With zombies, freaky clowns, and ghosts roaming the halls of the old police station downtown, it’s no wonder Lacombe Police Service packed up their things and left.
At least, that’s the story behind Jail House Escape, a haunted house put on by HESA’s Halls of Horrors and the Lacombe Firefighters Association as part of a fundraiser for the association.
It’s the first time Lacombe has had two haunted houses within the community, but it’s also the first time one has been held inside a venue some – including HESA’s Heith and Sandra Johannson
– believe to actually be haunted.
In fact, while setting up ahead of their opening dates last Friday and Saturday, they said there were at least two instances where they heard a girl say “hello” clear as day, when no one else was in
the building, adding to the psychological aspect of the haunt
“We play into that,” said Sandra Johannson. “Supposedly you can hear people walking upstairs and it smells like roses in certain rooms, so we have air dispensers to make rooms smell of roses.”
The Johannsons are no strangers to setting up haunted houses. During the past few years, they travelled to Okotoks to set one up in a daycare centre over the weekend and donated proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. However, given the travel and setup time, they decided this year to set up right in Lacombe.
They looked at a few different locations in the community, but ultimately were able to get permission from the City of Lacombe to have the haunt inside the old police station, provided free of
charge. A walk through with occupational health and safety was done, to ensure the building was safe, no matter how haunted or not the building may be. Then, they set to work, putting
in hundreds of hours into setup.
On Friday, they officially opened their doors to the public, taking them through a graveyard scene complete, past an executioner and towards the jail cells where former criminals lurk, as
well as a few side rooms where terrors are hidden in the shadows.
Upstairs, however, is where the real spooky scenes are, including a room filled with freaky looking dolls, a bedroom scene with a girl from the exorcist and a morgue.
Unlike the Carlson Manor, the Jail House Escape isn’t necessarily family-oriented and very much geared towards an older audience. The recommended age is 13 years of age and older, however parents are encouraged to go through the house first themselves in order to decide if it’s OK for their children, regardless of age.
“The goal is really to scare people,” said Heith.
So far, it appears to be doing just that. Their first night saw 45 people go through, and at least one person said it was the scariest haunted house they’d been to – if only because of a clown chasing those within the haunt.
The haunt will run again this weekend on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, as well as Halloween night from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Admission is $8 per person.
Proceeds will be split between the Lacombe Firefighters Association, as well as the NICU at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
The reason for the support of NICU is a result of those at the hospital saving the life of the Johannsons’ grandson after he was born at just 1 lb. 9 oz. last September.
“Now he’s 15 pounds and a happy little one year old. NICU made all the difference,” Heith said. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to get all the help from Lacombe Firefighters Association and have them benefit from the fundraiser.”
The Lacombe Firefighters Association, meanwhile, represents the members of the Lacombe Fire Dept., and deals with fundraising to help members with additional training, support members and
other fire departments in need, as well as give back to the community through a number of different community initiatives.
Brian Vossen, a board member for the association, said they’ve been trying to reinvent some of the ways they’ve done fundraisers, and the haunted house provided them
with one way to do that.
“We’ve done the same things for a number of years and we’re not getting the same response from those fundraisers as we have in the past so we’re trying different ideas,” he said. “When Heith approached us as a member with this, the board was quite receptive. So far it’s gone quite well and we’re hoping we can make this a regular fundraiser for us.”