By MARINA WATERS
The Hales Community Ruritan Haunted Forest off Boones Creek Road is back and ready for business — if you dare.
The haunted forest event — which celebrates it’s 30th anniversary — opened a week early on Sept. 29 this year and will run through Halloween.
The event is supported by the Hales Community Ruritan and serves as the group’s largest fundraiser of the year to support various different needs such as school supplies and Christmas gifts for children throughout Washington County.
Even though the forest has been the backdrop for the haunted forest for many years, operators Robb Phillips and Cathy Shephard are also ready to bring new frights and sights to the community event.
“We have all new scenes up here every year,” Phillips said. “And we have a haunted escape room up here too. So we have two attractions.”
“I love getting out here and deciding, ‘what are we going to do this year?’ ‘what are we going to do different?’,” Shephard said, “and get out there and try to think of the best scary thing we can think of and go with that.”
Though Phillips said some of the scenes can be pretty scary, he stressed that the event is often a family affair and allows folks to do something with their friends and family to get into the halloween spirit.
“It’s something for families to do together. There’s not much going on with that anymore, but we get a lot of families in here,” Shephard explained. “The whole family is involved. And it gives friends something to do every year.”
The two friends also own and operate East Tennessee Ghost Tours and Escape Room 101 in Jonesborough, so featuring haunts and spooks for others’ entertainment is pretty familiar for both Phillips and Shephard.
“People like to be scared,” Phillips said, “And it’s fun to do, but it gives back to the community. We’re always trying to give back and help bring business around to our area and to Downtown Jonesborough. That’s a big part of why we do this.”
The haunted forest is open Friday and Saturday, now until Halloween from 7:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. The forest will also be open Thursday, Oct. 19 and Thursday, Oct. 26, but will close at 10 p.m. on those dates.
The haunted forest will also be open on Oct. 31. For more information call (423) 218-8648.