FOLEY — Graham Creek Nature Preserve sits on the outskirts of Foley. A walk through the dense forest would be scary any night of the week. But for six nights throughout October the trail will …
FOLEY — Graham Creek Nature Preserve sits on the outskirts of Foley. A walk through the dense forest would be scary any night of the week. But for six nights throughout October the trail will take you on a frightening walk through your childhood nightmares.
The park is putting on its eigth-annual Haunted Forest at Graham Creek.
This year, Leslie Gahagan, environmental manager for the City of Foley, and her staff went with the theme childhood nightmares after a conversation about things that scared them as children. Some things they laugh about now, but many are still scary.
"This year we are playing on some of the movies from childhood that really scared us, nursery rhymes and then some basic fears kids have," said Gahagan. "The movies are not the "Child's Play" or "Poltergeist." It is not those movies. It is movies your parents made you watch. There are a lot of dark sides to the movies from back in the day that we are trying to bring out."
Each year the guests are taken on a different path through the forest. Gahagan does not want people to predict where the trail turns.
The trail, a half mile in length, is on the north side of the Interpretive Center. Part of the trail is on boardwalk and part is on a sandy trail. Rope lights guide you through the forest.
The trail leads guests through 13 spine tingling scenes that will trigger all your senses. The staff of 100 volunteers, actors and Graham Creek employees have been working on their parts for weeks and preparing to leave you terrified to your core.
"It is meant for adults. It is definitely older teenager and adult themed," Gahagan warned. "It is scary, and we are now requiring anyone under the age of 14 to have an adult with them on the trail.
"We have a lot of fun with it and it is meant to be a fun event," Gahagan said. "We aren't out there trying to exercise demands or any of that stuff. The staff gets to be creative. We aren't a business or trying to do anything real fancy, but it is something fun for that older teen group to do. Go out and have dinner somewhere in Foley, come do our haunted forest and then grab a snack as you sit around."
No Scare Halloween Ride
Thanks to the requests of past visitors, a No Scare Halloween Ride has been added for younger kids on a different side of the park.
"Families would come out and the older kids want to go on the haunted trail, but they had younger kids too. We were playing movies on TV of old school 80s horror and that is not always appropriate for the younger kids. This year we have separated it," Gahagan said.
The haunted trail will be on the north side of the Interpretive Center and the No Scare Ride will take riders on a 1-mile trail from the south side of the Interpretive Center to the playground and back. The family friendly Halloween scenes set up at the playground will include large inflatable characters and scenes that aren't scary.
Tickets are $5 per rider and are available to purchase onsite with cash. The ride runs from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Fright funds education
The Graham Creek Haunted Trail is more than just a fun and frightening activity.
"Because we are a municipality, we budget how much I am going to spend each year on each event and education," Gahagan said. "As my revenue stream for the haunted forest has grown, I am able to leverage that to do more educational programming. This year we plan to add some farming elements and pollinator elements to our educational programs because we have done so well with the haunted forest. When the kids come out here, they will see pollinator gardens, butterflies and learn how hydroponics work. It is a good system that we have on changing that revenue into expenses next year."