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PROFILE: Orillia man has spooked and delighted multiple generations

'We are excited to once again give the kids an experience that they will hopefully remember for many years ... That's what it's all about,' says Daryl Carstens
Orillia House of Horrors 10-15-21
The Orillia House of Horrors has left its mark on many generations of trick-or-treaters. The man behind the haunted house, Daryl Carstens, is pictured with his grandchildren Kelvin and Jayden.

For more than 25 years, kids of all ages have walked through the Orillia House of Horrors at 20 Ashton St. on Halloween Night.

The man behind the terrorizing fun is Daryl Carstens.

When the Toronto native moved up north to Orillia in 1993, he brought the haunted house that he started with his brother in 1990 with him.

“It started out with no walls, people just walked through the living room and the kitchen, there was a cut-off leg guy, and out the door they went,” he explained.

Each year, the haunted house has developed into something bigger, and Carstens has done his best to keep the scares up to date with his audience.

“When the kids who first came through the haunted house were getting older, we had to up our game a little bit in accordance with how old they were getting. Scaring them as they got older wasn’t as easy as you think; they started getting used to it,” he said.

Once the first generation of Carstens' victims grew into teenagers they requested to be a part of the haunted house and many wanted to help construct it and scare the younger generation.

“They did that until they started having their own kids, and now it’s started all over again. Now, this generation is helping at an even younger age,” he explained.

Carstens now gets help each year from his grandchildren, four-year-old Kelvin and six-year-old Jayden.

“It’s great. I love it and, surprisingly, they are incredibly handy,” he said.

“They are always running to go get me tools and they know what a screw gun is, they know what wrenches are, and they know what screwdrivers are.”

Without the involvement from his grandchildren, Carstens would likely have retired the Orillia House of Horrors years ago.

“There was a period where I was starting to get out of it before the grandkids came, but now, I don’t see that happening anytime soon,” he said.

“Once they are older, I’ll spend more time supervising, but by and large I’ll let them do it themselves and explore their own imaginations. They are already into playing with the lighting and putting their touch on everything," he said with pride.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Orillia House of Horrors was taken outside last year. Carstens got the support of his neighbours to create a haunted street. Almost every neighbour agreed to let Carstens decorate their yards with some of his frightening props.

“Last year we were able to tie everyone together, which is something I always hoped we could do. I’m not sure the neighbours wanted it to happen but they know it’s going to happen anyway, so they just join in and make the best of it,” he chuckled.

After nearly 1,200 trick-or-treaters cleaned the neighbourhood out of candy on Halloween night last year, Carstens and his neighbours are teaming up again this year to create a haunted street once again.

“We have people on the street now coming up to me asking if I have anything they can put up on their yard. Some of the new neighbours on the street have come over to ask about what the street becomes on Halloween, and they seem excited about it and they are happy to participate,” he explained.

“We are excited to once again give the kids an experience that they will hopefully remember for many years... That's what it's all about."

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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