‘Magic can appear in the woods’

Forest of Mystery benefits BEEC

BRATTLEBORO — Forest of Mystery may be the biggest fundraiser for Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center (BEEC).

However, being only a little humorous, BEEC's Director of Development Belle Coles asserts, “If it did not raise a cent, we would have to do it anyway. People come to us and plead for the event. They love it. It was not an option for us to cancel Forest this year.”

For 17 years, Forest of Mystery has enchanted audiences by the stories of spirits that appear before them while walking Bonnyvale's forest trails by lamplight. This year's performance, Into the Otherworld, draws from Welsh mythology, Halloween imagery, and the theme of the noble quest. The performance features a cast of 30 actors and musicians.

Into the Otherworld was written by award-winning mystery author Michael Nethercott, whose novel, Summoning the Dead, will be published next spring by St. Martin's Press. Directed by Nethercott, Forest of Mystery will be held Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday Oct. 27, with a rain date of Oct. 28. The hour-long journey begins every 15 minutes between 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

“Forest of Mystery is a theater of environment,” says Coles. “Michael's original scripts each year features scenes that are specified by environmental features that are found in Bonnyvale Woods.”

Reservations are necessary, because a group of 20 people is escorted by a guide along trails where they are greeted by characters at various stopping points.

“Our guests follow a trail lit by tiki lanterns. When they stop at the first scene, so much of the story is revealed, only to be continued at each subsequent stop throughout the about mile-long journey.”

The story is revealed scene by scene. The trail ends at the top of the hill with a huge bonfire.

“This year, Michael has fashioned a quest based on folklore from Wales, emphasizing a little more mystery to it than sometimes is the case. Into the Otherworld will also be more interactive, as the audience will be encouraged to think 'who done it' in our mystery,” says Coles.

Coles says she believes that the idea of putting on Forest of Mystery as a fundraiser had been suggested by a board member who had heard of something like it in Massachusetts.

“BEEC jumped on the idea because it brought out aspects of the environment which has always been our mission here,” she said. “It directly addresses issues of conservation. Furthermore, it quite simply gets people out on our trails. The mythological stories we tell are always about man's relation to the land. Magic can appear in the woods if one is sensitive to see it, which we help to bring out on that night.”

Coles encourages most Halloween celebrators to come and join this great adventure.

“I would only the discourage the very young. Not that anything scary happens on the trails. This is not one of those Halloween journeys with goblins and witches jumping out at you. But very young children do sometimes take fright at characters appearing from the darkness, however benign we might think they are.”

Coles suggests those attending to bring comfortable shoes, perhaps a hiking stick, and if the weather turns chilly, warm clothes. The event also will have a bake sale and hot cider to round out the festivities.

Forest of Mystery is a central event of BEEC's current mission to, in Coles' words, “grow roots with the community.” She wants to encourage people of all ages to join BEEC.

BEEC is a member-based, nonprofit organization founded in 1991. Its mission is “to develop a more ecologically-informed citizenry through education and action in order to enhance and sustain the vitality of southern Vermont's bioregion.”

It has been providing southeastern Vermont with outdoor education programming, including environmental education initiatives, youth camps and after-school programs, natural history hikes, and workshops.

“One of our current goals at BEEC is actively to work to get people to know us,” says Coles. “We are publicizing ourselves by doing things like have window display in Key Bank and a panel in the River Garden. We also are inviting everyone to join our community potlucks.”

Although BEEC does not have a storefront in downtown Brattleboro, which Coles admits can make the organization sometimes seem rather remote, she wants to emphasize the fact that BEEC is indeed part of the civic landscape.

“We have many public programs for youths and adults, summer camps, and information sharing events,” she said.

Tickets for Forest of Mystery are $10 for adults and $6 for children for BEEC members, and $12 for adults and $8 for children for nonmembers. For reservations, call 802-257-5785 or visit

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