It started out with a single coffin.
But a few years – and a few tubes of fake blood – later, the Donnelly haunted house in Ocean Park, dubbed Terror in the Terrace, has transformed into a full-fledged cabin of horror.
And it’s all thanks to 13-year-old mastermind Ethan Donnelly, with a little help from his dad, Dean.
“In my old house, we lived in North Delta, it just kind of started small, and then I remember when I was five, that was when we started making these monsters, and I remember making heads for the wooden coffin, and there was a face popping through and it was super scary, but I loved it so much,” he explained. “I said, ‘Dad, let’s make more like this.’ Before it was all friendly and nice, so we wanted to make it bigger and scarier. So now the older I get, the scarier it has to be to keep up with the audience.”
Now in its sixth year, and in time for All Hallow’s Eve revellers, the theme for tonight’s haunted house is Cabin in the Cornfield. Roughly 25 students from Elgin Park Secondary and Chantrell Creek Elementary have volunteered their Halloween evening to bring Ethan’s production to life from 6-9 p.m. in the hopes of scaring visitors to death.
Dotted all over the Donnelly’s front yard are tombstones, a Dracula or two, and of course, the coffin that started it all.
To the right of the house is the creepy cabin that will be full of ghoulish residents on Halloween – exactly how Ethan had envisioned months earlier.
“Halloween is my favourite thing ever, ’cause I get to get really creative. And with my dad’s help, it all comes true. My dad really helps to make my dream come true,” he said.
In order to create the illusion of a cabin, Ethan and his father transformed their basketball court with tarps and items picked up over the years from thrift stores and a few things “picked up on the side of the road,” he laughed.
Set-up of the elaborate project began in early October, and included a trip to the cornfield to stock up on the 2,500 stalks that guide visitors through the twists and turns of the cabin, which features more than 25 scary displays.
“Originally it was going to be Cabin in the Forest, but then my dad explained that it would be a lot harder to get the forest look, and it wouldn’t be as realistic. So he suggested corn. So we went to a cornfield and I just saw how cool the corn was. It was a lot better than a forest. And it’s creepier,” he said.
“And of course, the scarecrows – that was something we could add.”
These aren’t the average friendly-faced hay-stuffed figures that can be seen in a farmer’s field, he explained. Many feature the twisted faces of demons and monsters that pop out of the cornfield – perfect for scaring unsuspecting visitors.
“We’ve done haunted houses before, but this is by far our best year,” he said. ‘When we first moved to the neighbourhood, everyone didn’t really expect it and it went up really quick. But as people get to know us, it’s less of a shock and they’re more excited each Halloween to see what the theme is.”
Striking a balance with the ghouls and monsters is the fundraising that the Donnelly’s will do in tandem with the haunted house on Halloween. Donations will be accepted throughout the night for the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Support Network. (At a prelaunch of the haunted house on Sunday, nearly $400 was raised.)
The Donnelly’s Terror in the Terrace is located at 12919 22A Ave.