2014 Halloween Haunt Award Nominees: Best Non-Haunt Halloween Event

At the risk of sounding like a mother scolding her children to eat vegetables because they’re healthful, Hollywood Gothique spent this season harping on the need to sample a wider assortment of October treats. Los Angeles offers an impressively varied menu, including many events that are seasoned with the Halloween spirit, but served without overt frights.

This category celebrates Halloween entres served without overt frights (though one or two may appear as a side dish): concerts, tours, and costumed extravaganzas. Culinary metaphor aside, these are events without a haunted-house-type walk-through; they are single-day events, and they generally involve activities of an entertaining or educational nature. (Thus, Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns, which is a passive display, does not qualify here.)

Unfortunately, Hollywood Gothique missed a few potential entries: the Zombie Crawl in Santa Monica; the Dia De Los Muertos Festival in Hollywood Forever Cemetery; and the Beyond the Grave Tours at the City of Industry’s Homestead Museum. We apologize for the omissions and will make an effort to include these events next year.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Art Deco Society Tour

The Art Deco Society’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour

This daytime tour emphasizes the aesthetics of the Art Deco style, but there is a macabre moment or two when the guides detail the sometimes sordid stories of the cinema celebrities buried within the grounds. There is also a touch of dark romanticism in the mausoleum housing Rudolph Valentino’s remains, where a modern-day “Woman in Black” (a legendary figure said to visit on the anniversary of the actor’s death) appears and relates stories of her idol and his films. Intriguing stuff, if a bit divorced from what we usually consider “Halloween” entertainment.

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Bruce Boxleitner works himself into a state while Rubinstein calmly conducts.
Bruce Boxleitner works himself into a state while Rubinstein calmly conducts.

Eek! at the Greek!

Although an evening of baton waving might seem a rather high-toned way to celebrate Halloween, Eek at the Greek offered fun for young and old, with a Trick or Treat Village and costume contest during the day and macabre music at ngiht. Under the baton of Arthur B. Rubinstein, the¬†Symphony provided pitch-perfect performances of short orchestral works (e.g., “Danse Macabre”) that filled the night air with phantoms, and actor Bruce Boxleitner gave an impassioned reading of Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” that reached a crescendo as smashing as any cymbal crash.

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A guide introduces "From Orphan to Oil Wells," the story of Louis and Elisa Denni (David Narloch and Vanessa Rose Parker)
A guide introduces the story of Louis and Elisa Denni (David Narloch and Vanessa Rose Parker).

Long Beach Historical Society’s Cemetery Tour

The Long Beach Historical Society’s annual event is part historical tour and part live theatre, set¬†in two adjacent cemeteries, Sunnyside and Long Beach Municipal. Guides provide background information while leading visitors to a series of grave, where actors impersonate the dead, relating their life stories. The pieces (some monologues and some dialogues) feature solid writing and moving performances. Set in daylight, the Historical Cemetery Tour is not frightening, but there are a few macabre moments when characters relate the details that led to their final repose. A must for Halloween fans with an interest in history.

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Night of the Living Zoo logo 2014 photo courtesy of Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association

Night of the Living Zoo

You like the zoo but shun the daylight hours like a vampire. What to do? It’s Night of the Living Zoo! This one-night-only event offers visitors a chance to stroll through the Los Angeles Zoo after dark, listen to lectures on bats, dance to DJ music, and participate in a costume contest. Not all of the animals are awake, but the creepy night-crawlers are on view: poisonous spiders, scary scorpions, and slithering reptiles. For 2014, the Halloween overlay was somewhat muted (perhaps in deference to the permanent residents), but the boiling witch’s cauldron and the singing statues were augmented by Drama After Dark’s Evening of the Macabre with Poe and Gorey, which provided spirited readings and performances in some inspired locations, elevating an event that had been deficient in ghoulish entertainment during its debut the previous year.