What will be this year's best Halloween haunted house events in Los Angeles? Which should you eagerly anticipate like Dr. Markway swooning over Hill House in 1963's THE HAUNTING? Which should you avoid like the Lutz family considering a return to Amityville? Hollywood Gothique acts as your real estate agent, taking you on a virtual tour of all the hottest haunted properties that should be on your 2012 must-see list.
As with our previous assessment of The Best Haunted Theme Park Events in Los Angeles, we have yet to visit these ectoplasmically-infested establishments this year; consequently, our recommendations are, by necessity, predictions based on property values from previous Halloween seasons. How well have these houses haunted in the past? How memorable were last year's manifestations? What new ghosts and ghouls can we expect in 2012?
Now prepare to peruse the most dreary domiciles and malificent mansions on the market for the 2012 Halloween season. This trip is not for the faint-hearted; the horrors that await and manifold and menacing. Come along with us…if you dare!
MUST-SEE HAUNTED HOUSE EVENTS IN LOS ANGELES
Halloween 2012's prime property is the mildewed mansion at 2218 S Harvard Boulevard, Los Angeles, which houses Delusion 2012: The Blood Rite. Last October, Delusion: Presented by Haunted Play blew us away by actually achieving what so many other Halloween events in Los Angeles merely promise: an interactive experience that makes you feel as if have stepped inside a horror movie scenario, complete with convincing sets, able actors, stupendous stunts, and sizzling special effects (e.g., the "guide" who is suddenly whisked away from the group - dragged down a hallway by an invisible telekinetic force!). Delusion: The Blood Rite promises to be even bigger and better this Halloween. With so little room for improvement, we wonder how much more insanely delusional this combination of play and walk-through haunt can be. But we are eager to find out. So should you be . Delusion: The Blood Rite runs on September 27-29; October 4-6, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, 30-31; November 1-3, 8-10. The official website is here.
Also ranking high in terms of property value is the Theatre 68 Haunted House in Hollywood. Set in an actual theatre, this impressive Halloween event lacks the full-blown story-telling dramatics of Delusion, but it operates on a similar principle. Visitors are allowed inside in small groups (in this case, one or two at a time); the horrors that transpire within are performed by actors who know how to bring a scene to life with something more than a mere jump-scare; as you pass from room to room, you encounter a series of vignettes, each seemingly staged especially for you, and timed to perfection so that you receive the full "benefit" of the shocking scenery. Disorientation is part of the experience, but the major impression left on your brain is that the eerie events seem to happen because of your presence, creating a creepy sense of personal responsibility, as if you were somehow implicated in the actions that you witness. This one is relatively short but very intense, and it is a guaranteed winner. We hear some new ideas are being considered for Halloween 2012; we will definitely be there to see how they play out. Theatre 68 is located at 5419 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles 90027. The house will be haunted on October 12 & 13, then 19 through 31. Their website is here.
It is not really a house, but the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is one of the most spook-infested pieces of property you will find anywhere in the county. Our only concern about this event is that by the very nature of its location, it tends to remain somewhat the same from year to year; however, Los Angeles Haunted Hayride 2012: The Congregation offers a new theme, and the producers promise even more Halloween horror than was seen in past seasons, with an expanded hayride featuring a 360-degree scare experience guaranteed to get you wet (in the "covered in blood" sense - though presumably they will not be using real blood). The advantage of the lengthy attraction is that the slow-moving hayride forces you to encounter each horrifying scene at a measured pace that allows the creepy characters plenty of time to get up close and personal. You may think that being inside a metal trailer, surrounded by other haunt-goers, provides safety in numbers, but the terrifying reality is diametrically opposed to the false delusion of comfort. The outdoor setting lends its own convincing atmosphere (thanks to the surroundings of the Old Zoo at Griffith Park), and the lengthy ride takes you through an impressive variety of environments - this is much more than zombies lurking in the woods! Besides the Hayride, there will be a “bigger and taller” version of the pitch-black In-Between Maze, and also a carnival sideshow title Purgatory. The address is 4730 Crystal Springs Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027. Haunted Hayride will be running on October 5-6, 11-14, 18-21, 24-28, 31. Check out their website here.
FrightFair ScreamPark - the scary night-time portion of the annual Halloween Harvest Festival at Pierce College - hit a bumpy patch a few years ago but has long since regained its status as one of of favorite Halloween events in Los Angeles. Its three fright-filled attractions - the Factory of Nightmares Haunted House, the Creatures of the Corn Trail, and the Insane Reaction Maze - are supposed to be revamped this year. Whether or not the mazes get a makeover, FrightFair remains high on our list because of the intensity of the experience, which is attributable mostly to its cast. These are some of the best-trained actors at any Halloween haunt in Los Angeles: a simple "Boo!" isn't enough; they know how to milk the suspense and sustain the fear even after the initial shock wears off - and they do seem to love their ghoulish work. The Halloween Harvest Festival (which features kid-safe entertainment during the daylight hours) is located at 20800 Victory Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA. The Festival runs through October 31; the scary night-time activities take place on September 28-30, October 5-7, 11-14, 17-21,23-31.
The Old Town Haunt in Pasadena has long been remarkable for distinguishing itself from other Halloween events in Los Angeles. The subterranean setting - yes, it really is underground - is unique, creating a wonderful sense of claustrophobia, enhanced by some remarkable sets and clever tricks: at one point, you seem stuck in an endless loop, passing over the same ground again and again; at another, you are plunged into a pitch-black crawl space while unseen demons taunt and torment you. If there is a weakness here, it is that the permanent location results in a haunt experience that remains relatively consistent from one Halloween to the next. Nevertheless, Old Town Haunt adds new rooms every year, and they have poured extra blood into the cauldron by hiring a professional makeup crew to enhance the look of its monsters. This year's event promises to be longer and scarier than ever. The catacombs await you at 20 N. Raymond Avenue, Old Town Pasadena, CA 91103. The gates to the netherworld open on October 5-6, 12-13, 18-21, 25-31. Learn more at their website.
The Reign of Terror Haunted House in Thousand Oaks features some of the best sets this side of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood - you really feel as if you are walking inside a Victorian mansion, haunted by the souls of long-dead residents. Since establishing itself in a permanent residence above the Gold's Gym in the Janss Marketplace, Reign of Terror has expanded its scope each year, adding sections titled The Asylum and Blood Manor; Halloween 2012 sees the addition of Miner's Revenge. Perhaps even more important than the new environments is the continuing trend toward enhancing the scares with more live actors, in addition to the mechanical mannequins that continue to inhabit a large portion of the haunted house. Reign of Terror was always spooky in an elegantly atmospheric, "Disney Haunted Mansion" kind of way. In 2011, the haunt began to evoke true terror. Purists (which includes yours truly at Hollywood Gothique) may balk at the intrusion of the more visceral form of horror seen in Blood Manor, but the haunted house section retains its old quality, and we do have to admit to experiencing quite a few more shivers of late. We recently took a little preview tour of the new Miner's Revenge sequence, which looked pretty good even by daylight; we expect great things when the lights go down and the ghosts come out.
If that's not enough for you, there is also the Sinister Pointe Haunted Attraction in Brea. This Halloween, the new Trapped maze at Knotts Scary Farm has gotten lots of press for its interactive, problem-solving approach to a walk-through attraction, but Sinister Pointe can truly say "been there, done that." This grim haunted house, with a truly impressive facade bathed in dim blue light, requires visitors to choose their path through the corridors and perform some shudder-inducing actions (such as putting a hand into a garbage disposal). There are also innovative illusions, such as a long corridor with a monster who seems to slide down from the ceiling on empty air. Because it is set in a permanent location that allows year-round tinkering (Sinister Pointe opens on dates other than Halloween), we expect to see that this maze has developed and improved quite a bit since 2011. Dates are September 27-29, October 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, 31. The address is 195 Arovista Circle, Brea, CA 92821. The website is here.
OTHER HAUNTED PROPERTIES
The Heritage Haunt was a disappointment during its latest incarnation, back in 2010. After sitting out 2011, the Haunt returns for Halloween 2012, and the proprietors promise a return to former glory, emphasizing the (allegedly truly haunted) ranch house that was the focus during previous years. This location is Hart Park at Heritage Junction, 24101 San Fernando Road, Newhall, CA 91322. The haunted house opens its doors on October 13, 19-20, 26-28. Visit their website at www.scvhaunt.com.
Never having seen them, we cannot recommend the new pernicious properties on the Los Angeles market this Halloween: Paranoia Haunted Attraction, the Blumhouse of Horrors, and the Blackout Haunted House. Fortunately, all of them sound interesting, in different ways: Paranoia Haunted Attraction recycles sets and props from the old Molar Manor, which could yield interesting results if combined with some talented scare-actors. Blumhouse of Horrors seems somewhat in the vein of Delusion. And Blackout requires its victims to traverse through pitch-darkness - alone (too bad they go for the torture porn treatment instead presenting what the title promises: a haunted house). We think it a good idea to patronize new haunted properties when they open.
The next article in this series of 2012 Halloween Recommendations will focus on The Best Horror Shows, Tours and Screenings. If you are still looking for more Halloween horror, check out our pages for Halloween Haunts and for Halloween Haunted Houses and Hayrides.