Every Halloween for almost two decades Sonja Hoefman has been scaring trick-or-treaters.
The Red Deer resident turns her front lawn on Nordegg Crescent into a frightening display of animatronic vampires, witches, goblins and gatekeepers. The lawn also features jumping spiders of unusual size, gravestones and other creepy creatures.
One of the scariest parts of the spooky lawn is the element of surprise she creates by dressing up herself.
“I walk through the yard at night so kids don’t know where I am,” she said. “It’s always been a lot of great fun. I get people who come by and take pictures. They want to stand in the display and have pictures done.”
She added, “I’ve had kids scream and run across the street. I’ve had parents walk across the street and avoid the house. It’s a lot of fun. I really love it. It’s just my thing.”
One of the most memorable nights was when her son helped out several years ago, she said. He dressed up as the Creeper character in the Jeepers Creepers movies.
Together, they came up with the idea to hang him from the garage.
After a while that night, a group of teenagers walked by, familiar with the house’s frightening yard from previous years.
“You could hear the girls. They were like, ‘Where is she?’” she said. “They were looking for me.”
Thinking her son was just a lifeless prop, they walked up to him. As they reached out to touch him, he lifted up his head.
“You have never seen three teenage girls scream and run across the street so fast,” she said. “That was probably the best Halloween night story.”
Her daughter, Brittney, who is 16, said her mother has done this for as long as she can remember.
“It’s just been getting bigger and bigger every year. It’s been getting better every year.”
When she was younger, she said the yard scared her quite a bit.
“Some of her props she has bought have put more of a scarier touch,” she said. “She has a giant spider hanging from our tree wrapped in spider webs. She’s got a six-and-half foot gatekeeper that stands in the middle of the yard. And a headless horseman.”
The part-time kickboxing instructor and florist said the motivation to spend a week every year turning her yard into a frightening experience for trick-or-treaters comes from her passion for a good scare.
“There is something fantastic about the thrill of getting the bejesus scared out of you,” she said. “It’s something I have always loved since I was a kid.”
Hoefman sees Halloween as a way to keep her imagination alive but she also has respect for the ancient tradition that dates back centuries, she said.
“At that time, the gourds lit the way for your loved ones to find their way home and you dressed up at Halloween to hide from the evil spirits,” she said.
“It was always something fun and it was something to celebrate. So I’ve just kept doing it.”