What began with a coffin in a carport in Clyde is now getting recognition as a significant tourism draw in the province.
Tony and Cheryl Charabin, who play a lead role in organizing the annual Clyde Haunted House, got a call last week from Tourism Alberta. It seems they’re interested in the five-year-old event that has become one of the biggest in the village.
“We’ve been deemed an Alberta attraction,” Cheryl said.
“It’s quite a pat on the back when you get a phone call from them,” Tony added.
They will be showing the haunted house for two days this year, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
The group, which comprises just nine volunteers, has been raising their profile this year by taking part in a variety of parades around the province. They took part in the Edmonton Capital Ex parade this year, for example, and hope to take part in the Calgary Stampede parade next year.
They even got an invitation to take part in the Grey Cup parade in Edmonton this June, but had to decline because they’ll be too busy.
“We’d love to do it, but we had to turn down the invitation,” Cheryl said.
Even without the parades, however, they have slowly but surely been increasing their following.
“Last year we had just over 1,300 people, between kids and adults. Considering the populationn of Clyde is only 450-something, I think that’s pretty good,” Cheryl said.
The event will take place this year at the Clyde Community Hall, Tony said, but next year they’ll be looking for more space.
“We’ll be at the curling club next year, that’s a definite,” Tony said.
That the group will soon need more space is not surprising, considering people work on this project for most of the year.
“We usually start putting it together in May, putting it together and figuring out what we’re going to do,” Tony said. “It’s just something for the kids to do on Halloween, something different.”
There are two versions of the haunted house for people to experience: a scary version and a non-scary version. The non-scary version has a guide leading people through the haunted house with a flashlight, allowing people to take a look at the various displays.
The scary version has no flashlight, and includes some costumed people hidden in the shadows with one goal in mind.
“To scare you. And it works,” Tony said.
It all began one Halloween when Tony built a coffin as part of a graveyard display at the couple’s house in Clyde. They got some interest from their neighbours, and the project ballooned from there.
“It’s come a long way in five years,” Tony said. “When we first started we talked about buying a hearse, and now we have three of them. You should see the looks you get.”
The hearses play a very positive role in all this, however, as they open up the back doors and ask people to help it up with donations for the food bank. They don’t charge admission to the haunted house, they’re just looking for food donations.