News Local

Enter The Dark Hollow, if you dare

By Celina Ip

Beware of The Dark Hollow in Pembroke on Halloween night and enter if you dare.

It all began on Halloween of 2012, the year that Cory Northrup and Diana Wegner moved into their home at 224 O’Brien St. North, and a few years later the haunted yard has become something of a local legend.

In 2012, after asking his neighbour how much Halloween candy he should purchase for the trick or treaters, Northrup was surprised and disappointed to receive the reply of “don’t even bother”.

Disheartened yet not wanting to completely lose hope and eager to still participate in a small way, on Oct. 31 he put on some creepy music and lit a candle on his doorstep to invite any little ghouls and goblins who might walk by. That night, his neighbour’s predictions were nearly accurate, as Northrup welcomed a mere eight kids.

The following Halloween, he was struck with a sudden desire to raise the bar on Halloween in the local community and to bring more trick or treaters to his neighbourhood.

“We were new homeowners so we figured we should try to start drawing some people to the neighbourhood at Halloween,” said Northrup.

He began by carving numerous craft pumpkins and placing them on his doorstep to greet visitors. By last year, his collection of carved pumpkins had grown to include many more intricate designs and they became the centrepiece of the yard as they were suspended from the large tree in his front yard, to serve as a pumpkin tree.

By 2014, Northrup began crafting all kinds of other frightening homemade creations to dress up nearly every inch of the outside of his home, and he continues to build new props every year. Looking back on last year's display he realized that it included mostly small props so he decided it was time for the display to evolve and grow so he has been working to create features on a larger scale.

“From 2012 to 2014, it started off where I’d go to Walmart and buy stuff and then eventually I realized that it just didn't scratch that itch anymore that I needed to start making my own stuff,” he said. “I would say that 80 per cent of what's in the yard is homemade. So, this year I made a Ghostbusters pumpkin, it took me more than 12 hours to make it and I carved it with a hot knife.”

According to Northrup, he puts a great deal of thought into the original creations and he spends months planning, creating and programming the entire display which won't be fully revealed until the night of Halloween.

“I like to create something totally unique and people haven’t seen before,” he said. “So I crafted a large Celtic tombstone out of multiple layers of pink insulation foam. It took me about two months to carve it and paint it using a mixture of paint and sand to make it look more stone like. It’s definitely my pride and joy this year.”

Along with the Celtic tombstone, the ghoulish display is framed by a broken-down fence and includes a homemade cauldron being stirred by an eerie skeleton creature, a haunted portrait and a blue demon that appears out of thin air, the pumpkin tree complete with fog and lights to help add to the creepy atmosphere, among other unique trickeries and frightening surprises.

“I think it's fun to create and I think that Halloween is sort of a good excuse to create,” said Northrup. “I really love Halloween but I think I like the building aspect of it even more.”

He explained that he tries to incorporate all aspects of the natural environment surrounding his house. He has carved pumpkins hang from the large tree in his front yard, turned his lamp post into a small cage containing a skeletal bird, posed a number of dark ravens alongside the edge of his roof and large cat eyes peer down from the upstairs windows of his home.

Since that first Halloween in 2012, Northrup is happy to say that his lavishly ghoulish creations have helped to drawn more trick or treaters and members of the community who are eager to experience the spirit of Halloween in Pembroke.

Now, he and his wife have had to buy more and more candy to serve the increasing number of kids who eagerly make a point to visit the haunted house on O’Brien Street on Oct. 31.

Since the mere eight kids who visited in 2012, Northrup figures he had 60 kids at the door last year and he hopes to see even more this year.

The greatest satisfaction he gets from his Halloween shenanigans is seeing the reactions of excitement, terror and wonder on peoples’ faces year after year.

“Part of what I like about Halloween is that there’s a strong sense of community and it brings a lot of joy to many people,” said Northrup. “There's not that many crafts or hobbies out there that you can share with people or a whole community, so I find this kind of exciting.”

His ultimate goal is to connect with others in the community who share his passion for everything Halloween. This year he has started a Facebook page in the hopes of creating a forum for like-minded enthusiasts. For sneak peeks on his set up and for other information on Halloween-related events happening in the area, visit https://www.facebook.com/DarkHollowHaunt/

Among the events being promoted there, the fact the Petawawa Heritage Village, located at 176 Civic Centre Rd., will once more ground zero for Halloween night in the Town of Petawawa. A zombie wedding will be staged in the newly added historical church. Families and trick or treaters are invited to come in costume and walk the grounds from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Back in Pembroke, organizers of the infamous Morris Street Cemetery have announced they will not be staging their annual Halloween night haunted house this year. Hosted by the Fletcher, Penner and Smith families at 287 Morris St. in Pembroke's east end, the event has been a staple for the past 14 years. However, the families said in a Facebook statement that “while circumstances make it impossible this year, we do want everyone to know that we will be back with a vengeance next year.”

cip@postmedia.com