This Is Halloween!

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If you live in or around the Ottawa area, the month of October is incomplete without a trip to Saunders Farm to get you into the Halloween spirit.  Many of us fondly remember trips to this delightfully spooky haunt as children and teens and as I traveled to Bleeks Road, Munster Hamlet (*maniacal laugh*) with my friends we were all trying to figure out when each of us had been there last.  There was a time when all there really was to do was to explore the Cemetery Scare Zone (a simple but fun children’s play area), venture into the Barn of Terror (if you were brave enough and had a parent come with you so you could hide behind them), and of course, finish off the night with the Haunted Hayride.  Let’s be honest: the Haunted Hayride is the real reason we all go to Saunders Farm.  Everything else is just extra.

Most fans of Saunders Farm also remember a time when things started feeling less interesting.  For me, this happened in my late teens.  At first I thought I was unimpressed with Saunders simply because I was a teen, and that the allure the place had when I was a child was vanishing.  Turns out other people remember a downtime too, so it was fantastic to see that Saunders has added a lot more to their annual October Fright Fest over the years.  It’s been maybe 6 or 7 years since I was last there and I was pleased to see new attractions such as Jumping Pillows, Zombie Paintball, Ghost Town Stage Show, and the AG Arcade.  I was even surprised to see more food options this time around.  When we got to Saunders, our group headed to the food court they have there because that’s all any of us remembered there being for food options.  It was after we had eaten that we stepped outside and saw barbeque and Beavertail huts.  I’ll definitely have to try the barbeque next year.

The line ups were not as bad as I remember them being.  Yes, they were still long, but they were a little faster than they had been in the past.  And there were performers wandering around outside and setting up little shows near the line ups to keep people entertained.  The wait never felt as bad as it looked.

We only had time for four of the attractions last night: the Shambles, the Haunted Hayride, the Coven, and the Big Top Fear House.

The Shambles was a creepy walk down a forest path where we were occasionally surprised and/or followed by actors in pig’s masks.  The indoor areas of the walk were set up like an abattoir and the outdoor areas were so minimalistic and yet so creepy that we couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was hiding behind the trees.  The person who admitted us entrance to the Shambles was dressed as a butcher with a pig’s head and he did a fantastic job of setting the mood by talking with us and teasing the members of our group before allowing us to enter.

Next, we decided to do the Haunted Hayride as we figured most people would save that for the very end of their visit to Saunders and we wanted to avoid the huge crowds that would surely appear within the last hour of the night.  The line was still huge, but it’s clear that the staff at Saunders know that this is the attraction that will draw the largest crowd because this was the fastest moving line of the night.  The staff was exceptionally efficient at getting everyone through and the line was almost always moving.  The ride itself was filled with many of the favourite classic scares we remembered from childhood so those parts were not as scary.  I really jumped when people or machines would suddenly come to life directly behind me.  Without a doubt, the scariest part was when the Hayride was going down a hill at top speed and started stalling and jumping around.  I am a little afraid of cars and I was genuinely scared that something had gone wrong with the Hayride and that we were about to crash.  That was the best scare of the night for me.

The Coven was next, and although it had potential it was a little disappointing.  The line was long but there were actors, sights, and sounds along the way so that even before you officially began your walk through The Coven, you were still a part of the experience.  Once again, it was the witches – I mean, actors – at the front of the two main entrances in the line who did the best job.  The suspense of The Coven was worse that the actual scares.  The costumes and makeup of the actors was fantastic and the way the route was decorated was superb, but nothing really jumped out at you.  Even when one of the actors who had been staring you down or following you suddenly screamed at you, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Finally, we braved the Big Top Fear House.  Half of our party passed on this one due to claustrophobia and coulrophobia – if you are afraid of either, I would definitely avoid this one.  If not, this was the most fun I had all night.  It was a long wait and as we approached the front we noticed that the attraction was two small tents, so we were skeptical that it would be worth the wait.  It was absolutely worth the wait and I would most definitely do this one again.  It was basically a maze through big-top coloured tarps.  Some tarps opened to a new path, some to a wooden wall, and others…  A face full of clown.  One of my friends was in front of me as we had to walk single file, so he would get the initial scare.  However, once the clowns were out in the open, I became their target as second in line.  I ended up with multiple clowns standing only an inch away from me.  It was the kind of scare that made you jump at first but then made you laugh afterwards.  I am so glad we ended our night with this scary circus.

So if you haven’t yet made your trip to Saunders Farm this year, grab a few friends and head on over to Bleeks Road, Munster Hamlet (*maniacal laugh*).  This is absolutely one of the best ways to get into the Halloween spirit.  Happy Haunting!

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