Ghosts, Ghouls and More Take Over County Fairgrounds

The fate of David D. Jones, of the professional haunt crew Creatures of the Night, was sealed after his experience with what he thought was a one-time gig putting on a spooky Halloween experience in partnership with the City of West Linn.

“It started as a lark, a one-off, a goof,” Jones tells The Canby Current. “Then, people started calling the city and asking, ‘Is that really what happened to the little girl?’ … We discovered we had accidentally created an urban legend.

“That’s when we started taking this seriously, and the more we dived into haunting, the more we discovered that it actually went much deeper than we expected, and it actually became a life calling.”

The life calling has led him to some strange places, including the newly transformed Clackamas County Fairgrounds, where he and the Creatures team are putting their creative expertise and storytelling chops to work in the one-of-a-kind drive-thru experience dubbed Scare Fair, which features several more of the state’s top haunters, including Fearlandia, Davis Graveyard and The Nightmare Factory.

Scare Fair, which opens Friday, Oct. 9, and runs from 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday through Sunday until Nov. 1, is the fairgrounds’ first real foray into a haunted attraction — which are typically more of an indoor game or the domain of pumpkin patches.

But nothing is typical in 2020, amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Most of the four outfits do haunted houses and other indoor attractions, and so had not planned on doing much this Halloween before they were invited to join the Scare Fair.

The Scare Fair opens Oct. 9 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Even Davis Graveyard, an outdoor attraction that has taken shape at the Milwaukie home of Chris and Jeff Davis around All Hallows’ Eve for more than two decades, had nixed their activities this year because of restrictions on large gathering sizes.

“We weren’t going to do anything this year, because of the pandemic and crowds,” Jeff Davis tells the Current. “But the fairgrounds contacted us and asked if we would want to set up our display here, and we took advantage of the opportunity.”

The Davises’ elaborate display is a haunted graveyard scene featuring an enormous chapel, crypts and dozens of tombstones whose inscriptions run the gamut from fictional pop culture references (“Montoya: Your Son Will Avenge You”) to memorials for real actors and singers (Chewbacca portrayer Peter Mayhew: “Punch It, Chewie) to cringe-worthy dad jokes (“Here Lies Our Dear, Lee D. Parted”).

The family opted to share the display with their sizable following in a safer setting here in Canby, rather than moth-balling it for another year.

A scene from Davis Graveyard at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. Photo by Tyler Francke.

The four companies were assigned different areas and asked to lend their unique talents and specialties to large swaths of the historic fairgrounds, which — in non-Covid years — is known for hosting large outdoor events, primarily the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo.

Some of the fairgrounds’ existing barns, stables and other outbuildings — and even the underside of the grandstand — have been incorporated into the Scare Fair.

Fearlandia’s Tim Devlaeminck and Brad Dascomb have enjoyed the experience, though they laughed about the task that was initially presented to them. (“The fairgrounds handed us a field and said, ‘Make a haunt.'”)

Fearlandia’s experience of working without live actors has been a new challenge for them. Photo by Tyler Francke.

The lack of live actors has been a new challenge for them.

“We typically have 30 actors that are on top of you the entire time,” Devlaeminck said. “This has been really different.”

But in a weird way, it has kind of worked out. In normal years, the Fearlandia team’s goal is to give guests an adrenaline-pumping experience and, well, just generally scare the living daylights out of people any way they can.

Not so in 2020.

“There are so many fears and scary things out there now that we as haunters are really having to reverse what we normally do,” said Dascomb. “This is just for families and people to come out, have some fun and enjoy Halloween.”

The Scare Fair is considered a PG-13 rated experience, with some scenes that may not be suited for young children. Photo by Tyler Francke.

The Scare Fair is also hosting one of the most venerated scare teams around, The Nightmare Factory, the state’s longest-running (35 years) haunted house, traditionally hosted at the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem.

The Factory’s Ed Roberts said the attraction is much more than an outlet for his love of Halloween (though it is that). It also provides valuable experience for the school’s students each year, in business, acting, set and costume design, lighting, makeup and so on.

“It’s a great teaching tool,” he said. “And it also helps bring the community together. We’ve become kind of a tradition.”

Though the coronavirus tried its best, that tradition will live on this year, at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby.

Tickets for the Scare Fair are on sale now and may be purchased online at Prices are $11 for an individual or $20 for a vehicle and any amount of guests that can fit safely (and legally) inside. The experience is drive-thru only.

For more from the team behind Scare Fair, check out Episode 211 of Now Hear This: Canby, “Scare and Balanced”:

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