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In Melrose, Halloween means front-yard ‘Tunnel of Terror’

Scott Moss created “Clara’s Tunnel of Terror” on his front yard in Melrose for this weekend.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

MELROSE — Zombies lurk around dark corners, and werewolf babies grip the walls. Down narrow passageways, nightmarish creatures spring to life, and demonic clowns smile menacingly.

Fog and spooky music creep through the maze, and costumed monsters wait in hiding to deliver maximum fright.

They include the meticulous architect of this Halloween extravaganza, Scott Moss. His homemade “Clara’s Tunnel of Terror” is a holiday tradition that may draw more than 1,000 trick-or-treaters by late Saturday night. And this year, it’s bigger and better than ever, 100 feet of haunted, heart-in-your-throat thrills. All in his suburban front yard.

“We cram a lot of fear into a little space,” Moss quipped as he put the finishing touches on the Washington Street display Friday morning.

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Most communities seem to have someone like Moss, who will go all-out for the holidays and transform their homes into destinations.

So what makes a mild-mannered father of three want to scare the bejesus out of this small city just north of Boston? It goes back to his childhood.

Moss grew up loving Halloween, following his mother’s example. She delighted in the day, going out of her way to give the neighborhood kids a fright.

“She was the instigator,” he recalled.

When Moss started his tradition about a decade ago, she was quick to volunteer, and would stay in costume in the maze until all of the trick-or-treaters had called it a night.

When his mother died two years ago, Moss began naming his Halloween house after her, and steadily added even more chilling scenes and props.

“If it’s going to be in her honor, I’m going to go all-out,” he said. “It’s letting her memory live on.”

A visit to the maze, even in the comforting light of day, validates his claim. The Tunnel of Terror lives up to its name, complete with animated creatures, cobwebs, and chains, and horror movie icons like Freddy Krueger and Pinhead. Many amusement parks should do so well.

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“I want it to look authentic,” he said.

Authentic comes at a cost. Individual props, purchased during a yearly pilgrimage to Halloween Asylum in Springfield, can run several hundred dollars, and his last visit set him back well over $2,000, Moss said.

Scott Moss showed off a part of “Clara’s Tunnel of Terror.” Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Over the years, he’s spent many times that amount, and he also spends about $500 on candy.

But Moss, a 46-year-old who works on the TD Garden changeover crew, considers it money well spent. He looks forward to the holiday for months, and loves the excitement so much that he feels let down when it’s over.

“For adults, it brings back childhood,” he said, “and for kids, it’s just a thrill. It’s like getting off that roller coaster you didn’t think you’d survive.”

The tunnel is genuinely scary, especially with props and people alike jumping out of dark corners. Moss’s wife asks visitors whether they want the scary or nonscary tour. In the nonscary option, children are given glow-sticks to show the way, and the roaming haunts are alerted to stay put.

Most of the visitors to the Tunnel of Terror are local, but some come from farther afield, often after passing Moss’s house on the way to the nearby MBTA Orange Line station.

“It’s hard to miss,” he acknowledged.

Moss moved to Melrose in the early 1990s, but got only a handful of trick-or-treaters at first. For a hard-core Halloween enthusiast, this was plainly unacceptable.

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“I said, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ ” he recalled.

So he began crafting more elaborate arrays, upping the ante each year. And the pattern is not likely to stop, Moss said.

“I’m already building next year’s in my mind,” he admitted.

On Friday, Moss charged a fee for the haunted house ($5 for adults and $3 for children) to raise money for the girls’ track team at Melrose High School. But on Saturday, it’s a free-for-all. Just enter at your own risk.


Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.