Saturday, October 8, 2011

MECC Haunted Forest gets wicKED!

    Special thanks to Cindy Ringley for assisting me in getting new pictures and video for the review!

    A little background on the Mountain Empire Community College's Haunted Forest. It has been up and running every October for 15 years. This makes it a staple in the community every Autumn. It is created and ran through the efforts of the Criminal Justice Club and Technology Club at the college. All proceeds from the haunt go to student scholarship and club activities, which is a win win in my book.
   For the past few years, I have not been impressed with the Haunted Forest. It seems that it was just a cookie cutter of the previous years. The haunt had suffered from two key issues in the past. Man power and group size. Last year, the haunt consisted of long stretches of walking through the forest without seeing a single human actor. We are talking upwards of a minute or more. That really caused you to be kind of bored by the time something was going on. The second downfall of last year was the group size. We were in a group of 14. That is way too big. The actors/room have scared person 1-5 leaving 6-14 to wonder what just happened. A 6 person group is perfect and 8 should be the max. Either that or the actors need to be mindful that they and the room are only performing for 35% of the groups.
   Friday night, my haunted honey and I hit MECC's Haunted Forest. As I said, I have not been a big fan of the haunted Forest for the last 4 years so I was not expecting too much when we went, especially on opening night. Boy was I surprised this year! It was terrific!

   We grabbed our ticket from the very friendly people at the main entrance and headed off alone into the woods. The path was lit by the occasional torch and it wound, snakelike upwards into darkness. This alone is unsettling and sets the mood well. After a good little jaunt through a very dark and spooky wood, we met a small group of people waiting in line.
      The fact that this haunt is in a forest adds so much to the atmosphere. Standing in line on a dirt path in the forest, stars and moon over head. Torches flickering in the night breeze. Crickets and Cicadas chirping all about...I was creeped out from nature alone. Then the rustling in the trees and bushes started. Things were moving around , just out of the light. A young boy freaked out when he saw a man with a hockey mask sneaking through the underbrush.
   The guide that waited with us at the head of the line was knowledgeable, super friendly, and told the most horrific tales of what was in the forest. Two young girls were ready to leave the line due to her tale spinning. I loved it!
   After a moderate wait, we were at the front of the line and it looked as if we were going in as a group of 6. This was about the perfect sized group. As they ushered us up to the entrance, our guide added added 2 more to the group which is border line too many.

   Without giving away too much and spoiling it for you all,  I will give a high level list of the good and the not-so-good.


  • Costumes, make up, and mask were all excellent.High end masks and UV reactive contact lenses worn by some actors.

  • Set design was terrific! Gruesome, spooky, plain gory and scary at some points.

  • Good sound effects, use of lighting and effects.
  • At the beginning in a small shack, a woman just walked through the wall and spooked us pretty good.
  • The carnival area and clowns were startling and well done.

  • Large Chucky doll caught me off guard. I thought for sure it was a stuffed dummy till it screamed at me.

  • Large fenced in area with a mutant, two headed man rat was EXCELLENT. We actually held up the group while we took it in. Sound effects were perfect here.

  • Graveyard with real medical skeleton grave procession is always a hit.

  • Many things hiding and jumping out of door ways, barred windows, dark spots. It was great. 

  • Old hillbilly shack with creepy kid and guitar warning us to be careful (Deliverance?) was great. House was full of half eaten things and a captured woman in a cage begging us to run and get out. 

  • Zombies following the group for a long while.

  • Crazy man chained to a bench freed himself and proceeded hang out and interact with us for a while. He stayed in perfect character and really spooked the young girls in our group.

  • In previous years, lack of man power had plagued this haunt. You would walk for long stretches of the path and nothing or nobody would be around. This year it was pretty much constant action from the time you entered till you were chased out of the tree line by chainsaw murderers. 

  • All actors and staff stayed in perfect character the whole time and they really played up their parts!

  • They still have a tendency to cram large groups in. This year is better than last year. We were in a group of 8. Last year our group had 14.
  • The Animated Skeleton telling the story at the very beginning is WAY TOO LONG. I timed it right at 7 minutes of standing and watching a skull flap it's jaw.You find yourself bored and looking around after about a minute in. You can only look at an animated talking skull for so long. I like it much better when they had an actor give the story and the warnings in the past.

  • The actors still do the once and done method for the group. They jump out and get the first 2 or 3 people and ignore the other 5 after that. They need to time it better or continue to spook multiple times per group. I think an actual guide leading the group would help here, although there is something to be said for turning us loose in the Haunted Forest to fend for ourselves. (When I revisited to take photos, I noticed the actors had all but ceased doing this. The whole group was focused on).
  So when all was said and done, here is how this Haunt scored on the wicKEDly ranKED system :


From natures own creepy setting to the moaning and screaming drifting down from the paths beyond. It was great!


Always great costumes, makeup and masks from this group.


The sound effects were really good while waiting in line. With the exception of the mutant rat, they were a bit generic through the rest of the forest.


Some of the best sets and decorations around. This year, there were a few static props and scarecrows that looked very fake and almost childlike in construction. Despite those, amazing detail and gruesome decorations and creations abound.


Some new things but many of the areas have been around a for a few years like the grave yard and the clowns. I really hope this is the last year of the animatronic story teller at the beginning of the haunt.


This group is good at getting in character and staying there till you are chased out! Good character builds and great acting on the players parts.


Once the action started , it did not let up. They did a great job of keeping you on your toes. Lots of jumping out of shadows and from behind things. This group just needs to work on timing and ensuring the whole group gets a scare (or smaller groups).


Once you have been through it, you have been through it. It does warrant a second visit in the season. Maybe with a different group of friends to show them the premiere local Haunt. (I most confess I have been 3 times this season).

That gives the MECC HAUNTED FOREST of 2011 a wicKED ranking of 4 out of 5 Grimaces!

   This is a Halloween "have to" in Wise County and this year, it is really worth it. Drop by one weeKEnD for a wicKED good thrill ride and bring some friends. You won't be sorry!

A quick video I threw together to document my wicKED tour through the forest.

    Will you be brave enough to go in? 
                  Will you be lucky enough to get out?


  1. sounds really fun...appreciate you critiquing the whole thing--gives me a lot of tips for doing my own haunt this year!

  2. I love reading your blog! Even though I live out here in East Texas, I feel like I've been to this haunt just by your detailed descriptions. Thank you also for following my site! Take care! :]

  3. Pam - It was super fun. Glad I could help.

    BeWitchy - Thank you for the compliment! I plan on doing a couple every weeKEnD till Halloween. I am writing one right now for post.

    Also, I only follow really cool Halloween sites ;)

  4. Nice!

    One of my favorite, most memorable childhood haunts, was a haunted trail. It was run by the parks department, so it had kind of an educational bent. They had you pit some of the flora along the trail, explaining the protective elements of certain plants (and of course, this was supposed to protect you from the monsters).

    Most memorably, they had this amazing moment where, far up ahead on the trail you could just make out a werewolf perched on a boulder. He let out a howl then scurried off, leaving you to make your way along the trail toward him, all the while expecting an ambush. Great effect.

  5. Seriously Mantan... that is one of the coolest sounding things I have ever heard of. The imagery of that werewolf in my mind sends shivers....

  6. I love this- and haunts in a field/barn area are the absolute best. Now I want to go out haunting!

  7. Nature has a way of being creepy all on it's own.... get out there and get scared pensive!

  8. Love this review and can't wait till you post pictures and videos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. I hope to get them posted for Sunday.

  10. I heard you are going to the haunted forest to take some pictutres and I would love it if you could get a picture of the chucky actor and the zombies please, thanks!.

  11. I'm actually an actor in the forest. It's not very difficult to get permission to take pictures and videos as long as we are aware ahead of time. It must be planned so we can let the news and journalist style groups through alone, so they don't ruin the atmosphere for others. Thanks for the good rating, but I must take up for us on one thing. Us actors never know how many people are coming through at a time, so it's not easy to always get the timing right. The fact that we are on our feet in very uncomfortable clothing, prosthetics, and makeup for hours with no breaks doesn't help either, but we do the best we can for so little knowledge and such uncomfortable circumstances. On top of that scaring people isn't always easy. It takes a lot out of us physically to scare people.

  12. AlienToaster - you are preaching to the choir here. I have decades of haunt experience and I know how it feels to be in a hot mask, heavy robes, stuffed in leaves, under dirt or even hanging from a tree. The life of a haunter is not an easy one. These reviews are meant to be just that. A review of the trip through with suggestions from somebody who has been through the fire as a haunter. Nothing more

    As to the picture taking, I started making calls to MECC back in August, so I am sure I gave sufficient time for my request. Luckily, I got back in touch with Cindy Ringley who has been nothing but helpful.

    This years haunted forest is the best one in years. You should be proud of that. Keep up the great work.

  13. I know you have experience or you wouldn't be writing this blog. Thank you for the compliments. I just wanted people to see what it's like from the actor's experience, because most people don't realize what tough work it is until they do it. If you spoke with them back in August, you have given plenty of time. Cindy's great, and should be able to work with you. I was going to refer you to her anyway.

  14. Cindy is great and a pleasure to work with. You are very lucky to have her heading up such a venture. All of you at the forest were great all the times I have been there.
    You raise a great point about the view from an actors standpoint. Perhaps an interview with a haunter would be a good post. So people can see what it is like on the other side of the mask.
    I love it when comments inspire me.

  15. An interview would be a wonderful idea. I'm sure you could talk to Cindy about this as well. I know plenty of us would be willing to do an interview. We're really easy to work with.

  16. I think the "Other Side of the Mask" viewpoint would be a great idea. If you are interested Ked, maybe we (and other haunts) could arrange a meeting while preparing to open. I am sure all of us would echo similar comments, concerns, and favorite moments in the life of an actor in a haunted attraction. By the way, if you have not subscribed to Haunted Attraction magazine, I recommend it highly--good articles and reviews of large professional haunts. They have a web site as well. The magazine is a bit expensive, but well done.

  17. I am a subscriber and I agree. Great Magazine.

    I am very interested in the interview. Sounds like an amazing article is waiting to happen.


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