HUNTSVILLE — Jackson Barber is ready to scare the pants off of Ogden Valley this Halloween.
Jackson’s the mastermind behind Dark Nightmare Haunted Attraction, a new haunted house opening this weekend along Highway 39 in Huntsville. The two-story barn haunt is filled with the greatest hits of Halloween: creepy dolls, zombies, scarecrows, clowns, and — of course — a chainsaw wielding maniac.
“I like seeing people get scared. I like the atmosphere,” Jackson said of his haunt. “This whole field will be filled with fog, and the atmosphere with the lights and stuff ... it’s pretty cool.”
It’s a pretty big production for an adult, let alone for a freshman at Snowcrest Junior High.
Jackson, 14, has been spooking Huntsville residents for years by creating free yard haunts at his home. Around 300 people showed up in 2017 to his home haunt.
“We started doing little porch haunts and then it spread out to our whole yard,” Jackson said. “I kind of like the creative part of it, of putting it all together and seeing it come to life.”
This year, he and his family decided to branch out and open a much bigger, commercial-like operation in the barn owned by Bill and Alane White. Jackson also decided to use the haunted house as an opportunity to give back to a very personal cause.
When he was three years old, Jackson was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and went through chemotherapy treatment to fight the disease. He received a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has been cancer free for 11 years.
All proceeds from the Dark Nightmare Haunted Attraction will go to Make-A-Wish this year. Jackson hopes to raise at least $10,000 for the foundation from a combination of ticket sales and donations.
“I wanted to combine the haunted house with Make-A-Wish to give back,” he said.
The teen has been working hard for the last month to get the barn ready for opening weekend. He built and painted 80 wooden panels for the maze, splattered blood and neon paint, set up 100 lights, and arranged all the props for each room.
While he’s had some help from friends and volunteers, Jackson and his mom, Janelle Barber, have done most of the work on haunted barn. The two were still setting up some areas of house on Wednesday afternoon.
“Jackson starts talking about Halloween on Nov. 1,” Janelle said. “I’ve never been as big of a Halloween person ... I really do it for him.”
With the support of his parents, Jackson has amassed quite the collection of Halloween props, including animatronic clowns, high quality masks, and an enormous werewolf puppet.
He’s been to visit Universal Studios twice to meet with Halloween Horror Nights creative director John Murdy. Murdy provided a behind-the-scenes look at the theme park’s haunted houses and gave Jackson some insight on lighting and other ways to do practical effects.
He also does a lot of his own research, reading about the haunting industry online and learning easier ways to build parts of the house. He’s too young to go to the big convention held each other, but he knows all the vendors and who to order from.
Around 25 student actors from DaVinci Academy in Ogden will join the haunt, leaping out of shadows or banging on walls to give visitors a fright.
“We do a lot of jump scares. We don’t do a whole bunch of gory stuff because there’s a lot of younger kids that come through,” he said.
Dark Nightmare Haunted Attractions isn’t recommended for young children.
The haunted house is open from 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 220 S. 7700 East in Huntsville. General admission is $10, with other ticket options available for $15 and $20. Visitors can bring a can of food to donate to Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah to get $2 off ticket prices.
The Ogden Valley Smokehouse food truck will be on premises while the house is in operation.
For more information or to donate to Jackson’s cause, visit utah.wish.org/hauntedhouse or www.facebook.com/DarkNightmareHauntedAttraction.