Martin C. Barry
With Halloween less than a week away, this year’s celebration of all things spooky and fit for trick or treating promises to be an especially horrifying one along Jean-Paul-Sartre St. in Laval’s Fabreville district.
A spooky tradition
At 3410 Jean-Paul-Sartre to be precise, members of the Schwartz family will be carrying on a longstanding Halloween tradition on Oct. 31 when their garage and driveway storm shelter are transformed into one of the most elaborate and labyrinthine haunted houses in the Montreal region.
For Jonathan Schwartz, the father of the clan, creating the haunted house each year at Halloween is a labour of love and creativity that dates back decades.
Building a haunted house
Schwartz is a lifelong Laval resident who has lived in several areas of the city, including Chomedey. Neither he nor anyone else in his family would never want to live anywhere else so great is their attachment to Laval.
“I’ve done this roughly since I’m 13,” he said in an interview with the Laval News. “I’ve done this at Centre de Sablon, I’ve done this at Jules Verne Elementary School and at my parents’ house, then at my house in Sainte-Rose and now here.”
A haunting they will go
Over the coming days leading up to Halloween night, the four members of the Schwartz family, as well as grandparents, in-laws and volunteers from the surrounding community, will be working to build and assemble the haunted house structure.
A large wooden framework will be covered with sackcloth and blankets to create walls and corridors. Anyone with enough nerve will be invited in to take a walk along the passageways where they’ll encounter sights scary enough that they’ve been known on past Halloweens to frighten even adults.
Not for the faint-hearted
“It’s a guided maze,” Jonathan pointed out. “There’ll be myself, Nancy my wife and a few other people who bring in groups of five or six people at most through.” If anyone doesn’t want the full treatment, that’s available, too.
Visitors are first asked if they want to be scared. If not, the hosts then instruct the spooks and goblins hiding behind the scenes to take it easy until another group arrives who have asked for and get the works.
Each Halloween, the family and volunteers develop a special theme. Last year’s was pirates. The year before it was witches. This year it will revolve circus imagery.
Circus theme this year
“There’s going to be animal skeletons, a wolf that howls and a ringmaster,” said Nancy. The Schwartz’s love Halloween so much they think twelve months ahead and shop for Halloween decorations the day after when everything is on sale.
People come from far and wide to partake of experience. According to Jonathan, attendance last year was 1,426, based on a count he did with a handheld clicker. All told, a trip through the Schwartz’s haunted house should take visitors an estimated 10 to 12 minutes to complete.