“I never ever get bored of hearing people scream,” says Mike Sheppard, creator of Calgary’s ScreamFest, which is in its 12th year.
“You would think you’d get use to it but you don’t,” he said in an interview.
Sheppard said in ScreamFest’s long run, more than a million customers have come through its doors, and left shaking with fear, or worse.
This year, Sheppard has some new tricks up his sleeve that are sure to make guests jump.
The coffin ride is being resurrected this year, with a double-wide version so you can share the experience with a friend.
“It’s a simulated ride, so there are sounds, smells, and touches of being buried,” said Sheppard.
“You are going to hear the hearse start, and you will smell the exhaust fumes, things like that.”
“It’s quite a scary endeavour, because you are experiencing the whole thing in pitch black darkness.”
Shepard said that brand new to this year’s events are the mini-escape rooms.
“They only take 10 minutes, so you don’t have to spend an hour of your night there,” he said.
“It really gives you a taste of what escape rooms are.”
In typical ScreamFest fashion, Sheppard said, “we have a couple of twists in there, but you’ll have to go in to see.”
The ScreamFest demographic has been getting younger in recent years.
“It has almost become a right of passage,” said Sheppard.
“When you turn 13 you are allowed to go to ScreamFest.”
So this year, ScreamFest has introduced an adults-only night.
Audiences 18 and up can now look forward to burlesque shows, a freak show, and “more raunchy acting,” said Sheppard.
He predicts it will be their busiest night of the year.
On this night, the scares will be more aggressive, but Sheppard adds that “the one (rule) we will not break is that we don’t touch the people.
“We don’t touch anyone, they don’t touch us, but (we) will certainly be in your face a lot more.”
ScreamFest outgrew its space at Calgary Olympic Park (COP) almost six years ago, so Sheppard and his wife purchased the land where Cobb’s Corn Maze now stands.
Unable to obtain proper permits on time, Sheppard was grateful to have been offered the opportunity to host ScreamFest at Stampede Park since then.
But this year, Sheppard made the decision, for one night only, to open the corn maze to ScreamFest customers.
“I love the corn maze,” said Stefan Pridge, a 10-year ScreamFest ‘scarer.’
Pridge this year planned to roam around, adorned in clown attire.
“Five acres of going wherever I can to scare people,” he explained.
“I had someone pee their pants,” said Pridge, laughing as he recalled a favourite memory of his time at ScreamFest.
“I ran up honking my horn, and asked them if they wanted to be my squeaky toy.”
Though scaring people may be fun, “the thing I love most is that a lot of us become like a family,” said Pridge.
I never ever get bored of hearing people scream – Mike Sheppard
Sheppard is also thankful for the ScreamFest community that has been built.
“They always come back, some taking time off of their full-time jobs,” said Sheppard.
“We have staff with our logo tattooed on them, and staff that met and have gotten married at ScreamFest.”
For dates and other information, or to purchase tickets, visit the ScreamFest website.