The duo behind “That Halloween House on Herder Drive” say they started in hopes of giving the community something to be proud of while giving kids something to look forward too.
Over the past seven years Jackie Steeves and Liam Butler have become known around Sylvan Lake, and even beyond, for their impressive displays and spooky themes built on their front yard.
While they enjoy putting in the effort to be “that house” they say it wasn’t their intention to seek attention when they started.
“They weren’t a lot of things for kids at Halloween here, and because of that a lot of kids were, let’s say causing trouble,” said Butler.
“That’s why we started, to give the community something to be proud of.”
They say they were inspired by “that spooky house” from childhood, the one every kid had in their neighbourhood no matter where they lived.
Butler said the inspiration came from the scared feeling kids have from going to the house, but it always made the best stories.
“You know, that house that scared everyone but everyone had to go, that was what we wanted to be,” said Butler.
The two started fairly simply, says Steeves, adding most of the decorations that first year were from the dollar store.
Now, many of the props, monsters and mannequins are created specifically for them by Butler.
“It is a year-round process,” said Steeves. “Usually we start planning the next year while we are setting up.”
Steeves said inspiration can come from online Halloween communities, a news story or something that was found in the stores.
A creature for the display can take upwards of three weeks to build and the overall setup takes two months.
Steeves and Butler usually work on all the details right up until the big day on Oct. 31.
“We have a group that finds us quite shocking,” said Butler.
“But, we strive to keep it as family and community friendly as possible,” added Steeves.
The spooky feel of the display and walk through is all because of phobias, according to Butler.
The duo wanted to go a different route than some of the more “traditional haunts” and make the scares and spooks more subliminal than jump scares.
Which is why they feel the hunt is still considered family and community friendly.
“Because we play on fears, most kids aren’t even phased as they walk through,” said Butler. “It is the older teens and adults who are usually freaked out.”
Steeves said some kids do get scared walking through, but the living mannequins are good about watching the body language of kids to make sure they can walk through “without needing a lifetime of therapy.”
More often than not it is the small details, which are everywhere in the spook house, that wind up scaring older patrons.
“We are subtle in our scares… All that is needed is a simple touch to set someone off,” said Butler.
Since Steeves and Butler first began to put up their display seven years ago, they have noticed the Halloween spirit has spread not only along Herder Drive but in other communities in Sylvan Lake.
Steeves said she has noticed more and more people along Herder decorate for the season and has heard of similar haunts being erected and is thrilled.
“Hardly anyone was doing Halloween when he started… it was dying,” said Steeves. “Now the street has levelled up and we are seeing more around town too.”
The haunted house also works to help a local charity. In years past the house accepted donations to the Sylvan Lake Food Bank.
This year Steeves and Butler have partnered with the charity Moving Forward to New Beginnings.
Chris Ehret uses this charity as a way to help domestic violence victims get out of bad situations.
“We’ll be accepting voluntary donation to New Beginnings and Chris will be there to talk to people as well,” said Steeves.
Children will also receive a treat after braving the haunted house, after all what is trick or treating without a treat.
Treats handed out on Halloween are sponsored by Steeves Trucking. Butler and Steeves expect to see around 1,000 children this year.
“Without the sponsors we wouldn’t be able to do this, that is for sure,” said Steeves.
“We try to do this with no or as little cost as possible, and we just wouldn’t be able to afford the amount of candy we would need,” said Butler.
Children often begin coming to the house as early as 4 p.m. on Halloween and the house has stayed open as late as 11 p.m. for the brave adults.
Steeves and Butler say all are welcome to take a walk through the spook house on Halloween.