Killjoy’s Kastle, a lesbian feminist haunted house, has been erected in Toronto to celebrate Halloween this year, featuring a cemetery for bygone feminist organizations and the ghosts of queer activists past, such as Jane Rule, the Combahee River Collective, and Will Munro.
“Dare to be scared by gender-queer apparitions, ball-busting butches, and never-married, happy-as-hell spinsters,” reads the event’s Facebook page.
“I make work that centers 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,” explained Allyson Mitchell, the artist behind the work, in an article posted on blogTO.
While Killjoy’s Kastle follows the established tropes of Haunted Houses, such as a graveyard, ghouls and ghosts, monsters, and frightening noises, the interactive art installation is also a witty nod to the history behind the lesbian separatist movement, and its portrayal in pop culture.
Signs featured in the installation read “Don’t Trip Over the Severed Penises,” and “Here Lies the Gender Binary, you were too small 4 this world.”
The work is the result of months of effort by a group of artists who have been working on the space, building the set by hand, working on the props and costumes, and developing a script. “Almost everything is hand made—every cobweb is crocheted, each tombstone is hand carved from styrofoam,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell is inspired by Evangelical Hell Houses that try to “scare people straight” by showing the “horrors” of the gay lifestyle, terrifying young attendees with ghastly portrayals of AIDS victims, and terrifying women with disgusting displays of abortion clinics. She strove to create a satirical installation that used “theatre, humor, and community engagement” to invite conversation around issues of activism, radicalism, inclusivity and language in the queer community.
The event’s Facebook page has inspired conversations about representation in queer spaces, and the ways that such spaces exclude trans and people of color visitors through its vitriol directed at male genitalia and masculinity, and through the historic lack of minority representation in the lesbian feminist movement.
The installation features a decompression room where visitors can discuss their experiences and foster community discussion around the issues raised.