Ears are likely still ringing for the volunteers and organizers of Cowichan Lake Recreation’s annual haunted house in Youbou this Halloween, which was an undeniable hit among revellers young and old.
“I’ve been standing here listening to people comment on the haunted house and say it’s the best ever,” said Tanya Kaul, recreation programmer at Cowichan Lake Recreation. She oversaw the night’s activities at the community hall in Youbou, which included hot dogs and treats provided by the volunteer fire department, a costume competition and, of course, the haunted house which is now a longstanding tradition. The night ended with fireworks, also provided by Youbou Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
“The turnout’s been phenomenal. This has been by far the most people I’ve seen in the last three years. So that’s great to see,” said Kaul. “It gives families an opportunity to come to a safe place instead of trick-or-treating… It’s a nice place to gather for the community in a safe environment.”
With a cleaver-swinging butcher, severed limbs hanging from strings, and screams — both live and pre-recorded — the community hall’s second floor might feel anything but safe, however, organizers there have perfected the art of illusion when it comes to danger.
Connie Vaughan has been designing and running a “room” in the haunted house for 15 years, and moves around all night, fixing any problems that might arise like fallen decorations or visitors that are too scared and want to get out.
This year there were three sections in the haunted house; Vaughan’s was The Asylum, Kim Ring’s was the Swamp Voodoo House, and Vaughan’s daughter, Emily, designed a room for small children that wouldn’t be quite so scary as the other two.
Each part of the haunted house consisted of narrow, twisting passageways, all decorated with hanging spiders (and body parts!); peopled by ghoulishly costumed actors ready to jump out and scare visitors; and featuring creepy tableaus such as the mother rocking her demon baby or the horned ghoul standing sentry in the swamp.
Vaughan said one of the challenges is finding volunteer actors she knows and trusts to participate.
She said she makes sure the younger actors are positioned in places that keep them out of reach of visitors in the event that someone gets startled and attempts to punch them.
Another challenge Vaughan has to grapple with each year: trying to top the one before it.
“That’s my biggest challenge,” she said. “Every year I add to the props and things, and I have better lighting than when I started [with] hokey little paper hanging things to now where we’ve got tons of props.”
The investment is worth it.
“I love hearing the screams. And the people that it brings. It keeps the hall alive. It draws people to Youbou. That’s why I do it.”