Asylum and graveyard theme of 2015 Haunted Forest in Oxford

Picture “The Walking Dead” meets “Night of the Living Dead,” and that’s what you’ll find at the 2015 Haunted Forest in Oxford.

“The theme will be focused around the asylum and graveyards,” said Kim Beason, a University of Mississippi recreation administration professor.

Beason and UM recreation administration students partner annually with the Oxford Park Commission to create the event that will be held at Avent Park Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 28-29 from 7-10 p.m.

“We used a brainstorming session in the last few weeks, and students came up with a list of things they thought scared them,” said Beason, program coordinator.

“One of the characters they were evaluating was Dracula, and 25 years ago when we were doing this, vampires scared people. They don’t scare people anymore. I asked why, and they said because of ‘Twlight.'”

You may not find a lot of frightening vampires in the Haunted Forest this year, but the event is expertly planned to give brave patrons a good scare.

“We started the Haunted Forest as a university/OPC partnership in 1989,” Beason said. “Prior to that, it had been run with the Ole Miss Drama Club. We’ve done it every year since then. It’s the longest running ‘Boo’ in North Mississippi.”

Beason’s students are cast members. Each of seven groups is responsible for a specific scene in the asylum/graveyard theme.

“We have tunnels and every creature you can think of,” Beason said.

But the Haunted Forest is not just fun and games.

“This is a project that is associated strongly with our accreditation,” Beason said. “To keep our accreditation, our students have to take their education and match it with a vocation.

“They plan it, mark it, provide risk management training, do the finances. At the end, they evaluate the effect of it. It’s more than a chance for us to ‘Boo’ people. We do it for the learning experience.”

The event is not recommended for children 6 and under, but organizers won’t turn anyone away.

A Goblin’s Egg Hunt for children will be held Thursday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m. on the ball field at Avent Park.

Beginning at 7 p.m. that night, Beason said they tone down the Haunted Forest for 30 minutes for children.

Expect to see familiar characters like a chainsaw wielding man, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers. Beason said a survey conducted last year revealed that some have been touring the Haunted Forest more than 20 years.

Mike Young, OPC program director, said the Haunted Forest is a special annual event organized by the UM recreation administration program and the OPC.

“For over 20 years, students have helped plan, program, evaluate, and act as cast members in the event,” he said. “In all the scenes along the forest, everyone will be in full costume. You can find anything from werewolves to all sorts of monsters that will keep you startled.”

Young said revenue is split between the Recreation Administration Majors Association and the OPC. Funds generated support student professional development and student association activities.

He said the Haunted Forest has been around 26 years.

“We hope that our Oxford-Lafayette-University Community will come out and enjoy the many frightening scenes along the Avent Park trail,” Young said.

Grenada resident Lindsey Pierce, 31, is one of the recreation administration students working to create the event. Students broke into groups this week to plan their scenes.

“Everybody is going to pick a different character,” she said. “The objective is to scare as many people as possible in the guidelines we have set up for us. We want to have fun with it too.”

Pierce said they chose the asylum/graveyard theme after conducting a survey.

“We also did a class participation thing where we had to write two different characters who were scary in our opinion,” she said. “Most people in the class think asylums and cemeteries are the scariest, so we think the public will probably feel the same way.”

Admission is $5, and adults must accompany children under age 10. For more information, contact Mike Young at 662-232-2391 or e-mail him at mikeyoung@oxfordparkcommission.com.

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