Haunted Forest returns for scares

An Ames Halloween tradition, the Haunted Forest opens on weekends for all to come and experience the thrills of wandering through a haunted forest. Iowa State students and Ames residents are welcome to volunteer to dress up and scare ticket holders.

Claire Norton

The annual Ames Haunted Forest will return at 7 p.m. Friday night for Halloween and is promised to be another scary success.

The three-acre forest contains 35 paid actors, the majority of which are students. From start to finish, individuals will journey through the forest on foot for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Admission costs $14, but $1 coupons are available to print off through AmesHauntedForest.com, and are available at restaurants and multiple Casey’s General Stores in Ames.

Lee Ballard, co-owner of the Ames Haunted Forest, said most haunted houses do not pay their actors but rely on volunteers.

“Most haunted houses operate on volunteers, but we actually pay the kids because we know they need extra money,” Lee said. “And we want to give back to the community and to Iowa State students because they support us.”

Actors are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the table in order to enhance the scare factor of the event.

Lee said students should expect to see “everything” while in the forest.

“Every year, students that we hire use their creativity to come up with new scenes, new costumes [and] new makeup,” Lee said. “Every year, it’s always different.”

According to the Ames Haunted Forest website, a legendary tale exists within the forest.

After a film-junkie named Vincent was trapped inside a burning building and dragged from the wreckage, his body healed, but his mind didn’t.

He then fled to a forest to recreate scenes from his head, which was never the same. The website encourages customers to walk their way through what is happening in Vincent’s world.

Lee said special effects and animatronics are used throughout the forest to make for a convincing black hole illusion that students will walk through.

“It’s just amazing what these kids come up with,” Lee said.

Lee also said the forest includes mazes and enclosures for the visitors to navigate through.

“[The Ames Haunted Forest] [has] anything from a clown, a chainsaw, witches and letting your imagination go from there,” Lee said.

The Ames Haunted Forest will run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 9, 10 and 29. Hours are extended from 7 p.m. to midnight Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31. It will be open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 18 and 25.