Saturday, October 31, 2015

A walk in the dark at Petrified Forest.

Sylvia Katherine Viles is the cast director at Petrified Forest (S.R. 436, just 1/4 mile West of 17-92 1360 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL) . She invited me to come up to play with the ghouls this year which is the 8th year the attraction has been running. This is one of Central Florida's best haunted trails. If you want to be frightened out of your wits on Halloween night then this is the place to go.

The casting call was at 5:30 pm and the trail opens at 7 :30pmish. Rush hour traffic resulted in my arriving an hour late, but thankfully I still had time to sketch some of the cast as the haunting hour arrived. Sylvia was dressed as a demonic joker with a touch of steam punk. She immediately escorted me back to the costuming trailer to find me a hick costume so I could blend in on the trail. She explained that she wanted to put me in the meat market.  In the costume shop, she searched for a simple flannel shirt to throw on me. There were none to be found. She settled on a white shirt with touches of blood. A makeup artist quickly spray painted my face with a muddy mess. I tried to keep from inhaling the aerosol fumes.

Before the gates open, the cast gets a pep talk. They were reminded to "scare forward" which means frightening guests from behind to keep them moving down the trail. The meeting ended with a lusty shout. "Who's house!" "Our House!" "Whoo Rahh!" An actress in a ghostly white gown and jet black hair walked me back to the meat market. This was her first time haunting the trail. I was set up behind her on the dock, which meant that guests couldn't approach me. The staging wasn't perfect and as it grew dark I couldn't see a thing, but I made the best of it. A black light supplied the only illumination. A pea soup watery sludge glowed green. Usually when I sketch in the dark I can't see what I'm working on. With the tablet the problem was reversed. Even at 0% brightness it was too bright. Which meant my eyes had to adjust to the dark each time I looked up. Hopefully I looked a bit menacing as I scowled at the faint hints of people that shuffled nervous by. The actress would loudly slam shut a wooden partition and shout out that "you better get a move on. Grandma's  been expecting you!' Between crowds Grandma walked over and shouted to me, "Are you sketching my girl's butt? You better pay for that privilege mister!" I laughed.

With the dark sketch done, I walked through the trail for the first hand experience. I joined a group of four victims and entered the Abyss, which is a ghost ship of lost souls, I entered the haunted ship first. This allowed me to see what was coming up with an unobstructed view. One member of our group had a glow stick. Having a glow stick guaranteed extra frights because ghouls were enticed to try and steal it away, A haunted movie theater had dismembered bodies in the seats. We exited the movie theater through the movie screen, There were under sea scenes and a ramp of mysterious green light that enveloped us as we pushed forward. It wasn't always  clear how to proceed. I pushed open a door that scrapped against the floor. I lead my group onto a dark foot bridge surrounded by pitch black darkness. Someone said, "I think we took a wrong turn." Sure enough a cast member shouted at us,"You are going the wrong my." From that point forward the guy in back took the lead. I was startled more than a few times. A figure burst to life at a banquette table. Near the end, two guys with chain saws chased us and the saws nipped at our ankles.

 Tickets are $15 for one trail and $25 for both trails. There is also a $12 back stage tour. This is the best fright for your dollar in Central Florida. Sure Universal has it's Horror Nights, but that costs a fortune and you end up standing in lines all night. The Petrified Forest delivers just as many frights, and some of the effects are just stunning.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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