Antelope Valley had seven full walk-though home haunts on Halloween night 2019, more than any previous year, even more impressive considering that three haunted houses, Starview Manor, Restless Souls Manor, and Hollywood Horror Haunted Manor Tour were dark this season. All seven are closed for the year, but hopefully these reviews help you decide how to spend next Halloween.
Antelope Valley College Halloween Maze, $3
3041 W Ave K, Lancaster, CA 93536
Antelope Valley College put on a Halloween maze in their Black Box Theatre this year, two nights only. One of the first things you’ll notice inside is the atmospheric music, which as you move from one themed section to the next will change to match. Rock plays as you enter through the first few jump scares, eventually startling three cultists in the middle of some dark ritual. As you attempt to move past, your path is blocked by a masked cultist, and when you turn around you realize you’re surrounded. A fun moment of terror, ending quickly when they decide to let you pass to the horrors beyond. You then pass by several normal mirrors, before finding one containing Bloody Mary herself. I went through twice, and the first time she was deathly still until I approached, lunging forward at the last second; the second time she was dancing to the music, only creating a false feeling of safety as when I came closer to dance with her she did so for only a moment before slamming her hands into the glass once more.
After this, the music changes for the first time, taking on a creepy timbre for the next few rooms, leading into one filled with mannequins in sheets, one of which you’ll find is not a mannequin at all. Seemingly timed perfectly without a change in track, the creepy music takes on a broken music box tone for the room of creepy dolls and clowns. The actors in doll makeup lull you into a false sense of security by not jumping at you, just watching as you pass, only to make the clowns that come next all the more startling. You then find a tormented man in a chair begging for you to save him, though even if you try his chains will not break. The whole walk-through takes about three minutes and as you can read, they managed to pack a lot into that time.
Best feature: Being surrounded by masked cultists. It was a great break from the typical jump-scares in every haunt to feel surrounded and trapped for a second.
Way to improve: Utilize those theatrical skills. These are the students of the AVC theatre program; I’ve been to other shows, and I know they have more to offer, so next year I hope we see it. Script a story; it doesn’t have to be a full one-act play or require lots of rehearsal, just have a plot that’s fleshed out with dialogue, and make sure everyone knows the story and their part in it. It’s great to show your range with so many themed rooms, but don’t be afraid to commit to a single theme for the sake of telling a story. Although the variety can be maintained with a series of shorter vignettes. Maybe even add some interactivity, I know for a fact these kids have improv skills.
Chop Shop of Terror, Free, donations accepted
45059 Trevor Ave, Lancaster, CA 93534
Chop Shop of Terror was put on by the charity Lost Angels Children’s Project, which is an after-school program that teaches young people useful car restoration and repair skills. One of the interesting things about this haunt is that there’s a soundtrack throughout the maze, mixing creepy vocals with a good beat. There are some eclectic props like bloody sheets and oozing barrels, but the main theme is that it’s a chop shop, full of car parts and sparking equipment, and of course the deranged mechanics. From start to finish you’ll spend about two minutes inside.
Best feature: The DJ. At one point the tight corridors open up into a large space with a DJ booth, the source of the music heard throughout. Not terrifying perhaps, but definitely unique and memorable. The music was about the perfect volume, definitely sounded like a party but wasn’t so deafening that I had to have my fingers in my ears.
Way to improve: Expand the chop shop theme with a story. It doesn’t have to strictly be a script, but having a basic story: for example, you’re here to pick up your car and the shop is full of maniacs, ghosts, or zombies, etc. A little dialogue from a few characters can go a long way toward making it more than just a haunt. You could also add more masked ravers to the DJ scene, forcing guests to make their way through a crowd of potentially scary revelers.
Common Ground Cemetery, Free
42235 Brittle Bush Dr, Quartz Hill, CA 93536
After being dark for a while this old favorite of the Antelope Valley was back for 2019. The experience starts before you even walk in, with an overwhelming number of decorations. Skeletal birds in cages, so many pumpkins, a chalk outline of a corpse surrounded by every weapon from Clue, a spooky witch’s apothecary stand, and several costumed horrors keeping the folks in queue scared while they wait to enter. When you do make your way inside, you’re greeting with old portraits and slowed down creepy music. Through the dim corridors you’ll find a giant spider with glowing eyes, and a medical lab of torture, among other fiends and friends. The whole thing is only about one and a half minutes, but the final room really leaves an impression.
Best feature: Terrorizing the queue. This and the medical room bookend the experience quite well; the actors have great costumes and get pick out those who respond best to being spooked.
Way to improve: Set an o’clock start time. Some will interpret “sundown” as around six when the sun passes below the mountains, but specifying seven will ensure it’s dark, and make sure you don’t get people queuing up too early.
Coronet Ct Haunt: Black Out, Free
42410 Coronet Ct, Quartz Hill, CA 93536
The Coronet Ct Haunt was back with a new title and theme. This year was Black Out: the haunt took place in pitch black, no lights except the optional flickering candle sold at the entrance. Their 2018 theme, The Asylum, had a lot of great decorations and costumed actors; compared to that, this season might have felt a bit sparse, but if you're scared of the dark or want jump-scares, then Black Out might have been perfect for you. For the two minutes you grope your way around inside, startled by airhorns, distant growls, and sudden screams. There’s loud music playing at the entrance and exit, and as you make your way into the deepest parts of the tent in the middle of the maze, the music will be distant and muffled, creating a tense silence.
Best feature: The eerily silent room at the far back of the maze, far from help and filled with unknown danger.
Way to improve: Set an o’clock start time. “Opens at dark” is a little vague, since darkness comes on gradually. Seven o’clock is a great start time, about half way through Trick-or-Treating.
Scary Stories Haunt, Free
3157 E Ave K4, Lancaster, CA 93535
Scary Stories is a very large haunt and the only advertised haunt on the east side of town. The facade put over the home is quite impressive with a dilapidated look and several costumed creeps outside luring guests within. Inside the haunt is eclectic, with sections for witches, spiders, killers, and clowns. It’s about two and a half minutes to get through with a large cast inside.
Best feature: Sheer size, both floor space and cast. Very large for a home haunt.
Way to improve: Add a theme. Nothing specifically wrong with being eclectic, but when every haunt is eclectic, none of them stand out as much.
Terror Tricked Entertainment: Lunar Terror, Free
44307 42nd St W, Lancaster, CA 93536
Having visited Lunar Terror earlier in the month, we decided to take in the show once more on Halloween night. This time there were a few effects that apparently hadn’t been ready on first viewing, and a few more actors. The stage show is what really sets this haunt apart. It’s a brief show, but the full dialogue and short story it tells set it above most haunts, which have no story at all. Every haunt in town has something to offer, but if you want more than just costumes and decorations, this is the one to check out. Stage show plus walk-through, this haunt will take guests about three minutes.
Best feature: Stage show. After seeing dozens of haunts a year, the jump-scares all blend together, but a theatrical presentation like this leaves an impression.
Way to improve: Even more story and show, even interactivity if possible. Terror Tricked Entertainment made a great decision to tell a little story and have some dialogue this year. Hopefully, their next project will provide even more of this, perhaps something with multiple characters and the ability for guests to interact with them.
Windy Hills Haunt, Free
6650 Lime Rd, Quartz Hill, CA 93536
Windy Hills was back and even better than last year. Filled with creepy music and fog, the flickering candles on the walls give you just enough light to appreciate the decorations, in several eclectic themed rooms and corridors, through both the garage and the back yard. Contrasting the rock music of some other haunts, this one is all atmospheric organ tones which creates a foreboding mood; the clown room in particular features a creepy recording of children singing. Watch out for the Yeti lurking in the shadows, and in the exterior section keep an eye out for the skeletons trying to bury the fresh corpse.
Best feature: The scraping of the shovel near the end. There’s a very distracting prop to draw your attention so a man with a shovel scraping on the ground can run at you from behind, very effective.
Way to improve: Set an o’clock start time. Is “sunset” when the sun dips below the mountain, or an hour later when it’s truly dark. 7pm is a great start time and no one drives over too early.
Antelope Valley Yard Haunts: Conclusion
Seven haunts this year - well done, Antelope Valley! Most of them were only advertised on flyers, so heed this advice and spread it to fellow haunters: advertise in every way you can. Get listed on SoCalHauntList, join CalHaunts, have preview nights to invite reviewers from HollywoodGothique, Haunting.net, HauntofLA, MyHauntLife, CreepyLA, and any other sites you can find. And consider doing a preview of your own haunt at Midsummer Scream. All these are great additions to the usual advertising on flyers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, putting a video of your haunt on YouTube, etc.
If you’re reading this during Halloween 2020, I sincerely hope you can make it out to all the yard haunts in the Antelope Valley, but if you can only make it to one, I’d recommend Terror Tricked Entertainment on the strength of their 2019 stage show.