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Frightful but fun house of horrors opens its doors in Sidney

Kim Panter has been operating the haunted house for almost a quarter-century
Bill Elliott and Kim Panter, here seen in the Harry Potter-themed room of Panter’s haunted house on Mills Road in Sidney, consider their creation a labour of love and a contribution to the community. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A home on a quiet street in Sidney will once again turn into a haunted house as Halloween approaches.

Mills Road Haunted House will be open for ghosts and goblins of various ages starting Thursday through Halloween from 6 to 9 p.m. for free, with donations going toward UNICEF to support girls around the world.

The house features 12 rooms of frights, which draw inspiration from familiar television shows such as Stranger Things, Game of Thrones and Survivor, as well as the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises and familiar horror motifs like zombies and ancient Egyptian mummies.

Kim Panter is the person behind this frightful but fun cabinet of horrors, which has its own social media presence and has drawn hundreds.

“It’s my community service,” she said. “I do it for the kids. They love it. I do it because they are exposed to all kinds of horrors. There is nobody chasing out (of the rooms) with chainsaws or anything like that here. It’s all just good fun and I also fundraise. (Our) goal is to put as many girls as possible into school in underprivileged countries — power to the girls.”

The origins of Panter’s haunted house date back nearly a quarter-century ago, when the school attended by her two children — Sidney Elementary School — cancelled its Halloween Monster Mash after violence-related concerns about Halloween had appeared elsewhere.

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Panter, who served on the school’s PAC, set out to prove that Halloween could be done in a frightful but spooky fun way without resorting to gimmicks like fake blood and grabbing.

Her first efforts took place at the school before eventually moving to her house with a one-year-long stop at the Sidney Guide and Scout Hall as part of an organized fundraiser. The haunted house first started in Panter’s carport before spreading beyond it. “Every year, it’s getting more elaborate,” she said.

Panter, who has been living at her home since 1988 and is about to mark her fourth Halloween in a wheelchair, receives support from her friend Bill Elliott in setting up the house.

He estimates that it takes up to 2,000 hours to set up the haunted house starting in August.

Neighbouring families — who used to visit the haunted house when they were children — have also come out to help. “They are all different ages and some of them are three generations,” said Panter. “It’s really rewarding to be able to get kids away from their tablets and their computers.”

It is this connection and contribution to the community that ultimately makes all the efforts and expenses worthwhile for Panter.

“To me, because I’m disabled, I don’t take any trips anymore,” she said. “I don’t go into Victoria. This is my contribution to community. They (the neighbours) have always supported me.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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