MANCHESTER — Halloween is months away, but Chris Price and Matt Kutrik are sneaking down a narrow alley that leads to a deserted graveyard.
With clipboard and pen in hand, the two Boy Scouts are collecting information among broken tombstones behind a 19th-century building on High Street.
As part of a Scout project, the two North Carroll teens are recording the names and dates that appear on the 150 or so tombstones thatare arranged in six rows.
The boys have discovered a link to Manchester's past and are collecting data about town ancestors.
"It was neat seeing old tombstones, which not too many kids get to see," said 13-year-old Chris, son of Donna and Mike Price of Hampstead.
Fourteen-year-old Matt, son of Hampstead residents Tess and Mark Williams, agreed.
"It felt strange being in a graveyard," he said. "Someof the people buried here were old, but one was just an infant."
In their search for a project to fulfill six hours of community service required for Scouting's "Star" rank, the teens contacted CharlotteCollett, member of Manchester's Historical Committee.
Collett, a retired teacher, is the town council member who oversees parks and recreation. She suggested the Scouts copy the names and dates from the stones lining the burial ground.
When they are finished, the boys plan to turn the catalog over to Collett, who plans to record the data in a book, showing a plot of the cemetery, to be kept at the Town Office.
"We have all the names," said Chris.
Time and weatheringhave obscured some of the numerals showing dates when local forebears were born and died. The earliest inscription seems to be "Margaret A. Steltz, born March 1, 1780."
Nearest to the church sits a stoneinscribed "Jacob W. Boring; Born Jan. 16, 1815; Died Oct. 20, 1888."
A poem is inscribed on his up right, narrow marker. His wife, Caroline, rests beside. The last person to be interred was Nellie May Lynerd in 1988. Memorials range from large, elaborate monuments to simple foot markers.
Chris and Matt, members of Boy Scout Troop No. 665, which is sponsored by St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church, have completed recording information from all but one of the six rows of graves.
During the four-hour task, they also tried to match up chunks of broken marble scattered randomly over the ground with the tombstoneto which each belonged.
"We're trying to piece them together," said Chris.
Hampstead resident Wayne Leppo, Scoutmaster for Troop No. 665 Ben Bray of Manchester, is coordinator between the church and scouts.
Earlier this summer, the town dedicated the approximately 46-by-150-foot plot. The town bought the parcel from Bill Cunningham, a former Manchester dentist for 33 years and manager of the Magic of Travel network, housed in the historic brick building.
According to the Rev. Harvey G. Schlicter's "Two Centuries of Grace and Growth in Manchester," a church known as "Boring's Meeting House" was built in Manchester in 1845. Boring gave the ground and was licensed to preach by the United Brethren Conference of 1825.
In 1870, the presentbuilding was erected on the same site. The congregation flourished but then dwindled. Manchester Baptist purchased the site in 1950.
Later, a group from a Southern Methodist church bought the structure.
"We're happy to have access to the graves of our ancestors," said Julia Berwager, who's also a member of the Historical Committee. "We feel it's an important part of the town."
Plans include restoring the damaged stones and erecting a fence around the cemetery. Others serving on the committee are Dorothy Townsend, Mabel and Roland Shaffer, Dick and Phyllis Gettier, Peggy Dement and Shirley Lippy.
Berwager and Collett said the committee accepts memorials and honorariums,which it uses for the Manchester Historical Center. Donations are listed in a book there.
The museum, in the Municipal Building at 3208 York St., features a special display each month.
"We think we'removing ahead," said Berwager.
Come Oct. 31, will the North Carroll High School freshmen have nightmares?
"It looks like something out of a horror movie," said Chris with a gasp.
"It's weird," said Matt. "One of the stones has my initials on it."