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This is what a lesbian haunted house looks like

Posted by Aubrey Jax / October 22, 2013

Lesbian Haunted House TorontoA lesbian haunted house has crept up at College and Lansdowne just as Halloween approaches. Killjoy's Kastle has all the basics — gravestones, monsters, frightening moans — but this is anything but a typical Halloween romp. This is a Lesbian Feminist Haunted House, and it's making waves across Toronto and beyond as rumours and photos of Allyson Mitchell's ambitious interactive art installation accrue.

So, what does a lesbian haunted house like?

lesbian haunted houseKilljoy's Kastle's entrance gapes in the alley behind 303 Lansdowne, through the giant teeth of a dentata rainbow. Signs in the waiting room (you'll wait to hook up with your women's studies tour guide) offer warnings which are meant to be more playful and biting than actually scary such as "2 adult womyn in love," "don't slip on the pussy juice," "don't trip over the severed penises," "beware the sinking pit of identity politics," (okay, that last one is scary.) If the severed penises sign is upsetting, there's a decompression room at the end of the journey (and this post) where you can talk about it. Tombstones for bygone feminist organizations are stacked one on one.

Lesbian Haunted HouseThe guided journey through the dark installation rooms is thrilling on a different level than a regular haunted house, but there are a few genuine scares. Rug-hooked, crocheted, and paper mache ghouls loom and cry out. What goes into making such a huge exhibit? "We've been in the space for a couple of months," Mitchell tells me, "but working on the props, costume and script with a big crew of artists for months and months. Almost everything is hand made — every cobweb is crocheted, each tombstone is hand carved from styrofoam."

Killjoy's CastleI asked Mitchell for three ghosts who might haunt Killjoy's Kastle. "Jane Rule, The Combahee River Collective, and Will Munro." She answered. I won't give too many details about the house away, but I'll state the obvious: nods and references to key issues and personalities abound, and while there is a lot of wit here, there is also a lot of history and a lot of pain.

lesbian haunted houseSo I asked Mitchell what makes a good killjoy. "Someone who questions even when it hurts," she explained. "I make work that centres around queerness and bodies, and felt that an exploration of the fears and horrors of lesbian feminism would be a good source for a haunted house." Mitchell is influenced by American evangelical "Hell houses" which often include abortion installations meant to terrifying young women and strove to create a satirical piece which combined "theatre, humor, and community engagement."

20131022-killjoy-t-shirts.jpgCommunity engagement is turning out to be key. While some of the 750+ visitors had only positive feedback to voice in the decompression room, others have found the space raises problems. Criticisms of Killjoy's Kastle have been voiced online about how inclusive or even relevant the installation is to Toronto's diverse queer population. Rather than bucking critiques, Mitchell has addressed concerns in a frank and open post on the exhibit's Facebook event page, which has turned into a participatory discussion on activism, language, radicalism, and inclusiveness — a.k.a. the themes of the show. The post can be read in full here.

MORE PHOTOSlesbian haunted houselesbian haunted houselesbian haunted houselesbian haunted houselesbian haunted houselesbian haunted houseKilljoy's Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House runs until October 30th at 303 Lansdowne Ave (rear of building). The house is open every day from 4PM - 8PM, or by appointment (contact AGYU at +1.416.736.5169 or Free.



Rich / October 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm
"So, what is a lesbian haunted house like?"

Cue the punchlines!
Borte / October 22, 2013 at 01:05 pm
Needs more overgrown shrubs. WINK
asdfasgf / October 22, 2013 at 01:16 pm
so much anger
DY / October 22, 2013 at 01:34 pm
"of course a man made it. it's a commercial lois not a delicious thanksgiving dinner"
... / October 22, 2013 at 01:35 pm
something fishy about the point of this.
Scared Straight / October 22, 2013 at 01:37 pm
I don't think lesbians would find this scary. Also, way too much reading involved in this haunted house. Where is the bell hooks bloody hook?
John Labatt / October 22, 2013 at 02:09 pm
Lesbians are the best. Looks like a great Halloween party.
Collette / October 22, 2013 at 02:28 pm
Hey, whatever gets you through the night. **shrugs**. Of course there are some anger issues here that probably need to be worked through (severed penises? and gender "separatist movements" come on down), but also there is a lot of lighthearted humour. Not my cup of tea but each to their own.
Seahare / October 22, 2013 at 02:52 pm
Wow, talk about a walk down Mammory Lane, and not every one being rainbows. Perfect, absolutely perfect. The scariest house is our past, and being able to laugh and process. Well done!
Dale / October 22, 2013 at 02:58 pm
Where are all the halloween cats? Not the sexy kind either. The rescue kind that eat organic vegan food.
mmmm / October 22, 2013 at 03:12 pm
Makes you wonder what the scariest aspect of this really is.
Daniel / October 22, 2013 at 03:47 pm
Beware of Severed Penis?!!!
Does this mean they're open to attached penises? Ahhhh yeah Im going to this with BALLS on, and a swaying penis! Definately going to be looking for the glory hole.

Check it out right behind the Tim Hortons.
steve / October 22, 2013 at 05:13 pm
Looks like they spelled "women" wrong
Rick / October 22, 2013 at 05:56 pm
This had to be the most retarded write up on this blog.
Seriously, the people that put forth the effort and capital for this inititive have to be the most useless people on planet earth. What a huge waste of time.
Ed V.P. / October 22, 2013 at 07:03 pm
Coincidentally, all the Ani DiFranco CDs down the street at Value Village have turned to ectoplasmic goo. Eerie.
Morag Moondottir replying to a comment from Rick / October 22, 2013 at 07:26 pm
Typical comment from a penised-person. Go eat a sausage and revel in your privilege.
Rodemund / October 22, 2013 at 07:52 pm
I asked if I could join in, but the women said I could only sit off to the side and watch this time. sigh.
FemmeArtist / October 22, 2013 at 08:02 pm
I am a female artist and i despise this sort of LBTQQQQAGZHEAQWERTYUIOP* 'art'. It's not art, it is passe women studies entertainment in very much the same light of a hell-house that aims to reaffirm values and create a programmed space.
FemmeArtist / October 22, 2013 at 08:22 pm
Also, how typical of this for York University to put this stuff up in their student gallery.
Me / October 22, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Nice double standard. Typical though, especially at BlogTO.
outstanding / October 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm
What the far right being subversive looks like.

stu / October 23, 2013 at 07:16 am
Whats the fuss, is this any different or any less acceptable then this. The difference being who is doing the rhetoric.
tired. replying to a comment from stu / October 23, 2013 at 08:27 am
Yawn. Try harder.
B. / October 23, 2013 at 08:37 am

Ooh, I am a 'female artist' and that means my opinion denouncing the exhibit that I haven't seen means more, even though I'm clearly a jerkface!'
303 Landsdowne has an OCAD related gallery in it, not York, you goofball. And the show isn't in Xspace anyway.
t / October 23, 2013 at 09:49 am
is this for lesbians or by lesbians? why are lesbians all considered to be feminist?

looks more like a haunted house for misogynistic men.
real point / October 23, 2013 at 10:39 am
Gay themed or not, the main issue here is that this simply looks terrible.
FemmeArtist / October 23, 2013 at 10:44 am
I may have been wrong about the venue space but I am not wrong about the "art" afflictions and calling me a jerkface does nothing to dispute my statements qualifying the piece as passe womens studies entertainment that just serves to reaffirm their theology.
Federale / October 23, 2013 at 11:41 am
Clearly lesbians are an unhappy lot.
tommy / October 23, 2013 at 11:41 am
The answer to a question no one asked.
Anderson Davies replying to a comment from t / October 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm
With a headstone that has SCUM on it.
Ya right.
Brent replying to a comment from Glen / October 23, 2013 at 01:05 pm
Brah, you fell hard for a satirical post. Moondottir might as well be McLabia.

I guess lesbians aren't the most humourless bunch after all.
Glen replying to a comment from Brent / October 23, 2013 at 04:38 pm
I wondered about that. However sad to say, I've heard and read this nonsense from people who were being dead serious.
Vlad Fresz (pronounced "Fresh") / October 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm
I'm inclined to say that this sucks, but I applaud the creativity. If a haunted house disturbs you, its creators got at least part of the idea right. With that said, no one likes severed penises. The world needs penis--men, women and children!
Alex Reynard / October 31, 2013 at 03:33 am
Oh looky, it's the epitome of a lot of time and effort put into a grand symbolic gesture that accomplishes nothing more than preaching to the choir! :D
Jono / October 31, 2013 at 03:48 pm
Rick: "Seriously, the people that put forth the effort and capital for this inititive have to be the most useless people on planet earth."

The taxpaying public paid for most of this, heh.

mramarmoset / October 31, 2013 at 09:23 pm
accountability around the corner

just step over these severed penises
Elen / November 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

This is art ?? Its disgusting !! She is getting grants from the Government ?? Woaaaaa.....All I see is an angry Feminist who hates men .
scott / November 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm
something smells fishy here, This was built using tax payer dollars???
Botas Flecos Isabel Marant / December 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm
Your method of describing everything in this paragraph is really fastidious, all be capable
of without difficulty understand it, Thanks a lot.
KJ replying to a comment from t / July 6, 2014 at 11:56 am
It looks like it's supposed to be about Lesbian Feminism, which is a specific branch of feminism known for being particularly bigoted, and contrasted with (less bigoted) Queer Feminism.
KJ replying to a comment from Anderson Davies / July 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm
For those unaware of what SCUM refers to, it is a reference to the SCUM Manifesto, written by Valerie Solanas in the late 1960s. The 'SCUM' in SCUM Manifesto stands for 'Society for Cutting Up Men'.
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