The Howard Preserve is a stretch of more than a dozen acres along the shores of the Big Wood River in Bellevue. Walking trails wind through wooded areas, critters frolic here and there, flowers bloom in the summertime and the whole area is, year-round, a nice place to visit.
That is, except for two nights in October when the Howard Preserve is transformed from a pastoral paradise into a hellscape of horror and fright!
The Bellevue Haunted Forest, first organized in 2008, will return to the Howard Preserve this Halloweekend to raise spirits, send witches and werewolves about the place and scare the socks off those who dare to enter.
Those bold enough to brave the horrors that dwell within the preserve will be broken up into small groups and guided through the ghostly woods, accosted at turns by all manner of creepy creatures and menacing monsters.
Much like a traditional haunted house, the forest is divided into separate scenes or stations. In the past, these have included areas set up like cemeteries, spider webs, creepy clown circuses, vampiric crypts and more. Who knows what terrors will wait within the woods this year?
“We’ll set up the Howard Preserve in the style of a haunted house, wherein each room has a different scary experience, but of course it’s outdoors. There’s definitely an added creepiness to being outside at night,” event organizer Sara Burns said.
As an added bonus this year to help attendees get in the Halloween spirit, a troupe of dancers from Footlight Dance Centre led by Kassidy Thompson will perform a series of choreographies set to holiday favorites—such as “The Monster Mash” and “Thriller”—near the entrance on west Elm Street.
By reputation, the Bellevue Haunted Forest is a properly frightening way to spend an evening, though Burns noted that fear is in the eye of the beholder, and each person has a different breaking point.
“Terror is very subjective,” she said. “We tell people to use their best judgment about bringing kids. Parents will hopefully know what their children can handle and what they can’t. If you’re worried about it, come when it’s still light out. Is it scary? We’ve had children come through who weren’t fazed at all and we’ve had adults who peed their pants.”
Despite how scary and unsettling the forest will be, its core purpose is not to create horror or even necessarily just to get people in the mood for Halloween. Instead, the Bellevue Haunted Forest is a purely charitable undertaking. All proceeds generated by the event will be donated to the Howard Preserve to ensure that it remains a spot of natural beauty in Bellevue.
“We’re a nonprofit fundraiser, 100 percent volunteer-run. It’s really more about community than about Halloween,” Burns said. “A lot of people who volunteer will tell you that Halloween isn’t even their favorite holiday, but they care about the Howard Preserve and care about Bellevue. It’s a way to give back.”
There is no such thing as too many monsters, no reality in which too many ghouls and specters haunt the dead of night, no quota on things—to borrow a phrase from Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the macabre himself—“ghastly, grim and ancient.”
With that in mind, the organizers of the Bellevue Haunted Forest continue to accept and encourage volunteers to join their unholy legion of the undead and the uncanny.
At least, performers are the primary need. For those who wish to lend a helping hand but do not want to spend all night scaring people in the woods, the organizers do always need assistance setting up and taking down decorations, guiding groups through the forest and fulfilling some other support duties.
To volunteer, reach out to Tammy Davis at 208-720-7160. For more information, find the Haunted Forest on social media at facebook.com/bellevuehauntedforest.
Just one week ago, on Wednesday, Oct. 2, the event organizers confirmed that the Bellevue Haunted Forest will return to the south valley for two nights this year. On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27, from 5:30-10 p.m. each night, all manner of disturbing creatures will stalk the woods of the Howard Preserve.
Tickets will be available a little closer to the event for a flat rate of $7 for all ages. Each night, only 500 will be sold. That is a hard-and-fast cap, and based on previous years, those tickets will sell out, so those who wish to attend should make sure to procure admission while supplies last.
The Howard Preserve is accessible at the west end of Elm Street in Bellevue, by Martin Lane.
Potential volunteers should not hesitate to reach out and lend a helping hand. This is, in essence, a charitable event for a good cause, albeit in the guise of a terrifying evening.
As volunteers for monsters swarm into the woods, the rest of the valley—at least the 1,000 people lucky enough to get tickets—should prepare for a night of fright and get into a proper mood for Halloween.