HANFORD — “When we hear them screaming and crying, it makes it all worth it,” Jared Oliveira said.
Oliveira and his wife, Angie, operate the Douty Street Nightmare haunted house out of their home on the north side of town. This will be the seventh year the popular haunted amusement has been scaring crowds – and scaring up dollars for cancer research.
Jared said that turning their own home into a haunted house can be “surreal” but the couple don’t mind living among ghoulish decorations and walking through fake cobwebs and plastic curtains to get from room to room because it’s for a good cause.
“Every October we just accept that we’re going to live in a state of chaos for a while,” he said.
Construction on this year’s haunt began in mid-September, he said, which has included many spooky renovations, including making a path through the house, out the back and through the backyard and shed – all areas that will be full of ghosts, goblins and monsters by Friday.
The haunt changes from year to year and, harkening back to the days of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this year’s theme is black and white horror. The color will be drained not just from the faces of scared thrill-seekers, but from the haunted experience itself, as the Oliveira's seek to recreate old school horror in their backyard.
“It’s like stepping into a black and white movie,” Jared said. “It’s like a whole other world.”
A cast of over two dozen actors hidden on the property will make it their goal to scare groups as they’re led through the property.
While the haunted house is free to visitors, there is a $1 suggested donation. The proceeds will benefit Relay for Life, a community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.
Last year, the Oliveira's hosted around 1,000 people in their haunted abode, and raised over $500 for cancer research. Jared said that, due to the charitable nature of the attraction, he sees visitors who wouldn’t normally want to spend an evening being scared by strangers.
Angie’s father died from complications with cancer and Jared’s grandfather currently battles the disease.
“We were happy to give what we could, but we want to do better this year,” he said.
The haunted house first opened its doors when Jared realized he had quite the collection of creepy decorations amassed from years of shopping at Halloween stores and going to haunted house conventions, including many full-size mannequins of skeletons, grim reapers and zombies.
“I thought, ‘they can’t just sit in the closet forever, I’ve got to do something with these,’” he said.
The haunt’s debut Halloween, which was at Oliveira’s previous home on Elm Street, saw only 20 or 30 visitors, but the event has grown by leaps in the years since and it’s not unusual for hundreds of people to visit per night, leading to wait times of up to several hours.
While no one will be turned away from the haunted shenanigans, the couple advises that the haunt is scary and not intended for children.
“We’re kid-friendly, but if they come through we’re still going to scare them,” Angie, whose favorite holiday is Halloween, said.
“We have had parents come through that have brought their kids with them that have gotten upset that we scared them,” Jared said. “What did you expect? It’s a haunted house and we’re going to scare you.”
Jared attributes word of mouth to the growth of the haunt and admits that the nightmare may outgrow Douty Street soon and they may look into hosting the event at the Kings Fair or another large venue to accommodate the foot traffic. The couple said that thrill-seekers come to the haunt from Lemoore, Visalia and even Fresno.
“People like to be scared. They get here and they hear the screams and sounds inside and they get excited,” he said. “People who love to be scared come and they bring along their friends who don’t like it. Those are the people it’s really fun to scare.”
Jared said that a reason the haunt has become so well-liked over the years is not because it’s a sudden scare and quickly forgotten, but it’s an entire experience. Waiting in line with friends, the anxious energy and meeting others experiencing the same thing while in line are all part of what becomes a memorable night for thrill seekers.
Outside of Halloween week the Oliveira's are quiet neighbors, they said, and that their neighborhood doesn’t seem to mind the sounds of rattling chains or the sight of hockey-masked slashers roaming the bushes one weekend a year.
Angie said that the neighbors are all treated to front-of-the-line passes, as well.