City Lights: A frightening tradition

One time in college, I found myself in a heated debate with a classmate over whether "The Blair Witch Project" was a scary movie. Such a debate can be embarrassing, because the more convincing your argument, the more you reveal to your opponent how squeamish you are. Still, I was able to persuade her that when those cameras rattled to the floor in the final scene, it was at least a little creepy.

The bottom line is that with horror shows, you're either spooked or you're not. So perhaps my old college friend wouldn't get much out of Ken and Teri Earwood's annual Earrywood Haunted House, in which they convert the side and back yards of their Huntington Beach home into a chamber of mutilated limbs, crazy clowns, hidden monsters and other unspeakable terrors.

But I'd probably relish every moment of it. Hey, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing.

The Earwoods started their annual tradition eight years ago as, of all things, a fifth birthday present for their son Brady. Since then, it's turned into a neighborhood staple, as dozens of local parents, children and family members spend October building scenery and assigning costumes.

When the haunted house opens Saturday and Monday, more than two dozen cast members will lurk inside — including Ken himself, who dresses as Freddy Krueger. The gate minders send in only two groups of three to five people at a time so they can't hear the commotion in the rooms ahead. In a typical year, the production draws up to 1,000 people, which means lines often stretching around the block.

"People come by in August and September and say, 'Are you doing the haunted house again this year?'" Ken said. "They get excited about it."

Ken brought me on a tour of the house-in-progress Tuesday as half a dozen residents worked on it, and for the sake of surprise, I won't give away any more of what's inside. But I will say that the project is an impressive feat of community organizing.

To ensure a solid crowd every Halloween, the Earwoods oversee a grass-roots PR effort, with helpers giving out fliers at school and church and advertising on Facebook. Many of their yearly visitors drive in from out of town. And the project has forced others on the block to step up their Halloween activity, according to Teri.

"Now our neighbors have to go get extra candy because of the haunted house," she said. "They run out."

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

If You Go

What: Earrywood Haunted House

Where: 5631 Serene Drive, Huntington Beach

When: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Monday

Cost: Free

Information: (714) 932-7700

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