The end of October is a great time of year, complete with crunchy leaves, woolen sweaters, and plenty of treats. For anyone growing up in Saint John, it is also the time of year for the annual Haunted Zoo at the Cherry Brook Zoo. The Haunted Zoo is a Saint John tradition running for over 18 years while raising funds to feed the zoo animals throughout the winter months. This is one of the biggest fundraising efforts during the year; last year the Haunted Zoo raised over $12,000 in three nights! Alice O’Neill, the volunteer coordinator for the Cherry Brook Zoo, said that hundreds of people come back year after year, because “they love to support the zoo, and they love to get scared.”
This highly successful fundraiser is both scary and fun! Visitors to the Haunted Zoo take guided tours with a haunted script. This tour will pass by several creepy scenes and spooky characters that are hidden along the route amongst the animal enclosures. This tour has a serious scary factor; O’Neill does not recommend the Zoo for children under age 10; however, parents have brought younger kids to the Zoo before.
The volunteers who scare the visitors are the most important factor in the success of the Haunted. O’Neill has been involved with the Haunted Zoo since its conception, and is still the coordinator this year. She depends on volunteers from the community to be spooks—a haunted zoo isn’t going to be very exciting without ghosts, witches and vampires, is it? UNBSJ students have been very involved with the zoo’s activities in the past, and O’Neill hopes that students will step up again this year.
O’Neill says that a minimum of 60 to 70 volunteers are needed each night to give the Zoo a truly spooky effect. Volunteers can come dressed in their own makeup and costumes, or use a costume provided by the zoo. Unfortunately, there are a limited amount of costumes available on a first-come, first-serve basis; stragglers should come dressed in black and be ready to jump out of bushes. After all visitors have left, volunteers are treated to hot food and drinks as a thank you for their spooky services.
If you would like to get involved in this great cause, O’Neill welcomes anyone who would like to be a spook for an evening, or for all three evenings. This year, the Haunted Zoo will be running Oct. 26 to 28, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. By being a visitor you also help the animals, so grab a friend and hit up the Haunted Zoo for a good scare this weekend!