Forget Christmas – there’s something about Halloween that bewitches one Saanich household.
Over the last nine years, Carly Burbank and her family have turned their home on Heritage Lane into a haunted house for Halloween, scaring the Skittles out of anyone who wanders into their graveyard (er, backyard).
“There’s nothing more satisfying than watching somebody scream and run as fast as they can,” said son Conner Middleditch. “It’s a sick thrill that everyone enjoys.”
The yearly decoration takes six weeks to set up, with the outside of the house and part of the lower floor littered with creepy dolls, severed heads, skeletons, zombies, spiderwebs and clowns, just to name a few of the attractions. This year, they have 23 volunteers – in addition to Burbank’s husband and two daughters – frightening the daylights out of trick-or-treaters young and old.
For Burbank, the excitement of Halloween is something she’s shared with her son ever since he got hooked on The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“We’d have Halloween parties, and when he was little, we would do the cutesy Halloween with the little pumpkins and the tissue paper ghosts,” she said.
“Then he got older and in Grade 6, we had neighbours across from us who did a little haunt, and the husband and the son would dress up and scare the crap out of people.”
Those neighbours inspired them to set up their own haunt at their old house, which drew as many as 500 people by the end of their stay there.
“It just escalated,” said Burbank. “At the start, we only had about five or six props and my dad with a chainsaw and the four of us dressed up.
“Then the next year, we bought more stuff and we started going out on what we call Boxing Day, the day after Halloween when everything is half price or 75 per cent off, and buying stuff for the next year.”
If the mannequins from Target are any indication, Halloween is a year-round obsession for Burbank and Middleditch as they keep an eye out for anything that might better their spooky manor on Oct. 31. They draw inspiration from horror movies and TV shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, but not everyone in the family is so into All Hallows’ Evening.
“We moved here and I’m talking to Conner, like, ‘Oh my God, Halloween, this is going to be so good,’ and my husband’s like, ‘We’re not buying a house just for Halloween!’” recalled Burbank with a laugh. “‘No, no, of course not, honey.’
“It’s a big wormhole that you can get sucked into,” she added. “‘Yes, I need a fake giant butchered pig to hang from the roof.’”
One Halloween Grinch aside, Burbank said the community gets into the festivities, with many trick-or-treaters from previous years returning to get spooked.
This year, the haunted house is raising money for Help Fill A Dream, a Victoria-based charitable foundation that helps grant dreams for local children under 19 with life-threatening conditions. Admission is by optional donation – cash, credit or debit – and members from Help Fill A Dream will be on site to collect.
The house is located at 3808 Heritage Ln. The private road will be blocked off on Halloween, but attendees can park on neighbouring streets or at nearby Spectrum Community and St. Joseph’s elementary schools.
The house is recommended for children seven and up, but parents are still asked to use discretion. Trick-or-treaters can get candy without touring the house and are welcome to check out the kid-friendly haunted pumpkin patch out front.
It’s recommended that youngsters and scaredy-cats take the tour at 5:30 p.m., before the sun goes down.
“We’re still going to try to scare you, but it’s at least bright out,” said Middleditch.