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A spooky weekend descends upon Whitehorse

Haunted houses, a wild trick-or-treat and more all part of celebrations
Sonia Radwanska transforms a hallway at the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre into a spooky forest scene as part of this year’s haunted house. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

It’s that time of year for those who love a good scare.

As Halloween draws near, Yukoners are getting in the spooky spirit with haunted houses and events celebrating the scariest season of the year.

While the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre preps for The Rot — A Haunted House Experience, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is getting ready to host its annual Wild Trick or Treat, staff at the Canada Games Centre are setting up for its celebration, the Boys and Girls Club Yukon will host a haunted walk through Robert Service Campground and locals are readying for the Zombie Apocalypse at Sergent Greg’s laser tag facility in Marwell.

All this while many Whitehorse residents transform yards and walkways into scenes that entertain, and perhaps give a little fright, to trick-or-treaters turning up on the doorstep Oct. 31.

The Rot will offer a Halloween experience aimed at a variety of ages and fright levels between Oct. 29 and 31, beginning with the “scary show” from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Oct. 29.

On Oct. 30, the community centre will host a 19+ event featuring Vinyl Therapy, the Midnight Sons, and Jeremy Parkin inside the haunted house.

Finally, the big day — Oct. 31 — will see a kids show from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. before the “terrifying” edition takes place from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Those coming into the haunted house are asked to keep their groups to four or five at max and everyone should wear masks, with entry by donation.

In an Oct. 27 interview, Camilla Gaw, who’s been leading the work on the haunted house, said this year’s theme came out of the older, classic 1950s-era horror movies, like The Blob.

Wanting to keep the name simple, the Rot was chosen and planning to transform the centre to a rotting forest began.

As Gaw said, the theme works well for the Yukon with many residents familiar with walking and hiking through the territory’s forests.

“It’s a little more close to home which gives it that spooky feel where you know that a dark forest already scares you,” she said. “And so this dark forest, you also know there’s going to be creatures lurking in the dark.”

The forest scene will start off simple enough in a forest many would be familiar with. As visitors move through the haunting scenes, the forest becomes darker and spookier with characters lurking throughout.

The Sunday afternoon show will be more tame without the lights and scarier characters, and while it’s expected to largely appeal to a five-and-under crowd, Gaw stressed it’s for anyone who may find lights and scarier shows a little too overwhelming.

With many of the aged 10 to 18 dance students from the Heart taking part in The Rot, Gaw said many youngsters attending the Oct. 31 show may recognize some of the characters as most for that show are the younger dancers to help make the experience less scary for little ones.

“Kids recognize kids,” she said.

Gaw has worked to put together an event everyone can enjoy over the weekend and wants to make sure the Heart offers something for everyone on Halloween, one of her favourite times of year.

“I love the community aspect that kids can still go door to door and feel safe in their neighborhoods asking neighbors (for candy),” she said. “I love the dressing up and getting to pretend to be someone else for one night and the family aspect of carving pumpkins together. And designing your costume.”

She pointed out that while donations are being accepted, all are welcome and no one will be turned away if they aren’t able to donate.

The Wild Trick or Treat event at the wildlife preserve is scheduled for Oct. 30 with activities throughout the day to celebrate the season and the animals who are home in the park.

As officials stated on the event’s Facebook page: “The animals want to celebrate Halloween too! Come dressed in your best and join some Halloween fun.”

The event has become a Halloween tradition for the preserve, drawing hundreds of visitors, often in the snow, when it’s held each year.

It began with “enrichment feedings” that saw staff place the animals’ food in jack-o-lanterns in the spirit of the day, first for mule deer and muskox, Lindsay Caskenette, manager of visitor services at the preserve, said in an Oct. 21 interview.

“They were a little wary,” she said of the muskox, recalling the animals not really going near the pumpkins.

Eventually, the preserve focused their Halloween-themed feedings on its carnivorous animals. Caskenette said it provides something extra for the animals in getting to their food while also giving the public a chance to view the animals, some that are otherwise difficult to spot during a typical day at the preserve.

Both the arctic and red foxes seem to especially enjoy this as they will often play with the jack-o-lanterns before ripping into the feast inside.

The special animal feedings at Carnivore Corner this year are scheduled at 12 p.m. for the lynx, 2 p.m. for the arctic foxes and 4 p.m. for the red foxes. Those planning to take in any of the feedings should be prepared to walk about 45 minutes to get to Carnivore Corner.

The Wildy Tricky Scavenger Hunt will offer a unique way for some wildlife preserve visitors to make their way through the preserve. It’s recommended those doing the scavenger hunt (which promises a prize at the end) add some extra time to get to Carnivore Corner.

Clues for the scavenger hunt will be contactless and visibly fixed to trees and benches.

Also at Carnivore Corner throughout the day will be a bonfire with antler ring toss set up for visitors to play.

And, as the wildlife preserve stated: “Of course there will be candy! Designated staff will be giving candy out at both the bonfire location and front reception area. There’s lots to go around so we’ll ensure there are treats for everyone.”

After the Wild Trick or Treat event at the wildlife preserve, those eight years and older, looking for more Halloween festivities could head to Sgt. Greg’s, which will host “Zombie hunting” from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the laser tag facility.

Participants will have three chances to “capture the running zombie or to search the medicine cure on this epic short laser game”. Prices are promised for those who succeed.

Also on Oct. 29 and 30 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. both nights, residents can take part in a haunted walk at Robert Service Campground hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Yukon.

The Canada Games Centre will also be set up for youngsters decked out in their Halloween best.

The festivities at the CGC will begin Oct. 30 inside the Family Literacy Centre at 10 a.m. with activities there until 2 p.m.

There will also be a scavenger hunt and paper pumpkin creation station from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and “a ghostly glow skate” from 12:45 p.m. until 3 p.m.

All are encouraged to wear their costumes.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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