Haunted Forest: Where ghoulies and ghosties go bump in the night

What’s scarier than a haunted house? A whole haunted forest, of course.

That’s what Mark Dodson has put together on his Key Peninsula property, Grand Farms, and it’s provided four years of chills and thrills for visitors, as well as an opportunity for drama-minded high school students.

The Halloween-season attraction near Vaughan has quickly become a favorite experience on the Key Peninsula

The overseer of the project, Robert Joanis, explained that the themed environment combines the lore of mythology with the creatures of games such as Dungeons and Dragons, the darkness of Game of Thrones, and an element of horror all in a medieval setting.

In this narrative, exuberantly acted by high school students, the Queen, a powerful necromancer, reigns over the Forest, only allowing entrance from the mundane world when her protection spells wear thin in October. She has summoned foul creatures that stalk the night to terrify her guests and extract small snippets of their soul with each scream to power her dark magic.

Guests spend 40 minutes surrounded by the darkness of the forest, on edge with every snapping twig along the more than half-mile trail after entering through the imposing 14-foot-tall gate made from logs and other materials sourced from the property.

There are more than 35 actors and support staff, over three-quarters of whom are high school students. Some of these volunteers are earning intern hours for Henderson Bay High School, others are practicing their arts and skill sets for South Kitsap, Peninsula, and Gig Harbor high schools. Many have returned three years in a row.

These volunteers put in many hours of hard work during July and August in preparation for the October haunting season, Joanis said, and learn valuable skills along the way, including electronics and wiring.

Grand Farms is a 27-acre family farm located in Vaughn. The Dodsons, Mark and his wife, Anni, bought it in 2012. When it’s not a haunt, the farm features an event center for outdoor weddings and events, along with horse boarding, lessons and training.

Grand Farms is located at 17616 S Vaughn Rd NW. The Haunted Forest is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October (except Sunday, Oct. 13) and, of course, on Halloween. Cost is $15 and $25, and tickets are available online at Eventbrite. Gates open at 7 p.m. and the box office closes at 11 p.m.