The Spookiest Halloween Ever on Pender

Published On: October 15, 2021Tags: , , ,

Stories and photos by Hans Tammemagi

Last year, the end of October was a frightening time on Pender Island. I remember it well, for bats, ghouls, witches and a spooky graveyard came alive in a large field as a full moon shone down. Skeletons, sombre reminders of what death brings, roamed everywhere, and not just those of humans but also the bony racks of fierce cat-like animals, mythical creatures with wings and even dinosaurs. An eerie mist rolled over the area, letting these monsters sneak up on me and others. When we suddenly bumped into these spooks, we proceeded to emit some of the loudest screams ever recorded. Ships passing in the nearby Salish Sea were puzzled by this bizarre sound, thinking our island was testing some new-fangled fire alarm system. 

But who could blame us for the panic in our voices? At one point a tractor emerged from the mist, but wait, a lantern hanging over the red machine revealed that a human-sized skeleton was driving. And the tractor was pulling a wagon loaded with hay bales and pumpkins, as well as several more human skeletons that were dancing and enjoying the hay ride.

Recovering a little from the shock I wandered farther along the dark misty path until suddenly a scene emerged that was straight out of a B-rated horror movie and sent chills up my spine. A giant Tyrannosaurus rex, well, the skeleton of a T-rex, was chasing an open Land Rover, which was being furiously driven by a set of human bones. The T-rex had good cause to pursue the vehicle, for it was carrying an egg, which was about a yard in diameter and had just cracked a little with the head of a baby T-rex peeking out. The baby dinosaur was being kidnapped, OK, dinonapped! I kept well hidden in the mist as this scene played out, for the T-rex was large, menacing and out of sorts. 

These scenes were part of one of the most outstanding Halloweens probably held anywhere in the country. The Whittingham family (Darcie, Alan and their children Ethan and Austin) had dreamed up and installed this series of more than 15 spooky displays, many with dramatic lighting, just to bring joy to island residents. The displays were placed along a 700-metre-long path beside the road leading westward from the Community Hall. To make it a complete Halloween for visitors, especially the smaller ones dressed as nurses, cowboys, ninjas, Darth Vadars, Spidermen, etc., treats were given out at the outset. But because of covid, these were dispensed, not by hand, but through a long tube, by a green monster, of course.

I had investigated the displays the weekend before in daylight as the Whittingham family was installing them, and was greatly impressed by the creativity shown in designing the displays, how elaborate they were and the amount of labour needed to install them. Some required electricity for lighting, not easy to provide in a huge hay field.

Best of all was that on October 31 the skeletons and monsters took on lives of their own as the sun set and darkness fell. A full moon slowly rose in the southeast casting spooky shadows over the field. And then a mist began to slowly roll in from the far side of the hay field until it reached the displays and quietly and eerily enveloped them. There was not a single street lamp along the 700-metre path. It was a magical and very frightening eve.

I stumbled along the dark path with my heart rate just recovering from having a spooky alien space ship land near me, when suddenly a shape jumped out of the mist. Whew, it was a friendly clown — I think it was friendly? —who pranced around with a smaller ogre and offered me popcorn as a tarantula spider hovered nearby. Politely but reticently, I accepted. 

Skeletons cause me to shiver in fear. They are deathly spooky and downright scary, and that night as I walked shakily along the path there were lots of them and in many shapes. Human bones drove sports cars. Another skeleton lay on a chaise lounge under palm tree holding a bottle of rum with a small dog, a pet consisting only of bones, beside it. An eight-foot-wide tarantula with bright red eyes crept silently along its web toward me. Really alarming were skeletons of dinosaurs and feral creatures. The thought of climbing a tree crossed my mind many times. 

Next was a cemetery with many crosses and tombstones featuring the letters RIP. Gaunt bones protruded from the ground suggesting the many skeletons I was encountering had emerged from this site and, who knows, might return at night’s end. Nervously, I continued.

Next to the graveyard towered an industrial excavator. A sign on its enormous scoop announced that it was for hire to dig graves. Shallow ones cost $5, but deep ones were $10. I decided to save my hard-earned money.

Because of the lack of street lights combined with the mist, youngsters dressed in imaginative costumes tried – successfully – to frighten older people like me by sneaking silently along the path and then emitting loud screams. OK, OK, between the youngsters and the spooktacular displays, I was terrified practically the entire evening. 

The Halloween displays started modestly in 2016, but 2020 saw an immense increase in their number and creativity. They have evolved into a monumental undertaking, by far the best Halloween I’ve ever seen. Everyone who visited the site was amazed, and pleased that it happened in this small community in the Gulf Islands. Furthermore, the Wittinghams promise that 2021 will be even more spooktacular, with at least two additional new displays. I will be frightened witless, but I can’t wait to see them.

Elmark Andres Galiano Island