ÎYÂRHE NAKODA – Much of the work setting up the Haunted Forest on Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation each year is done without the event’s horror mastermind, Shyles Smalleyes.
He’s chased the sound of laughter to no source, heard chainsaws rattling in the distance in the dead of night, and heard tales of a clown that crawls along the forest floor.
There are some bumps in the night he can’t explain.
“That year we heard from people who said they kept seeing a black and white clown that kept popping up out of nowhere,” said Smalleyes. “But we didn’t have a clown as part of our production.”
“We even rounded everyone up at the end of the night. But no one fit that description.”
The haunted forest started in 2018 outside the Bearspaw housing office off Morley Road. This year, Smalleyes hopes to get the biggest screams yet as the venture moves closer to home – in the deep, dark woods behind his family’s residence.
“This is our biggest year for sure with having the help of my co-workers and family members as cast members and setting up,” he said.
“Time has a way of passing slowly on the trail, so we’re calling it the longest trail in Morley. There’s gonna be a lot of jump scares and it’s gonna be a great time.”
Smalleyes, who leads two bands including the beloved two-step band Stoney River, is a performer at heart and a true lover of the horror genre.
“Expect to see takes on some of the horror classics – Freddie, Jason,” he said. “We have the freedom to create with some of those iconic masks and props, with some stuff that my mom (Samantha) designed.
“It’s fun because we can all really put our creativity into it and get some really different, creepy results that make the forest come to life.”
The event is family-friendly and cast members cater to the experience and fright levels of those walking the trail. The crew takes safety seriously, said Smalleyes, but they also don’t soften the scares for some of the older crowds.
“It’s a bit of a line we have to walk, leaving it open to everyone, but we obviously want to scare you and keep you looking over your shoulder, and wondering what’s around the next corner,” he said.
“There’s only one way for you to find out.”
The Haunted Forest’s fright nights run Friday and Saturday from 8-11 p.m. throughout October at the Smalleyes residence off Chiniki Lake Road, located about five kilometres southwest of the Chiniki Gas Bar. It will also run Monday (Oct. 30) and Tuesday (Oct. 31) and event signage will be placed near the gas bar to direct the bravest of souls.
By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 18, 2023 at 12:52