Haunted Houses and Utah’s moral climate

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There is no swearing allowed inside the Haunted Forest. Or smoking. Or drinking. Lewd behavior of all kinds is frowned upon in both the Haunted Forest and the Psycho Manor.


After all, this is a family establishment. You know, the kind where teenage girls get butchered right in front of you. Where blood-covered hillbillies chase you around with chainsaws. Where giant satanic bats hover above you in the trees.


Established and run by Robert Ethington the Haunted Forest has been eliciting screams from Utahans for 22 years.


“I was in my senior year at BYU, working toward a degree in civil engineering, when I had this crazy idea. But people loved it, so we’ve kept it going,” he said.


People love it partly because it is legitimately frightening, in some spots to the point of disorienting.  There are enough gallons of corn syrup and red dye splashed around the premises to soak 1,000 Carries. So as to not spoil any of the shocks and scares for future patrons, let’s say simply that visitors should expect to meet a cadre of cannibals, ghouls, axe-wielding maniacs and a few very unethical doctors.


“We don’t deal in the dark and evil,” said Ethington. “It’s about having fun and getting scared. Halloween is just a fun holiday.”


They should also prepare to confront elements of the grotesque – a bloody fetus tumbles out of its mother, who waddles about dragging the poor wretch by its umbilical cord hands-free. A butcher offers you a very suspicious type of jerked meat. A robot kneels on a bathroom floor with its head in the toilet bowl, writhing and jerking mechanically, as liquid sprays out of him from both ends.


No lewd behavior in Psycho Manor or the Haunted Forest, please.


What’s funny or ironic or at least amusing about a haunted attraction in Utah is sort of what’s generally funny or ironic or at least amusing about our entire country.


Puritans founded America. They were the kind of people who thought that kissing one’s spouse in the public square was a morally reprehensible criminal offence. They are also the same people who liked to get the whole neighborhood together and hang people. Hanging is pretty ugly looking. The crunch of a breaking neck is probably the kind of sound that sticks in your ears for a while. If the victim’s head is not concealed in a hood, eyewitnesses in the front row will get to see what an eyeball looks like once all of its capillaries have burst. The tongue protrudes. Priapism, a phenomenon more commonly known “death erection” occurs.


The Haunted Forest is open every day of the week except for Sunday. The attraction closes right at midnight on Saturdays, and then all of the ghosts, goblins and ghouls spend the Holy Sabbath resting. One is reminded of a common phrase among Mormon youth – the Spirit goes to bed at 12 a.m.


One imagines that the high school students who haunt the park every October will be slow to rise on Sunday. It’s been a long night for them. Just like every other day, they’ll painstakingly dress. But on Sunday, they’ll eschew fake blood and rubber masks for shirts and ties and modest dresses. They’ll comb down those cowlicks and apply a more quotidian type of make-up to their faces.  They’ll go to Sunday School and the kids and their teachers will probably talk about one of the most important subjects to a teenager: sex. They’ll talk about premarital sex as anathema. They’ll invoke a hallowed respect for the human body. The teachers may even inform their charges that, in the eyes of God, unsanctioned sex is second only to murder in the hierarchy of offenses.


On Monday night, they’ll go back to the Haunted Forest and pick up their tools of death and disembowelment once more. There is little rest for the wicked, after all.


Nightmare on 13th

320 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake

www.nightmareon13th.com, $20


The Fear Factory

666 W. 900 South, Salt Lake

www.fearfactoryslc.com, $25


Castle of Chaos

3300 S. West Temple, Salt Lake

www.castleofchaos.com, $18-25


Castle of Chaos: Four Levels of Fear

5600 S. Redwood Road, Taylorsville

www.castleofchaos.com, $18-25


Carnival of Chaos

1100 W. Riverdale Road, Ogden

www.castleofchaos.com, $18-25


Haunted Forest

1015 S. 500 East, American Fork

www.hauntedutah.com/forest.html, $20


Hee Haw Farms & Haunted Corn Maze

150 S. 2000 West, Pleasant Grove

www.heehawfarms.com, $10-20


Anguish Asylum

1200 Towne Centre Boulevard, Provo

www.anguishasylum.com, $8-15


Cornbelly’s Corn Maze and Activities

3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi

www.cornbellys.com, $9-20


In the Dark

475 S. Main Street, Spanish Fork

www.spanishfork.com/inthedark.php, $9


Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus

98 E. 13800 South, Draper

www.stranglingbros.com, $20-35


Ghost Tour at Hutchings Museum

55 N. Center Street, Lehi

Saturday, October 29th

801-768-7180, $5