The Thompson family has been working all month to terrify their Fircrest neighbors.
A mad scientist.
And this year, a new laser light show.
Their tradition of hosting a haunted house each Halloween has been passed down through three generations of Thompsons, said 35-year-old Robert Thompson Jr., who grew up spooking trick-or-treaters with his dad and has now taken over the operation.
“When Oct. 1 rolls around, I kind of get into the mood,” he said, standing next to intestines hanging out from what appeared to be a plastic corpse. “The sound effects, the fog machines. I like to create those illusions, where you kind of feel like you’re lost, and you get scared.”
He gets help from his kids, 10 and 11, as well as his brother.
Son Bobby Thompson, 10, will be the weed-whacker-wielding clown this year, and Robert Thompson Sr., his grandpa, always comes over to check out the family’s handiwork at their home on Manor Drive.
They’ve been preparing the monsters and spooks for a few weeks, but wait until several days before Halloween to take over the family’s garage for the affair.
“I’ve always liked the entertaining fun, being able to give kids something not a lot of people give,” Robert Thompson Jr. said. “Maybe it’s the kid in me.”
He’s’s an electrician, too, he said, so it’s “not some rickety, MacGyvered stuff.”
The family had the haunted house at his home near South 70th and Huson streets (next door to his dad’s residence) until about 2009. That location, right across from a cemetery, was perfect, Thompson said.
As they’ve moved around Fircrest, they’ve taken the haunting with them, though people still knock at the old house to ask where it went. They moved their fright show to the Manor Drive house in 2011.
But don’t come to the front door. The 75-foot maze, skeletons, zombies and all the rest are in the garage or the driveway, accessible from Alameda Avenue at Baylor Street.
Thompson said Guitar Center in Tacoma even donated a fancy strobe light when workers heard what he was doing. It’ll be one of several new lighting effects he’s adding to this year’s masterpiece.
Thompson guesses he’s dropped a few grand over the years, accumulating all his terror supplies. Attendance has been increasing, and he estimates the roughly 300 visitors of last Halloween will double this year.
Thompson’s talked to Fircrest Police Chief John Cheesman to make sure it would be OK to have a big turnout. He got the go-ahead, as long as traffic stays under control, Thompson said. They’re recommending people park at nearby Whittier Elementary School, 777 Elm Tree Lane.
Some Halloweens the family has done less than others, but they have had some version of the haunted house for decades, and also do a Christmas light show.
When the Thompson kids were in junior high, they made coffins and things for the yard, noted their mom, Cathy.
“It just went on from one thing to the next,” she said. “I see them probably doing this for years to come.”
The family hands out treats with their tricks, too — though they say there’s never enough.
Cathy Thompson said she lost count of how many trips to the store they made to replenish the stash last Halloween.
“It takes oodles and oodles of candy for all these kids,” said her son, estimating he could spend $200 if he tried to get enough for all the haunted house attendees.
He’s not stingy with it, either, he added: “I don’t want to be that guy that’s like: ‘Here’s one piece.’ We give a handful.”
They’ll start the spooking about 7 p.m. or so on Thursday, and will keep haunting until it slows down, usually about 10 p.m., Thompson said.
“As soon as the darkness hits, it’s on.”