A raw lamb’s head rots on a butcher’s table and baby-dolls are pinned to trees. Werewolves jump from bushes and men with chainsaws come out from behind a wrecked car. This is just part of the 2-mile trail at the Haunted Forest in Yorktown, Indiana.
For the past three years, Nancy Carlson, co-chairwoman of the event, has spent every Friday and Saturday night of October preparing these haunts. For Carlson, the planning starts way before October.
In early November each year, Carlson starts looking for props, decorations and costumes at after-Halloween sales. In the months leading up to the Haunted Forest, Carlson works on building the different scenes along the trail.
“I’m an outdoor farm girl and tomboy, so I like being outside building [the props] and spending the months before the Haunted Forest in the forest,” Carlson said. “I like the smell of the trees and the plants and the flowers.”
Junior Emily Combs, a telecommunications major, has a similar love for Halloween-time, which is part of the reason she volunteers every weekend to help Carlson set up and run the Haunted Forest.
[topswf swf=’http://ballbearingsmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/scary-places.swf’ width=’660′ height=’440′ quality=’best’ wmode=’transparent’ scale=’default’ flashvars=” allowfullscreen=’false’]
While most people volunteer only one night to fulfill requirements for Ball State organizations, she comes back every night because she enjoys scaring guests.
“[I love] the fear in their eyes,” Combs said. “I like making them jump and scream. People come into the forest and they say, this [isn’t] scary. Challenge accepted.”
Carlson said she thinks the Haunted Forest is successful because people enjoy the thrill of being scared.
“I think that most people’s days are all the same,” Carlson said. “They work or they go to school all day every day. They know what to expect. What’s scary about a haunt is that around the next corner, you don’t know what to expect. I think people like to be scared out of their ordinariness.”
Originally, the Back to School Teacher’s store helped put on the event and in return was the beneficiary. This year, to branch out more, most of the proceeds of the Haunted Forest go to the Yorktown Volunteer Firefighters Association. A portion of the earnings is used to fund the event.
Carlson spends a lot of time in October on the farm making sure the forest keeps running. When she isn’t teaching telecommunications at Ball State, she can be found preparing costumes, putting up decorations and enjoying nature.
Being outdoors in nature is what Carlson said makes the Haunted Forest so special compared to other haunted houses.
“It’s fall weather, and people like that cool crisp air,” Carlson said. “Fall always smells special in a forest, so people like it.”