Truly a labor of love, the family that lives at 1912 N. Pepper Street is dedicated to their home haunt – and it’s a good thing they’re all-in, because it consumes their entire backyard year-round. The Backwoods features an incredibly full footprint that switchbacks on itself numerous times through towering two-story sets and past a mind-boggling assortment of home-made props, ranging from grotesque to simply awe-striking.
Each year, the theme of The Backwoods evolves a bit; this process has created kind of a “haunt stew” of stories – from a backwater bayou inbreds theme, to futuristic robots, and everything in between – with a bit of Knott’s Scary Farm and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror thrown into the mix for good measure. The two main proprietors of The Backwoods, Taylor and Jeff Gustafson, tinker with making new masks, sets and props for the home haunt throughout the year and are hard core Knott’s fans as well, so there is definitely Scary Farm influence there if you look – and listen – for it. However, they make their own stuff for the most part, making this such a unique effort; nothing else in the world looks like it – and that’s pretty damned cool!
The addition in 2014 of massive battle robots to the Backwoods mix was stunning, to say the least; the figures look fantastic and literally loom several feet higher than guests as they encounter them in the maze! We had no idea going in what had been added – the guys simply told us that we definitely couldn’t miss the new additions, and boy, that was an understatement!
The Backwoods is as built-out as it can get, with a ton of content crammed into their home’s backyard. Guests line up in front of their home, which is decorated in the front with a really neat collection of full-sized figures from popular horror films; this gives the large crowds waiting in line something to look at as they wait their turn (on busy nights, the line stretches down the sidewalk, past several homes).
Each of the live actors in The Backwoods is volunteer, and they are a fun group of haunters. They definitely are all proud of Backwoods, as well they should be – this is a unique home haunt that attracts attention and fans from great distances each Halloween season.
As is the case with most home haunts, The Backwoods Maze is donation-based. There is no entry fee, but those who wish to give to help support this fantastic attraction may certainly do so near the entrance to the maze. We’ve known this team for years now, and we love what they do – on top of it, they’re a good family. We look forward to seeing what they’ve come up with each Halloween – they never cease to amaze, and their setup only gets bigger and bigger (literally), which is a tough act to keep improving, considering they’re completely built-out! Adding new scenes and props is nothing short of a Tetris-like exercise, yet the Gustafsons do it bigger and better each season!
For years, we’ve asked if they are planning on going pro. The idea certainly has been discussed each year – but they know going pro is much different than owning and operating a home haunt; that’s something they don’t necessarily want to take on. We totally get that – and while we think they could make a great pro haunt somewhere, it would be a shame to lose such an iconic home haunt at the same time. So, we’re happy with whatever they do and will continue to support them into the coming years!
Huge kudos to the Backwoods team on another amazing season and ridiculously cool new additions to one of the most unique home haunts in the world!
– Rick West