Eric Rankin has transformed his eastside home at 283 Lilac Lane into a haunted castle to raise money for Kaiser Primary Center and Kaiser Elementary School, where his children are students.
Rankin and his neighbors spent two weeks preparing tombstones, flying ghosts, goblins, enormous spiders and an evil grandfather clock that terrifies visitors better than it tells time.
Interior displays feature a gang of capricious skeletons who commandeer a rustic island hut and hands that are not attached to bodies but seem to have minds of their own. Costumed volunteers help with the special effects.
Because the attraction is open to children, the house is free of gore, blood and brutal imagery. The intention is to thrill youngsters with conventional Halloween characters such as Frankenstein's monster, werewolves and classic ghouls.
"It's geared for kids, but there's enough entertainment for adults," said Rankin, 36.
Nina Hinojosa, 13, of Costa Mesa said the "coolest" display is the skeleton pirates.
"It kind of reminds me of the Pirates of the Caribbean," the popular Disneyland attraction, she said. "It's kind of rad."
Lisa Weil, 12, also of Costa Mesa, said the elements of surprise are quite effective.
The scariest part, she said, "is where the hand pops out at you, and you're not expecting it."
Officials at the Kaiser schools, part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, said they are thrilled with the fund-raising effort. Proceeds are to benefit science programs.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for a community member to do something nice for a school where his children attend," said Kathryn Hofer, principal at Kaiser Primary Center. Last year, the themed house pulled in $600 for library books and supplies. This year's goal is $1,000.
The haunted castle is open from 6 to 8 p.m. today. On Thursday, Halloween, it will open at 6 p.m. and close in accordance with demand. Admission is $1. Information: (714) 760-3416.