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I have a love-hate relationship with haunted houses. I love them in theory, but then get terrified in practice—though isn’t that the whole point anyway? Also, I hate jump scares. I hate them so much. However, I braved the fear last week to go to Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror haunted house in Toronto on a dark and rainy night.
Casa Loma seems so perfectly situated for a haunted house, it’s crazy there hasn’t been one there before. From the sprawling grounds overshadowed by massive trees, to the twisting underground tunnels, it’s the perfect ghoulish setting for some scares. In addition to that, Legends of Horror went all out on decoration. Creepy uplighting, garlands of life-sized skeletons hanging overhead, eerie projections on the trees and castle walls, crosses and coffins and slow-moving red-tinted fog everywhere… also, the costumes are top-notch. Makes it very easy to forget that the goblin crawling out of the fog towards me on all fours isn’t real!
The whole experience is self-directed. My friend and I walked at our own pace through the grounds, being startled and shadowed by creepy figures. Sometimes it’s not the jump scares that are the worst, though. Sometimes it’s walking down a flickering passageway, toward a silent, swaying, blood-covered figure at the other end, knowing you have to get past them to keep going. I kept muttering to myself the words of the ticket agent “They won’t touch you if you don’t touch them,” like a mantra.
After a long loop of the grounds, we walked into the castle itself, through the underground passageways, and into the stables set up like a horror hospital meets insane asylum. Along the way we encountered a couple goblins, a very rambunctious zombie, about three Draculas, many many ghoulish skeletons, a half dozen insane asylum patients, a girl that looked like she came from The Ring, and the creepiest ever ghoul on stilts.
Legends of Horror was excellent. Everyone working there is dedicated to being creepy, but also seems to be having a good time. It’s a great balance of scary and kitschy, of jump scares and fun, in the best possible setting for a haunted house—A FOR-REAL CASTLE.
What: Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror haunted house.
When: It’s on until October 31, every half hour from 6:30pm to midnight.
How: Get tickets online in advance for $40, or $45 at the door. There are lineups, but they move fairly quickly.