Some father-son bonds are formed by tossing a football around. Not Mike Barrera and his father, Abe. When Mike was young, he and Abe bonded by tossing ideas around about tormenting strangers with chainsaw-wielding maniacs and severed heads.
“A little different than normal,” Michael chuckled.
But don’t worry. The severed heads are props and the chainsaw-wielding maniacs are paid actors performing for The Bernal Scream, a haunted house attraction in San Jose.
The roots of the Bernal Scream are planted in the San Jose backyard Mike and Abe would turn into a free haunted house for neighborhood children when Mike was growing up. Over the years, the attraction got bigger and more elaborate until hundreds of people lined up down the street to get a look.
It eventually all got a little too big, Mike said. “The cops and the city eventually were kind of like, ‘Hey, look, this is getting a little out of control and you either got to shut it down, or you got to take it and go commercial.’”
So, that’s exactly what they did, opening up Bernal Scream in a shopping mall parking lot in 2016.
“It felt like we had achieved the ultimate family team, like [a] mission. We had set out to take what was in the backyard and share that experience,” Michael said.
For this father-son team who lived to surprise people, it was a dream come true. Until they were on the receiving end of a nightmare.
“The robbery that year. Yeah, that was that was probably the low lowest point,” Michael said glumly.
A thief stole thousands of dollars worth of haunted house equipment just days before Halloween.
Mike and Abe knew it would take years of hard work to be able to open again. Nonetheless, they vowed to do it.
Then came another dark surprise.
Abe was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
“Obviously rocked to the core because … I’ve never been as close to anyone in my life as I am with him. And he was the greatest father – just the greatest,” Michael said.
Abe passed away just five months later in 2021. But during those five months, he continued to hammer nails and brainstorm new ways to lovingly torment strangers.
A part of Michael wanted to throw the hammer in and give up after his father died. But then he realized, that’s the last thing Abe would’ve wanted.
“When that moment finally clicked on the spot, I made a promise to my father out loud, it must’ve looked like I was crazy. But I promised him that I would finish where we started,” Michael said.
And so this year, two years after Abe’s death and seven years since the first Bernal Scream opened, it was back and as frightening and gruesome as ever.
But with a twist of beauty.
“We did it. We finished the dream. We brought it to life and his honor and his legacy continues,” Michael said.
Source: NBC Bay Area