Imagine a town full of zombies, ghouls, ghosts and spooks, all living in harmony. It's tough to wrap your head around (unless your name is Linda Blair) but that's exactly what you'll find in Spookytown – a miniature Halloween village, created by Jessica Nuttall.
Spookytown began in 2004 with the purchase of Castle Blackstone. This towering fortress began a 14+ year passion to build a community for the living, dead and undead to coexist together. After Castle Blackstone came the construction of the cemetery, the business district and then the "spooky" end of town, which holds the magnificent Victorian Mansion. The town includes hotels, cathedrals, restaurants, cafes, museums and a grain elevator. The town is like any other small town during the day – quiet, peaceful and relatively pleasant, but once night falls, Spookytown becomes a creepy village full of flashing lights, blood curdling screams and eerie music.
When asked about the population of Spookytown, Nuttall answered "Dead or alive?", followed by a mischievous smile. A quick headcount found about 75 spooks hidden among the village's dozen buildings, but that might not include the ones living in the buildings or sleeping within their coffins.
Spookytown's buildings come from two main miniature architectural companies: Lemax and Department 56. These buildings are purchased at a variety of places, such as Michael's stores, or Spirit of Christmas in Banff, Alberta.
When asked what part of the village she would live in if she could, Nuttall showed me The Happy Halloween Cat House, which is located outside of the main townsite. This house is a small, cozy building with a haunted church next door and a yard full of bright orange and red leaves and the occasional headstone. Nuttall said she would like to live here because it reminds her of her childhood home and "because of the cats".
Last year Nuttall entered the Lemax 2017 Video Contest, where contestants from around North America submitted videos to show off their Lemax Halloween villages. Nuttall approached the contest differently than most and submitted a video letting the village explain itself through snapshots of daily rural life. Instead of explaining each piece, she let the ambient music, flashing lights and moving figurines speak for her. Due to her creatively done video, she won the contest and was awarded over 20 new pieces to add to the village, including Wanda's Cupcakes, Reaper's Landing and the Dead Fraternity – a frat house inhabited with zombies.
Like any community, the town has a wide range of citizens, but Nuttall's favourite two are the "two old ladies" that spend time near the gazebo in the middle of the town. They fit in well and are "hilarious", although Nuttall never would explain why.
Spookytown has gone through a lot of transformations over the years, but the next year will see some drastic changes. Now that the population is increasing, and infrastructure is starting to take shape, Nuttall plans to turn the village into a proper town by adding more roads, trees and enhancing the surrounding landscape. With a surplus of buildings, she's also planning to expand into smaller townsites, like The Happy Halloween Cat House.
If you visit Spookytown, however, one of the things you'll notice after the village are the three, five-foot-tall skeletons sitting around the village like undead overseers. These skeletons are having a dinner party next to the village, with plates full of fingers and scooped out eyeballs. These skeletons are a new addition to the village and was meant to the replace the village for the first time in over a decade. However, Nuttall decided to mix the two and create one of her spookiest creations yet.
Spookytown, the surrounding skeletons and all the other Halloween decorations throughout the house – and there are many – are taken down the second week of November. "Some people," Nuttall says, "leave them up all year. I don't though. I'm not that crazy."
Although Lemax isn't putting on another video contest this year, Nuttall decided to create another video about Spookytown, this time focusing around "Robert Zombie."
Those who attended my Chernobyl lecture at the Queen City Collective earlier in May would have heard me singing praises about HBO's new miniseries Chernobyl, and for good reason. HBO did a fantastic job on the miniseries by immersing the audience into mid-1980s Soviet Ukraine and by peeling back the layers of the disaster.
With that said, there were some liberties HBO took while making the show. As somebody who spent two days in the Exclusion Zone in 2016, I know a thing or two about how the events unfolded, and a few parts of the miniseries weren't accurate.
Chernobyl began by tackling a nearly impossible task. The miniseries had to break down one of the largest cover-ups in human history. They had to show the devastation of the world's deadliest nuclear disaster and also highlight the many countless heroes who stepped up to make a difference. It's natural to expect HBO to simplify this – and they only had five episodes to do it. I don't blame them for some of these mistakes, but I felt they should be pointed out.
Last week Ford Canada flew my sister Krystal and I out to Prince Edward Island to take part in their Cross-Canada #FordEcoSport Tour. We were only the fifth of fifteen groups that will take part in the tour, so be sure to follow the hashtag to see what everybody is getting up to as well.
Our section of the tour was probably one of the longest in the program, as we had to drive from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to Saint John, New Brunswick, then to Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec and ending in Quebec City. The whole distance is about 1,020 kilometres, which is about 10 hours of driving, assuming we didn't stop to see anything along the way.
After a long, dark, frigid winter, Canadians love the few months of summer we get every year. Once the snow melts and the mud dries, we are out hiking, picnicking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and exploring this wonderful country of ours.
Of all the provinces to explore, Alberta ranks at the top of many adventurers' list. From hoodoos to waterfalls, mountains to valleys, deserts to tundra and everything in-between, Alberta offers any outdoorsman the perfect place to embrace nature.