For two decades, Kris Golojuch has delighted neighbors—and fans from all over the county—by turning his Dugan Avenue property into the Haunted Trail.
In 2010, some lines were as long as 2½ hours, he says. Friends in costume and bloody makeup jumped out in the back, front and side yards to add chill to the free thrill, with a pirate theme that would make Johnny Depp proud.
But this Halloween, the self-employed props builder is shadowed by the biggest fright of his life.
“It’s been a financial nightmare,” said Golojuch (pronounced Go-LOW-you). “The bank made a mistake, and of course they want to blame the borrower. So we’ve had to endure a yearlong pain and agony.”
Golojuch, 31, says he was forced into foreclosure “because that was the only way the bank would offer a [loan] modification.”
“It’s one of those things you hope [where] one day you’ll wake up—and the bank will work with you.”
His wife, Maria, had their daughter Kristiana Marie, 5, at a time when the bill was steep.
Her benefits “on the second tier of a union job at Ralphs cost us nearly [$16,000] for the birth of our daughter, which was threatened to go to collections if not paid. Obviously we paid that, which meant our mortgage would suffer to protect our dignity and credit score.”
But when the economy went further south, it “made a major impact on our business,” Scareventures.
He says U.S. Bank, his lender, drew up a payment offer that he agreed to—but the bank “retreated for six months, stating it was still in review. Then one day they decided I was at fault for not submitting the correct forms or info and sent it back to the foreclosure process.”
He came as close as one day to seeing his home sold at auction, he says.
“Since this whole process started, I’ve been able to block at least two auction dates … that last one with an emergency bare-bones Chapter 13 [bankruptcy] in August.”
Amid all this, Golojuch has been working hard toward a four-day Haunted Trail, starting Friday night and ending late Monday—Halloween.
Adam Woods, an old friend from Little League and his Grossmont High School Class of 1999, is helping build a small pirate ship in his front yard, which eventually will be a playground near the south end of Dugan Avenue.
“In exchange for taking in his cat … until he and his wife and child get a place that allows cats, he’s donated time and materials to build the pirate ship/play area for the haunt and my daughter and his son to eventually play on—if we are still here.”
During the hours of operation—7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 to 10 Sunday night and 6 to 10 Monday night—the pirate Firebeard will appear on the ship, floating in special ghostly effects.
Unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean theme borrowed from Disneyland of previous years, the 21st annual edition will feature new elements, Golojuch says.
As a member of CalHaunts (slogan: “If you build it, they will scream”), he says he’s taken to heart some critiques and won’t duplicate a Disney attraction this year, promising to “dump everything we have.”
He promises the overall walk-through experience will be “quite original and unique.”
He’s never charged for the show—which also involves a cast of friends donating their time and talents. But he operates a snack table out front and accepts donations. He’s spent as much as $5,000 of his own money.
Last year, a couple from up the road surprised him with a check for $300, he says. They just wanted to show their appreciation.
This year, Golojuch will accept donations of $5 to move people to the front of the line (or $20 for a group)—“much like a Disneyland FastPass.” During early hours, the jump-from-the-shadows crew will stay away—for the sake of little trick-or-treaters.
Golojuch is trying to stay focused on the holiday, not his housing crisis at 5540 Dugan Ave.
“There was no way I was going to let [anything] stop me from doing this,” he said last week while pouring sand around the pirate ship.
“Even if it’s our last year, we’re going to go out with a bang.”