Homemade haunted houses an Austin family's tradition

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

AUSTIN, TX (KTRK) -- Matt and Sarah Haley's two-car garage in south Austin will not hold any cars this Halloween night. Instead, trick-or-treaters and their parents will occupy their transformed space, a den of haunted house delights.

This year's theme is "Cthulhu's Swamp," complete with realistic swamp grasses and a huge homemade mask crafted from newspaper rolls and papier mache.

It's all in the construction phase in the days before Halloween. Totes and bags filled with masks, piping, tape, and costumes litter the Haleys' garage, but it's all taking shape. At any point this week, you could catch Sarah, an artist, painting a mural of a spooky swamp or Matt wiring the garage with haunting music and strategically placing lights to set the scary scene.

The Haleys spend countless hours putting up their haunted house and hundreds of dollars to construct it. And the couple has a record of putting on a good show. For the past four years, neighborhood children have visited their house to see the frights of Egypt, the scares of aliens in space, and the bowels of a mad scientist's lab.

It's all in good fun and for the community, according to the Haleys.

Matt wrote to Eyewitness News, "Despite the bad rap Halloween sometimes gets, it is still the greatest nationwide community event we have in America. On Halloween, everyone gets to interact with their neighbors in a direct way, with the opportunity to display their creativity and generosity to one another.

"I think kids really benefit from the experience of the community creating this positive experience for them, and to me, making a haunted house is the best way I can contribute to that experience. When I was a kid, I remember being so tickled whenever neighbors went the extra mile to make Halloween a special night for us. I hope to return that sense of elation and excitement I experienced to today's kids."

Sarah added that creative events, such as elaborate birthday parties for friends, are something they loved doing when they were dating and enjoy doing now as a family with their 2-year-old daughter.

Sarah said, "Halloween is one of our favorite holidays because of the creative possibilities. ... We couldn't wait (until) we had a house of our own and lived in a neighborhood with trick-or-treaters so that we could do it."

The haunted house is for everyone, they say. Matt and Sarah provide a 'non-scare' version of the haunt without all the scary reveals so the little ones can also enjoy it.

The haunted house is free, but this year, the couple is accepting canned goods that they plant to donate to a local shelter for Thanksgiving.