A few years ago, my girlfriend and I travelled to Milestone, Saskatchewan, a small town about an hour south of Regina. Out of all the buildings in Milestone, the largest is the historic Milestone Homestead, which is a former hotel that now operates as a bar. That year the community had come together and transformed the upper levels of the hotel into a spooky haunted house. Although it was a volunteer community project, it was fairly well done – at least from what I saw. Most of my time in the house was spent cowering behind Jessica with my eyes closed as she led the way. But, after we got out, and Jessica told me it was safe to open my eyes, I admitted it wasn't that scary at all.
Then I asked if we could go home and never do it again.
But, the scariest place at all – and one of the most haunted in Canada – sits across St. Lawrence River from downtown Kingston. This massive, sprawling, building is called Fort Henry for eleven months of the year, but during October it takes on a different name: Fort Fright.
The story of Fort Fright revolves around Sarah, a little girl who stumbled upon something supernatural in the woods. Initially she appears to be fine, but once the sun sets – and, coincidentally when you arrive – something goes horribly wrong. Sarah's hometown has become a corrupted version of itself, the surrounding woods are full of blood-curdling screams and the military has been stationed throughout the area. But, the scariest thing of all is that Sarah has gone missing, and it's up to you to find her.
Much like the haunted house in Milestone, Fort Fright is run by actors from the community. Some have bigger, narrative roles, while many others are just there to scare you. Some of these creatures hold weapons like chainsaws or axes, but they promise nobody will be touched or harmed during their visit here... or so they say...
The entirety of Fort Fright is placed between the towering stone walls that surround Fort Henry. If you can look beyond the screaming maniacs and skeletons, you'll see the walls of a military base constructed to defend Canada from the invading United States during 1812. You will see thin windows for soldiers to shoot out of, cannons perched on ledges, and if you're lucky, maybe even some real ghosts.
That's right. Not only is Fort Fright a terrifying carnival of ghouls and goblins, but this historic structure is also haunted by supernatural beings. These ghosts range from John Smith, who had his gun backfire and fell off the walls of the fort to his death, to Nils Von Schoultz, who was executed for plotting with the Americans. There are other ghosts too, such as the Wandering Ghost, who's legacy and origin are still a mystery.
When you visit The Fort, you start in an area called The Upper Fort. This area is "safe" and is mostly just for people to stand in line, go to the washrooms and wonder what's screaming inside the fort. If you have time to explore you can visit some nearby shops to learn more about the fort and buy food. If you're feeling adventurous (and you probably are, if you've gotten this far) you can even go on a Coffin Ride or do an escape room with Improbable Escapes. Although I didn't go on the ride, I'm sure it's spook-tacular!
If you're thinking about taking your children to Fort Fright, I wouldn't recommend it. If the opening scene where Sarah goes missing doesn't scare them to death, running from clowns with chainsaws and mutated soldiers will probably give them nightmares. Also, to my understanding, once you enter the fort, there is no way out.
(Except for like, the main exit.)
So, does this mean you can't take your kids? Of course not! Kingston is a college town so there are plenty of children throughout the community. The folks at Fort Henry know this and created The Otherworld – a magical world revealed as summer fades to fall. They have fun activities and games for both the young and the young-at-heart. The Otherworld is a new addition to the fort, and is the perfect alternative for children (and scaredy cats like me) who want to embrace autumn without the fear of being gutted by the undead.
Once the skeletons go back to their graves and the snow flies, Fort Henry also hosts Lumina Borealis, a beautiful world of snow, ice and magic. I have never gone, but my friend Anna over at STRUCKBLOG has, so if you're interested, be sure to check out her article.
Have you ever been to Fort Henry, or its darker version Fort Fright? Would you be interested in going to the Otherworld? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.