Family’s annual haunted house becomes Minnehaha neighborhood tradition

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter


photoMax Milton, 9, right, sits on his bike while Gavin Brandt, 9, leaves a haunted house display created by Max’s father, Mark. Top: The bloody mirror is a new addition to the Miltons’ Halloween display.

(/The Columbian)

A few of the County’s Halloween houses

Here's a list of Halloween houses in Clark County submitted by readers:

4100 N.E. 51st St.: Spooky maze including a Bloody Mary mirror and a nuclear waste site. Yard transformed into a graveyard including coffins and between 30 and 40 headstones. Drive by any time. Maze open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31.

15611 N.E. Hickory St.: Home haunt with a haunted house and graveyard. Shows with thunder, lightning and animatronics at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 and 31. Drive by any time.

15020 N.E. Sorrel Drive: Several hundred lights illuminate “BOOnanza,” which features flying witches, goblins, friendly ghosts, spiders, skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, bats and a cemetery. Lights are on nightly from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. through Oct. 31.

1904 S.E. 190th Ave: Hagatha’s Haunt features haunting special effects that are entertaining for gremlins of any age. The display can be viewed dusk to midnight nightly through Oct. 31.

If you go

What: Eighth annual Miltons’ Spooky Ally.

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31.

Where: 4100 N.E. 51st St., Vancouver.

Cost: Free.

During the eight-year annual tradition of creating a homemade Halloween amusement park for his now 9-year-old son, Vancouver resident Mark Milton’s macabre designs have become so convincing that he recently scared himself.

Milton was absorbed in working on the Miltons’ Spooky Alley on Oct. 17 in the family’s garage when he turned a corner, and an electronic black cat with flashing red LED eyes started screeching and shaking the small kennel which Milton had placed it in to scare others.

“It scared me a lot last night because I was moving along, and all of a sudden it went crazy,” Milton said.

While endowed with the power to catch revelers unaware, the cat is one of the less gruesome parts of Milton’s display.

The exhibits have become more elaborate every year and too grand not to share with the public, said Milton’s wife, Deanna.

The haunted house will be open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31 at the family’s home, 4100 N.E. 51st St. in the East Minnehaha neighborhood.

The display spans the couple’s front yard, three-bay garage and backyard.

“It’s just kind of grown over the years,” Mark Milton said.

This year, a bloody mirror and nuclear waste site have joined the house of horrors.

The “bloody” cracked mirror hangs above a cabinet and sink with a faucet that spouts blood. Looking into the mirror, you can see more than your own reflection. Behind the two-way glass — the type used in police interrogation rooms — you can see a terrifying creature lurching at you. In this case, the creature was Milton. On Halloween night, there will be a variety of family and friends dressed up in costume to scare the older children.

Deanna Milton said she instructs people not to try to scare the younger children.

“It’s family-friendly,” she said.

Also new to the production is a design by Milton’s son, 9-year-old Max.

“Max came up with the most frightening thing this year,” Mark Milton said.

Max’s idea was to put out ice blocks, each containing a horror that will be revealed when the ice melts, Milton said. One contains a plastic severed hand; another has a rat inside with a stretchy tail hanging out of the block.

Some of the original displays also continue. The displays include a foggy cemetery, two large inflated pumpkins and an authentic pumpkin. Milton and Max picked out the biggest pumpkin they could find.

“This is the biggest pumpkin on earth,” Max declared.

The scariness builds as the visitor passes through a black inflatable archway into a laser light show through which the visitor must contend with tickling cobwebs and may encounter a huge spider or someone dressed up as something else horrific.

Inside, there’s dripping nuclear waste, Max’s Wheel of Death, bats, body parts, a bottomless pit and sensory activities.

The couple spends a couple of hundred dollars for the materials, candy for visitors and fog juice each year, Milton said. They’ve been able to cut down on costs by shopping at yard sales, thrift stores and on clearance. The bloody mirror, sink and cabinet, for instance, only cost a couple of dollars, Milton said.

“We are as frugal as we can because we are not wealthy by any means,” Milton said.

Friends have also helped to pitch in. Their friend Brian Brandt built a coffin for the display this year.

“There will be a kid lying in it to scare people,” Deanna said.

‘Safe environment’

Milton came up with the idea for Spooky Alley                                                eight years ago after he and his wife moved to Vancouver from San Jose, Calif., because they thought Vancouver would be a good place to raise Max, who has autism.

Max was 18 months old when Milton created the first Halloween display.

“We decided we wanted a safe environment for our son and his friends to play during Halloween,” Deanna said. “We love Halloween. We thought, ‘We have this big house. How fun would it be to do a display in our house.’”

Setting up this year’s display took four to eight hours per day for more than two weeks, Milton said.

The production takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it, the couple said.

“It gives me an excuse to do stupid things,” Mark Milton quipped.

“Mark also does anything to make Max happy,” Deanna added. “To see the look on Max’s face makes it all worth it.”

The novelty of Spooky Alley                                                hasn’t worn off for Max. One day last week at dusk, Max, who was dressed up as a Ghostbuster, and his friend, 6-year-old Mikah Brandt, dressed as a cheetah, raced through the displays in exhilarated delight, laughing and screaming as they encountered the display’s thrills and chills.

The family has a Halloween party for Max’s friends at Spooky Alley                                                before Halloween and then opens the display up to the public on Halloween.

“It’s awesome,” Max said.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551;;;