Horror movie-loving garden shop operators are thrilled to be scaring people again in Surrey.
COVID killed last year’s “House of Horrors” on 72nd Avenue in Newton, but the popular attraction reopens today (Friday, Oct. 1), with several changes and pandemic-triggered new rules.
“The name kind of fits, with the creek near here, and it fits pretty well with the haunt too,” Pershick said during a preview tour.
Finalized Sept. 1, the sale of the business was in the works for about six months, he said.
“I’ve been with Potter’s a long, long time, and we’ve been running this event and the garden centre for at least 20, 25 years, and for myself, it doesn’t really feel different,” Pershick noted. “We’re doing what we do, and now I just the write the paycheques.”
Potter’s garden centre still operates in Surrey on 48th Avenue, at 192nd Street.
Behind facades and in a maze of hallways, actors spook those who enter the two haunted houses.
Led by Pershick and Pasternak, a small but dedicated crew assembles the attraction in a matter of weeks.
“This year, this was up in the air for quite some time,” Pershick explained. “We were discussing it all spring and summer, and every time (provincial health officer) Bonnie Henry made a new announcement, it’s like, ‘Oh, we can’t do it now.’ And then, ‘oh, we can. Wait, no we can’t.’ It was up in the air, back and forth, so we made a decision in August, when it was looking really, really good – COVID cases really low, vaccination rates really high. And then she announces a vaccination passport idea. So we’re doing that, we’re wearing masks, employees are vax’d, we’re reducing ticket sales significantly, we’re looking good.”
Last year marked the first time since 2003 that the Potter’s haunted houses didn’t operate.
“We’re really glad we didn’t do it last year, with COVID being so bad, no vaccine,” Pershick admitted. “But two years in a row not doing it is just too much for us. We had to get it up and running again, with heavily reduced capacity – a lot of changes with the lineups, spacing, sanitization and all that, not the haunts themselves. They’re still scary and with all the actors in the them.”
Masks are mandatory, as are vaccine passports. A detailed list of “pandemic changes” is posted cougarcreekhouseofhorrors.com, along with ticket details, hours and more.
“This is a big, big, big project. We love doing it, and the only reason we do is because we’re passionate about it,” Pershick said.
“Everybody here has been going 100 per cent, scrambling to make sure we have a good event. Everyone thinks we’re this giant company, a corporation doing this, but we’re not – we’re teeny, tiny. Our main crew is four, and then we have a few more (employees) after that, helping out.… Our crew has lots of great ideas, and nobody here is afraid to work hard. It’s pretty great.”
One year, Pershick said he’d love to do a “Nightmare Before Christmas” type of attraction at the site.
“We talk about that all the time,” he said. “Maybe the time to do it is this year, but we’ll have to see how the COVID situation is. We’ve never done it before but have talked about for probably a decade, to do it as a scary Christmas, not a family-fun thing – scary Santa Claus, scary elves, those kind of things. I think we’d be the only people in Canada doing it but we see it in the States.”