Cherry Hill couple ‘trail off’ into new Halloween territory

Bryan Neel and Ricardo Ayala create path for public behind their home.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Neel. The Haunted Trail features animatronics.

What started as an idea to bring a bit of the spooky spirit to friends has since expanded into a way to give the community a scary good time.

Bryan Neel and his partner, Ricardo Ayala, created a haunted Halloween trail behind their Cherry Hill home that will be open to visitors each weekend leading up to Halloween.

The trail is open to the public every Friday and Saturday night from 7:45 to 11 p.m. Given it’s private property, the pair are asking people to email for a reservation before they provide an address. To ensure everyone’s safety, attendees are asked to cap groups at five people and all participants are required to wear a mask.

Both Neel and Ayala run the drag shows at Vera Bar and Grill in Cherry Hill. Due to COVID-19, their shows were cut back, and so they sought a way to flex their creative muscles. Why not do something a bit theatrical for their Halloween party?

With a forest running directly behind their property, the men decided to clear a path and create a haunted trail for their shindig. They sourced animatronics to line the trail, sectioned off the path with ropes, hung cobwebs and installed solar-powered lights to shine on the attractions.They’ve also recruited some of their performer friends to get in on the fun by dressing up and providing scares along the way. 

Given so many local attractions are shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple thought, why not open the trail up to the public for others to enjoy? 

“Obviously, Halloween is going to be different this year,” Neel said. “We didn’t know if any of the Halloween trails were going to open this year.” 

So he plans to provide a guided tour down their haunted path. He said neighbors are supportive and also buzzing about the trail. Neel even made the experience something of a family affair, with his mom checking reservations and leading people in and his dad dressing up to perform along the trail.

Neel created a teaser video of the trail and posted it to Facebook, and he said reservations are already rolling in. If all of the slots fill up and there’s enough interest, the partners will consider keeping the trail open one week past Halloween and potentially adding slots earlier in the day, while there’s still light out for anyone who wants to bring kids. 

The trail takes about eight to 15 minutes to walk. Attendees can take photos ahead of walking the path and everyone will leave with a free bag of candy. There are no age restrictions, but Neel warned the trail may be mildly scary for young children. 

Neel and Ayala created the trail purely for their own fun, so there’s no cost to attend. But they’re considering making it an annual tradition, so for those who’d like to donate, the pair will invest that money in enhancing the experience for next year. Neel said the couple are looking forward to where the trail leads in the future. 

The trail officially opened on Oct. 9, and as of now, it will run through Halloween. For more information or to make a reservation, email brytoxication@gmail.com