This installment of the annual Halloween Haunt Odyssey is a bit of a geographical jumble, exploring the paranormal activities lurking inside two amateur Halloween events separated by miles of freeways.
Divergent in location they may be, but Pumkin Jack's Haunted House and Rotten Apple 907's Wilsley Manor share certain salient traits: both of them are not so much yard haunts as walk-through attractions that eschew the black plastic tarp approach to home haunting; instead, they aspire to deliver all the scares and atmosphere of a professional Halloween event. Rotten Apple 907 has a noticeable edge in the technical department, featuring a handful of remarkable effects that you simply do not expect in an amateur attraction, but with its multitude of monsters, Pumpkin Jack's Haunted House delivers more than its share of Halloween horror, as well.
Pumpkin Jack's Haunted House, situated on a corner in a quiet Santa Clarita neighborhood, features some outdoor decorations and a walk-through maze set up inside the garage, which takes about two or three minutes to navigate (depending on how fast you move to elude the dangers within). There is some plastic tarp, but for the most part the construction effectively creates the illusion that you are inside a haunted house: there are a handful of rooms, some with windows to suggest that you are looking outside at dangers trying to get inside; cracks and stains mar the walls; narrow hallways twist and turn, at one point plunging you into complete darkness.
For its short length, the 600-foot labyrinth is impressively dense with scares, many of them delivered by such familiar faces as Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers (we particularly liked seeing the later trying to break through to get at us). The masks and decor look mostly store-bought, but the jumble of details (such as TV screens that display empty static) confuse the eye and create a sense of chaos that helps hide any flaws.
Pumkin Jack's Haunted House will open again on Halloween night, from 9pm to midnight. The address is 28603 Natalie Lane, Saugus, California 91390. (Please note: our GPS device insists that this street number is actually in Santa Clarita, not Saugus, so if you are having trouble inputting the address into your GPS, try switching cities.) Admission is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, click here.
The Haunted Wilsley Manor, located in Burbank, is the latest creepy creation from the Rotten Apple 907 crew, who have been haunting their neighborhood since 2003, changing their theme every Halloween. This year's walk-through takes you inside a traditional haunted house, a mansion once owned by a pair of brothers, one of whom went insane, his murdered victims left behind to haunt the hallways for eternity.
The first innovation here is that, after a brief introduction by a funereal-looking butler, the entry room of Wilsey manor provides you with a choice between two doors, each of which leads to a different path. The left door takes you into a music room with a suit of armor that springs to life; the right door takes you in a library and then through a secret passage behind the walls, where an impressively realized transparent spirit seems to float at the end of a corridor.
Eventually the two routes converge on the haunted highlight of Wilsley Manor: a crazy upside-down room that has you apparently walking on the ceiling while a dinner table overhead sways back and forth as if ready to fall (or rise, depending on your point of view); as if that were not enough, just behind the table, a body bashes up against the outside of a window. We honestly cannot recall seeing anything like this in any haunt, let alone an amateur home haunt.
As in Pumpkin Jack's Haunted House, the masks seem store-bought; in fact, one mask shows up at both haunts. However, you will not find many off-the-rack wall decorations amid the haunted architecture. There are several pneumatics (a coffin that pops open, a skeletal midwife that rocks a baby), and some clever special effects (a back-lit portrait that morphs before our eyes, the aforementioned floating ghost).
There is nothing quite as startling as the T-Rex that poked its head into Rotten Apple 907's Night in the Musem two Halloweens ago, nor is the new theme quite as distinctive as some in the past (2011's Space Oddity, 2009's Burbank Underground). Nevertheless, we're suckers for traditional-style Halloween haunting, and Wilsley Manor delivers. More than that, the upside-down room is one of those spectacular achievements that raises the bar, maintaining Rotten Apple's prominence among our favorite amateur Halloween events in Los Angeles.
The final public appearance of Rotten Apple 907's Wilsley Manor is on Halloween Night, 7-9pm. (There will be a special "haunter's night" on November 3, for those too busy haunting their own homes to visit during October.) The address is 907 N. California Street Burbank, CA 91505. Admission is free, but charitable donations are accepted for Family Promise. Get more information here.