I saw it for the first time on one of my drives up to Portland from California. You can’t see the actual attraction from the freeway, but you can see a sign adorned with castles and a waving psychedelic humpty-dumpty. I pointed it out to Ross and said that it looked like it would be interesting. I had forgotten about it until recently the Dandy Warhols played a show there. I couldn’t make it to the concert, but I put The Enchanted Forest on my list of shit I definitely had to go see. I had to wait, as all the best things to do in the Portland area happen in the good weather months. Finally the day came, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Our friends who live here have all been before, but I didn’t ask them any questions regarding what it was like outside or whether or not it was worth the trip and the entry fee. I wanted it to be a total surprise. I expected it to be a lot like a little attraction we had in Fresno called Storybook Land. It kind of was like that. It also was kind of one of the most terrifying places I’ve ever been. Not the kind of terrifying in the sense that shit looked creepy (it did that too) but more so terrifying in a deep, psychological manner. I was forced to confront nearly all of my fears that have been deep-set in my psyche since I was a child. Also, that was possibly the best $10.50 I’ve spent in a while.
The Enchanted Forest is about an hour’s drive south of Portland. We arrived, and the parking lot was mostly deserted save a few cars and a punk couple making out on a motorcycle. It was up on a sort of hill, with a giant facade with a castle painted on it. You can’t see past it, so I still had no idea what it was like or even how big it was. As we shut the car doors, we were instantly met with the sound of ear-piercing children’s screams from behind the facade. These screams carried on for a long while and Ross and I just stared at each other. We noticed a burning fire across the highway with clouds of smoke billowing in the air. Is this some sort of ominous sign? I took my Nikon out to snap a picture of the fire, but it started to act up. It wouldn’t shoot a picture on most settings, and when it did, the colors were strange. It had never really done that before. I finally got it to take a picture, but I am mentioning it so you can excuse the following pictures. They kind of go along with the general experience of being there: blurry, strange colors, bizarre perspectives. I decided I will use them anyway.
We walked up to the ticket booth and were handed a little hand-drawn map. It listed the main attractions you could buy tickets for and do. There was a roller coaster, log ride, haunted house, and something called “The Challenge of Mondor”. I know you’re thinking that the screams we heard upon parking can be attributed to the rides, but nay they were situated at the very back of the park and could not be heard or seen from the entrance. Just beyond the ticket booth, there was a sign that directed us to the start point-the castle.
This portion of the park is very much like Storybook Land…at first. You walk along a path and look at little scenes from childhood stories. Quickly we noticed that the faces of the statues were noticeably creepy. Some of them had real hair and those baby-doll eyes that have the moving lids. Enter the first of my fears: Creepy dolls. As a child, I had an Aunt who made very expensive ceramic dolls for a specialty shop in San Francisco. Once a year, she would send me one for Christmas and my Birthday (my bday is in January. I was one of those poor kids who would get the combo gifts). My parents built a special case for them in my room. I secretly hated them. They were pretty, and I appreciated the gesture but at night while I was laying in bed the eyes on those things would freak me out. There was this crack of light that would shine from the top of my bedroom door down onto the case and illuminate their faces ever so slightly, those sightless eyes glimmering. I get an ominous feeling every time I see a little girl toting one around by the hair. Needless to say, I don’t care for dolls.
While looking at that last photo, I realize there was a staircase leading down to something. We didn’t notice it at the time. I wonder what else we missed? Just like a good platform video game, the Enchanted Forest has many hidden things to explore.
I should take this time to mention that Ross and I were completely sober coming here. We don’t do drugs of any kind, as you probably know but we also didn’t have any drinks either. I think we really should have.
Upon entering the Hansel and Gretel house, I was struck by how dark it was inside. Along the left-hand wall there was a large glass window. Inside was a scene acted out by animatronic robots of the witch trying to coax Gretel (who looked like a creepy doll. P.S.) with a bizarre soundtrack playing. We stood dumbfounded, looking at it for a long while. It was seriously scary as shit.
We were presented with a curious hole you can crawl through, simulating the famous rabbit hole. I asked Ross if he was down to check it out. He was hesitant, and expressed fears that it might get smaller and smaller and we would get stuck. Allow me to introduce my next, crippling fear: Claustrophobia. This is a new fear to me. My mom always told me she was claustrophobic, but I never experienced the feeling until recently. I’m not sure if I developed the phobia heretically or if my mind produced it in a way to be closer to my deceased mother-my therapist said both scenarios are possible. Either way, this phobia is brand-spanking new and I have no way to cope with it. Regardless, it was a sunny day and this park is for children, after all. It will be silly and in no way sinister. I got on my hands and knees and proceeded to crawl in. A very hesitant Ross decided to follow me. The tunnel made a sharp turn to the left, plunging us into utter and complete darkness. I couldn’t see ahead of me. Pitch fucking black in a tunnel 3 feet wide. Holy SHIT. I turn my head and hear Ross heavily breathing behind me. I bring up the camera and take a picture.
We both felt a little better at that point, to see the light. I scurried down the tube. It was a little intense, I won’t lie. Finally, there was another sharp turn to the right and I could see the daylight. I crawled out, sweaty and breathing heavily. That prickly feeling of panic tingled my fingertips as I realized that the tunnel that I just scooted in was under poured concrete. If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, that won’t have any meaning to you. If you do, than that probably made your skin crawl a little.
As we exited, we were greeted by Alice herself.
This maze was quite disorienting. It instantly conjured up an old memory of me getting lost in a funhouse maze when I was 6 at the Fresno Fair. It was a maze of mirrors, and I got lost and confused. I went in by myself because my grandma took me. I thought it would be silly and funny, but it quickly became a lesson in anxiety. I couldn’t get out for nearly an hour. I had resorted to sitting down and crying, waiting for someone else to come along so I could follow them out. This one wasn’t nearly as intense, but it tricked us at least a few times. Ross tried to just climb over the wall at one point.
seen from the curving path:
We came upon the next area-Snow White.
The Mine was dark and cramped. When I say dark, we’re talking impossibly dark. Like, how is this acceptable for public safety? A few times we had to use our cell phone lights to see our next step. Christine’s next fear confession: I’m a little bit afraid of the dark. Not intensely, but I definitely don’t like being put in situations where I cannot see where I’m walking in to and cannot see what’s coming up behind me.
Ross stooping down to get in, and also removing his sunglasses to see.
Next we encounter the crooked man’s house. Ross had never heard of this nursery rhyme. I only know it from seeing it at Storybook Land.
Upon entering, I instantly became dizzy and nauseous, to my utter surprise. More so than when I visited The Mystery Spot outside of Santa Cruz as a child. I was 100% sober, and suddenly got the spins when I crossed the threshold. The house is on a slant, and painted with psychedelic paintings to heighten the effect. My stomach began to lurch, and I had to swallow a thousand times to keep from throwing up.
Happy to be out of the stomach-churning crooked house, Storybook Lane ended with a few homages to some classics.
Ross didn’t know this one either. Creepily enough, I was able to recite the entire thing off the top of my head.
Suddenly, the path lead us away from story land and into WesternTown. It was interesting how the park flowed into themes.
It looked a lot like the Western town in Disneyland, by appearance. Upon closer inspection, it was a little strange. The crux of the entertainment was weird little wooden structures with strange little scenes inside of windows.
The last attraction in Western Town was The Indian Caves. They featured two of my fears: Claustrophobia and Darkness. Ross and I both entered the cave. Immediately, we were presented with 3 choices of routes. He chose one, I another. I wandered around the incredibly dark labyrinth. Suddenly, I was aware of not knowing where I was in reference to the entrance or the logical exit point. I figured I’d run in to Ross, but I never did. There were a few children roaming around the cave with me , soundless adding to the overall creepiness of the attraction. Eventually, I came upon a wall with holes in it to the outside. I passed it, and saw Ross standing outside of the cave. I pushed my head into the hole and called his name. He said after the rabbit hole, he couldn’t take being in there. I completely understood, and just wanted out. I milled around the tight tunnels like an ant. A little girl jumped out at me behind a wall and scared the living shit out of me, thinking I was her sister. After that, my feet picked up speed and jogged around the faux rock walls until I finally saw sunlight. I ran out and hugged Ross, chest heaving with anxiety.
One of the possible exits out of the Indian Caves is a crawlspace. It tunnels under the caves, under the attraction in pitch darkness yards and yards until it empties out of a teepee across from the entrance. After the terror I experienced in the rabbit hole, I didn’t even check this one out. Even the little kids I encountered in the tunnels whispered not to go that way.
The English Village
Suddenly the path lead us into an area that was medieval themed. It was an odd flow, I’ll admit. It seemed it should have come after the castle at the beginning, but there it was, after Western Town. There were more facades, featuring a little village.
The only attraction in the village is one labeled “Pinnochio’s Playhouse”. We climbed the spiral staircase behind a handful of excitable children.
We next came upon a funhouse mirror. I think its necessary to mention that Ross tried to pull his wiener out to see the awesome effect of this illusion before I stopped him. I dare say many of you would have done the exact same thing.
After the Pinnoccio area, we stumble upon a theatre that featured a creepy animatronics show that was packed with silent children in awe. I couldn’t even watch one of these shows, because the theatre was full both times we peeked in. It seemed eerie, from what I saw.
The Haunted House
After seeing the sheer awesomeness and horrific wonder that was the rest of the theme park, we decided we would buy tickets to do two attractions. We would have probably done more but we were on a budget. The haunted house was my choice. I thought it would probably be super lame, one of those coaster rides where silly ghosts and ghouls would pop up on air-pressured hydraulics scaring no one. Truth be told, there hasn’t been a haunted house that has scared me since I was 12. Well, that is until this one.
We entered, and I quickly discovered it was as dark as the caves. Also, we would be walking through it.
Seriously? Holy fuck. The Haunted House literally looks like a house. It plays on fears that keep a confident adult up in the night. It is pitch black, with subtle acoustics piping in slight whispers to set one’s hair on end. Down endless dark hallways, smoky black mirrors line the walls. Some reflect back your own barely lit reflection. Others contain a horrific scene or containing a hologram with a slight apparition floating by to play tricks on your eyes. Whoever designed this haunted house knew what the fuck they were doing. We were scared-legitimately. Neither of us wanted to go first, nor bring up the rear.
Enter Christine’s next deep dark fear: Mirrors in the dark. I went to Catholic school growing up. With that came much paranoia, myths, legends and fears based on the faith that was being sold to us on a daily basis. The schools also are not government funded, therefore unique in their own rights. One afternoon when I was in first grade, two friends and I were in the bathroom. Suddenly, the door was shut by an unseen classmate and the lights turned off. The door and the light switch were inexplicably on the outside of the building, making this nightmare possible. My friends and I were trapped, total darkness facing the mirrors above the sinks. One of my friends started saying it: Bloody Mary…If you are in catholic school, Bloody Mary is like the fucking ballsiest, fucked up shit you can do. The other friend that was trapped with us went ape-shit at the first utterance of those words. She began screaming and pounding on the door. I began crying as the other friend kept chanting. Ever since this incident, I am seriously afraid of dark mirrors. This haunted house was full of them.
We left the haunted house in one piece, but we both agreed that it was hands down the only haunted house that was actually scary. As we were leaving, a very little girl with one of those backpack-leashes on staggered behind her mother crying. Indeed, Mija. This is a truly fucked-up place.
The Challenge of Mondor
We wanted to do one more attraction, but it was a very hard choice. Both the roller coaster and the log ride looked awesome but something about an attraction with the name “The challenge of Mondor” kept drawing us in. We decided to choose that one.
To challenge Mondor, you sit in a moving train while shooting creatures with a laser gun. Yes, it really is that awesome. Scary as shit creatures pop out at you, while you shoot at them with a laser gun as many times as you can. The hits are recorded on a screen in front of you. Ok, so these targets were just seriously fucked up. Some were silly, some scary, others satanic-looking. We were shooting these creatures of the damned for most of the game. It was basically like getting to shoot things in a 3D bad 80’s heavy metal video-minus the scantily-clad broads. Trolls, creatures, leather-wearing hooded figures…I mean it was pretty fucking epic. At one point, my laser gun had to be put sown to take these. It was so dark and everything was moving, I had no choice but to use flash.
After the challenge, we knew we were spent, emotionally and mentally. It was time to go. We followed the path and found the food area. There was an outdoor eatery, as well as one indoors attached to the “water theatre”. You had to enter to leave. Admittedly, it was pretty neat.
We literally had to exit the Enchanted Forest through the gift shop. Our experience was exciting, scary, and emotionally exhausting. I was glad we came, but I was glad to leave. I can’t help but wonder what a child’s perspective of it would be. Does it only seem fucked up because I have a lifetime of trauma to judge it by? I suppose I won’t know. All I know is a maniacal genius may or may not have designed the Enchanted Forest. Whether or not children like it is debatable.