By Marianne Love
There have been few positive highlights stemming from the shutdown two and a half years ago from the COVID pandemic. But one is taking place soon at the Woodland Hills home of 12-year-old Elliott Arnold, a seventh-grader at Louis Armstrong Middle School in Sherman Oaks.
He was bored that first year stuck at home, and as Halloween approached the idea of making a haunted house crossed his mind. The pandemic put a damper on his plan, but not on his imagination and creativity. So this year’s Halloween is a different story.
Arnold spent much of his time this past year plotting the theme and design of the project he has constructed as a spooky maze in his family’s garage.
The rest was up to his imagination — and those of who dare to enter the garage, which now doubles as a three-room journey into the abyss of zombies, dead human creatures, sawed-off arms, spiders, human skulls and bloody knives.
“(Guests) will learn they are in a horror show where their house has been broken into,” Elliott explained on Friday, Oct. 14, describing his “Deadly Attempt Haunted House,” a free event starting Oct. 28. “And after hours of being chased (they) will find themselves running into this office,” where other horrors unfold, he said.
He figured out the lighting, the sound effects and other elements that go into creating a haunted house to frighten the best of us.
Last month, his “scare” actors rehearsed their roles for opening night, which will feature, among others, his sister, 10-year-old Evelyn Arnold.
Oct. 1 marked the first day of construction. “It’s truly been a long process to put this huge puzzle together, but in the end my team and I had a ton of fun,” Elliott said.
As visitors to the haunted-house enter the “office ambience” where two large skulls mark the entry, they’ll encounter flashing lights, blood and a blue ghost image projected onto the floor in a dark and moody scene.
This is what horror movies are made of.
In the second room, designed as if a visitor is stepping into a forest with a whiff of a musky garden scent wafting in the air, a mummified zombie character — Evelyn — frightens guests as she jumps out and slashes a dead figure with a bloody knife.
“I’m basically a mummified killer who goes after people and chases them into the next room,” said Evelyn, a fifth-grader at Sherman Oaks Elementary School. She supports her older brother’s project, offering advice here and there, but basically does what he asks.
After the “zombie” chases the maze visitors to enter the third and final room, visitors encounter a life-size “dead” figure, more skulls and a billboard of “missing persons.”
Upon exiting, they’ll meet up with a life-size “harvester of souls” dressed in a long black frock and spewing out loud, chilling sounds. He said he has been inspired by Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.
Elliott’s parents, Robyn and Zack Arnold, have his full support in creating a project that showcases his creative juices. His father helped in a limited capacity.
“Many parents would look at a project like this and do it for their child,” his father, Zack, said. “We don’t do that. The only thing I did in here was for safety purposes.”
Elliott’s mother, Robyn, said her son watched scary TV shows and movies from an early age, but always knew they weren’t real because that’s how the family rolls. He was most intrigued by the presentation and the lighting — not the frightening aspect. As a youngster, he dressed up as Norman Bates, the infamous character in the 1960 horror film Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
“When we went to Disneyland, he would go up to Mickey Mouse and tell Mickey ‘I know you aren’t real,’” Robyn Arnold said of Elliott at an early age. “This (project) was a balance between school and being creative and learning to find a balance. It has taught him to budget his time and budget his money for what’s important to him.”
Elliott has perfect school attendance, is an assistant backstage manager at his school, a talented math student and a Boy Scout working toward the highest Eagle Scout rank.
Many of the props for Elliott’s “Deadly Attempt Haunted House,” were donated by family friends, but the nearly $800 to $1,000 he spent to create his haunted house was earned with birthday money, working on his grandparents’ Wisconsin farm mowing lawns and weeding, and also assisting his dad on a film he is producing.
For more information, visit https://www.arnoldhalloweenexperience.com.
Hours of operation are 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 28; 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Oct. 29; and 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 30. Admission is free. The location is 20611 Tiara St., Woodland Hills. It is recommended that children under 10 years old be accompanied by a guardian.