By BRIAN WALKER
RATHDRUM — Ed and Ruth Maryott are living their dreams by creating nightmare experiences.
Ed, 79, and Ruth, 71, just can't get enough of giving people of all ages a shock each October.
"We've got to keep going," Ruth said with a laugh. "It's what keeps us young. If we keep our minds young and stay busy, that keeps our bodies young. We have a few aches and pains, but this lets us not pay attention to that."
The Maryotts are in their 17th season of presenting the Tunnel of Terror at 7980 W. Diagonal Road just north of Rathdrum.
"We've added on again this year, so we're now at 700 feet long," she said of the covered hay bale maze of spooky characters and creatures.
The couple has new occupants and features inside the tunnel each year so visitors don't become comfortable when they return.
"We spent $8,000 for new props this year," she said. "All the money we make we put back into the next year's tunnel."
Ruth doesn't like to disclose all of the haunts that await brave souls, but she'll offer teasers.
"There's a Jurassic Park scene that will speak for itself," she said. "A big dragon that spits smoke is also in there."
Clowns, spiders and lunging characters may also await around the next corner.
More emergency exits have also been added in case visitors just can't belly any more of the thrills.
"There's now six emergency exits in case someone happens to use a lighter to see where they're going and, God forbid, something happens," she said.
The tunnel is open every Friday and Saturday in October and on Halloween from 7 to 10 p.m. Cost is $5 for those 12 and older, $3 ages 6 to 11.
Maryott said she and Ed at one point contemplated having their tunnel go dark — completely dark forever — but pleas from the community changed their minds.
"When I hear, 'You're doing a great job, that makes us feel wonderful,'" she said.
Ruth said she didn't get to experience Halloween in rural Montana growing up, but Ed did.
"That kind of made me jealous, so when we got older and had our own kids, we wanted to do this," she said.
What started as a backyard tunnel for their own children has evolved into a terrorizing thrill enjoyed by more than 2,000 people in recent seasons.
"We've just continued to add on as people have said they'd like us to do it again," she said. "We did it for free at first, but then we had a problem of teens wanting to go through over and over and they'd horse around and do some damage."
Ruth said the tunnel is intended to be a family-friendly place — with a spooky edge.
"One lady peed her pants, went home to change, then brought back nine friends that she paid for to go through," Ed said.
The tunnel is a labor of love for Ed, who makes and hands out kettle corn, Ruth, the ticket taker, and Lakeland High drama students who get in on the fun.
"Some of those kids get really spooky," Ruth said.
There have been times over the years, when the students have played their parts a little too well, that led to knee-jerk reactions, she said.
"My son got popped in the chops once," she said.