CRESCENTA VALLEY — Walking into David Krohn’s vegetable garden and patio, one has to avoid tripping over the skulls.
Krohn, longtime friends Gary and Steve Trousdale and a few others transformed Krohn’s home into the Nightmare on Vista Court. What was a garden and deck in August has become a walled-off maze punctured by hanging corpses, spider webs and skulls.
“The best are the big football players who act tough, and they wind up pushing their girls ahead of them and screaming just like everyone else,” said Gary Trousdale.
“That’s how I met my wife,” Krohn said to laughs in his garage.
Last year, Krohn had about 1,000 to 1,500 people walk through the maze. The haunted house is free.
“I think of it as community service,” Krohn said. “What’s motivating now is you know the public’s going to come. I have a great sense of accomplishment when I think of all the people who work on it, and so many people enjoy it.”
Krohn adopted the haunted house tradition from the brothers Trousdale after moving into the cul-de-sac and getting no trick or treaters one year. The group also found a niche in following paranormal activity and said they love building things, spending time together, and of course scaring people.
“Halloween was a kick when I was a kid, and I wanted to do whatever I could to bring it back into high gear,” Steve Trousdale said. “And we’ve got maturity issues all around.”
Krohn’s wife, Alisa, calls it arts and crafts for big kids.
“That’s the best way to describe it,” she said. “And we’ve made a lot of friends by doing this.”
Safety is a big priority for the builders, and anything that isn’t fool-proof is quickly discarded.
Gary Trousdale said the group had settled into a pattern. The work brings friends and neighbors together for four to six weeks, with construction beginning in early October. Planning starts in the summer when the friends split a 12-pack, cigars and begin brainstorming.
“Every year, we always say we’re too old to do it again, but by June we’re sitting around with a sketch pad — ‘Do you want to do aliens? Nah. Gothic horror? Yes!’” Gary Trousdale said.
A cast of more than a dozen volunteers don costumes and take positions in various corners of the maze. Upon entry, a zombie greets visitors from what appears like a walled-off corner. Hang a left and enter through an air-powered door that shoots open and slams shut automatically. The walls are adorned with axes, swords, skulls and gargoyles.
“A lot of this stuff we’ve had for 20 years,” Steve Trousdale said.
Continue past the mantel of human skulls and alligator-head centerpiece toward the next room. The floor is littered with skulls and broken bones, and dangling from a mesh netting above are pieces of thread that create the itchy sensation of walking through an endless cobweb.
“We have scared children so bad that they’ll keep a night light on until they’re 50,” Gary Trousdale said.
Take another left, past a frightening station of smoke-and-mirrors tricks, past a bloody sink and dangling torso to a break in the wall.
“When the group gets down here, we’ll have eight or 10 zombies pour through,” Gary Trousdale said.
Upon exiting the maze, group photos will get taken and posted on Facebook. The group posts other Nightmare on Vista Court videos on YouTube.
Friends Alan Bernhoff and Mike Madrigal, musicians and sound mixers, combine to make a 30-minute horror soundtrack that plays throughout the Nightmare on Vista Court. One song, or creepy tune, features Bernhoff’s daughter Alana singing a nursery rhyme over menacing piano.
Alana and Jessica Trousdale, Gary’s daughter, were too afraid as young children to enter the haunted house during the day.
The haunted house converted the sleepy cul-de-sac into a bustling corner of zombies, ghouls and horror.
“I’m always happy when Halloween falls on a Saturday and we get great weather,” Gary Trousdale said. “It’s going to be a perfect night.”
MAX ZIMBERT covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.