A group of students on Sunchild First Nation are hoping their annual haunted house will attract some international attention — specifically from television host Ellen Degeneres.
The Ellen Degeneres Show is known each year for sending executive producer Andy Lassner to different spooky spectacles during the Halloween season where he is often scared out of his wits.
This year, the students are hoping he’ll make his way to their homemade haunted house at their school in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., but that’s not the only reason they’re putting in so much effort.
The “Hollywood Horror”-themed haunted house is the fourth one the students at Sunchild First Nation School have built — each one getting bigger and more elaborate, according to high school social studies teacher Kjeryn Bateman.
The idea came after one of Bateman’s drama classes ran short and she played students a video of an “Average Andy” going to a haunted house, which got their imaginations going on how to create their own.
“It’s expanded to going from one room to three rooms, and this year it’s four rooms, and it includes our gym and it’s going to be huge,” Bateman said.
“So this year, we just decided that, why not raise a little bit more awareness?”
They created several YouTube videos showing what the school does with their haunted house projects as well as other initiatives the students are involved in and invited Ellen to come see it for herself, and to put Average Andy through their biggest spooktacular yet.
Bateman said their version of a haunted house would give Andy a more “heartfelt feel” compared to the ones he typically visits on the show which are often large Hollywood productions with professional actors.
But bringing Ellen and Andy to the haunted house wasn’t the only goal behind getting the word out about the haunted house. Bateman said it’s also about building up the Sunchild First Nation community.
“There’s all of these amazing opportunities that we provide for students, but a lot of the time, when you hear Sunchild First Nation, you don’t always see those amazing opportunities, or you don’t hear about them,” Bateman said. “A lot of the time you hear on the news about stabbings or murder, hit-and-runs, those type of things.
“Those were the stories in the news last year and they really affect our community. You come in and there’s a heaviness on it, and so it would be really nice if we could focus on some of the amazing things that are happening here and [how we] are giving really great opportunities for these students.”
The haunted house project led to the school creating a leadership council, which students joined to get more involved in their community and to explore their leadership skills.
“I felt that the students were really capable of doing their best for the community,” Bateman said. “They had a desire to… they wanted to be good examples for their community and the rest of the students.”
The leadership council does several events through the year, like Thanksgiving, bingos, dances and canteens so community members have safe and fun activities to take in.
Lillie Makinaw is one of the several students working on this year’s project and said her favourite part of the haunted spectacle has been building and planning the various parts.
This year, she said the scariest attraction would be a TV that is set up to look like the scene from the movie The Ring where a girl is coming out of the TV.
Makinaw said the idea of attracting Ellen was an initial goal that turned into something bigger.
“When Ms. Bateman said that we should set a goal for ourselves throughout the future and try to reach for it, Ellen was our goal. So we set for Ellen to come to our school and we all worked hard on those videos,” she said.
“I would be sad if she didn’t show up because of all the work we put into the videos and the haunted house.”
Admission to the haunted house is either $5 or a canned food donation which ties in with their WE School designation. The donations are given to a local food bank.
A portion of the money goes toward paying off the cost of building the haunted house and the rest is given to a charity the students decide on together.
The Sunchild First Nation School’s haunted house opens on Wednesday, Oct. 30.