Neighbor's complaint halts teen's haunted house tradition

As Halloween approaches, a neighborhood haunted house in Albany has been halted by a neighbor's complaint.    

"This is the closet area, which will be almost pitch black," 15-year-old Sam Du Bois told KTVU as he offered a tour through the incomplete project on Peralta Avenue.

It occupies the backyard of the home Sam shares with his mom, Holly. 

"I hope it's not shut-down, because the kids have worked so hard on it," she told KTVU.

For the past two years, Sam has created an attraction he calls the "Albany Haunt". 

"It gets larger and larger to convey the sense that you're smaller and smaller, a child having a nightmare," he explained, describing a lopsided room with the walls painted to appear old and rotting.  

Judging by his "farm" theme last year, Sam is serious about his scares. That creation features special lighting, amplified sound effects, and live actors.

This year's theme is "bad dreams."

"We'll go from the dentist nightmare to a transition, then the next nightmare, a carnival," he said, describing his intentions. 

For the past two years, the haunt has been constructed on the Du Bois' driveway and hundreds of people have streamed through over two weekends. This year, he moved it to the backyard.  

"The main thing is, we're donating food and money to the food bank," explained Sam. He says by setting out food barrels and accepting donations, he has donated 2,500 meals worth for the Alameda Food Bank.   

He also says neighbors help monitor its operation, and other young people help get it built. 

"I taught myself first, and then I taught a lot of kids how to build and paint and do stuff that you don't usually get to do," Sam said.

For now, though, all he and his friends can do is decorate, not build. 

A next door neighbor has challenged his city permit, claiming the ever-expanding attraction is a nuisance, both when it's open and under construction, in addition to being traumatic for their five-year-old son.

"It's more than one hundred people a night, " neighbor Sandra Bezerra told KTVU. "And there's six months of construction before that, then screaming and bloody figures. My son is already getting scared! And he's been tested for sleeping problems." 

The neighbor on the other side of the Du Bois home can see the haunted house plywood and tarps from her deck.

But she believes, since trick-or-treaters swarm the street anyway, Sam's haunted house just adds to the community feeling.

"I think his efforts should be applauded," declared Barbara Cooper. "Because he's a teenager who's trying to do something good and I'm glad the community is behind him." 

Sam's mom says she hopes the show goes on. She's proud of her son's efforts and how they pay off.

"It's in limbo. Being in limbo is really hard, because it's really fun seeing grown men running screaming from my front yard," Holly Du Bois admitted. "Just terrified; absolutely terrified. The kids have a lot of fun."  

The permit appeal was filed so late, it cannot be heard until October 28th. So even if the teenager wins, Halloween weekend will be all he can salvage this season.

"I've learned a lot more about city government through all this," Sam told KTVU.

An experience with its own thrills and chills.