Haunted Forest creeps into Winters

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This year’s Haunted Forest is being hosted along Putah Creek out behind Green River Brewing & Taproom. (Aaron Geerts/Winters Express)

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Winters beware, the Haunted Forest has sprouted at Green River Brewing & Taproom. Along with it comes an experience as frightening as it is unique for those seeking a serious case of the spookies.

The Haunted Forest, however, was just a seedling of an idea by the Maynard family that sprouted in 2011. Over the years, it’s grown into a frighteningly fun experience that reflects the family’s love for the scares, pranks and lore of the Halloween season.

“We’ve always, always loved that stuff, and as we began sharing more and more of that passion we realized people really like this too. Not only is it something people like to give, but like to receive that adrenaline rush and excitement,” explained Elden Maynard, one of the family co-owners. “We’ve also never gravitated towards the gory, bloody, Hollywood-theatrics you’d typically get at a haunted house. We’re all about the primal, instinctual and natural fears that completely overwhelm your nervous system and take you to a whole different place. It’s not about walking into a room and seeing some robot getting its head chopped off, it’s about being in the dark, in the woods and truly not knowing what is hunting you. Hearing it, feeling it but never quite seeing it enough to know.”

A far cry from some half-hearted haunted house filled with cheap plastic monsters covered in fake blood, the Haunted Forest is an outdoor immersion into a different reality. Using their collective background in theater, the Maynards interact, joke with and horrify visitors as different characters throughout the Haunted Forest. This improvisation not only helps one suspend their disbelief within the forest, but adds to the sensation of fight or flight — or fright.

“There’s characters who want to help you and characters who want to eat you and then there’s characters who just don’t care, but are nuts,” said Maynard. “Every year the story changes a little bit but sticks to the main line. Usually, the storyline is given to you by the caretaker of the forest which is my mom. She’s kind of like the warning lady and the voice of caution as you enter the forest.”

To date, the Haunted Forest has only occurred in walnut orchards. This year, however, the Haunted Forest has taken root along Putah Creek right behind Green River Brewing & Taproom. From thorny blackberry bushes, towering oaks and babbling brooks to the eerie-sounding crickets and critters who dwell there, they all add natural ingredients of spookiness to pot of fear that the Maynards are already stirring.

“The Maynards approached me a couple months ago and said they really wanted to bring the Haunted Forest back to Winters and the community to benefit from the amount of traffic it creates and business it brings to town,” said John Neil, Green River owner. “The money we charge for parking here is going entirely to local nonprofits.”

Due to the sheer ‘freakiness’ of the experience, children under age 10 aren’t permitted to enter the Haunted Forest. Anyone older is advised to take caution — and, perhaps, an perhaps an extra pair of underpants.

The Haunted Forest is taking place on weekends from Sept. 24 through Halloween. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their website hauntedforestca.com.

As an added bonus for avid readers of the Winters Express, enter promo code “WintersExpress” when checking out for your ticket purchase. This offer is valid only for the dates of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

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