On Oct. 26, Dan Earls stands among some of the ghosts and ghouls that greet people who visit the haunted garage he constructs at his home each year. Earls, who lives at 9420 Berners Ave., welcomes hundreds of people a season to his display, which winds through his garage and spreads onto a neighbor's yard. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Haunting for canned goods

Donate a canned good for a haunting good time

On a Halloween evening in the 1980s, Dan Earls was trick-or-treating in the neighborhoods of Juneau. After collecting candy at a house with a long driveway, he turned to make his way back to the street. At the end of the driveway, the homeowner popped out of a makeshift coffin, scaring Earls and prompting him to drop his candy.

The memory of the fright, and its delight, have led to a lifelong love of Halloween for Earls — an enthusiasm he eagerly shares with the community.

In October, Earls decorates his yard and transforms his garage into a haunting attraction that helps generate canned goods and non-perishable items for local food banks.

“It just became a thing,” Earls said, explaining that he started to work on his Halloween decorations about 18 years ago.

On Thursday, he was deploying some finishing touches to the display. He said that bad weather earlier this month slowed him down. Usually, it takes about a month to set up all of his decorations, he said.

An avid woodworker, Earls made many of the decorations. For those he buys, he often customizes them with motors and sensors to add to the fun.

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He said that his wife and three daughters help him create his displays and bring him items he can use for Halloween throughout the year. He said his wife once brought a duffle bag full of fake heads back from Anchorage—a process that made them both laugh.

A good scare

Walking through Earls’ 40-foot-by-48-foot garage is a thrilling experience.

Heavy black sheeting divides the space into separate rooms, each featuring an assortment of horrors that range from spiders to creepy clowns to traditional specters and monsters.

Several of the items are animatronic and motion-activated—a feature Earls has added to many of the displays.

Strobe lights, pop-up scares, sound effects and music give each room a distinct feel.

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It’s back!

Last year, COVID-19 thwarted the event, so Earls is hoping for a big turnout this year.

During a typical year, Earls said that about 350 kids and adults pass through his haunted garage each night that it’s open. He offers candy to each person who walks through, emptying four to five Costco-sized bags of candy each year.

He doesn’t charge admission, but he does ask each person who attends to bring canned goods or non-perishable items, which he donates to local food banks.

He’s hoping to set record donation levels this year—topping his 2018 haul of 1,800 pounds of donated food.

Know & Go

Located at 9420 Berners Ave., Earls Haunted Garage is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 30.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, it’s open between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Masks are required.

Earls asks that people bring a canned good or non-perishable item to donate, if you can.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

A clown performs a ghoulish surgery inside Earls Haunted Garage on Oct. 28. The clown is one of many scenes on display at the Halloween spectacle that Dan Earls creates each year. Those wishing to tour the haunted garage, donate a canned good or non-perishable item as an admission fee. Earls, who creates the display, hopes to collect a record number of donations for local food banks by hosting the haunted garage. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

A clown performs a ghoulish surgery inside Earls Haunted Garage on Oct. 28. The clown is one of many scenes on display at the Halloween spectacle that Dan Earls creates each year. Those wishing to tour the haunted garage, donate a canned good or non-perishable item as an admission fee. Earls, who creates the display, hopes to collect a record number of donations for local food banks by hosting the haunted garage. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

A vampire peeks out of a coffin at Earls Haunted Garage on Oct. 28. Dan Earls, the creator of Earls Haunted Garage, has made about half of the items on display. In addition, he customizes many items that he purchases. This coffin, which opens and closes on it’s own, was the first Halloween decoration Earls made. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

A vampire peeks out of a coffin at Earls Haunted Garage on Oct. 28. Dan Earls, the creator of Earls Haunted Garage, has made about half of the items on display. In addition, he customizes many items that he purchases. This coffin, which opens and closes on it’s own, was the first Halloween decoration Earls made. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Dan Earls shows off some of the scenes on display at Earls Haunted Garage. On Oct. 28, he was adding finishing touches to his display in anticipation of thrill-seekers who will stop by for a scare over Halloween weekend. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Dan Earls shows off some of the scenes on display at Earls Haunted Garage. On Oct. 28, he was adding finishing touches to his display in anticipation of thrill-seekers who will stop by for a scare over Halloween weekend. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

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