Mark Dennison stands with one of the creatures that will be roaming the Black Forest Halloween night. - Bob Pennell

Hay ride promises scary night

If you're willing to drive out to the Applegate tonight, Mark Dennison will try his best to give you a good scare.

The weather is iffy, and the trip out to China Gulch Road is a bit long, but Dennison said anyone who comes out will see some special effects that have been real screamers at Halloween haunts over the years.

The first of what Dennison said could become an annual Halloween event, "Ghosts of the Black Forest" will kick off at 6:30 p.m., even under a light rain, he said.

The one-night-only fright-o-rama is a smorgasbord of the tricks and special effects Dennison has collected over two decades as a Halloween enthusiast. He's organized a 10- to 15-minute hayride that will meander through his property under towering trees surrounded by eerie sound effects and scary scenes.

Dennison says the pitch-black night, cold autumn air and crackling sounds of fallen leaves will lend "the perfect atmosphere" to the ride.

Visitors will board a creaky tractor-pulled hay wagon and learn about the "ghosts" who live in the dark forest.

They'll pass a graveyard under the baleful watch of a mud monster and two eerie-looking crows. The family's play set and house will be mired in faux moss and cobwebs.

Black lights and sound effects will add atmosphere to a graveyard created near the house, and a half dozen scare scenes have been created along the wagon route. Hidden actors along the way will be ready to stir up trouble.

With Medford's popular Darkwing Manor closed this year, Dennison is hosting the event to gauge public reception.

The haunt's Web site,, has been getting about 50 hits per day, Dennison said.

"There's a little bit of a buzz going already so we'll find out Friday night (how many people will come out)," Dennison said.

"We'll definitely have a lot of surprises in store. It will be a little bit different than a haunted house, because in a house you're two feet in front of someone and it's easier to get in their space. This will have plenty of startle effects, though."

In the event of light rain, Dennison said the haunt will remain open.

"The only thing I'd be worried about is a total downpour," he said, "but the weather is looking a little better than they thought it would, so we'll see."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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