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‘Spooky stuff’: Huntington Beach haunted car wash provides the scares

A ghoul peeks in the window at Russell Fischer Xpress Car Wash in Huntington Beach on Thursday.
A ghoul peeks in the window at the “Tunnel of Terror” haunted car wash at Russell Fischer Xpress Car Wash in Huntington Beach on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

They may appear playful, even if the chainsaws they sometimes carry suggest otherwise.

Zombies and monsters are occupying Russell Fischer Xpress car wash in Huntington Beach as Halloween night creeps closer, after the Beach Boulevard business put together what it calls the “Tunnel of Terror.”

Participants go through the car wash like normal, and their car gets washed like normal. They don’t get out of the car — but that doesn’t mean someone wearing a scary mask might not try to get in.

About 400 cars per night have been experiencing the “Tunnel of Terror,” co-owner Chase Russell said. The first weekend was so popular that the company switched to prepaid ticket sales only.

“We’ve had nothing but phenomenal feedback,” Russell said. “It’s been pretty fun. The amount of support and excitement over a haunted car was, I’d say, slightly unexpected.

“This is a very unique year. You can’t really plan for something like this. With our state, the state of California basically canceling Halloween, among other things, we were trying to figure out how we could bring some fun to this.”

Guests take pictures of an character at the "Tunnel of Terror Haunted Car Wash."
Guests take pictures of a weapon-wielding character at the “Tunnel of Terror” haunted car wash at Russell Fischer Xpress Car Wash in Huntington Beach on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Russell said he talked with the car wash’s controller, Bri Nikoletich, who had seen a couple of car washes on the East Coast with a haunted theme in years past.

At about the same time, promoter Long Vo reached out to the car wash to figure out a way to put together the assembly line of alarm. Vo is part of a local promotions company, We Simply Rule, and he had plenty of Halloween props collecting dust at his home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vo has a cast of about a dozen monsters creeping about at the car wash. Attendees first go through a single-file car line before entering the wash, and surprises ensue. They’re encouraged to tune their radio to 100.7 FM for creepy background music to accompany the ride.

"Tunnel of Terror” runs from 5 to 10 p.m. and will be in action every night through Halloween, except for Monday.

“They did a good job,” said Julie McCarty of Lakewood, who messed with her kids, Cade and Cassie, in the backseat Thursday night by rolling their windows down when a monster approached with a chainsaw. “I think this is going to be the next thing now. For $20, it’s a great deal. A $20 scare, you cannot beat that. Halloween’s my favorite holiday.”

Melissa Suarez of Long Beach, 38, said the haunted car wash helped fill the void left by missing out on Halloween-themed celebrations at local theme parks.

“This helps,” Suarez said. “It’s very creative.”

Guests react to a character at the "Tunnel of Terror" haunted car wash.
Guests react to a character at the “Tunnel of Terror” at Russell Fischer Xpress Car Wash in Huntington Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Jeff Heimbuch of Costa Mesa, 36, came Thursday night with his fiancé Martina, his 17-year-old son Alex and his son’s girlfriend Mariah.

“We miss spooky stuff,” said Heimbuch, adding that he writes for a local horror website, HorrorBuzz.com. “We do all this stuff every year anyway. When we heard this stuff was going on, we had to come check it out and see what was going on here … There was a guy that stood in front of our car at one point and scared the hell out of me, so they did a great job.”

Tickets are extremely limited but are available on Eventbrite. Russell said additional tickets could be released online each day depending on traffic.

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