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Haunted Calgary scaring up fun at New Horizon Mall

Something scary this way comes to New Horizon Mall, as Haunted Calgary Halloween Attraction takes up residence in the facility's heated parkade beginning Oct. 11.

The event will transform the car park into three all-new terrifying attractions – Cesspool, Sanitorium and Deep Sleep Hotel – plus the Family Frights Thrill Zone, a family-friendly area with bouncy castles, games, crafts and spooky fun.

Christine Campbell, Haunted Calgary creative director, said the event is not for the faint of heart.

"Cesspool is all about the dark, you find out why you're scared of the dark. It's basically a descent into the sewers, and it's primarily a dark maze," she said. "And then they'll move into Sanitorium, which is where the doctors are as mad as the patients – there is no treatment for what afflicts you. And then the Deep Sleep Hotel, where you'll check in, but you'll never check out. Each of them is hand-designed and built from scratch every year."

Started in her childhood home in northwest Calgary more than 25 years ago, Haunted Calgary has become a Halloween tradition in the city and gave Campbell a lot of practice when it comes to scaring. But it's her background in biology that really lets her understand the “very deep biological craving" people have for the adrenaline rush they get when frightened.

"We have the stress hormones, cortisol and the like, that in a typical predator-prey dynamic...we would be exposed to those on a regular basis, and we'd have those periods of extreme high, periods of low. And we don't really get that anymore," she said. "We have stress in our lives, for sure, but it's much more sustained – work stress, family stress, that kind of thing.

"So, I think we very viscerally crave those peaks, and we get those quite easily through attending haunted attractions, watching horror movies, that kind of thing. But yet, we can do that in a way that we also very rationally understand that we're safe. We want those experiences, but we don't actually want to be in danger."

For those seeking even greater scares than the three attractions available Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 11 to 26 and on Oct. 31, a special Glowstick Night will take place Nov. 1 from 6 to 10 p.m. The event will allow attendees access to the three attractions, but without any lights. Each group will be given a single glowstick to guide them.

"So, you'll never know what's lurking in the shadows," Campbell said. "We do anticipate it to be a scarier experience for those who are wanting to take that adrenaline rush up one notch."

Tickets to the glowing night of terror cost $25.

Nov. 2 will transform the attraction into a fight to survive the end of the world at two special events running simultaniously from 7 to 10 p.m.

For Heck Night, the family-friendly option for children aged seven and up, Haunted Calgary has partnered with YYC Foam Wars to present a battle of the ages. Participants must bring their own foam-blaster weapons, but the ammunition will be provided for the "zombie apocalypse battle of fun." Two options are available for the showdown – a one-hour brawl at a cost of $15, and the two-hour battle royale at a cost of $25 per ticket.

Hell Night, a more adult experience, will drop brave participants right in the middle of a hoard of zombies. Attendees will have to outwit the undead and the other participants to survive.

"It's going to be a lot of fun, there will be a prize for the last person living, the last person standing," Campbell said.

Tickets to Hell Night cost $35 each.

Though haunted attractions have become a staple of Halloween celebrations, Haunted Calgary is a bit different.

“What sets us apart is that we operate like a social enterprise, so we're actually constructed and acted primarily by volunteers. And then, at the end of the season, we donate a percentage of profits to different charitable organizations,” Campbell said. “We're working with nine charitable partners this year in the Calgary area.”

This year's event will support Calgary Alpha House Society, Calgary Food Bank, ARTS Animal Rescue, Calgary Animal Rescue Society, Workshop Theatre Society, Parachute for Pets, Alberta Spay and Neuter Task Force, Haunters Against Hate and Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, according to Campbell.

"We used to collect food for the food bank, and that sort of morphed into then collecting money, as well, for an animal rescue organization that my family was part of," she said. "Now that we're a much bigger enterprise, going into New Horizon Mall, we're just trying to extend that social value as far as we can and really make a difference in Calgary and area."

General admission cost $25 and entry to only the Family Frights Thrill Zone is $10 per person, with children three and under free.

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Allison Chorney

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