Nfld. & Labrador

High school known for epic Halloween costumes not letting pandemic spoil the fun

Holy Spirit High didn't let the pandemic cancel its notorious Halloween costumes. Plus, meet "Doctor Halloween," the guy behind a massive haunted house setup in Conception Bay South.

Meet 'Doctor Halloween,' the guy behind massive haunted house setup in C.B.S.

Staff at Holy Spirit High dressed up as essential workers to show gratitude for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

For years, staff at Holy Spirit High School in Conception Bay South, N.L., have gone all out for Halloween, with costumes designed to stun and delight their students.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the way the school celebrates, it hasn't put a stop to the tradition.

"Normally, if it wasn't a COVID year, we'd be in the gym. Every single department within the school would have special costumes made," said vice-principal Jamie Parsons.

"But this year we're doing something a little bit different, and that's paying tribute to our essential workers through our COVID pandemic."

Parsons himself was decked out in a bald cap and a suit, dressed up as Health Minister John Haggie. His fellow vice-principal Denise Oldford dressed up as Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, while principal David Locke donned a costume as former premier Dwight Ball.

The administrators at Holy Spirit High School in Conception Bay South dressed up as the province's health advisors, holding signs with Haggie-isms on them. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

They've got some classic Haggie-isms on signs used to greet students to school Friday morning, including the age-old adage, "Don't lick the shopping carts," and "Hope is a girl's name, not a strategy."

Some of the other staff, in trying to come up with a theme like in previous years, decided to dress up as essential workers.

"People got to talking and came up with a great idea of doing these essential workers and paying tribute to them, and a thank-you for all the hard work they've done since March and continue to do today."

Abby Mitchell, student body president at Holy Spirit, said this year's Halloween celebrations are definitely not like previous years.

"It's definitely very different, but we're still trying to keep the spirit high, with spirit weeks like today," said Mitchell, dressed up as Donna from Mamma Mia!

"We're also gonna do even more spirit weeks and spirit days to keep the hopes alive here."

Mitchell said the student body is trying to organize other activities, too, including working with the town to come up with an outdoor throwback movie night.

'Doctor Halloween, they call me'

Meanwhile, the Halloween spirit elsewhere in C.B.S. is just as high — albeit, slightly more creepy, with a clown theme.

Bob Farrell is known for going all out with Halloween decorations, and this year, despite the pandemic, is no different.

After spending nearly 18 hours Thursday putting the finishing touches on days of work in his yard, the clown-themed haunted house decorations are up and ready to spook — and delight — visitors.

Farrell spends days looking up designs and buying some decorations, but a lot of it he has to build himself from scratch.

Anyone with coulrophobia — a fear of clowns — should stay away from Bob Farrell's house in Conception Bay South this Halloween. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"Obviously doing it for the kids and, well, for myself too, and my family — I have four children myself. I just felt, in these times, things have been pretty rough for everybody, so I wanted to try to lift people's spirits," he said.

"We've been doing it now for about 12 years, and every year we try to do a little something different."

This year's theme was picked by his 16-year-old daughter, who's been at him for years to come up with a clown theme.

While his kids are mostly older now, his youngest daughter still likes to help him with the decorating.

"I'm the crazy doctor that lives down the lane, a little bit nuts, but I do a little bit for myself, but more for the kids. It's something I get a lot of enjoyment out of, there's a lot of creativity involved — I build a lot of this stuff, so it's a bit of relaxing time for me," he said.

"They enjoy it too, they all help out. My oldest kids, of course, have moved on, but my youngest daughter is still here and she still really enjoys helping me out."

By day, Farrell is a surgeon, but he has yet to create a doctor- or medical-themed horror scene.

"I think it's due to be coming, but then I didn't want to scare away any of my patients. I still need to work," he said with a laugh.

"Although I do have a lot of my patients that look forward to seeing this every year, so it's enjoyable for everybody. 'Doctor Halloween,' they call me."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Adam Walsh and The St. John's Morning Show

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