Every year, I look forward to Halloween and the events that take place during the season. The Haunted Forest Tour, written by James A. Moore and Jeff Strand, immediately caught my attention. So naturally, as a fan of all things that go bump in the night, a haunted forest tour sounds like just the thing for me. I pictured a dark path, a group of friends, a light source, and good scares in my mind. I feel that experiencing these kinds of fabricated shocks allows us to release the stress of the horrors that reality provides, of which there is no control. However, the authors of The Haunted Forest Tour offer more than just an observation. They provide the whole experience.
This story begins four years after the strange and horrific incident that occurred in the small town of Cromay, New Mexico. People from the town spread tales of the gruesome event that destroyed their homes. As much as some may have thought to remain skeptical, the recollections told by survivors could not be deemed as hoaxes simply because a forest now exists where the town once stood. A live broadcast by Fox News gave further evidence of the dangers within the forested region. Rescue teams entered the forest for survivors but never returned. After a time, the decimated town, Cromay, was given a new name, the Haunted Forest.
Martin Booth, the owner of H.F. Enterprises, bought the Haunted Forest’s land and made it into a dark tourist attraction. Currently, for the Halloween season, the company has unveiled the new Halloween Haunted Forest Tour. Readers and tourists embark on a journey that travels straight through the forest and allows everyone to see the real monsters while in the safety of a moving tram. But, as we all know, the best-laid plans…
The story is narrated in a third-person non-character perspective. This style allows readers to connect with some characters as their thoughts are revealed while exercising outward restraint. For instance, Cryptozoologist Mark Harper has an infatuation with his beautiful co-worker. He toys with the idea of a possible affair but reprimands and reminds himself that he is happily married. This inner back and forth is hidden from the other characters because he is outwardly respectful and professional toward his co-worker. This revealing of characters’ inner thoughts gives readers a clear illustration of each personality and provides relatability. Most readers have had ideas that they have not acted on.
The setting where the story takes place is in a dense forest that is so thick that light has difficulty reaching the forest floor. Despite having other passengers accompanying the reader on the tram, the feelings of isolation and dread are palpable. We are reduced to terrified children who are separated from the safety of civilization and the comfort of light. Here we are reunited with our most basic primal fears. What threats dwell within the darkness? Readers suddenly realize that being eaten alive is very likely and that our choices to either abandon one person or group for our wellbeing may not guarantee survival.
The authors, Mr. Moore and Mr. Strand, fully immerse the readers into the story by including our senses. In the darkness, fear and adrenalin have made the senses heightened. The crunching of dead leaves beneath the feet is deafening in the attempt to keep silent. The sound of laughter and growling from pursuers seems to come from everywhere. The distant pops of firearms from other passengers increase our feeling of isolation and despair. The smell of blood and decay may herald a warning that an unseen predator may be close. In this story, we do not simply observe the monsters through reinforced windows. Instead, we see, feel, and smell them as we unwillingly interact with the beasts.
What I feel is interesting is that there is a hint of W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw in this story. I say this because everyone who boarded the trams for the Halloween Haunted Forest Tour wanted to experience real monsters. The forest delivered a great variety of monsters to behold in all their heinous and grotesque glory. However, to see these beings as a novelty also came at an unforeseen cost. The bloody and gory lesson here is this, be careful of what you wish for because you may get it.
I enjoyed how well the story can be told as a campfire tale. The style of writing allows readers to fill in the blanks about the monsters. There are a few residents who are not fully described but are left to the imagination. This style will enable readers to envision their monsters within the fray which gives a personal touch. The monsters themselves come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are not just the usual werewolves, ghosts, and vampires. There are creatures of more exotic nature, such as a half-woman half-serpent creature, a giant jumping insect monster, a dragon, and even a gargantuan rolling head. The Haunted Forest Tour has it all. I highly recommend this read for everyone, especially during this Halloween season.
The Haunted Forest Tour, written by James A. Moore and Jeff Strand, is available as a physical book, e-book, and audible book. In addition, you may purchase this story through Amazon, Barnes, and Nobel or wherever books are sold. As always, your local library may have a copy or two to lend.