Like most things about this infernal year, Halloween will, to use the unofficial catchphrase of 2020, look a bit different this year owing to COVID-19.
Per provincial public health guidelines, big costume parties are definitely out, as is bobbing for apples — you know, a popular thing people still do. Trick-or-treating, as it stands, is still permitted in Winnipeg, but folks now have the task of figuring out how it will work. Candy chutes? Tongs? Individual bags of treats on a table or in a tree? How do you make sure tiny unicorns and superheroes distance?
Some people are choosing to skip it altogether.
But we see you, Halloween People. Still want to have some festive fun in a safe and physically distanced way? Here, the Free Press offers five alternative ways to have a happy Halloween.
Dare to walk through the Haunted Forest
Located just north of St. Adolphe, long-running (and Guinness World Record holding) tourist attraction A Maze in Corn isn’t just a corn maze — though mazes can be scary (The Shining, anyone?).
It also boasts a Haunted Forest that’ll give you the creeps, in a good way. Costumed creatures will offer thrills and chills as you wend your way down the dark and cold forest trail.
The Haunted Forest runs Thursday and Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 10 p.m. If you’re planning on taking younger kids, the earlier, daylight time on Saturday is recommended. Dress warmly and wear footwear you don’t care about; remember, this takes place in a forest.
A maximum of five people per group is permitted. Non-medical masks are mandatory. No costumes or Halloween masks are permitted. Visit cornmaze.ca for tickets and more information, including the daily trail report.
Walk — or ride — on the ghostly side
Have you heard about Irving and Mabel, the ghosts who haunt the Burton Cummings Theatre? How about Room 202 at the Fort Garry Hotel?
Get a bloody, spine-chilling history lesson — and some exercise — as you walk, cycle or scoot through the self-guided Downtown Winnipeg Ghost Ride, presented by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. The 11-stop tour starts as the Masonic Temple on Donald Street and ends at the Vaughan Street Jail on York Street. You will find the route map — as well as links to the stories for each location — at downtownwinnipegbiz.com/ghost-ride.
And, of course, you’ll need to keep your strength up. Stop in for a treat at one of the five participating businesses along the way — Thom Bargen Coffee (weekdays), Browns Socialhouse Portage, Fete Ice Cream and Coffee, Oh Doughnuts and Poke Mono — and pick up a Boo! button.
There are three colours to collect in all, and you’re supporting downtown businesses at a time when they need it most.
Because these stories deal with murder and violence, this tour is recommended for mature audiences.
All dressed up with no place to go? While indoor trick-or-treating at the mall is out this year, Grant Park Shopping Centre is offering a trick-or-treat drive thru for kids 12 and under on Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Treats and Halloween-themed non-medical masks for the first 300 kids will be among the goodies on offer, which you can can collect from the safety of your car (added bonus: you don’t have to put a winter coat over your costume).
Mall staff will be following COVID-19 safety protocols, which will include using grabbers to distribute treats and asking everyone to remain in their vehicles. No walk-ups are permitted.
Dalnavert... after dark
For a true haunted house experience, look no further than Dalnavert After Dark. Nightly from Wednesday to Friday, the Dalnavert Museum will present an in-house ghost-story adventure based on The Empty House, the classic short story by Algernon Blackwood.
Originally published in 1906 — 11 years after Dalnavert was constructed — The Empty House follows a man named Jim Shorthouse, who is invited by his elderly Aunt Julia to spend a night in a house said to be haunted by a servant girl who was murdered there by a jealous stableman.
Follow their investigation through Dalnavert via headphones; the immersive experience features sound design by jaymez and Marti Sarbit and narration by Kevin Klassen.
Participants are to arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled start time, and maximum group size for the tour is two. Full details and tickets are available at www.friendsofdalnavert.ca.
Of course, you can get into the spooky spirit without really going anywhere. This is the perfect year to think up some new traditions:
- Decorate your house or yard for distanced viewing.
- Host a themed costume party or pumpkin-carving contest via Zoom.
- Organize a backyard or indoor treat hunt.
- Get creative in the kitchen and bake up some festive treats.
- Binge-watch all the Halloween episodes of your favourite TV show.
- Have a horror movie marathon with themed snacks and beverages.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.