Things are starting to look a little less serene and a little more like Halloween on Huntington Beach's Serene Drive. The Earwood family and friends are busy erecting their highly anticipated and feared Earrywood Haunted House for the 11th year in a row, complete with nearly a dozen horrifying rooms and hallways, 30 monsters and no escapes.
What began as a fifth birthday celebration for Ken and Teri Earwood's middle son, Brady, has "snowballed," as Ken describes it, into a two-night horror show that leaves children and adults alike crying and running from Earrywood in fear every year. What makes the haunted house so truly terrifying is its carefully paced entry. Groups of four or less tiptoe—at their own risk—through the maze of themed rooms and will likely never come in contact with other humans until they exit. The occasional bottleneck may occur when guests freeze in fright, but usually "you don't know what's coming around the other side," says Ken, a financial advisor and avid surfer.
Earrywood also maintains its eeriness thanks to its unregulated, suburban charm. Consuming the Earwood's side yard, the haunted house is manned by family and friends, so "you really don't know what's back there," says Ken. While we'll refrain from spoiling the spooks, we will tell you to expect a few familiar faces, like Freddy Krueger and the delightful demon from The Exorcist, clowns, a butcher, dolls whispering in your ears, creatures grabbing at your limbs, bodies hiding in corners, gore, different music tracks in each room, a scene from one of Ken's nightmares, strobe lights, fog machines, screams and perhaps a chainsaw or two.
Although "parents want to torture their kids," says Ken, they are advised to leave children under age 8 at home. "It's super scary," Ken warns, with Teri adding, "There's no getting out."
While the month-long construction and decoration of Earrywood is simple, according to Ken, the entire process is quite complex. The Earwoods meet with the core Earrywood families—the Barkers, Parkses, Braithwaites, Gileses and Duskys—to review last year's notes (yes, they take notes) and dream up an improved, scarier experience each year. With the help of friends, family and kids from church and local middle and high schools, the building begins. Ken says, "We can't do it without our neighbors, friends and family," who are the driving force behind the annual haunted house.
"We do it for the neighborhood kids," says Teri, who grew up in the very house aside Earrywood. The stay-at-home mom notes that when she was a kid, neighborhood streets filled with trick-or-treaters on Halloween. But the roads fell lonely and silent by the time her three costumed children sought tricks and treats. The creation of Earrywood revived Halloween in the 'hood, with families centering their All Hallows' Eve parties around the haunted house and penning thank you notes to the Earwoods.
They also do it for the thrill. "There's nothing better than scaring somebody," says Ken, beaming at the thought of shrieking children, women and men.
Entry to Earrywood Haunted House is free, but visitors should expect to wait at least 45 minutes to an hour to face the fright. Thanks to a plug in the Huntington Beach Wave last year, Earrywood welcomed about 1,500 people into its dark doors. Typically, about 400 to 500 people show up on the first night, and another 600 to 800 save the hauntings for Halloween night. Earrywood will be open on Saturday, October 26, from about 7 to 11 p.m., and Thursday, October 31, from about 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Scares begin once darkness falls and end once the last victim runs screaming.
Earrywood Haunted House is located at 5631 Serene Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92649.