It was a dark, wet and stormy night. A real cliché. The ground didn’t feel steady beneath my feet and the blackness engulfed all around me. Creatures with scary faces and eerie knowing smiles waited at every turn and behind every tree lay a new menace. The rain dripping incessantly down the back of my neck only served to remind me that this was in fact, real life and not the scene of a creepy Halloween movie.
The location of this horror was the beautiful Belleek Woods in Ballina, Co. Mayo. We queued up, in the pitch dark, in torrential rain and handed over money to be scared out of our wits. Oh the irony. During a normal day, this area of the former Belleek estate is a beautiful woodland trail decorated with magnificent conifers including Norway spruce and Scots pine and covered by the grandeur of large Oak and Ash trees. There are lots of historical features to wonder over including the ice house and the famine wall and the beautiful lake in the middle where the little ducks line up to be fed. There is so much beauty, so much woodland protection and so much wildlife taking shelter here. Who knew it could be so creepy in the dark?
Halloween was truly celebrated in some style here over the October bank holiday weekend. What a show, what a blood curdling experience, what a memorable evening. Young and old alike braved the inclement conditions and turned up to get wet, dirty and petrified. The screams could be heard deep in the bowels of the forest as we waited for our turn, knee deep in mud and white-faced with fear and face paint. Characters from the Night of the Living Dead silently joined our little group grinning evilly, scuttling away into the dark after making their presence felt. A touch on the shoulder, a cold whisper in your ear was all it took for the terror to creep in.
Guides with torches took groups of us poor innocent souls deep into the forest. There a tree was no longer a place to shelter but a place to conceal a spooky skeleton or a wailing witch or a vicious vampire. Hands were clasped with complete strangers for comfort as we tried to protect ourselves from the jumping jokers and walking witches looking for children. All the props were hand made by some very talented individuals and what looked innocent and innocuous in the sunshine became menacing and threatening in the dark. It went from the sublime to the ridiculous as one of our party collided with a group of vampires bearing a coffin. Not what you would expect to come across in a forest under normal circumstances, but nothing about this night was normal.
Making our way to the familiarity of the lake with all our children and ourselves intact felt like an achievement and a triumph. There we were distracted by the eerie yet bewitching vision of two figures on a boat in the middle of the water. As we watched, transfixed by the sight and completely distracted, lights began to flash and smoke began to rise and a deafening noise assaulted our senses. No, I wasn’t experiencing a migraine, just an attack of zombies with chainsaws. Just another normal night in the forest then. Nothing to worry about.
What a night. What a spectacle. What a truly memorable Halloween experience. We laughed hysterically, screamed our lungs out and jumped about in sheer terror. Kids, parents and grandparents alike, we all felt alive and exhilarated and excited afterwards. We were just so delighted to escape from the creepy woods alive and intact. The rain was perfect too, adding a sense of doom to the creepy, spine-chilling and sinister night-time experience. Most of my Halloweens thus far have been about bobbing for apples, decorating the house in spider web and painting children’s faces. This was true Halloween. This is what it’s all about. Terrifying and hysterically funny at the same time, a true scare-fest that was so well executed and so well put together. Well done to all involved. Thank you for scaring me half to death. I don’t know about the rest of my party but I’ll be first in the queue next year. I need to experience that sense of achievement again as I escape unscathed from the zombies.