Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, ghosts, ghouls and other spooks have taken it over once again for the 2022 edition of the Canby Haunt — and this year’s version promises to be the spookiest one yet.
Creatures of the Night, the haunting experts who have collaborated with the Clackamas Fairgrounds & Event Center for three straight years of thrills and chills, are also behind this year’s uniquely tailored Halloween experience, “Knock, Knock,” which opened Friday and will be open Friday and Saturday nights through October.
Creatures CEO David D. Jones is excited to be back in Canby for the third year, including 2020’s drive-thru experience.
“Halloween is one of the most universal of celebrations for us as a people,” Jones said. “Halloween is the one day that we feed the people who come to our door. It’s the one day that every child is safe. It’s the one day that we all agree to play the same game — and that’s worth protecting.”
Jones and his team, which has included family, friends, and hundreds of volunteers over the years, got into the scaring business sort of by accident.
“Creatures of the Night started nine years ago in the Mary S. Young Park in West Linn, where we accidentally created an urban legend,” he said. “We literally got into haunting as a lark, as a goof. We entered a contest, and we realized we were weirdly, really good at this.
“So we continued, and we started studying and doing research and becoming better at it. Now, members of Creatures teach at conventions and events around the country on storytelling techniques and technological innovations.”
Creatures of the Night creates highly crafted, thoughtful haunts that are uniquely tailored for each year and location they partner with. Though the team presented an in-person haunt in a different location at the fairgrounds last fall — this year’s will be completely different.
The haunters also rely heavily on ancient myths, more modern urban legends, local lore, and interviews with hundreds of area residents, business owners, and leaders to produce their unique experiences.
The Creatures team drew on classic Halloween lore, history and beloved films in crafting the Haunt’s scenes this year, including a haunted graveyard, spooky castle, 1980s slasher films and the Cold War era.
“If you just do a collage of mad scientist, alien, Godzilla monster and so on, it doesn’t resonate,” Jones said. “You’ve got to have a cohesive story, a narrative. It’s got to be like a three-act play: beginning, middle, and end. You start with universal stories, and then you get more specific.
“You have to reflect the stories and fears of people now. So when we start writing the story in early spring or the turn of the year, we’re trying to guess what people are going to be scared of 10 months from now.”
Jones and his team spend the weeks leading up to October training volunteers and staff — as well as building their haunted houses and all of their associated set pieces by hand. Many of their volunteer actors who participate in the haunt also lend a hand or, you know, a paw, a claw, a talon, or a fin.
The actors, which the outfit usually refers to as “Creatures” or “Haunters,” are a huge part of the experience — and much more goes into it than you might think. As Jones explained, these are not people pulled off the street, given a mask, and simply told to lunge and go “Rawr!” at whoever passes by.
For Creatures of the Night, there is an in-depth training and character development process spanning at least two months. This year’s cast includes Mari Lwyd (“The Grey Lady”), Maya Spinneret (“The Jilted Bride”), Trick and Treat, The Greeter and The Cultists.
“They are a full character: There is a history, there is a complete story — and it’s actually a tragic story,” Jones said. “Like Frankenstein’s monster, every monster was somebody who was halted and caught on their own hero’s journey, which is what a haunt really is.
“We’re creating an environment where we tell a story, but the guest is the hero of the story. They’re the ones that have to fight the monsters. They have to figure their way out of the maze.”
The Canby Haunt will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 7 through the 29th. It will take place in the 4-H Hall at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Events Center, located at 694 Northeast 4th Avenue in Canby.
For a quieter, more family-friendly experience, check out Haunt Jr. for guests 12 and under and their families from 7 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $20 for the Canby Haunt and $17 for Haunt Jr.
For more information and tickets, visit canbyhaunt.com.
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!