Monsters, magic, muggles and mayhem. No, this isn’t a story about the release of a spooky new Harry Potter, rather it’s the inspiration behind DJ Carroll’s Halloween Haunted House.
For the 18th year, the Elmira District Secondary School drama teacher will be transforming his Elmira home into a spooky, magical, interactive Halloween experience for all ages.
“I am a firm believer that Halloween should be about more than just going through a door and saying trick or treat. There should be a lot of fun involved,” he said.
Mad scientist, house of horrors and twisted fairytales are among past themes, but this year arguably one of the largest magical phenomenon’s of the generation, the Harry Potter fantasy novels, inspired the teacher to get creative.
“This year our theme is going to be ‘Monsters, Magic, Muggles and Mayhem’,” he said. “So there is a little bit of Harry Potter, just because we love Harry Potter, but part of the interactive part is that there will be magicians performing magic tricks for kids, so they can actually see a little magic show.”
In addition to the magic shows outside, Carroll says returning guests will be excited to know that there will be more of a focus on the interactive portion of the event where kids get to compete in challenges for candy.
“We have a fun version and we have a little bit more serious version. And they don’t have to go in at all – they can just interact with the characters outside on the driveway and go get candy, so it’s all levels,” he said.
“This year, we are going to do something a little different. If they enter into the haunted house, there’s going to be three challenges that they have to pass in order to get out. Depending what version they take, the challenge is going to be a little bit more scary and then they come out and get their candy – this year is going to be very, very interactive.”
Halloween less than a week away, Carroll’s creative process began to ramp up, with passersby noticing a spooky graveyard and props of the ghoulish kind. Although he may be the host, Carroll says it’s his students who really put on the show.
“I have anywhere from ten to 20 high school students who come to help. Mostly it’s my drama kids, but any student that wants to be a part of it come and help out. They are at the age where they can’t do much [at Halloween], so it gives them a chance to go out and get dressed up. Some of them get really into their makeup and costumes,” he explained. “It is a very, very fun experience because you get as young as, like, little two-years-olds coming out and then you get all of the grownups in the neighbourhood coming out as well – we get to scare them so it makes it fun for the teenagers.”
And while trick-or-treating is mostly for the kids, he hasn’t forgotten about the parents.
“We have a little bit of a heater source out there so Mom and Dad can sit and get warm, because usually the kids will end up going through two or three times, and just have some fun and enjoy the day.”
In the past Carroll has had anywhere from 30 attendees up through to 200 enjoy his Halloween events. Although he knows attendance is dependent on the weather, he encourages people to come by rain or shine.
“Even if it is not nice weather, you can still jump out of the car, run up, go in, have a fun little experience get some candy and then go home.”
While the Christmas season is the most festive of the year for some, for Carroll it’s Halloween that takes the cake.
“Halloween is my season,” he said. “Not only do you get a chance to dress up, I think it’s a chance that you get to play – and it doesn’t matter how old you are. It is one night a year that people say, ‘you know what? Just have fun.’ Nobody is going to question you, nobody is going to get angry, upset with you – just get up there and play and have fun.”
The haunted house will be set up at Carroll’s home at 14 Limera Ave. in Elmira, with the early trick-or-treaters coming by just after 5 p.m. and wrapping up around 8:30-9 p.m. Out front, there will be a box for food bank donations.