NEWTON — Chris Pershick has a degree in horticulture technology, not Halloween trickery, yet he’s the man in charge of running one of the region’s most popular month-of-October attractions.
“I’m a trained, professional horticulturist, so I had to learn all this,” said Pershick, leader of the “scare team” at the Potters House of Horrors on 72nd Avenue.
“I’m really passionate about both, and this Halloween gig is really fun but it’s totally, totally different from the horticulture thing.”
Potters is said to be the only garden centre in Canada that converts its entire site to a haunted attraction at Halloween each year. Planning begins in March and construction starts in August. As Oct. 31 approaches, the garden centre turns into a fog-shrouded, strobe-lit haunted house.
In fact, the attraction this year boasts two haunted houses, one dubbed the Ripper of Whitechapel (an 1880s-England kind of feel) and the other, the Swampin’ Slaughterhouse (more of a Louisiana swamp thing).
They’re both custom-made with “scares” sourced from around the globe and also completely separate, and that includes admission fees.
“We actually added extra space last year, so it’s not like it’s the same space cut into two,” revealed Pershick. “It’s two full-sized houses now. It’s just more for people to enjoy, something different in each of them.”
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Now in its 13th year, the attraction has become one of the most popular Halloween haunts in the Lower Mainland, rivaled only by Fright Nights at Playland.
This year’s House of Horrors opened on Oct. 2, a week earlier than usual.
“We just wanted to push it a bit more,” Pershick explained. “It gets to the point where if we’re going to work this hard to get it up and running, we might as well get it open earlier to get as much out of it as we can. The ones in the States, some of them open in mid-September.”
New features this year include the Squeeeeeze Room, a dark, claustrophobic hall in one part of the house.
“It’s by far the favourite this year,” Pershick noted. “People are freaking out in that, because the walls inflate and it is really something to experience. It’s hard to describe, and it’s not for the claustrophobic. When people finally get through, there’s usually a big sigh of relief, like, ‘Ahhhh, I made it through.’ It’s a great addition.”
Also new is a charitable partnership with Critter Care Wildlife Society, a Langley-based organization that treats sick, injured and orphaned mammals native to this area of B.C.
“It’s a perfect charity for us because we are a huge bunch of animal lovers here,” Pershick explained.
The charity stands to net some solid dollars from part proceeds, as last year’s House of Horrors attracted nearly 20,000 ticketholders, according to Pershick. Admission rates start at $10 (for a one-house all-ages pass during Family House) and creep up to the top price of $50 (a two-house adult speed pass during the most popular nights).
Other features at Potters this year include a coffin ride (“experience what it’s like to be buried in a coffin for $4!”), a Haunted Photo Booth (“freakish photos sent directly to your phone or email, $5”), an Xtreme Paintball Massacre (“shoot 50 rounds at haunted props and spooky animatronics, $6”) and King Kong’s Hoop of Hard Knocks (“basketball shots on Kong’s shaking hoop to win prizes, $6”).
Potters House of Horrors is open from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly until Oct. 31, with the tamer “family hour” running from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at 12530 72nd Ave., Surrey. For more details, visit Pottershouseofhorrors.com.