Most 15-year-olds spend their time focusing on school, work, sports or hanging out with their friends. They don’t often have much time to design, construct and host a haunted house in their back yards. But two years ago, Salem High School student Brandon Roth did just that.
Dark Forest was something Roth always wanted to do, ever since he was a “little, little kid,” Roth said. At age six, he created a haunted house in his garage. An older neighbor walked through the garage and pretended to be scared, he said. He tried again when he was 12, but he didn’t start in earnest until he was 15. And he loves it.
“Everyone needs a bit of scaring,” Roth said.”As soon as we close–even before we close–I start thinking about a new theme [for Dark Forest].”
Roth received his G.E.D. from Salem High School so he could begin to focus on his future. He hopes to go to a special effects school in Pittsburgh, Pa. to learn from Tom Savini, the ‘King of Splatter’ who created the special effects for all the “Friday the 13th” movies. His uncle is the head of the props department for Warner Brothers; he told Roth to send his portfolio over.
“I’m 17 in body but 23 in mind,” he said. “I really was wanting to start my life.”
Roth will continue to host Dark Forest until he can save the money to go to the special effects school, which costs $38,000 a year. Dark Forest is free and open to the public, but a $5 donation is suggested. Part of the proceeds go towards the operations for Dark Forest; Roth donates what’s left to a charity. This year, Roth will donate to the Ronald McDonald House.
So what’s the theme for this year’s haunt? From the Dark Forest website:
“Have you ever heard the story of the Old Salem mine? No? Well, there is this mine on the top of the hill off Red Lane in Salem; there has been talk of strange noises coming from there and people going missing. Apparently as the story goes, in the early 1900s a mining company started excavating for a mineral that burns hotter than coal and is worth its weight in gold, if not more! What they didn’t know is this mineral is extremely radioactive, and after a period of time the miners started mutating. The United States government closed off the mine and ordered it to “never be opened!” So that’s how it stayed, for about 50 years or so. Then in the 1960s a group of kids went up the hill and visited the old mine, not believing the stupid stories their grandparents told them, so they opened that old mine and went in…and were never seen or heard from again…”
Dark Forest is located at 1212 Pickwick Lane in Salem; it opens Friday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. and will remain open each Friday and Saturday night in October. All ages are invited between 7 and 8 p.m.; ages 10 and up only from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Additionally, Roth adds that more actors are needed! If you’re interested in helping out with Dark Forest, call Brandon at 540-470-7087.