Two historic Kingston landmarks transform for Halloween 

By Abbey McCauley

As the leaves turn to shades of orange and red, and the air becomes crisp, it’s that time of year again when Halloween spirit awakens in Kingston, Ontario. The city becomes a destination of “spook-tacular” activities during the fall season, featuring two must-visit attractions at historic Kingston landmarks: Pumpkinferno at Kingston Penitentiary and Fort Fright at Fort Henry. Whether you’re a history fan or seeking a Halloween-themed adventure, these two attractions offer a fusion of history and spooky fun.

Pumpkinferno: a luminary experience at the Kingston Pen

Dating back to 1835, the historic buildings of the decommissioned Kingston Penitentiary make an impressive backdrop for a third annual nighttime Halloween experience: Pumpkinferno.

Pumpkin sculpture of two dragons / Credit: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

From September 29 to October 29, Kingston Pen’s limestone walls will be adorned with an installation of over 7,000 handcrafted, artificial pumpkins. These glowing pumpkins are carved into intricate sculptures and arranged into 17 captivating exhibits along a path through the penitentiary. The play of light and shadows accentuates the architectural beauty of the site, creating a unique experience for the whole family.

Pumpkin sculpture of a women dancing, a car, and a lamppost / Credit: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

What makes Pumpkinferno unique is the skill and dedication of the young artists from Eastern Ontario who design and carve these pumpkins. The designers are hand-selected and work hard through the spring and summer to construct the array of installations on the tour. Molded from real pumpkins, these artificial creations showcase attention to detail and creativity. Every year, a new group of designers and carvers take on the challenge of bringing the exhibits to life, ensuring vibrant displays to delight visitors.

For your comfort, food and beverage options will be available for purchase, inside the Interactive Zone along the Pumpkinferno route. The route has been designed to be accessible, with no stairs along the route: all-terrain wheelchairs are available for guests. For more details and to secure your tickets, visit the St. Lawrence Parks Commission’s website.

Fort Fright: a haunted atmosphere at Fort Henry

Perched atop Point Henry, Fort Henry was originally established as a stronghold safeguarding Kingston’s waterways. Today, this historic site has evolved into a museum, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the military life of the 19th century.

Entrance of Fort Fright / Credit: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

However, as the sun sets, the atmosphere takes a sinister turn, unveiling a side of Fort Henry that remains hidden during daylight. Welcome to Fort Fright, where the shadows and walls of this ancient garrison come alive with the secrets they hold. If you’re a thrill-seeker yearning for a rush, Fort Fright at Fort Henry is your ultimate test of bravery.

Since its inception in 2007, Fort Fright has captivated those seeking spine-tingling experiences and earned a reputation as one of North America’s premier haunted houses. After a two-year hiatus, it returns, from September 29 to October 31, fiercer than ever. At Fort Fright you have the opportunity to explore the Haunted House, participate in interactive activities in the lower fort, watch classic horror films, and take a coffin ride.

The inside of Fort Fright’s haunted house, a spooky dining room scene / Credit: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

The historic backdrop of Fort Henry lends authenticity to the horrors that await within. Over 50 meticulously crafted movie-style animatronics, dynamic special effects, and a number of costumed scare actors converge to create an immersive nightmare. Venture through dimly illuminated corridors, haunted passages, and ominous tunnels. In this experience you will encounter apparitions and scenes that will send shivers down your spine.

For those who want an extra spooky experience, Fort Fright is hosting Dark Nights, available only on October 19 and 26. This experience invites you to navigate Fort Fright in near complete darkness, armed with only a glowstick to light your way.

A clown at Fort Fright / Credit: St. Lawrence Parks Commission

At the fort, you’ll find an array of food and beverage options for purchase, alongside a selection of memorabilia from the gift shops. The experience is accessible, and all-terrain wheelchairs are available for guests’ use. Please note that Fort Fright is tailored for a more mature audience and is not advised for children. Parents and guardians are advised to exercise discretion and accompany children under the age of 12 to ensure their comfort and well-being throughout the experience. Scare amulets are available for visitors seeking a less frightful experience. The amulet will ward off direct scares and signal to Fort Fright actors to hold back on the scaring.

Experience two Kingston landmarks that transform for the Halloween season. Tickets for Pumpkinferno and Fort Fright are now available. For more information and tickets, visit the St. Lawrence Parks Commission’s website, or combine your tour with a stay in Kingston by booking an available package.