Costumed actors prepare to thrill ticketholders at Potters’ House of Horrors, which opens for the Halloween season tonight (Oct. 6) at the re-purposed garden shop on 72nd Avenue in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

VIDEO: Nights of fright at Surrey’s popular ‘House of Horrors’

Up to 1,900 people a night will visit the re-purposed Potters garden shop in Newton

SURREY — The frights start Friday night (Oct. 6) at one of Metro Vancouver’s largest Halloween-themed attractions.

Once again, the re-purposed Potters garden shop in Newton is a “House of Horrors” for the month of October.

New for 2017 is a “Devil’s Descent” house, accurately described as a “terrifying vortex of rotted wood, rickety mine shafts, punishing industrial machines, monsters and zombies.”

The look and feel of the “house,” along with that of the existing “Monstrosity,” came from the brain of Scott Pasternak, the attraction’s head designer and resident horror-movie fan.

“I dream up everything, and I basically start doing that as soon as the year ends (in November),” he said Wednesday. “I do a design for it and we make sure it works safety-wise and traffic-wise, and then I do a 3D (design) of it to make sure it looks right, and then we build it.”

• READ MORE: Movie-style ‘Famous Slayer marquee new to Surrey’s ‘House of Horrors,’ from Sept. 15, 2017

The Potters operation in Newton has been in the business of scaring people for the past 15 years, and a small army of employees is needed to make it all work.

“We have 16 to 17 actors on a slow night, and up to 35 or 36 on a busy night,” Pasternak explained, “plus parking staff, security, ticket takers, midway staff, concession people – lots of people.”

On a “slow” night, between 400 and 500 people have visited the “House of Horrors” – nowhere near the 1,800 or 1,900 visitors on the busiest of nights, Pasternak said.

Work to build the attraction starts in the first week of August.

“There’s a lot of work to do here before it gets even close to looking good,” Pasternak said. “We were in here every day of the week, 10-, 12-, 20-hour days, you know. It gets there, but slowly.

“Every year it’s a little different,” he added, “and you have to, right, because the same people do come back every year, and they do remember things, so we give them something new. We add to it a bit, too, and we keep some things. The vortex, that big spinning thing, it’s very popular and it’s been here for years, so that’s here again. It’s cool, everyone loves it.”

The payoff, Pasternak said, is on opening night, when people walk through the houses for the first time.

On Wednesday, Larry Sellers and another actor wore costumes for the benefit of a Now-Leader reporter and photographer.

For close to 36 years, the White Rock-area resident has been busy scaring people at Halloween.

“I’ve been with Potters since their second year, about a dozen years ago now, and before that I worked in the States,” Sellers explained. “Every October, I’m here most nights. I actually took Halloween night off a couple year ago for the first time in about 32 years.”

He was dressed as “Al Gablownapart,” one of his six characters.

“I just love being able to get people to freak out – people that look you in the eye saying, ‘You’ll never scare me,’ and then three or four rooms into the house, they’re ready to leave because of it.”

Acting work at the “House of Horrors” is akin to being a “professional stalker,” Sellers added.

“There’s definitely no touching, but once you walk though the front door, you pay to be scared, and your personal space becomes mine,” he said with a laugh.

“Most of the time they want me to keep the lines entertained,” Sellers added, “and I like to pop up here and there, give people a scare. With this one, I was on the building team for five weeks, so I got to know where all the corners are, and I look for that – how can I get from this point to this point and arrive in front of people. The emergency exits, or chicken exits as we call them, they come in handy for that.… Some people think there are five or six of us who look the same, there’s no way it’s just one guy all over the place.”

Potters’ “House of Horrors” runs from Oct. 6 to 31 this year, at 12530 72nd Ave., Surrey.

A “Li’l Haunters” attraction is geared toward kids 12 and under, and additional features include a Coffin Ride, a Haunted Photo Booth and an Xtreme Paintball Haunted Shootout game.

For admission rates and operating hours, visit pottershouseofhorrors.com.