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The family that haunts together

Halloween: Brothers join forces to create haunted fun for neighborhood

Posted: October 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Left to right, Jill Landeen, Shaylee, 2; William “Bond” Landeen, Kendra, 4; Diamond, 9; Brody, 2 and Kirk Landeen.

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Halloween has always been a favorite of the Landeen brothers.

As kids in Simi Valley, their father would string decorations around the house and even throw in a few special effects during the holiday.

“The biggest thing was a witch that would fly across the yard and scare kids,” said William “Bond” Landeen, a heating and air conditioning contractor. “I guess that’s where we get it from.”

Now fathers themselves, William and Kirk Landeen have surpassed their teacher.

For the last four years, the brothers have transformed William Landeen’s Saugus garage into a high-tech enterprise that attracts hundreds of guests from miles around.

Named Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House, the free tour is labeled as “where Disneyland ends and your nightmares begin.” Tours are available tonight, Saturday and Monday from 7-11 p.m.

There are six featured scenes in the house, including an eerie hotel hallway, city morgue/autopsy room, corpse alley and maze of darkness, plus a boiler and butcher room.

Groups of up to six are allowed in for a tour, which is monitored by infrared camera.  Dark, narrow passages feature frightening décor that includes hanging corpses and cackling photo frames.

At times, guests are submerged into total darkness while eerie music and other noises abound courtesy of four separate sound systems themed for each room.

“It can get loud in here. People scream, and we bang on the walls,” said Kirk Landeen, a graphic designer who resides in Simi Valley.

“It’s really cool, but it’s loud,” William Landeen agreed.

The brothers get ideas each year from attending popular Southern California haunted houses, such as those hosted by Disneyland, Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

“The spider webs were inspired by Knotts Berry Farm,” William Landeen said. “I learned from these other places that things don’t have to be perfect. Actually, when dark comes, the imperfections make it even better.”

Movies, such as “Halloween,” add to the brothers’ inspiration. Iconic horror villain Michael Meyers is stationed prominently in the front, his frightening presence a promise of what’s to come. Sharing the small space is a demonic jester, who slowly rocks back and forth in a creaky old chair.

“We change it up every year, like adding the front porch. Next year, I’m not sure what we’re going to do. We’ll figure something out,” William Landeen said.  “It’s not all me. My friends and Kirk, everyone gets together for brainstorming.”

Children are welcome to enter “Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House” at their parent’s discretion.  The recommended age is 5 or above, though that’s flexible.

“Some parents go through the haunted house holding a 3-year-old in their arms who never cries,” said Kirk Landeen. “Then you’ll get a 10-year-old who’ll totally freak out. Everyone’s different.”

It takes more than a month to prepare for Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House and involves several branches of the Landeen family tree.

Older brother Eric comes out from Simi Valley to help out during the event, while William Landeen’s wife, Jill, is always there for moral support.

“I don’t really get involved, William does most of it,” she said. “I have to watch the kids.”

That would be daughters Kendra, 4, who plays a spooky part in the haunted house, and Shaylee, 2.

“Kendra loves it, but Shaylee gets a bit scared,” Jill Landeen said.

Kirk Landeen’s kids are also part of the fun. Diamond, 9, is an aspiring actress who enjoys getting into character every Halloween. Younger brother Brody, 2, just watches on wide-eyed.

Neighborhood kids often offer their assistance, too.

“They want to scare people,” William Landeen said with a smile.

Ultimately, it takes about 10 people to bring Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House to life.

All props and costs for Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House are absorbed by William Landeen; his brother estimates the investment at more than $5,000 to date.

“It all breaks down, I just store it at my shop until the next year,” William Landeen said.

Glossy color postcards advertising the event are placed around the Santa Clarita Valley at kid-friendly or Halloween-themed establishments for weeks leading up to the big debut.

Donations are accepted for Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House, but not required.

“One neighbor came by last year and gave me $20 as I was breaking down. I said no, but she told me her kids really enjoyed it,” William Landeen said. “The haunted house brings everyone together. Everyone on our street loves it.”

Pumpkin Jack’s Haunted House is open tonight, Saturday and Monday  from 7-11 p.m. 28603 Natalie Lane, Saugus. Free.

 

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