Next Score View the next score

    Farmers have cornfields sprouting mazes at every turn

    A Sauchuk Farm “maze guide” stands ready to help frustrated visitors to the Plympton challenge head the right way.
    George Rizer for The Boston Globe
    A Sauchuk Farm “maze guide” stands ready to help frustrated visitors to the Plympton challenge head the right way.

    Getting lost is typically not a state any of us wants to be in — unless, of course, we’re looking for it.

    That’s the quintessential fall tradition of corn mazes: exploring among the rows and rows of labyrinthine stalks, getting turned around, hitting dead ends, following clues, and finally breaking free into the autumn air.

    “We love to see old and young, just having fun,” said Lynn Reading of Billingsgate Farm in Plympton, which offers up a corn maze of a different theme every fall. “It’s good exercise; it’s educational.”


    For adventurous types, the region is teeming with maize cut with crisscrossing passageways and corridors, false exits, and obstacles, ready to be navigated. The state boasts roughly 30 corn mazes, and there are about 800 scattered across the country, according to the tracking group Corn Mazes America.

    Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
    A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    “It’s just so much fun,” said Jan Nargi of Hanson’s Farm in Framingham. “It’s a throwback to childhood.”

    Hanson’s annual 3-acre maze — open through Nov. 1 — doesn’t have a particular theme, although visitors are met with the playfully ominous signs “Enter if you Dare,” and “Exit if you Can.”

    “We’ve had high school kids who have been able to buzz through it in about 15 minutes,” Nargi said, “and then couples will take their time and be in there for an hour.”

    The farm is also offering haunted hayrides on Friday and Saturday nights through Nov. 1; the trek traverses the fields while various creepy characters “come out and torment folks,” Nargi said. “I’m told it’s pretty scary.”


    Billingsgate, meanwhile, has an elaborate pirate theme with a design featuring a ship, turbulent seas, skull and crossbones, and a desert island.

    To work their way through its passages, explorers take clues from pictures, word games, and questions (such as: How many yards can a pirate cannon fire? Answer: Between 100 and 200 yards). Reading says the real pathfinders who make it to the center of the maze will find a treasure chest from which they can pull out a lucky coin.

    The farm works with the national design company Maize Quest, and in the past it has had a rain-forest theme, and an emphasis on buying fresh and local.

    This year, the farm is also incorporating a kiddie maze, titled “Jack and the Cornstalk,’’ and pet lovers can bring their dogs to an animal-friendly maze day on Nov. 1, its last day open.

    For a spookier experience, Billingsgate will host a night event on Saturday where people will have to find their way just by the illumination of their flashlights.


    “It is a little bit more challenging,” said Reading. “It is a sight to see all the lights going inside the maze.”

    ‘It’s labor-intensive . . . we don’t want to make it too easy.’

    Of course, “corn cops” are always on hand to help people on the paths, she said.

    Marini Farm in Ipswich also has “maze masters,” and travelers are given flags, a phone number to call for help, and a link to the website that can help them exit via GPS.

    “They can feel comfortable where it’s not something they’re going to get lost in for hours and hours,” said corn maze employee Sarah Churchill.

    To have the best experience, she also urged people to dress appropriately for the weather and bring water.

    This year’s theme for the farm’s sizable 10-acre maze is “Spookley,” based on a children’s book about a square pumpkin who gets bullied — until he wins the favor of his round friends. Several stations through the maze are set up with clues and game pieces, Churchill said.

    And don’t forget about the world-famous befuddler at Connors Farm in Danvers (nicknamed the “911 maze” because of a notorious emergency call made in 2011, when a family literally got lost inside). Its 7-acre maze, open daily through Nov. 2, has an “America the Beautiful” theme this fall, looking from an aerial perspective a verdant map of the United States. Past themes have included “Family Guy,” Clint Eastwood, and the witches of Salem. Accompanying the attraction is a zombie paintball ride, a paranormal cemetery walk, and an assembly of creepy, murderous characters.

    “It can be done with the whole family; it’s exciting for everybody from adults down to small children,” Churchill said of Marini’s maze, which is open until Nov. 1. And it’s an “actual cornfield — you’re out there in mud and rocks — on an actual working farm.”

    But while for the visitor it’s cavorting and fun, creating a maze takes a great deal of planning and manual labor.

    At Hanson’s Farm, a group spends hours cutting the stalks back with machetes.

    “It’s labor-intensive,” said Nargi, adding that “we don’t want to make it too easy.”

    The 4-acre puzzle at Mansfield’s Flint Farm starts as a a mere grid on graph paper; then, when the stalks are only 3 or 4 inches high, it’s manicured and cut to specs with a lawnmower.

    Even though his family has been creating mazes for more than a decade, Dave Flint never really knows for sure whether the design came out just right until he gets a glimpse of it from the air, in a small plane from the nearby Mansfield Municipal Airport.

    In the past, the family has designed mazes with themes of the beach, ice cream cones, and to celebrate a Red Sox World Series win.

    “The hardest part is coming up with something you can incorporate into a maze,” said Flint.

    This year, the theme is an old-school pickup truck, accompanied by questions related to America’s favorite vehicle.

    “It’s a ‘what you make of it’ kind of thing,” Flint said, “just to get outside and do something.”

    Taryn Plumb can be reached at