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You want candy? Come get it

Halloween taken to the extreme

“… there are spiritually noxious places, buildings where the milk of the cosmos has become sour and rancid.”

– Stephen King, Jerusalem’s Lot


She wouldn’t go in.

Maybe it was because a haunted house with a chainsaw theme wasn’t for her. Maybe she felt eyes on her.

Either way, she wouldn’t go in.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie that gave cinema its finest argument for a vegetarian diet, was the theme.

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This wasn’t a place for her. She’d just take a few pictures and then ... a chainsaw’s rusty roar filled the October night, but not for long.

 “I didn’t even see this woman, I just heard this bloodcurdling scream,” recalls Trevor Watson, the man wielding the saw.

“It was the very best scream I’ve ever heard,” he reminisces.

The screamer, a volleyball coach, raced from the house and jumped into her car.

From the front yard of his Emerald Drive house, Leatherface waved to her as she sped away.

She came back a week later, bringing her entire volleyball team, Watson recalls.

From the corner of Emerald Drive and Edgemont Boulevard, Watson is the mind behind the Edgemont Haunt, known this year as The House That Dripped Blood.

The living dead ooze from front yard crypts, unaware of Vancouver’s rental market.

In the backyard an H.P Lovecraft creature hangs upside down, a rubbery thing with membranous wings.

And then there’s a clown.

Wearing a smile a pathologist might describe as rictus, the sledgehammer-wielding circus escapee is positioned near a greenhouse.

It’s incredibly lifelike.

And then it moves.

Alice Cooper’s poetry rushes to mind: “If you think this isn’t real, I’ll show you wounds that never heal. To them I’m just a Happy Meal. Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me.”

• • •

Scary movies more or less indoctrinated Watson into the realm of the macabre, he explains.

“I’ve always been a die-hard horror fanatic,” he says.

He and his wife moved into Edgemont 10 years ago and were surprised at the scarcity of trick-or-treaters.

That low turnout was Watson’s inspiration to bring a little more Halloween spirit to the neighbourhood.

He and his wife, Jodie Blank, started with just one tombstone and a zombie mask.

“We got hooked after that,” Watson explains.

Working for an adult toy distributor, Watson found a supplier with a selection of Halloween props, including an amazing werewolf.

To paraphrase The Wolf Man, even a man who’s pure of heart and says his prayers at night may buy a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the full moon shines bright. And then he’ll scare the hell out of neighbourhood children.

Watson built a cage for the shape shifter, leaving onlookers an arm’s length away from the jagged teeth and tongue bubbling with black striations.

Without the cage, the werewolf would “grow legs,” Watson explains.

The lycanthrope quickly became a neighbourhood favourite and trick-or-treating went up tenfold. Last year, the lure of dubiously sourced Texas barbecue was enough to attract about 400 kids.

Asked about his favourite prop, Watson demurs.

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“I love all of them. It’s kind of like trying to pick your favourite kid.”

Watson and Blank have five daughters between them, some of whom help out or recruit their boyfriends for the scare-fest.

There is a clear demarcation – supplied by a rotting skeleton that points the way for the brave and foolish – between the front yard and the backyard.

There’s also a sign labelled C.S., which either stands for Child Safety or something involving a chicken, Watson mentions.

There are no inflatable displays in the backyard, Watson explains.

“Nothing cute enters this yard,” he says. “There will never be any happy Halloween character, you see enough of that in everybody else’s yard.”

“Classic Halloween,” Blank agrees. “Old school.”

Back in June, when Watson usually begins working on the display, these were just PVC pipe, mezzanine shelving, spray foam and chicken wire. But on a rainy October evening the props have turned into something terrifying.

Slow music accompanies the site of a corpse whose wide eyes make the notion of a wake seem redundant. There’s a flickering chandelier, rats, hacksaws that don’t seem like they’ve been used according to the manufacturer’s specifications, a bucket containing items best not described in a community newspaper. The sight of Gene Simmons murdered by spiders is the one thing that lightens the mood.

And then arms reach for me.

It’s a vampire whose thirst has overwhelmed his ability to perform basic hygiene, whose aristocratic veneer has warped and contorted as blood lust overwhelmed any semblance of dignity.

That’s how I describe it now. When it reached for me, I was aware of nothing except white terror and the sound of my scream.

It was the most terrifying thing I’d seen that night, and that’s including the U.S. presidential debate.

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Screams, Travis Herrington explains to me later, are the currency in which he’s paid. He’s one of Watson’s friends who helps bring life to his terrifying display.

“Who doesn’t want to jump out and scare people?” he asks.

“It’s definitely the bloodcurdling screams that are best,” agrees part-time creepy clown Barbara Eves.

Drying themselves off after an evening of offering rushes of fear, the two reminisce on some of their best scares.

For Eves, it was letting overconfident revellers discover her version of Leatherface, drinking a can of Coke.

“When they have to leave the room, that’s kind of nice,” Herrington says.

After leading me through the last house on the left (assuming you’re going south) Watson mentions one of his rivals, the Valley Haunt on Appin Road in Lynn Valley.

With shipping containers parked for Halloween, the mother-daughter team of Karen Dietz and Paisia Warhaft have organized a twisted research centre, a morgue, zombie casino, dentist’s office, and a clown room.

“People hate clowns,” Warhaft confides.

Much like the residents in the town of The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s always Halloween for Dietz and Warhaft.

“As soon as Halloween is over we are just back on for the next year, planning new rooms and themes,” Warhaft says.

While Dietz enjoys the creativity that goes into the design, Warhaft loves the reactions.

“When people are almost falling on the floor, that’s the best reaction you can get,” she says.

Both houses are raising money for B.C. Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund.

Watson says he’s hoping to raise $3,000 for the fund.

It took a while before they thought to include a donation box.

“People just kept bugging us and saying, ‘Where do I put my money?’”

The Edgemont Haunt usually costs about $2,000, but he says they’ve managed to keep costs down this year.

Despite saying things like, “We had a whole bunch of severed heads and we didn’t know what to do with them,” Watson and Blank seem to share an easy affection.

Watson tends to come up with the concept and Blank fine-tunes, being that she’s mastered “the art of corpsing,” according to her proud husband.

Despite a few screams that carry across the block and the odd motorist who backs up traffic while inspecting the graveyard, neighbours appreciate the house, Blank says.

“The only complaint of the neighbours was that it costs them a whole lot more for candy.”

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