Marvin Friesen

Marvin Friesen

Family of the corn

Two haunted corn mazes, the story of a murderous family, and more will terrify at O’Keefe Ranch’s Field of Screams.

At the turn of the 20th century, a humble and hard working family, the Melfords of Oklahoma State, started a homestead in the North Okanagan area.

It later became a household-named business, well-known for high quality farm fresh goods and products.

The Melford family was renowned for their Saturday family picnics on the farmstead, open to the public and providing free picnic fare, all while Josef Melford shared “the good word” from the South of new found faith.

Suspicions began to grow around reports of odd happenings at the family farm. Concern grew as more and more reports of missing people surfaced. Those folks who became involved in the family faith also started to report strange behavior and practices that left some of the growing following divided in their rising discomfort.

Over time, enough rumour and hearsay circulated to give investigators a reason to look more closely at the family’s land and farm business.

While the investigation was ongoing, reports emerged from Oklahoma State of more than just tall tales and gossip. The family was the target of a U.S. national search as they were on a most wanted list for multiple mass murders.

At least five family members were identified: Robert Melford (Bobby the Butcher), Meredith Melford (Granny), Josef Melford (Pastor Jo), Annabelle Melford (Annex Annie), and RoseMarie Melford.

Once investigators and local authorities had cause to arrest the family members, they breached the property but found only vacant buildings. The entire family had vanished. Communication between Oklahoma State and the Vernon police, as well as Canadian authorities, determined that this was at least the third time the family had settled on a farmstead and then vanished. Suspicions were that the family had been evading the law and continuing their practices for generations. The Vernon investigation never generated any conclusive evidence of exactly what happened on the property. The closest thing to evidence of foul play found was a series of unmarked shallow graves behind the farm’s barn – all empty.

The Vernon site remains an unsolved mystery to this day.

After an overwhelming response to last year’s Haunted Corn Maze, O’Keefe Ranch is building a bigger and better scare this year just in time for Halloween. Not only will there be a theatrically-themed and operated maze, based on the story of the Melford family, another maze has been built at the ranch to double the scare factor.

“We had an unexpected phenomenal turn out last year and we want to give our community, as well as the surrounding communities, a reason to come back for an even better experience this year,” said ranch manager Glen Taylor. “It’s a great way to help a very important piece of Vernon’s history and its survival. Without our community’s tremendous support, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Fright enthusiasts must choose the experience they dare to embark upon, with small clues enticing them to decide their fate.

“This year we are giving more than just a reason to come to our event, we are giving folks a reason to come back and do this more than once,” said local director and actor Matt Brown, who is lending a hand at creating O’Keefe’s 2014 Field of Screams.

The Field of Screams opens this week, Wednesday to Saturday, and Oct. 28 to 30. Admission is $10 (free for 2014/2015 seasons pass holders) at the gate, which opens at 6 p.m. The mazes are open from 7 until 10:30 p.m.