As I outran a chainsaw-wielding zombie I kept thinking: It’s 3 a.m., I’m in the middle of a forest, and zombies are chasing me. I need to re-evaluate my life choices.<br /> <br /> 13 Hours in Hell, a summer-only horror event in Kitchener, is touted by Bingeman’s Screampark as “the premier overnight campout experience filled with horror, zombies, and being scared out of your mind”. And boy does it deliver. From the beginning, screaming participants stampeded from the undead's base like something out of Walmart's Black Friday sale. As the evening carried on, without warning, zombies invaded the supposedly "safe" campsites, just a taste of the unpredictable zombie apocalypse in store for players. Impressive terrain such as abandoned airplanes and swamps quickly turned the teams from camaraderie to competition during the challenges.<br /> <br /> Gary Moore, the manager of 13 Hours in Hell, explained the process behind the inception of the event. “We [were] all looking at various websites and at who’s doing what around the world and we happened to see about the overnight horror camps and said ‘Hey, that’s something we think we could do.’ ”<br /> <br /> “Tonight was our fifth night, last year we did one weekend … We were able to fill up three nights this year. Each time we have around 80 participants and that’s a good number to manage,” Moore said.</p>
Each team seemed to have different survival strategies. Some painted war paint over their faces and spent the first hour stretching and prepping for a long night of running. Others, like my apocalypse partner Ramona had come in flats and tights planning to just go with the flow. I, on the other hand, just focused on not being one of the six people the previous weekend who had lost their dinner during the first hour.
Moore perfectly summarized the event by saying, “It’s an experience like no other.” It was hard to shake the need to dive under a table while talking to Moore, considering he spent a lot of the night riding around in a golf cart, radioing locations of people hiding so zombies could attack.
This wariness had been growing since the second round. At the start of the game my teammates and I were poring over the map and sharing info with any camo-clad team who walked by. By the third round we were auctioning off challenge supplies with no remorse. Funny how the threat of zombies can turn people so cold so quickly. Hell, I even stole “vaccines” hanging from a family’s tent to pawn off at one of the challenges.
Yeah, maybe don’t invite me onto your survival team if the zombie apocalypse happens in real life.
The fear of being caught persisted throughout the game, no matter how many colourful glowsticks or “vaccines” were stuffed in our clothing or the number of plastic “lives” Velcroed to our belts. Losing a life felt akin to losing a limb in the face of the zombie invasion. One of my original teammates Maggie had already lost a life during the first few minutes and spent most of the first round hiding in a dugout. Her frantic yelling at her boyfriend Justin over how she was one life away from dying lent the game a realism that only panicked survival simulation can.
By the time the night was over and everyone lazed around the dying campfire waiting for the looming rain to come, the winners were announced. Daryl and Karinsa were both decked out in running gear and, despite the early morning, were looking a lot more chipper than most people.
They ended up with 28 lives, making my well-protected two pitiful in comparison. “We loved every moment of it,” they said, and as their big piece of advice, they advised, “Don’t get caught.” That’s probably easy for them to say, since Karinsa runs five times a week, and Daryl runs twice a week.
They had the same sentiment myself and the others littering the campground shared. When asked what they planned to do when they got home, both resoundingly said, “Sleep.”
My only real complaints would be that I wished for a tastier breakfast and more mind horror. But with the minimum age set at 14, it did a really good job of putting you and your team through the ringer while not mentally scarring the rare teenagers dumb enough to submit themselves to it.
Be sure to look for 13 Hours of Hell next summer and if you do go, my advice would be to bank up on sleep and get running!