Vancouver Weekend: We're Thinking....Halloween

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five activities that will get you into the Halloween spirit.

      Potters House of Horrors

      To October 31 at 12530 72 Avenue, Surrey

      What do you do when you own a garden shop and business wanes in the winter? Well, if you’re the clever folks at Potters Farm and Nursery, you transform the ol’ green centre into a series of over-the-top haunted houses filled with zombies, murky swamp waters, and bloodthirsty vampires. Billed as one of B.C.’s largest haunted-house events, Potters House of Horrors features two spooky spaces this year—the brand-new, bone-chilling Monstrosity and the eerie, someone-definitely-died-here Swampin’ Slaughterhouse mansion—plus, a ghost town and mini haunted castle for tots who aren’t quite ready for the big leagues. We guarantee “surprises”—which may or may not be wielding chainsaws—in store at each one. If you’re looking to get the most scare for your buck, hop into the haunted photobooth or test out your in-the-event-of-an-apocalypse skills with some Xtreme Paintball Massacre onsite. For the true masochists, there’s always the casket ride, where you can experience the feeling of being buried six feet under. An easy sell, wouldn’t you say?

      Expect bones, bones, and bones at this year's Day of the Dead–themed Stanley Park Ghost Train.
      Stanley Park Ghost Train

      Stanley Park Ghost Train

      To October 31 at the Stanley Park Miniature Train

      If you think Mortal Coil Performance Society's annual immersive installation in the dark, Grimm-worthy forest in Stanley Park is kids' stuff, think again. The group's creative geniuses seem bent on outdoing themselves artistically every year, always with a fully realized, chilling theme as well as live actors, stilt-walking, and gigantic, mobile creatures. Recent outings have included deranged, dark takes on Mother Goose (complete with a monster-size Miss Muffet arachnid and red-haired ghouls living in a shoe), old silver-screen monster movies (Bela Legosi and Boris Karloff look-alikes), and ambitious odes to creepy circus figures (think elaborate skeleton tightrope walkers and zombie ringleaders). This year, the night ride travels through a tunnel of flames into a Day of the Dead–inspired world of graveyards, wandering souls, and bones, bones, bones. A live mariachi band serenades the proceedings, making it all feel like a creepy trip to Oaxaca at midnight. This is multimedia theatre art at its most warped and wonderful; come after dark for the full experience. (Editor's note: the Stanley Park Ghost Train will remain closed until 5 p.m. on Sunday [October 16] because of a storm coming across the Lower Mainland.)

      Grab and the fam and head out to Willow View Farms, where you can browse over 50 varieties of pumpkins.
      Tammy Kwan

      Willow View Farms

      To October 31 at 288 McCallum Road, Abbotsford

      It's not really Halloween without a perfectly carved pumpkin sitting on your porch, right? If you want to get the full “choosing the right pumpkin” experience, forget about picking one up at your nearby grocery market. Make it a day trip with the family and drive out to Willow View Farms in Abbotsford—a popular destination for Halloween necessities, such as orange gourds. The farm offers over 50 kinds of pumpkin that vary in colour, shape, and size. Guests can either catch a hayride out to the patch, or grab a wagon at the entrance and take a leisurely stroll. The farm also offers 22 different varieties of apple, including Honeycrisp, Elstar, and Jonagold. When the kids start to get tired of picking out gourds and fruits, check out the petting zoo filled with cute farm animals—they never fail to entertain youngsters. Be sure to pick up some snacks at the concession stand before heading back to the city, because you never want to drive on an empty stomach. We suggest quenching your thirst with an apple cider slushie and a good ol' bag of popcorn. Maybe you can think about what outrageous character you'll carve on your pumpkin this year, just to outdo yourself from last year.

      Expect row upon row of  realistic skeletons, mock tombstones, fake bats, and fog machines at Spirit Halloween. 
      Mike Usinger

      Spirit Halloween

      To October 31 at various locations

      As sure as old Saint Nick has an insatiable appetite for geysers of blood in Silent Night, Deadly Night, Halloween has become a massive business in Canada. Canucks spend in excess of $1 billion on the Season of the Witch each year, second only to Christmas and more per capita than our neighbours down south. To judge by the lineups, a good deal of that coinage is dropped at Spirit Halloween stores, which start popping up across the Lower Mainland right when the leaves start falling. Calling the outlets “one-stop shopping” is kind of like describing the original Evil Dead as fucking terrifying: it doesn’t begin to do things justice. For those who like to have someone else do all the work at Halloween, Spirit has hundreds of ready-to-wear costumes that range from Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead to American Horror Story’s oversexed maid Moira O’Hara. If the dizzying array of high-grade rubber masks (werewolves, killer clowns, and—scariest of all—Donald Trump) seem like cheating, load up on greasepaint, fake blood, and a selection of FX makeup that would impress Tom Savini. Because half the fun on Halloween is in decorating your house, condo, or East Van basement suite, there is row upon row of realistic skeletons, mock tombstones, fake bats, and fog machines. Once you’re ready for the big night, embrace the fact that Halloween only comes once a year, break out that credit card, and spring for one of the dozen or so life-size animatronic figures on display. Our favourite is the four-foot high demon girl with luminous yellow eyes who goes from cackling eerily to eating a softball-size brain to lunging at you when you least expect it. And you thought Silent Night, Deadly Night was scary.

      Take your pick from seven haunted houses, inculding the Hollywood Horrors and Asylum, at Fright Nights at Playland.
      Fright Nights at Playland

      Fright Nights at Playland

      To October 31 at 2901 East Hastings Street

      Self-proclaimed as "Western Canada's Scariest Haunt", Fright Nights at Playland never fail to amp up the Halloween spirit in our city. Guests who make their way here will be treated to plenty of hair-raising attractions. With seven individually themed haunted houses (Haunted Mansion, Hollywood Horrors, Asylum, etc.), you can expect to spooked by either the creepy live actors or the ghastly screams of those being scared out of their minds. Be sure to keep your head up when you're inside the houses, because you don't want to miss out on the intricately designed horror spaces that could be a scary movie set. If you're not a fan of the haunted houses, but you still enjoy taking in the freaky props and Halloween atmosphere, check out the 15 rides and two live shows, featuring physical stunts and fire performances. Among the scariest things at Fright Nights are the “freaks” who roam around, thriving on terrorizing people when they least expect it. This year, guests may randomly encounter a demon doll, a boogyman, and a menacing clown who will very likely chase you with a chainsaw.

      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.