A deranged clown character walks the catwalk at the circus big top CarnagEVIL during this year’s Hauntington Beach event.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
Crowds gather to enter the big top freak show at CarnagEVIL during this year’s Hauntington Beach event.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
Neon decorations glow under a full moon at the circus big top CarnagEVIL at this year’s Hauntington Beach event.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
The big top freak show has a circus theme at CarnagEVIL during this year’s Hauntington Beach event.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
A scary clown sits at lower right ready to bounce out in the Bobo-the-Clown’s circus big top CarnagEVIL during this year’s Hauntington Beach event.(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
While tearing down his annual “Hauntington Beach Manor” horror attraction last year, William “Jay” Horsky received a real-life scare.
During a regular check-up, his doctor ordered a biopsy of his prostate and discovered that Horsky had Stage 2 prostate cancer.
The Huntington Beach resident temporarily moved to San Diego to be closer to the Scripps Research Institute, where he received treatment for months. He says his condition is improving.
Between radiation sessions and naps, the 56-year-old began planning and designing his next Halloween season event, which he has hosted at his home on Sailfish Drive for five years.
“I just love Halloween,” said Horsky, who has owned the home since 1985. “It didn’t really have anything to do with distracting myself. My problem was with the physical toll radiation took on me. By the time it came to start building [the attraction in August], I could only work for two to three hours a day.”
But passion and persistence paid off. On Sept. 30, Horsky officially opened this year’s haunt.
Profits from the event will be donated to Scripps. Admission is a minimum $5 donation.
As guests wait in line for the attraction — which this year has the theme “CarnagEVIL,” featuring frightening clowns — Horsky often lets them know his story and encourages them to get regular check-ups.
Horsky, who owns Professional Plumbing Inc., usually invests a large sum of money in the 3,000-square-foot haunt — last year it cost him $47,000 to build. But charity has always been part of his motivation.
This year’s haunt, in addition to benefiting prostate cancer research, aims to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s disease research at Scripps.
Horsky’s mother, Faith, was diagnosed two years ago with Parkinson’s, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, muscle control and balance. However, it hasn’t stopped her from supporting her quilting business and helping her son with his haunt, which also includes many of their family members and neighbors.
“From June or earlier, [Horsky] came over every night to have a glass of wine with me and talk about the event,” his mother said. “I had to break up arguments between him and his sister about how it would go.”
Hauntington Beach Manor, which typically draws hundreds of visitors each weekend in October, is unlike a typical neighborhood haunt. It is not recommended for children, as it includes intense scares comparable to more-corporate attractions like Universal Studios’ “Halloween Horror Nights.”
As visitors walk through the maze, which takes about 10 minutes and spans Horsky’s driveway and front, side and back yards, about 20 actors in spooky costumes and masks try to scare them.
Each time a guest walks through the entrance, a giant clown’s mouth, he or she might have a different experience — Horsky is continually adding new features.
The haunt can be easy to get lost in.
At the beginning this year, “our clowns could not get through our own maze,” Horsky said. “They were yelling that they needed help getting out.”
The attraction figures to get even scarier on Friday when it is presented in complete darkness. Visitors will have to rely on light from their smartphones to help guide their way. No flashlights will be allowed.
Use of completely dark and extremely bright rooms plays with people’s vision and distorts their sense of reality as demented clowns and their friends lurk around every corner.
One clown cowers in a corner and asks people to play with her as hundreds of stuffed animals with stab wounds and missing limbs cover every inch of the room. Another area includes a crazed clown mother encouraging her young son to kill.
Six doors are placed throughout the attraction as emergency exits.
“People are saying this year is scarier than last year, even though it’s not as gory as last year,” Horsky said. “This year, it’s all mind-bending.”
IF YOU GO
What: Hauntington Beach Manor
Where: 9631 Sailfish Drive, Huntington Beach
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through October and on Halloween, Oct. 31
Cost: Minimum donation of $5
Information: Instagram @HauntingtonBeach