By TRAVIS MORSE
WOODLAWN — —
The Woodlawn Haunted Woods attraction has been a labor of love for its creator, Brian Copple.
It began modestly 13 years ago as a small trail featuring five horror scenes that took visitors about 10 minutes to get through.
Now, though, the attraction has grown significantly to include 22 scenes and an acre-an-a-half corn maze. The primary Haunted Woods trail is now roughly a ¾-of-a-mile walk through the woods on Copple's property.
Copple, a great fan of Halloween and horror fiction, said he spends much of his time during the year preparing the trail for the public. The goal is to be scary, but also family-friendly.
“We don't do all the nasty blood-and-guts type stuff,” Copple said. “We kind of cater to the family-type stuff, more family-oriented.”
The Woodlawn Haunted Woods opens for this season on Friday and Saturday night. It will then be open each Friday and Saturday night after that until Nov. 1 and 2, which are the last dates.
The trail's “kid time” begins at 6:30 p.m. This is when the scarier parts of the trail are covered up so smaller children can go through. Then, at 7:30 p.m., the “all scare” program kicks off for adults and older children.
“As soon as it gets dark, then it's no-holds barred,” Copple said. “It's a free-for-all then. I mean, you're going to get scared.”
Brian Copple handles the construction portion of the trail while his wife, Shari Copple, does the advertising and public relations. There are also some 40 to 50 volunteers who help out.
“They're doing a really good job out here,” said Misty Fultz, a supervisor who has helped with Haunted Woods for three years. “I think each year it gets maybe just a little bit better.”
Every year, a portion of the Haunted Woods proceeds are donated to a different charitable cause. Roughly $5,000 is raised each year.
This season, organizers will donate to several area no-kill animal shelters, Shari Copple said.
In addition, customers are encouraged to bring a can of food to donate to food pantries. Those who do bring a can will get $1 dollar off the $8 admission fee.
“It is a good way to give back to the community,” Shari said. “Everything stays locally.”
Another benefit of Haunted Woods is how it gives the teen volunteers a chance to get together in a friendly environment, Shari said.
“They make good friendships, meet new people, and hang out and have a good time,” Shari said. “It's just having a lot of fun for a good cause.”
Brian Copple, who has multiple sclerosis, emphasized that the trail is handicapped accessible. All bridges along the path will have railings and are safe.
Organizers are remaining tight-lipped about what specific horror scenes will be featured in this season's Haunted Woods. However, Brian said he's very satisfied with how this year's attraction has turned out.
To get to the Woodlawn Haunted Woods, travel west on Illinois 15 to Woodlawn. Then go past the Shell station and the train tracks and take a right on North Hall Lane. There will be signs posted.
For more information, contact Shari Copple at 204-8165.