Artists' horrifying handiwork turns Safety Harbor backyard into eerie encounter

Creepy creations lurk around every corner of the Wicked Woods at Highlands Lot 13.

Michael Breen used his degree in mechanical engineering to transform his backyard into a ghostly haunted trail. The 23-year-old has been working since the start of September to bring the attraction to life.

“Halloween’s always been one of my favorite holidays,” he said. “It took a lot of planning, I was sketching, and I have tons of sheets all over in my room.”

Michael built the haunted trail from the ground up, clearing the area, mapping out the path, constructing the walls, and adding all the details. 

The recent University of Florida graduate designed all of the scares and created the props, using motion sensors for special effects, strobe lights, custom sounds, and hidden frights triggered by the press of a button.

“Some of the complex scares are with pneumatics and pairing it with my air compressor,” Michael explained. “When the operator hits the button, the ghoul will raise up to about 6-feet, lighting will go off and custom sound mixed music will go off as well.”

He is passionate about launching a career in entertainment technology, and this project was a test of his abilities.

“There have definitely been some frustrating days out here,” said Michael. “Some things just don’t work, parts break, your equipment tools break and you just have to find the next thing to do and how to solve that right on your feet.”

With all the moving props, and the pandemic, the goal was to be spooky while keeping the experience safe. So the number of actors and operators is at a minimum.

“There was a lot of limitations in what I could do but I think I was able to push the limits and bring forth something that is both scary and fun,” Michael said.

The Wicked Woods at Highlands Lot 13 will be up and running the evenings of Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31. However, due to neighborhood restrictions, it is not open to the public.

Michael says the goal behind his horrifying handiwork is to bring back the joy of entertainment that has been lost by the shutdowns. That’s why he is also raising money to donate to the Pinellas Youth Symphony program. If you would like to contribute, visit