When Mike Barrera of San Jose, California, was a little boy, he always dreamed of building spooky haunted houses.
He recalled joing his grandmother around Halloween to decorate their family home with ghoulish ghosts and creepy cobwebs. During the rest of the year, he would construct miniature haunts with building blocks and Lincoln Logs.
"Halloween became part of me from as far back as I can remember," Barrera said.
As the years passed by, Barrera aspired to recreate his childhood hobby. He began working professionally on haunted houses with people in his South San Jose community, and was eventually able to open his own full-scale attraction last year.
However, Barrera quickly realized that many families were excluded from participating in Halloween festivities due to inhibitive prices.
"I saw how expensive it was for a simple, average family to go out to these events," he said. "It could cost a family of four $100 or more – and that’s a lot of money."
So Barrera decided to launch and operate his own haunted house -- dubbed the Bernal Scream -- for free out of his backyard.
The Barrera family poured $6,000 into the attraction, installing digital effects, dropping floors and even hiring professional actors.
"We offer everything a pro-level show offers," he said. "The only difference is that we are free to the public."
When the attraction finishes its 3-day run this Halloween, more than 2,500 people will have voyaged through the immersive maze. The huge response has prompted Barrera to consider finding a new location next year, in part to give a break to his neighbors who he said have been "really supportive and understanding."
But even if the haunted house does move to a rented space next year, Barrera said he’ll still be dedicated to making sure the experience remains cost-friendly, if not completely free.
"Money shouldn’t stand in the way of family experience," he said. "[This is for] all the parents that are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to share these kinds of family moments together."
For more information on the Bernal Scream, check out the event page on Facebook. The haunted house starts at 7 p.m., though a line usually forms around 6 p.m.