Home ‘haunters’ scare for good causes

SURREY – Unlike other festive holidays, the Halloween season doesn’t often evoke the spirit of giving. While some might think that the only thing All Hallows’ Eve does is try to conjure spirits, others – sometimes known as "haunters" – are busy decorating their homes with ghouls, goblins and cobwebs for Halloween displays that will benefit local charities.


With themes like "Carnevil", "Creepy Castle" and "Hillbilly Hell", it seems more than a couple of local residents are a little gung-ho for the holiday that celebrates all that is no good.


Janet Child’s Creepy Castle, for example, has been going four years strong, and proceeds from the haunted house – which includes a mini-pumpkin patch, a graveyard and a walk through some haunted castle chambers – go towards the Surrey Firefighters and the Surrey Hospice.


"This year we’re really pumping it up," Child told the Now. "We thought we were going to try to do a little bit of different stuff this year simply because it is on a Friday and we can stay open without worrying about it."


The "castle" wraps around the front and side of the house, featuring homemade horror masks and dead bodies with organs falling out. With so many great features of the public haunted house, Child maintains she’s been very lucky with the amount of community support received.


"It’s been a really great experience for me to see how giving local merchants are," she said.


Donated items include treats from local bakeries to give to kids, gallons of paint, building supplies and more.


Child’s Creepy Castle is located at 8753 Tulsey Cres., Surrey. Entry to the haunted house is by donation.


For the past seven years, Stacey Yarwood, a Clayton Heights resident, has been putting on a Halloween house to raise cash for charity. For the past five, she’s been donating specifically to BC Children’s Hospital after her nephew was diagnosed with cancer.


This year, her Clayton Heights home will be decked out as an evil carnival – a "Carnevil."


"We hand out coffee, hot chocolate and obviously candy," Yarwood said, noting that the haunted house is free to enter but donations are appreciated.


Halloween lovers and trick-or-treaters alike may purchase popcorn inside. Yarwood said the house is a real community effort, and sees long line-ups come Halloween.


"Our neighbours get involved with a live DJ and the DJ plays music all night for everyone standing in line," she said. "Last year we had about a thousand kids; they usually throw out stuffed animals and it’s a lot of fun."


For those a little gun-shy going into the haunted house, Yarwood has got it covered.


"We have guides that stand at the front and they’ll go through if you’ve got a little one that’s too scared. It can be for all-ages," she said.


Yarwood’s Carnevil is located at 6970 190th St., in Clayton Heights. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. There will be a basket of candy to raffle off, as well as other fun features.


Getting more creative every year is Greg McLellan’s Swamp House. This year’s theme? Hillbilly Hell. In North Delta, McLellan constructs a haunted house that takes up his entire driveway. And though the creative driveway den is only open a few days per year, the landscape designer starts planning his October haunt as early as January.


"When I was a kid, when you’re in the neighbourhood trick-or-treating and, you know, there was always that one house that would scare the bejeesus out of you?" McLellan recalled, noting that he wanted to bring back fun to neighbourhood activities for kids.


"There’s really no place to go," he said. "Trick-or-treating kind of died off there for a while with all the fear, people started going to malls. I just thought I’d get back into it and have a destination place for kids and people to go to. I’ve got nothing but positive feedback from everyone who’s ever come by."


From the street, up the McLellans’ driveway, and reaching up to their garage, Hillbilly Hell is a seven-room maze that fits under a watertight tent. Four to five people can fit inside the haunted house at a time. The Delta resident said he often gets asked if he’s in the movie business or whether he designs sets because his Halloween décor is so creative.


Asked why he’s so enthusiastic about Halloween, McLellan said it’s quite simple.


"Halloween just piqued my interest, and who doesn’t like scaring people?" As scary as he likes to be, he said that he’s not going for gore at Hillbilly Hell.


"It’s a little bit backwoods, a little bit of deformity, a little bit of banjo playing," McLellan said. "I’m not into the gore, you know, the big blood themes. That’s just not where I’m at yet and I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to be. I kind of play on people’s minds and what they think is going to be coming, and there might be and might not be."


McLellan also noted that his Swamp House is free to enter, but there is a donation box that trick-or-treaters can give to if they want. Every penny collected through the donation box will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.


McLellan’s Swamp House/Hillbilly Hell is located at 8661 Byron Road, Delta. The haunted house is open on Wednesday, Oct. 29, Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Oct. 31 after sundown.


Also located in North Delta is Gord Sauck’s Gordon Manor, in Sunshine Hills. The haunt, featuring gothic wrought-iron fences, ghouls and hanging skeletons as well as a whole castle-brick façade, looks like it better fits a neighbourhood in Transylvania than the picturesque Sunshine Hills. The home is open to the public on Halloween evening from 6 to 10 p.m. and, according to Sauck, he only has one rule: no gore.


"The first rule is there’s no gore, it’s a family-themed kind of thing. No blood body parts, gore or anything like that," he said.


What it does boast is a lot of high-tech effects, like lasers and animatronics. Unlike many of the other haunted houses, the Saucks’ is not a "walk-through." The big display, which its "haunter" says is expected to be patronized by over 2,000 people this year, warrants a street shut-down by the city.


The CH.I.L.D. foundation will be on hand to collect donations; names will be drawn for a WestJet trip. Gordon Manor is located at 1147 Huff Blvd. in Delta and runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Halloween evening.



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