What we know today to be the season of jack-o’-lanterns, creative costumes, and trick-or-treating, Halloween, celebrated annually on Oct. 31, is one of the world’s oldest holidays, derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals.
The holiday’s origin stems back to the Celts, who lived over 2,000 years ago in what is now known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, and their festival of Samhain, a pagan religious celebration.
The Celts celebrated their new year on Nov. 1, which marked the end of summer and beginning of winter, a time often associated with death. They believed the night before their new year blurred the worlds of the living and dead, and so on Oct. 31, they’d celebrate Samhain, a day they thought ghosts of the dead returned to Earth.
By 43 A.D., the majority of Celtic territory had been conquered by the Roman Empire, a trajectory that, over hundreds of decades, combined celebrations with similar Roman ones into the Christian holiday All Souls’ Day, a day to honour the dead on Nov. 2.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated with bonfires, parades, and dressing up as saints, angels, and devils. This day of celebration was also called All-hallows or All-Hallowmas, and the night before it, the Celts’ traditional night of Samhain, began to be called All-Hallows Eve, eventually changing to Halloween.
Today, Halloween is celebrated in 37 countries across the world. Further celebrations of the dead include Mexico and other Latin American countries’ Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 1 and 2, which honours dead loved ones and ancestors. The day is often recognized by calaveras, skull figures decorated with colourful patterns and flowers.
In Canada, Halloween is a colonial holiday celebrated with festive parties, costumes, and carving pumpkins, activities brought over by Scottish and Irish immigrants.
One of the most classic Halloween traditions is trick-or-treating. The activity dates back to 1000 A.D. in Celtic lands where people from lower-income households would visit wealthier families for food, and in return, pray for the homeowners’ dead relatives.
In Scotland and Ireland, young people adapted the tradition by dressing in costumes. Instead of praying for the household’s death, they would perform a “trick” like singing songs or telling a joke before collecting their treat, eventually becoming the trick-or-treating tradition beloved by children today.
Another iconic symbol of Halloween is the jack-o’-lantern which stems from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack who tricked the devil for his own profits. When he died, Jack was sentenced to roam the Earth for eternity. People then started to carve satanic faces out of turnips to scare off Jack’s wandering soul.
When the Irish immigrated to North America, they began to carve these jack-o’-lanterns in a fruit native to the region — pumpkins. As traditions from Samhain like wearing disguises to hide from wandering souls remained, folklore about Stingy Jack became associated with Halloween.
In the late 1800s, there was a movement in North America to move away from the ghoulish pranks and witchcraft of Halloween and into a holiday centred around community, which shines through today.
This year, there are various community-orientated events taking place across the Lower Mainland to celebrate Halloween. From thrilling haunted houses to eye-catching attractions, here are some budget friendly Halloween activities near Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s campuses for students to check out.
If you’re ever spending a late October night studying at KPU’s Surrey campus and can hear screams echoing in the distance, they’re most likely coming from Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors, located right beside the campus, just down 72 street towards Strawberry Hill.
Featuring three haunted houses, an escape room, and their newest blindfolded walk-through attraction, “Sinneraria,” Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors aims to create a scary yet exciting experience for all attendees.
A garden centre in the off-seasons, the attraction got its start over 20 years ago in a local’s backyard as a community haunted house. Over time, it gained popularity and the garden centre location, then-named Potters, was approached to house the attraction during the Halloween season.
“That’s where it all started,” says Heather Gibbons, customer relations at Cougar Creek. “It has gotten bigger every year. Last year, we had many nights that sold out tickets.”
The attraction was originally named Potter’s House of Horrors until the owner sold the property to two long time managers Chris Pershick and Scott Pasternak which, of course, the haunted house came along with. Renamed to Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors, Gibbons says Pershick and Pasternak have been working to elevate the attraction.
“Scott is the architect, the designer, the builder, and has an amazing ability to design things and loves horror. Chris is the business side of things. … So it works out really well as a partnership,” Gibbons says.
“Echos of Abbath,” a mysterious and dark underworld, “New Year’s Evil,” a 1970s motel New Year’s Eve party that took a turn for the worst, and “Zycho Zerkus,” a clown maze, make up the three haunted houses at the attraction. While waiting in line to enter these haunts, Cougar Creek keeps visitors entertained with elaborate decorations, frightening actors, and live stage performances.
“We try to mitigate as much of the boredom of standing in a line,” Gibbons says. “We try to make it fun and have something new and different every year.”
Gibbons also says Pasternak builds a lot of the decorations at Cougar Creek himself, designs that are informed by his knowledge of and passion for horror movies.
Cougar Creek hires around 100 employees for the attraction every year, some of which are KPU horticulture students who also work in the garden centre. They’ve been supporting the Surrey Food Bank for almost a decade by donating partial ticket proceeds. On Oct. 25, they will be putting on a food drive night where attendees who bring non-perishable food items “might get a little something in return,” Gibbons says.
Cougar Creek’s House of Horrors is open daily until Oct. 31 from 7:00 to 10:00 pm with ticket prices that vary depending on the day of the week. To learn more about the attraction and to purchase tickets, visit www.cougarcreekhouseofhorrors.com.
“We want people to have a really good time and get a really good scare because horror is a really big thing for a lot of people,” she says.
Other frightening festivities taking place in Surrey this month include the Halloween Scream Train at Bear Creek Park, located on 88 Ave. beside the Surrey Arts Centre. Hop on a miniature train ride through a forest that comes alive with ghosts and ghouls after dark.
From creepy sounds and special effects to chilling characters who chase after the train, Bear Creek Park’s Halloween Scream Train is a thrilling outdoor Halloween experience. Before boarding the train, visitors can watch a Halloween movie while snacking on some chips, candy, or popcorn, but should be wary of the zombies who roam the platform.
The train is open every night from 6:30 to 10:00 pm until Oct. 31 and tickets are $17.50. For those with children, the Bear Creek Park Train also puts on a daytime version of the attraction, the Pumpkin Train, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm for $11.50 per person. The park is a 36-minute bus ride or 19-minute drive from KPU’s Surrey campus.
Visit www.bctrains.com to purchase tickets and learn more about the Halloween trains.
For those who want to take a step back from scary Halloween events, the Art’s Nursery Scarecrow Festival in Surrey aims to bring the community together in celebration for fall. Attendees can take a stroll through eye-catching displays of scarecrows and pop-up pumpkin patches for an immersive experience into the season. The festival also features food trucks serving sweet and savoury treats.
The festival is on until Oct. 31 and admission is free. The nursery is open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, or 5:00 pm on Sundays. For more information about the Art’s Nursery Scarecrow Festival, visit their website.
Near KPU’s Langley campus is another haunting attraction beloved by the local community, Brinkworth Dungeon. This haunted house, located on 48 Ave. in Murrayville, is owned by Barry Brinkworth and run with the help of his wife Tammy Lalond, who Brinkworth owes much of the attraction’s success to.
Brinkworth Dungeon has been in existence for 26 years and started off as an idea to turn his rec room into a haunted house in the 1990s. Today, it has progressed into an over 5,000 square ft., hand crafted haunted house.
He bought the property on 48 Ave. 11 years ago, where he both lives and works on building the haunted house structure. He discovered his passion for haunted houses at nine years old when he turned his basement into one for his birthday party.
“I’d always been fascinated with haunted houses and wax museums. … [I was] always into monster movies and horror, I just wasn’t scared of watching stuff,” Brinkworth says.
He also has a huge passion and talent for sculpting figures, a skill he uses to craft almost all of the decorations at Brinkworth Dungeon. Brinkworth’s first sculpture was a Frankenstein, which he made from a mould of his face and carving styrofoam.
A community favourite sculpture at the haunted house is horror hostess character Elvira, which Brinkworth made completely by hand from styrofoam, wax, plexiglass, and airbrushing. Brinkworth says he met Cassandra Peterson, who portrayed Elvira, in Seattle during the 1990s and she approved the sculpture.
“So I said ‘Well, I’m gonna make another one that’s going to have a better face,’ and I had never stopped,” Brinkworth says.
Elvira sits in one of the first rooms of the haunted house which also features a fireplace and mantle Brinkworth handmade. He says he wants to stay true to only housing hand-made decorations at Brinkworth Dungeon instead of mannequins.
“As soon as you make a figure like [Elvira], and at the other end of the display, … you have a mannequin, somebody’s going to assume that [Elvira] is a mannequin, which took 400 hours of sculpting,” Brinkworth says.
For Brinkworth, putting on this attraction every Halloween season is a way for him to live out his childhood and passions for horror and creativity, but also sees it as an opportunity to challenge the community to face their fears.
“You got to know when to not be scared of doing something,” he says. “I firmly believe that you should subject your kids young to what’s fake scary. Later on in life, there’s enough scary things that they’re going to have to do that are real scary.”
Brinkworth Dungeon is open every night from 7:00 to 10:00 pm until Nov. 5. Ticket sales start half an hour before opening each night and are $18 Sunday through Thursday and $20 Friday and Saturday at the door. Attendees can reserve tickets in advance for $25. Non-perishable donations are also collected at admission which go to the Gateway of Hope, a ministry of the Salvation Army in Langley.
Brinkworth hopes attendees leave the attraction feeling inspired to tackle their own creative endeavours and challenge themselves to put their minds to hand making.
“The people say, ‘Oh, I could never do that.’ Well, you’ve just made it possible for you not to be able to,” he says.
“I’m really passionate about what this is all about. I get really excited about it and I just want people to see it.”
On the other side of the Fraser River is a new Halloween attraction in Burnaby, Pumpkins After Dark. As the name suggests, this attraction allows visitors to experience a seasonal light display after sunset, featuring over 10,000 hand-carved pumpkins and light up Halloween characters.
“It’s a great, affordable night out. We’ve got great art, entertainers, food trucks, [and] live pumpkin carving demos,” Mike Sheppard, co-owner of Pumpkins After Dark wrote in an email response to The Runner.
The two production companies behind the attraction, Lantern Events Inc and Pumpkins After Dark Limited, have three other locations in Calgary, Edmonton, and Milton, Ontario, making Burnaby’s the first in British Columbia.
“[The event] started in Ontario, our partner saw something similar in New York and decided we really needed this event in Canada,” Sheppard wrote.
Attendees can walk through Halloween scenes that are curated to music, sounds, and special effects. Sheppard says all the displays are hand designed by artists around the world, and pumpkins are carved by a team of artists in Milton.
Located at Swangard Stadium and Central Park, Pumpkins After Dark is open every Thursday through Sunday from 6:30 to 10:15 pm until Oct. 31. Tickets are just over $20 with exact prices depending on the day of the week. The attraction is accessible by transit, with the Patterson Skytrain Station a 10-minute walk away.
Sheppard encourages those interested in attending Pumpkins After Dark to purchase tickets sooner than later as he’s expecting them to sell out come the final weekend.
“My favourite thing is watching the people’s reactions. I love being in a business where people want a fun night out, and we get to share incredible works of art with customers,” Sheppard wrote.
To learn more about Pumpkins After Dark and purchase tickets, visit www.burnaby.pumpkinsafterdark.com.