DARK is running at Fort Edmonton Park until Fri., Nov. 1. // Chelsea Novak

Are you afraid of DARK at Fort Edmonton Park? (Cuz you will be)

DARK
Fort Edmonton Park; until Fri., Nov. 1.

Cannibalistic cults, parasitic plants and creepy clowns are just some of the horrors to infest Fort Edmonton Park this Halloween season. Now in its second year, DARK returns to Edmonton with three haunts, two scare zones, a raveyard and, new this year, a premium haunt at the fort.

If you wind your way through the 1920s section of the park, past the midway, the Blatchford Air Field Hanger and Hotel Selkirk, you will come to the Memorial Garden and two of the three main haunts: Core Industries and A Taste of Eternity, which continues one of the stories introduced last year.

“What we’ve done this year is created a sequel to that story—A Taste of Eternity: Second Helping,” explains Teresa Ryan, creative director of DARK. 

It’s the story of a cult with some terrifying recruitment tactics and the experience incorporates a number of jump scares, as well as disturbing imagery and sounds. Or put another way: it’s creepy as hell.

After escaping from A Taste of Eternity, it’s only a short run—err… walk—to the beginning of the line for Core Industries, a new story about a plant that infects the team of scientists studying it.

After fleeing the Memorial Garden area, for an extra $15 a person (which is totally worth it), you can board a bus outside Hotel Selkirk and embark on Fort of Fear: Abandoned, the premium haunt experience. 

You’ll take a tour of the abandoned Radbyrne estate, where paranormal activity has been detected and transients have been taking shelter in the old buildings. The best part about this experience is that it’s a little longer than the other haunts, and that gives time for a slower build, leading to even bigger scares.

“What we recognize is that not everyone is afraid of the same thing,” Ryan says, “so we try to create a variety of experiences, and further to that, we know that we’re not able to scare everyone in the same sense, so we just make sure that we’re doing our best to keep them entertained—and sometimes that means they’re entertained by watching their friends get scared.”

You can get your picture taken with this scary dude. //Chelsea Novak

To turn the park from historical attraction to haunted entertainment, Ryan says she and her team begin a year in advance, beginning with a look at the locations they have available.

“[It’s] immersing yourself in the environment, in the experience. You have to look at our buildings and our space in a much different way than you would when we’re open from the historical side of things,” Ryan says.

The next step is checking in with the technical team to see what’s possible and with the artifacts team to make sure the proposed ideas will work in the historic buildings.

“Once we’ve got the concepts figured out, then we start with floor plans, sourcing materials, figuring out how we’re going to build and create these environments and how we’re going to make them come to life,” Ryan says.

To get ideas and materials, she explains that she and her team explore industry trade shows in the U.S. 

“The haunt industry is much larger in the United States, currently, so we go down there for inspiration, we go down there to see what the latest, greatest gimmick is and we bring all those findings back with us,” Ryan says.

This year she says one of the most important things they brought back was how to train DARK’s scare actors. There are about 120 scare actors who contribute to the haunts.

“We want to make sure that they’re trained in safe scares, that they’re trained in body movement and how to look after themselves, and how to most effectively use themselves and the space to immerse and scare our guests,” Ryan says.

DARK doesn’t just offer scares. There’s a lot of horror-free fun too. // Chelsea Novak

Once you’ve escaped the fort and the bus speeds you back to the hotel, pop inside for some liquid courage. There are Alley Kat brews for sale, as well as some customized cocktails and shots inspired by the haunts. 

For A Taste of Eternity, there’s a red-coloured cocktail served in a blood bag, for Core Industries there are jello shots served in syringes, and there are a couple of sparkly cocktails for the third of the main haunts.

“They’re beautiful and magical, and we thought that tied in quite lovely with R.I. Payne’s Fourth Ring, when you get on the train and you start that adventure. Like where are you going and what’s the experience you’re going to feel?” Ryan says. 

When you first board the train that leads you through to the circus, you find yourself in a car filled with fog, but as you make your way forward you eventually find yourself in every coulrophobe’s worst nightmare, surrounded by clowns and other circus performers who don’t want to let you leave.

Check out the DJ and dance party in the DARK Circle. // Chelsea Novak

If you manage to make your escape, you can head for the exit, but you still won’t have experienced everything. 

For one, there’s the DARK Circle, a raveyard (you read that right) in the air field hanger. 

“We’ve seen people dancing, we’ve seen people requesting songs, and partaking in the glow bar and wearing glow accessories and having their glow drinks,” Ryan says. 

If theatre is more your speed, this year Catch the Keys Productions presents Dead Centre of Town XII.

“It’s a live-action thriller,” Ryan explains. “So this is an immersive, theatrical re-telling of Edmonton’s history, Edmonton’s dark secrets. This year Dead Centre of Town possesses [the] Mellon Farm house.”

Sadly, it’s not possible to see everything in one visit. Ryan says that on busy nights, wait times for each haunt can be up to 45 minutes. That’s why upgraded tickets come with either the premium haunt, Fort of Fear, or a ticket to Dead Centre of Town. 

Luckily, it’s also possible to purchase tickets to just Dead Centre of Town on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday nights.

Some ticket options have already sold out, so Ryan encourages you to get your tickets soon, and she also reminds you to dress for the weather, because it can get chilly as well as chilling.

“Bring some friends who like to have a spooky good time!” 

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