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Haunted houses find ways around COVID 19

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Psychotic clowns. Axe murderers. Bedrooms possessed by poltergeists.

Many of the frights greeting visitors of horror attractions this Halloween will be familiar, but the thrill-creators behind them say one terrifying experience is squarely off-limits: the terrors of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic shook our lives, haunted houses sometimes dipped into the fears of contagion, splashing themed rooms with signs of a viral outbreak, hazmat suits and contamination warnings.

But with those experiences uncomfortably close to reality this year, horror masters like Shawn Lippert say reminding people of the virus is one line they’re not willing to cross.

“We use the analogy: Treat `COVID’ like the F-word in church,” said the owner of Scarehouse, an industrial-sized indoor haunted house in Windsor, Ont.

“It’s too real and so close to home. It’s almost like when you tell a joke and they say, `Too soon.”’

Lippert said that’s one of several rules he’s introduced at his haunt in order to keep people feeling safe and heath authorities satisfied. Ticketholders arrive at staggered times, and everyone is required to wear a mask.

Creepy objects that once brushed against visitors have been removed, and the giant airbags that evoke the feeling of claustrophobia have been stowed away to decrease the potential spread of germs.

Lippert describes those as small changes in a challenging year.

Many haunt operators were jittery about moving ahead with their usual Halloween festivities, considering health authorities could shut down the houses without much notice if the region experiences a surge in local cases. That would leave a brutal dent in their investments.

“If we can keep our doors open for the full run at this point, that would be a success for us,” Lippert said.

Several Toronto haunted houses decided the risk was too high. Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror and 28-year pillar Screemers at Exhibition Place were among the operators who decided to sit this year out, even before the city introduced tighter restrictions that would’ve closed them anyway.

Some organizers have used the pandemic to imagine ways to scare the living daylights out of people from a distance — often from the safety of their own vehicles.

The Pickering Museum Village put a historic spin on its spooky experience with a drive-thru tour that urged visitors to creep their cars along a roadway checkered with old houses, as ghost stories played on their FM radios.

Others have gone online with virtual group parties for kids or, for those of legal drinking age, what’s being sold as Canada’s first Virtual Halloween Cocktail Crawl.

Mentalist Jaymes White decided to embrace the digital world this year for his annual Halloween seances. His new Zoom experience, called Evoke, invites a small circle of friends to channel a spirit through video chat. He admits the idea goes against the traditions of a seance, where people usually hold hands around a table, but he’s confident the spirits will still be ready to unsettle his guests.

“They don’t care that we have a pandemic,” he said.

Paul Magnuson, one of the leaders at Calgary artist collective Big Art, will take over a downtown self-serve car wash for three days for a drive-in of the dead later this month.

Scare Wash is described as a trip to hell and back that begins when a wash attendee’s seemingly normal car rinse spirals into a nightmare.

Magnuson came up with the idea when it was clear plans for his usual neighbourhood spectacle wouldn’t be possible in the pandemic.

“Last year I turned my garage into a Dexter killer room where we did performances all night. In previous years I’ve had an interactive cemetery,” he said.

“I’m not going to let COVID take this holiday.”

Robby Lavoie felt a similar conviction for keeping Terror Train on track this year at the National Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre. The annual Halloween event draws thousands of people to Capreol, Ont., part of Greater Sudbury, and provides the museum with a healthy dose of revenue.

Lavoie said he drew inspiration from videos he saw of a Japanese zombie drive-in haunted house over the summer. He knew there was a way to tone down the gore and make the idea a bit more Canadian.

After speaking with museum organizers, Lavoie secured the board’s approval for “Inferno 6077,” an immersive drive-in horror experience inside the garage of the fire hall.

Pulling from his own knowledge of working in live theatre and movies, Lavoie began thinking on a grand scale. He hired a local writer who penned a story about townsfolk who seek revenge on an old man, and built rolling set pieces for the spectacle, which reaches its peak when the space is engulfed in flames, an illusion created with lights and projections.

“We’re putting you almost in an interactive movie, and it all came together within a month,” he said.

“I see myself doing this again next year, even if there isn’t COVID.”

Kathrine Petch understands the urge to keep Halloween on the calendar. As the general manager of Deadmonton Haunted House in Edmonton, she’s laid down strict COVID-19 precautions for their Area 51-themed haunt.

“The absolute, pure excitement of the customers is contagious to us,” she said.

“As long as we can pay the bills and have some money left over to make a different haunted house next year, I think we’ll be pretty happy.”

Petch said keeping Deadmonton open during the pandemic was important to everyone who runs the show.

“One of our biggest goals was to provide people with some kind of escape from all the crappiness that is 2020,” she said.

“And when they reach the end of our haunted house, at least they know the scares are done.”

Source: – CityNews Toronto

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'The blob': Scientists confirm discovery of a completely new undersea species – SaltWire Network

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Deep in the dark, murky waters of our oceans, a gelatinous blob, shaped like a dislodged human molar, floats along the seabed.

Thanks to its love for extreme depths and remote oceanic corners, no one had ever seen the blob, or even knew it existed, until a team of scientists accidentally discovered it during a deep-sea dive off the coast of Puerto Rico in 2015, with help from an underwater, remotely-operated vehicle called ‘Deep Discover.’

Five years on, in a paper published this month, scientists with the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that the blob is an entirely new species of undersea creature,

Duobrachium sparksae

– a never-before-seen species of jelly-like ctenophore. It’s also the first time that researchers have discovered a species using high-definition video footage only.

“It’s unique because we were able to describe a new species based entirely on high-definition video,”

explained

NOAA marine biologist Allen Collins in a release.

“We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects.”

Ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, have bulbous, balloon-like bodies, from which protrude two tentacle-like strings, known as cilia. There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, according to the NOAA, and despite their name, they are not at all related to jellyfish. Ctenophores, the group explains, are carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.

Three different specimens were filmed by the vehicle at depths around 3,900 metres, in an underwater area called the Arecibo Amphitheater, which lies within a trench known as the Guajataca Canyon, off Puerto Rico.

One of the animals appeared to use its tentacles to touch the seabed, scientists said.

“It was a beautiful and unique organism,” oceanographer Mike Ford was quoted as saying in a release.

“It moved like a hot air balloon attached to the seafloor on two lines, maintaining a specific altitude above the seafloor. Whether it’s attached to the seabed, we’re not sure. We did not observe direct attachment during the dive, but it seems like the organism touches the seafloor.”

Identifying a new species solely via photographic and video evidence has often yielded contentious results, the scientists explained in their paper, as natural classification “relies heavily” on the physical specimen samples preserved in museums “to serve as references to which other material can be compared.”

“Indeed, the idea of using photographic evidence to establish new species has been highly contentious in recent decades.”

In this case, however, the team was able to avoid any pushback due to the high-definition quality of the footage they recorded of the three observed specimens. The team hopes to collect real-life specimens on future dives, but fears it may be decades before they run into the species again.

“Even if we had the equipment, there would have been very little time to process the animal because gelatinous animals don’t preserve very well,”

Collins said.

“Ctenophores are even worse than jellyfish in this regard.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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China lands on moon in mission to collect samples from surface – Al Jazeera English

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If the Chang’e-5 mission is successful, China will become third country after US and Russia to collect lunar material.

China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface late on Tuesday in the first mission to retrieve lunar surface samples in 40 years, said the country’s National Space Administration.

The space agency said the probe had successfully landed on the near side of the moon and sent back images.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe which is not manned from the southern province of Hainan on November 24. The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins and the solar system more generally.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the landing was a “historic step” adding that it would also benefit “international cooperation and the peaceful use of space.”

The mission will attempt to collect two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of samples in an area that has yet to be explored on an enormous lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms” and if completed as planned, would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and Russia.

The lander vehicle is expected to start drilling into the ground with a robotic arm to collect the lunar material in about two days, according to state media.

The samples will then be lifted into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the return to Earth, where it is expected to land on land in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

If the mission succeeds it will be the first time scientists have secured samples of lunar rocks since Russia (then the Soviet Union) brought material back in the 1970s.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and made its first lunar landing 10 years later. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so and in July it launched a spacecraft to Mars to search for water.

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China lands on moon in mission to collect samples from surface – Aljazeera.com

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If the Chang’e-5 mission is successful, China will become third country after US and Russia to collect lunar material.

China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface late on Tuesday in the first mission to retrieve lunar surface samples in 40 years, said the country’s National Space Administration.

The space agency said the probe had successfully landed on the near side of the moon and sent back images.

China launched its Chang’e-5 probe which is not manned from the southern province of Hainan on November 24. The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins and the solar system more generally.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the landing was a “historic step” adding that it would also benefit “international cooperation and the peaceful use of space.”

The mission will attempt to collect two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds) of samples in an area that has yet to be explored on an enormous lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms” and if completed as planned, would make China the third nation to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and Russia.

The lander vehicle is expected to start drilling into the ground with a robotic arm to collect the lunar material in about two days, according to state media.

The samples will then be lifted into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the return to Earth, where it is expected to land on land in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

If the mission succeeds it will be the first time scientists have secured samples of lunar rocks since Russia (then the Soviet Union) brought material back in the 1970s.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and made its first lunar landing 10 years later. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so and in July it launched a spacecraft to Mars to search for water.

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