By SERINA MARSHALL
“The Haunted Forest and its 30-year history of haunts and ghouls spook Washington County annually,” said Kathy Shephard, who has been with the forest for the last eight years. “It is one of the most terrifying haunted attractions in the South. And the longest running haunted attraction in East Tennessee,” she added.
Taking place in the Hales Community, the Haunted Forest, put on in conjunction with Hales Community Ruritan, is also an annual fundraiser in Washington County.
“The forest has helped many Washington County residents over the years, including school supplies and Christmas presents for the kids,” Shephard said.
Work on the forest begins well before October.
“We begin work in spring to get the forest ready for a new year and volunteers are always welcome of all ages. Robb Phillips, Mike Shephard and Adarian Casto-Dubay are hard at work. Proceeds go to families and kids in need,” Shephard said.
Located just off Boones Creek Road on Hales Road in historic Jonesborough, chills begin Sept. 24 and run through Oct. 31, every Friday and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, and the last three Thursdays from 7:30. to 10 p.m.
Their motto is, “We put the fright in frightening,” which they are determined to deliver on with creative and elaborate scenes throughout the attractions. And after 34 years, they have scary down to a science.
“The scenes are designed by professional individuals and based on the things that we all fear the most,” Shephard said. “If you’re looking for terrifying, then you’ve come to the right place.”
A lot of hours go into making the event scare-ready for its victims, er, guests. Shephard and Phillips have worked out the details to give souls maximum terror.
“The time constructing and putting together (the forest for guests) is worth it,” Shephard said. Attractions this year include all new terrors in each of its scenes: The Haunted Forest, Haunted Maze, Haunted Museum and Escape Room.
“We have four attractions this year. The Forest which consists of seven different scenes that are different, or additions added each year to keep them different. This year we have The Creepy Aliens, The Clown scene and The Zombies, The Haunted Forest within the forest, The Murder scene, The Swamp scene, and the Funeral Home scene,” Shephard said. “Also, The Escape Room which is The Witch theme. Then there is The Haunted Maze, which twists and turns inside and outside. And finally, The Haunted Museum.
There are items that have had claims of attachments from the owners that have been collected, along with the stories telling about the items. The last room opens up to a video of one of the items that has been (featured) on the TV show ‘A Haunting.’” This haunted event does need volunteers to make it run and bring the vision to life, she said.
These volunteers will help with anything from concessions, to set up, to ticket taking, to scares.
“We need members of the community to serve,” Shephard said. “It can even go toward credits to graduate for students.”
Cost for the event depends on the attraction you choose. The Forest itself is $15, and it is $10 each for the additional three. Or for $40 you can do all four.
“By doing all four events and purchasing them together, you save $5,” Shephard said. “So, there is a discount there.”
And after your soul gets its fill of screams, you can fill your tummy with comfort foods.
“Come hungry and enjoy our full kitchen with Wicked Eats by Opal Pagan. Snacks, hot and cold drinks, hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, chili cheese fries, pizza rolls, and more. We also have hot drinks like apple cider, tea, regular and flavored coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of cold drinks.”
This year, there will also be trick or treating on Sunday October 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is free for all that attend. Call (423) 491-1473 or (423) 202-8348 for more information and details surrounding the event.