Poison Oak Haunted House brings the Fear

Most people are skeptical of haunted houses set up around Halloween time. These places are usually set up with props that can be bought at local costume stores and there is the use of generic playlists that include zombies moaning, chains being dragged and sudden piercing screams. Usually haunted houses are a disappointment.

The Poison Oak Haunted house does not disappoint, rather it leaves you with your heart racing and a smile on your face. Adam Johnston's dedication and love for his designs shines through in his work. Every step into his house's haunted pathways is one taken with hesitation because there really is no idea of what is coming next. There is a unique blend of lights and sounds to keep a person on the edge. "If it's not an obsession you're not gonna get this far," said Johnston. He has been working on props and creating new ideas for this haunted house for 13 years now.

In the heart of Santa Monica on 1349 Oak St. Johnston has been working since November of last year to spark fear into the hearts of all those who enter his Poison Oak Haunted House. Johnston has spent over $20,000 this year to convert his home into a maze of horror with strobe lights, spooky sounds, thrashing bodies, and splattered blood, but that was just this year's expenses as Johnston has spent over $50,000 total on his creations. This project has been his dream for many years with his inspiration sparking from the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and an episode of the "Little Rascals" where they were wandering through a haunted house.

Every year he adds new pieces to his haunted house to scare people even more, and he has perfected the art of terrifying crowds with bodies in bags twitching as you walk by, dogs barking and lurching for you, and everything else that's just waiting in the darkness to pounce on unsuspecting victims.

There has been a progression to the house over the years. He started off with chicken wire and ketchup on dummies and slowly built up new ideas and new ways to move his props over the years. His dedication sent him to junkyards where he would pull windshield wiper motors out of cars and eventually moved on to the redesign of the crawlspace underneath of his house. "I crawled under my house so many times you cannot believe it." Johnston said. The compressed airlines that run all over his house are part of the heart that keeps his haunted house running, which has now become an institution with lines forming down the block.

Johnston has been able to incorporate his passion of sound into his passion for creating with this project. He has been a sound editor for over 30 years and has worked on numerous television shows including "ER," "My Own Worst Enemy," and "Smallville." All of the hard work that he has put into this haunted experience is all of his own creation and design. "People think I'm in special effects and I get this stuff from the studio, but I build everything," Johnston said about his haunted house.

His passion for sound is one of the key ingredients in creating the perfect horrifying mood. "I had to have good sound, it brings everything to life," Johnston adds.

But there is more to this haunted house than just a couple fun nights during Halloween time. This haunted house has been a positive addition to the community Johnston lives in. "People drive by, 'are you doing it this year?!'" said Johnston. "That part I really love about it, I love the whole community and everyone just coming together. It's nice." And the neighborhood is very appreciative of his efforts every year as well.

Families get excited as Halloween approaches and people are curious to see the changes to his haunted house year after year. "This is the best ever!" said Sandee Black a local resident of the Santa Monica neighborhood. "This is actually the best. This is just a treat for the neighborhood. There are lines, lines, lines."

There is so much to see and so much to be scared by at Johnston's haunted house. If there is any doubt in your mind what you'll be doing the weekend of Halloween, just take a stop at the Poison Oak Haunted House and see what all the praise is about.

Experience the terror that waits in the darkness of the night. "I want to hit you as hard as I can and scare you the most dramatically as I possibly can," Said Johnston. The Poison Oak Haunted House will be open Oct. 30 through Nov. 1 from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. with free admission, but donations are welcome.