Demons Of Dark Entry Forest

Doug Kirkpatrick
"I never go in without holy water," says aspiring filmmaker Douglas Kirkpatrick, of the Dudleytown forest, where he'd hoped to set his scary movie. (Douglas Healey for The Washington Post)
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 7, 2007

CORNWALL, Conn.

The road is an unpaved one-laner that winds steeply up a mountain and dead-ends near 750 acres of trees, mud and the ruins of a long-abandoned enclave known for centuries as Dudleytown. It looks like a typical patch of forest in northwestern Connecticut, but don't be fooled.

This is home to a vortex of evil. Or it's haunted by demonic forces. Maybe both. It depends on whom you ask.

The place was settled, according to lore, in the 1740s by the cursed offspring of a British nobleman, Edmund Dudley, who was beheaded for alleged acts of treason by King Henry VIII. Today the property is owned by a group called the Dark Entry Forest Inc. and, although that name all but shouts "We dare you to walk through our totally haunted forest," the organization has been trying for years to keep a regular flow of demon-seeking visitors, and their beer cans, away. "No trespassing" signs, with threats of fines, are plastered on every other tree.

The signs don't work.

"I never go in without holy water," says Douglas Kirkpatrick. A 49-year-old lawyer and aspiring filmmaker, Kirkpatrick was standing by the Dudleytown gate one recent afternoon, holding a plastic bottle, festooned with a cross, that he bought for $1.50 at a church. Every time he walks through Dudleytown, he says, he feels a "magnificent energy" that sets his heart palpitating.

It's an experience he plans to bring to a theater near you. Last year, he and his brother David, a Hollywood veteran and former president of Paramount Pictures, teamed up to make a scripted horror movie about Dudleytown. To get started, the brothers attempted what Douglas now calls, a little ruefully, "an experiment."

They hired six writers and installed them in a house rented in nearby Cornwall. Their job was not to flip out and kill each other, though given the inspirational DVDs they were provided -- like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the "The Blair Witch Project" -- that is what it sounds like. Their job was to soak up the local atmosphere and write a story about a group of young writers living near a forest of evil who start dying mysteriously and violently.

You hear different versions of what happened in that house from different people. What's not disputed is that after six weeks of cohabitation, all the writers jumped in their cars and took off.

"One guy drove straight to Indiana and checked himself into a mental institution," Kirkpatrick says.

In his telling, the whole episode is a strange case of life anticipating art, with elements of MTV's "The Real World" and "The Shining" tossed in. The truth, of course, is more complicated, but the full story of Dudleytown leads to one inescapable conclusion:

The place is cursed, all right. It's just not cursed in the way you might think.


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