Every October for the last four years, William “Jay” Horsky’s Huntington Beach home transforms into the Hauntington Beach Manor — a homemade haunted house of mind-bending scares.
Horsky, who runs a Huntington Beach plumbing business and once contracted with Orange Coast College, said the Manor is his passion project, and outdoing himself each year is what makes him the happiest. He donates all proceeds from entrance fees to charities.
“My grandkids made me do it,” Horsky said of how he got started. “I do it because I love it, but it’s amazing to bring my family and friends together in the Halloween spirit.”
One Halloween, Horsky went all out on the decorations for his grandchildren. There were bodies hanging off nooses from trees in the front yard, and trick-or-treating kids were too scared to go up to the door for candy.
“My grandkids were like, ‘Oh this is cool — they’re chicken, they’re scared! Grandpa, you’ve gotta do this bigger.’ At the time I thought, ‘This is my entire front yard. Bigger? I have nowhere to go.’ That didn’t last very long,” Horsky said.
Horsky’s haunt is now built through and around his house. The maze stretches around the garage and into the pool, with a bridge that drops visitors six inches into a cloud of fog.
“We scare the living crap out of people. Seeing the reactions of everyone who comes through here every year, it just makes me so happy. It makes it all worth it,” Horsky said.
In the earliest years of the haunt, a lot of props were bought from Halloween stores, which Horsky now refers to as “cheesy.” Today, almost all of his props are homemade.
One walkway in the Manor dangles body parts from the ceiling — all of which were molded and modeled after real body parts of real people he knows. A model of Horsky’s daughter’s leg, his accountant’s arm, and his girlfriend’s chest are just some of the flesh models.
“There’s nothing else out there like it. It’s more personal and authentic,” Horsky said.
Horsky’s grandchildren, who first encouraged him to start the Haunt, remain the founding and scariest actors in the Haunt today, he said.
“It’s amazing to see the kids’ acting and to have my family here with me. It’s something I love, and now something all of us can get together and enjoy,” Horsky said.
Horsky’s mother Faith Horsky said Halloween was never something big for their family to celebrate, but it’s become an important tradition to their family and community.
She helps with the haunt as a cashier collecting donations, but she also makes a big effort to warn families the maze isn’t suitable for young children. Regardless of the warnings, children are frequently too scared to make it through, and parents often leave their children at the front while they walk through.
“These parents send their kids off to someone they’ve never met before, but then I calm (the kids) down and ask them what scared them, and that is just really fun,” Faith Horsky said.
Horsky works year round to make the haunt scarier and more authentic each year. He indulges in planning the next year’s themes and concepts, and perfects his homemade sets and props for months at a time, all around his regular day job of running his plumbing business.
Even when Horsky faced a prostate cancer diagnosis, he spent time in between radiation treatments planning for his next haunt.
“I wasn’t going to accept my life was over, so I continued to focus on what makes me happy,” he said.
Horsky said after radiation, he’s been in remission. He doesn’t worry about it nearly as much as his family does, he said. Even in times of sickness and turmoil, Horsky remains focused on what’s important.
Having fun with his family, friends and community is what makes him the happiest.
The Hauntington Beach Manor is open for its final night this season today from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at 9631 Sailfish Drive in Huntington Beach. Admission is a suggested $10 donation with all proceeds donated to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Patriots and Paws.