As dawn approaches and the sky turns to an errie array of colors, the large white tent that sits near the forest fills with chatty kids munching on snacks and adults running around with costumes, cables and coffee.
The energy and anticipation might be high, but it is still considered the calm before the storm.
In a few hours, most people in the tent will transform into werewolves, clowns and psych ward patients, and scatter throughout the forest for one sole purpose — scare anyone who dares to walk through the Haunted Forest of Maple Valley.
Located on the outskirts of Renton on the Renton-Maple Valley Highway, the Haunted Forest of Maple Valley is a seasonal attraction that includes a mile-long haunted trail.
This attraction is a non profit that gives their proceeds to local youth groups, including but not limited to DeMolay, Rainbow for Girls, Job’s Daughters, Scouring Explorers and Venture crews.
For the faces behind the masks, costumes and scares, the art of haunting is addictive. It is an experience that’s worth coming back for year after year.
Kimberly Williams of Enumclaw said she started haunting when she was a teenager. Now, 20 years later, she’s still shows up each year along with her kids.
Ten years ago, Kimberly traded her scary costumes for the makeup brush. She said she’s more interested in helping create terror with makeup.
“I got interested in the makeup portion about 10 years ago, and after the first night of trying it out, I was hooked. I always love it when I have the chance to use and challenge my creativity,” she said.
Her daughters, 15-year-old Maydsyn and 13-year-old Samantha, followed her footsteps, both in haunting and makeup.
“My girls decided eight years ago that they were ready to come out and try and scare people,” Kimberly said. “Their first year, they acted in the roles of haunted and cracked porcelain dolls that we named Lolly’s. They still talk about the Lolly’s and sing the haunted versions of nursery songs that they made up that year.
“Madysyn started learning makeup three years ago, and Samantha started learning two years ago. They started learning very basic things and now have progressed to working with the more advanced latex jobs.”
Just like their mother, both girls seemed to find the same thrill in spreading the terror.
“In the beginning, it’s hard because [scaring people] is just an act. But at the end you get the hang of it,” said Madysyn. “Once you figure it out, it becomes easier and fun.”
It’s fun enough to miss homecoming dance, Madyson said as she methodically painted another haunter’s face. She didn’t seem to mind or regret missing the dance for a night of terror.
Like Kimberly and her daughters, many of haunters come in packs of families, and have been doing so for multiple years. Kimberly said it’s largely due to the family-aspcet that’s been cultivated.
“We have each other’s back when we need it. We honor a member when we lose them. And we celebrate together — both during haunt season and the rest of the year,” she said.
“I don’t think people realize how close knit we truly are. I think this is probably one of the most surprising facts. We have people from all walks of life and ages out there. And somehow, we all come together every year to put on this amazing haunt that we love. The more that it grows, the more that we all find ourselves trying to figure out how we can do better, what and where can we improve, and rather importantly, how can we make someone pee their pants (we do award our actors if they get someone to pee and it’s confirmed by security — it’s called the Pee Your Pants award).”