Potter's House of Horrors has been a GVA Halloween staple since 2003, when a few community weirdos approached Potter's garden centre looking for new digs to host a haunted house in. What started as a "cute" neighbourhood attraction has mutated into what is now recognized as the scariest haunted house in the province, with live actors, animatronics and a "chicken count" shaming those who are too spooked to complete the tour.
Am I the best authority on haunted houses, a courageous soul who is brave of heart and strong of bladder, dauntless in the face of horror? Not even a little bit. I am both figuratively faint of heart and literally faint of body, and normally spend a portion of every film I see either covering my eyes or crying. Yet here I sit, still very much alive, here to share the highlights and shadows of Potter's 2019 haunted houses.
Right from the start, Potter's primes you to be afraid. The website boasts warning after warning (not for kids under 12, not for people with heart conditions, if you're pregnant the baby will come out looking like The Scream), though the scariest thing about it might be the readability. Jokes aside, if it weren't for my resolution to try new things and the recommendation of a Surrey restaurant (Green Lettuce Indian-Chinese fusion is superb, by the way) I never would have found myself standing in line on Saturday night, pushing my partner ahead of me—because someone had to go first, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be me.
Hot tip: speedpasses are where it's at. They are almost twice as much as general admission ($30 compared to $16, for adults) but save you a wait in a massive queue, which provided me with virtually no time to change my mind. The first house we went in was "Death Valley Motor Inn," a new haunt modeled after a desert motel that has had it's share of massacres. We soon learned that, though the animatronics were not quite as scary as the living actors, it was almost impossible to tell them apart in the dark. I found myself screaming at things that actually didn't move at all, because my imagination tricked me into thinking everything was out to get me. I won't give too much away for you sickos that want to be terrified, but a few notable spots included a super trippy "spinning" hallway, a claustrophobia-inducing squeeze through a pitch-black tube, and lots of ear-shattering blasts of air. And of course, the actors: some were masked and some were made-up, but all could sense my fear and did all they could to exacerbate it.
The most notable interaction I had was with a particularly strong-looking undead nun, who went above and beyond the classic jump scare and proceeded to block my way as my partner continued through the house. I know I'm not supposed to touch the actors, and that the actors aren't supposed to touch me, so we reached a bit of an impasse. Unsure of what to do, I started laughing (clearly, screaming wasn't working)—and was shocked when Sister Spooky not only didn't budge, but also started pointedly mocking my laugh. I expected to be spooked, sure, but not real-life cyberbullied.
If you're reading this as a negative experience, don't. Even though I'm a wimp, I do appreciate the performance of it all, and how committed the actors were to making me feel as uncomfortable as possible. Striking fear into the hearts of thousands must be exhausting (shoutout to the bloody contorted guy crawling around on his hands and feet) but they didn't let up. The second house ("Devil's Descent") was equally as terrifying, with air cannons shooting overhead and at our feet and one actor who followed us throughout almost the entire house, who I chose to never actually turn around and look at.
Whether or not being scared is your thing, you do get a certain adrenaline rush from Potter's. Seeing all the death and destruction inside reminds you that things are actually going pretty okay outside (hey, no zombies munching on my innards). It did take my heart rate a while to get back to normal, and I jumped at countless other harmless surprises throughout the evening and well into the next day. It's a pretty good date spot (nun abandonment aside) and also could be a great way to scare a 12-year-old with an attitude.