21.97; Adults: $40.33 and can be purchased here.

Parking: Free

More info:


About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.

One Comment

  1. George says:

    Literally the biggest waste of money. Midway games? There were 4. Performers? Some guy sort of juggling fire? Food? One single food truck with a long line? Scary trail? It was like a high school kids. They had sheets painted for walls. Im not kidding. The monsters in the woods were like middle schoolers dressed up… Some younger. Basically the smores were the only good part. Disappointing

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