Day 6

How Canadians are stepping up to save Halloween in their hometowns

COVID-19 restrictions have forced many families to look for new ways to mark the spooky celebration this year. We spoke with Canadians who are taking a unique approach to the haunting holiday.

'I know for my kids, Halloween is like the ultimate holiday of the year,' says Julie Georgas

With Halloween and her husband's birthday just days apart, Jennifer Richardson often goes all out for Halloween. (Submitted by Jennifer Richardson)

Halloween will be getting a tooth fairy, of sorts, this year. 

Rumour has it that if you plant a pumpkin seed before you go to bed — and draw a smile with your finger to mark the spot — Peter Peter Pumpkin Treater will make sure you get something special.

"He's kind of like a folklore figure," explained Julie Georgas, managing director at Zeno Canada.

"When they [children] wake up in the morning, they have a candy surprise."

But Peter is, of course, made up. COVID-19 restrictions have forced many families to look for new ways to mark the spooky celebration this year.

Georgas, who has her own children worried about the haunted holiday, came up with the idea of Peter Peter Pumpkin Treater as a new tradition for Halloween. There's even a poem for children to recite.

Zeno Group provided a diagram for kids to follow and invite Peter Peter Pumpkin Treater to leave a candy suprise. (Zeno Group)

"I know for my kids, Halloween is like the ultimate holiday of the year, even more than Christmas because they're kind of candy crazed," she said.

"I'm sure if you have a couple of pumpkin seeds lying around, he'd [Peter] be happy to visit your house on the 31st."

And Georgas's fairy tale creation isn't the only unique Halloween celebration to come out of the pandemic.

Spooks and suds

Paul Magnuson is the organizer of Calgary's Scare Wash — a drive-through haunted house.

"What happens is you're in this car wash but there's already a car in front of you, and it's this white car completely still — no lights, nothing," Magnuson told Day 6

"Then the entire experience [is] with three people in the dummy car ahead of you that are trying to kill you slowly and sadistically and methodically."

Cast members of the Scare Wash in Calgary offer a taste of what visitors can expect on Halloween night. (Submitted by Paul Magnuson)

Never has taking you car in for a scrub sounded so frightening. 

The Scare Wash is one of two car wash-based haunted experiences in Calgary this year. Magnuson is hoping that while visitors get their money's worth, the event doesn't keep them from coming back.

"I hope after this, our guests aren't afraid to get into another car wash.… Calgary is a very dirty city during the winter."

Magnuson adds that he's hoping more comes out of it than just a few frights. The Scare Wash will raise money for charity — and awareness for another project led by his group, Big Art.

"The ultimate goal at Big Art is to have Halloween named as a national holiday."

Haunted homes

If a ghastly car wash isn't quite your speed, perhaps a trip to Innisfil, Ont., is in order. There, stay-at-home mom Jennifer Richardson has decked her home out to give passersby a fright.

"We have a whole bunch of those tombstones that my husband has made," she told Day 6. "We have this new animatronic that he picked up this year … he kind of just makes like a groan sound."

Mike Richardson, Jennifer's husband, has been a major inspiration for the family's Halloween displays. (Submitted by Jennifer Richardson)

There's also a severed head in their microwave that greets visitors who approach the home.

"When the microwave lights up, you can see this guy's bloody head turning around in the microwave.... Everybody is always like, 'Oh, you've got it back up.' Everyone always remembers that," she said.

Typically Richardson gets into the spooky spirit by decorating her home for a combined Halloween and birthday party — her husband celebrates his birthday close to Halloween. But because of COVID-19 restrictions, she had to cancel those plans.

And her house isn't alone in the neighbourhood. One neighbour has taken Halloween terrors to the extreme.

"One of the houses that I went to see … it's all clowns," she said. "They have this huge blowup clown that you can kind of walk through and they've got the Pennywise clown — like a life-sized model of him — at the front door."

Her son "won't even go near" the house, and Richardson admits to being startled by it.

"It makes you jump, that's for sure."


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Annie Bender.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now