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by Trevor Prosser

MIA, presumed scared

(What is Project X? To find out, The Reflector sent a reporter in to explore this "haunted house." He never returned, and to date, his body hasn’t been found. All that was left was a roll of film, and this unfinished story.)

Once upon a evening dreary, whilst I wandered, tense with wary,

Past many a frightening monster well equipped with gore--

While I looked on, nearly passing, suddenly there came a gasping,

As if some sad soul escaping, passing, dying just beyond the door.

"Tis some visitor," I whispered, "gasping loud at unseen horror--

Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak October,

And each separate ghastly body cast its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I seeked the finish;-- whilst the screaming undiminished

Sent me running for the exit-- exit from this house of horror--

From that modern hall of fright that was this house of horror--

Named Project X until November four.

This ain’t your granddaddy’s haunted house. Project X, located in the remnants of CFB Calgary, offers more chills than the average haunted house. With over 24,000 square feet of frightening fun, this attraction just might be 'the thing' to do on Halloween. That is, for those old enough to forgo trick-or-treating and bored of the pub crawls.

That’s not to say that Project X is an adult-only attraction, but be warned, some of the "exhibits" could be a bit too much for the wee kiddies. So hire a baby-sitter now - or a psychologist later. Then again, that’s not to say it’s all that safe for adults, either.

In fact, for between $10-13, or five bucks for an upstairs-only matinee, you’ll be taken into some of the most frightening scenes you’d ever have chance to encounter.

To better understand the horror of Project X, and the sick, depraved souls who work there, I chose to descend into the depths of their insanity, and volunteer my skills.

And so I came to meet Dan Willis, "hauntrepreneur," and a gleeful ghoul-in-residence at Project X. Dan greeted me enthusiastically, and took me on a tour of the facility.

Seems that Project X was discovered after an alien abduction - I really can’t say any more than that. But wandering through the two levels, I was beset upon by various demons, monsters, and crazies. I saw cannibals, aliens, mutants, oh my! But I was comforted by knowing I wasn’t the only person ever to experience these strange sights.

Willis estimated that around 1,000 people a day have wandered into their house of horrors since Project X opened back at the beginning of October. That’s not counting the more than sixty employees and volunteers who will continue to traipse through these darkened halls until November 4, the last day of the attraction.

I won’t tell you all that I saw in my tour--you’ll have to see it for yourself to believe it. But the haunted house isn’t the whole of the story at Project X, no. After a short break to collect my wits, Dan escorted me upstairs to the on-site costume shop, featuring over one thousand styles of costume, spread more than four thousand square feet of space. It is the costume shop that makes the money for Project X and the money raised goes to Kid’s Cancer Care Foundation.

Now that I received the full tour, I was ready to assume a role, and was assigned to a cage near the beginning of the exhibit. I was fitted for a straight-jacket, and locked in. My only instructions: scare people.

I stayed in that cage for hours, perfecting my character. Borrowing heavily from Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I sat in the corner of the prison, glowering at passer-bys. When failing to illicit the screams my character’s soul so craved, I moved to the middle of the enclosure, and began to gnaw on a skeleton hanging from a noose. A few disgusted looks, but no screams. So I changed things up yet again. Sitting in the corner, reciting Shakespeare as quickly as I could, I then, without warning, jumped at the bars, throwing myself toward "customers" and begging release. Or at least a taste of their livers, with some fava beans and a nice amarone.

That did the trick. One kid actually fell backward screaming, and I knew I nailed my role. Even so, there were those who mocked me, even threw things. Mostly small boys, who tried to show some bravado in front of their buddies. But for every small taunting boy, I was comforted by the screams of those hapless souls who stood too close to my cage.

After a spell, I was released by Dan, much to my relief. Lecter’s character was fun, but straight jackets aren’t exactly made with the most breathable material.

And so I came to be the executioner.

Dressed in a dark blue jacket and peaked cap, I was every bit the prison guard, preparing to put a man to his death in the electric chair. This restricted my freedom of character, but the joy of watching the anamatronic execution over and over again, and seeing the pleasure in the faces of those same little boys who had taunted me, compensated. The only drawback was the amount of "fog." The prisoner tended to smoke a little as he fried.

My final job was as a cannibal. Again I drew from "The Silence of the Lambs," while tending an old-fashioned rack, complete with life-like victim and various removable body parts. Again, I faced people who seemed to take more delight in taunting the performers than in the performance itself. Here I am talking to the know-it-all woman who worked in a hospital, and thought everything she saw was "so fake." But I enjoyed the company of everyone else who passed me by, and listened as I told them of the troubles of properly preparing humans for the supper table.

And so it was, that after a while, I was relieved from that position as well, only to be led to a room near the end of the tour. I couldn’t see much, dark as it was...