Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Aurora: Not for the Faint of Heart, Haunted Forest

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON.  There are few constants in this life, but here are a few. The sun will rise, the leaves will fall; the Conservatives will win in Aurora (er…better scratch that one) and it will rain for the Aurora Haunted Forest.

Perhaps the fog of time (and a wet rainy fog at that) is clouding my mind. In fact perhaps last year was dry, just bitter cold? I can’t recall. But when I think of Aurora’s annual Haunted Forest, I think rain.

I think it’s a testament to this town of ours that the mere cracking open of the heavens is not enough to stop us. Instead we slip on the galoshes and mittens and stride forth into the dank, dim, darkness for a howlin’ good evening.

Grim and gory and ghoulishly frightful, Sheppard’s Bush (in Aurora) is magically transformed into a macabre wonderland of creepy delights. As you step through the open, striking mouth of a giant green reptile, you leave the forest you thought you knew well behind. Stepping the trail, guided only by the lights of grimacing Jack o’ Lanterns, it’s hard to believe that these are the same paths you trod mere days before. That lush forest walk, the floor a carpet of fallen gold leaves, the dog sniffing excitedly, the friendly fellow walker wishing you a warm hello are all gone, wisps of ghostly memories as gossamer and fleeting as the ghouls floating amongst the trees.

“Grim and gory and ghoulishly frightful, Sheppard’s Bush is magically transformed into a macabre wonderland of creepy delights.”

There is one chance of redemption, one opportunity to reign in the knocking of your knees as you choose the path to follow. “The easy path,” my children chimed as one and my heart lurched back into place. We’ve yet to take the path ominously marked, not for the faint of heart. Next year I may not be so lucky; it is peopled with all manner of creepy beings I am told, and as we scurried along the Little Goblins pathway the air filled with the screams of those who had dared to taste its horrors.

We made it through the “little kids path” with most of my wits still intact, only to brave the haunted house. My daughter in full Harry Potter garb clutched at her wand, as if that frail bamboo stick might offer some protection; and we stepped over the threshold. Flashing lights and creepy faces, a ghost stepping from the shadows into my path; we clutched hands and shuffled through until stepping with shaking legs back into the night, laughing at our own fright.

A second haunted house she would not enter until it had been cleared by big brother; and what fiendish finds welcomed us there, a restaurant where I would not care to eat, though perhaps I might be eaten…

The respite of a warming campfire, a game of ring toss, some creepy pictures and chicken wire fashioned into ominous insects and we were ready to board the shuttle back to the warmth of our car.

We finished our night, as we always do, with a hot chocolate and some scary stories of our own, told in the comfort of our own living room. With all the lights on. And as the rain slashed the windows and the wind howled, I gave thanks for a warm bed, a lovely evening, and a town that knows how to have some fun.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON

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