Edmonton's Hospital of Horror a virtual-reality nightmare

The ghosts may be virtually engineered but the terror is real.

'You know it's not real but you can't quite be sure'

Edmonton AM gets a virtual fright

3 years ago
Kim Nakrieko and Clare Bonnyman brave the Hospital of Horror virtual reality haunted house. 0:41

Inside Edmonton's only virtual-reality haunted house, the ghosts are computer-generated but the terror is very real.

Edmontonians can only brave the Hospital of Horror in southeast Edmonton when they are equipped with a headset, goggles and microphone.

The immersive experience at Laser City, 5104 67th Ave., provides frights not possible in traditional brick-and-mortar haunted houses.

It relies on software to show patrons a myriad of frightful scenes, all within the confines of a plain, padded room.

'Mind game' 

CBC Radio staffers Kim Nakrieko and Clare Bonnyman braved the 15-minute experience earlier this week, and the Edmonton AM producers learned just how real the terror can be.

It was harrowing.


Virtual projections transported them into the hallways of a long-abandoned hospital with some less-than-dead occupants.

There were hushed whispers from the headphones, frightful sights and shaking floors.

In the end, they failed to escape the building and were killed by their virtual tormentors.

Footage of their bid for freedom shows Nakrieko and Bonnyman flailing and squealing in terror.

"It's that kind of mind game. You know it's not real but you can't quite be sure," Nakrieko said, her voice hoarse from screaming.

"I was legitimately scared ... it really does mess with your mind. It's right up there with the scary moments, for sure.

"And then looking at the video after makes it even more hilarious because we were just standing in a room." 
Alexander Rossol, left, and Nathaniel Rossol, right, are the creators behind Hospital of Horror. (John Robertson/CBC )

The experience is a collaboration between entertainment company FunEx and brothers Nathaniel and Alex Rossol. The University of Alberta-trained developers have a company called VR Cave, a start-up focusing on virtual reality.

They developed the Hospital of Horror experience in the basement of their south Edmonton home.

After coding, experimenting and watching a lot of horror films for inspiration, they devised the perfect contraption to scare the wits out of Edmontonians.

It involves an HTC Vive headset and noise cancelling headphones that will only allow you to hear your partner, and whatever the brothers want you to hear. The kit also includes a backpack that will allow you to be tracked by the software cordlessly.

It never gets old, seeing people completely frightened.- Nathaniel Rossol. 

Hearing people scream in absolute terror in the room is like music to the brothers' ears.

"It's amazing how far virtual reality has got," Nathaniel Rossol said.  "It feels like you're actually there, even though you know everything is completely virtual.

"We've seen lots of people go through and it never gets old, seeing people completely frightened."

Their technology is now being used across Canada, in the United States, Germany and Costa Rica.

"We gave ourselves heart attacks a couple times when we were programming it," said Alex Rossol.

"If that happens during development when you know it's going to happen then you probably have something pretty scary on your hands."

Hospital of Horror runs for select days in October. It costs $25 per person and tickets must be purchased online in advance.