Beware the Dark Realm and Coffinwood Cemetery are the first stops on our 2020 Halloween Haunt Odyssey, followed by visits to other Northwest County yard displays.
Originally posted on October 4, this article has been updated to include yard haunts that opened since our initial visit.
It is unprecedented for Hollywood Gothique to embark upon its annual Halloween Yard Haunt Odyssey during the first weekend of October; however, with many professional attractions shuttered by Covid-19, Halloween Home Haunts are major players this season.
With that in mind, we headed up to the Northwest County region of Los Angeles - which includes Santa Clarita, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, and Castaic - to check out two yard displays that have opened their graveyard gates earlier than usual, providing some much-needed Halloween cheer: Beware the Dark Realm and Coffinwood Cemetery. Since then, we have returned to visit The Farm Haunt, Cemetery at Lewis Way, and Stoney Point.
2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Castaic
The Farm Haunt
29130 Diablo Place, Castaic
October 10-31 - 7-10pm
Though the franchise is still officially known as "The Farm Haunt," the actual yard display has been labeled "Dr. Diablo's Caskets and Curiosities" since abandoning its Glendale location for a cozy slot on the conveniently named Diablo Place last year. The ambiance is still rustic, but now it is more old western ghost town than rundown farm. For such a small yard, it squeezes in quite a few artifacts, laid out in a nice v-shaped formation that draws you in both figuratively (capturing your eye) and literally (prompting you to walk on the lawn for a closer look).
The decorations are statics figures and props, but flickering lights and ambient sound add a sense of (after) life to the surroundings, along with a morphing portrait seen through the window of Dr. Diablo's establishment. Too bad the Doctor himself was not open for business - we would love to have gone inside to view a few caskets and curiosities.
2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Santa Clarita
Beware The Dark Realm
28621 Sugar Pine Way, Santa Clarita, 91390
Admission: Free but accepts charitable donations
October 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30-31, 7-10pm
Beware the Dark Realm has ranked atop our list of walk-through home haunts for several years now, but we were not sure how it could live up to its own reputation during a pandemic that precludes sending dozens of people through an enclosed space, breathing potentially contaminated air. Beware the Dark Realm's solution was to fashion an open-air haunt this year; that was hardly surprising, but what was unexpected was that there would still be a walk-through element, with live scares - not just a static yard display.
The old castle facade has been reconfigured to create an outdoor path that leads past a few doorways - some with bars, some not - inhabited by demented characters from the past urging potential victims to come a little closer and perhaps to...join them for dinner. The scares a milder than in the past, with a slightly tongue-in-cheek edge that evokes nervous chuckles rather than screams, but the setting is as fabulous as ever. It's still possible to feel immersed in the ancient atmosphere even though technically you are not really inside the haunt, and the decor provides such tasty eye-candy that it serves as a trick-and-a-treat all on its own.
As one member of our part observed - quite accurately - this year's Beware the Dark Realm is better than the L.A. Haunted Hayride's Drive-Up Experience.
Beware the Dark Realm is accepting charitable donations for Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley.
27159 Waterford Drive, Santa Clarita, 91354
Fridays & Saturdays in October, plus Halloween night, 7-10pm
Coffinwood Cemetery has always been predominantly a yard display with a small walk-through element, so it seemed more likely to make an easy transition to a Covid-safe version. Indeed, that is exactly what has happened. There is no longer a walk through the garage, but there is a roped-off path up the driveway so that trick-or-treaters can get a good view of the display within the garage.
In the front yard, the display is almost completely intact. You cannot walk through the cemetery, which no longer extends all the way to the house, and yet the absent scenery is barely noticed - a strategically placed fence and a few other set pieces define the graveyard's extent, drawing the eye away from the undecorated porch and front door. The result hardly feels scaled back, and the addition of some thunderous sound effects add an extra layer of gloom to the setting. (The thunderclaps are so loud that they trigger the sound-sensitive lights of a small-scale yard haunt across the street.)
A handful of mechanical props bring a little life to this resting place of the dead, but even more eye-catching are the spectral projections in the upper windows, from which a ghostly form and a grinning face peer out, while an oversized spider emits multicolored glowing lights from its abdomen. There are no scares in Coffinwood Cemetery - just lightening, thunder, and scenery - but it's definitely scenery worth seeing.
27337 Denoya Drive
Santa Clarita, 91350
Dusk - ???
The creep factor is strong with this one, especially if you are easily spooked by dolls. There are tiny figures of literally all shapes and designs, including some in body bags hanging upside down. Creepy was also the large tree with a plethora of faces affixed to it. Most notable was a decapitated Doll Bride. The question is: was she a doll that became human or a human that became a doll? - Capsule Comment by Warren So
Via Jardin Haunt
25420 Vía Jardin
Santa Clarita, 91355
Dusk - ???
Though it doesn’t have an official name, this haunt was made aware to us by the good folks at Shiver Home Haunt in the SCV. This fun yard display included some ambient noise and sounds to accompany their display. We spotted a scarecrow, a tree with hooks and a pelvic bone at the end of it, a large pumpkin figurehead and other neat spooky surprises. Also, if you look closely, you may see a famous character from “Halloween” lurking in the shadows. - Capsule Comment by Warren So
Also in Santa Clarita
These home haunts were not open during our most recent visit to Santa Clarita:
Candy Shop Take Over
20205 Soladera Way
Oct. 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 6-10pm
Pumkin Jacks Haunted House
28603 Natalie Lane
October 23-25, 30, 31, November 1, Dusk-11pm
Description: Pumpkin Jack's is one of our favorites, but this year they will be presenting a yard display only, not a walk-through.
2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Stevenson Ranch
Boo-o-o-otiful Broadway & Movie Haunt
25520 Wilde Avenue, Stevenson Ranch
Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31, 7-9pm
Not a “drive-thru” or “drive-in” haunt like some people thought it was, this was actually a fun walk-up yard display, featuring a random assortment of Disney characters paired with some iconic comedic Halloween classics such as The Peanuts Gang, Casper, and Beetlejuice. Also, there is a mini-skeleton Joan Jett playing “I Love Rock’N Roll” as soon as you get near her. - Capsule Comment by Warren So
Cemetery at Lewis Way
25739 Lewis Way, Stevenson Ranch
October16-18, 22-25, 29-31, 7-10pm
This neighborhood yard haunt features ghostly projections flitting across the facade; cracked pillars surmounted by Jack O'Lanterns flank the driveway, and numerous props dot the lawn, including one or two moving animatronic figures.
The haunt takes advantage of a concreate path to create a sort of walk-through effect, which allows visitors to approach from the sidewalk, collect treats (on Halloween Night), and exit past the the garage without having to backtrack into anyone behind. It's perfect for social distancing.
One or two other houses in the neighborhood may catch your eye...
Mushnik’s Flower Shop: Home Of Audrey II
25744 Lewis Way, Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381
Dusk - ???
Across the street from Cemetery at Lewis Way, we met someone famous - we stumbled across Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors! See what hunting for haunts and exploring cemeteries will do for you? Guess what - we’re staking our claim on this gem as the first to review it. But no, really we could not care less. This home haunt featured the Mean Green Mother from Outer Space devouring some poor sap after you entered a nursery arch that read “Mushnik’s Flower Shop." Mr. Mushnik wasn’t home and neither was Seymour, so we didn’t want to poke the bear...or in this case the plant. Definitely worthy of a stop-and-take-a-photo of type of yard display. Make sure this is a stop when you pass Stevenson Ranch on the way to the Santa Clarita area. - Capsule Comment by Warren So
2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Valencia
26041 Sombras Center, Valencia
October 16-18, 23-25, 30, 31, Sundown-10pm
As first timers to Sombras Cemetery, we were instantly impressed with the set lighting and the mood. The sounds of the cemetery were on point with corpses and skeletons arising from their graves. Once you enter through the “gates”, (and there was actually signage for “Gate, Chapel, Garden”) you feel surrounded by the dead at every corner and every turn. We noticed a skeleton that was lynched and another one being slow roasted by another. Guess it took too long to cook a human and the guy roasting starved to death. With somewhat of a path to the garden and chapel; this home haunt felt more like a walkthrough sans actors than just a yard display, which brought back some of the good feeling of Halloween from yesteryear where it seemingly was not short on walkthroughs. - Capsule Comment by Warren So
Stoney Point Haunt
23227 Barnacle Lane, Valencia
October 15-31 - 7-10pm
Stoney Point offered a one-minute walk-through haunted by child actors last year, but of course the Covid-19 pandemic precludes that kind of haunting for Halloween 2020. Instead, the home haunt offers a hard display and some decorations on the front porch and a second story window.
There are a few nice touches, like the macabre haunted clock on the porch whose hands spin madly before revealing a surprise. In the yard creepy kids whirl on a creepy merry-go-round, and a ghoulish girl giggles about how long her mother has been "sleeping" in the cemetery.
There are two or three other modestly decorated houses across the street, making this at least worth a drive-by when visiting other home haunts in Valencia and Santa Clarita.
Also in Valencia
These home haunts were not open during our most recent visit to Valencia:
25302 Vía Palacio
October 23-31 - 7-10pm
Description: A nice corner house filled with demented clowns most nights, live scares on Halloween.
More 2020 Northwest County Yard Haunts
This post will be updated over the course of the following weeks as other yard haunts open in the Northwest County area. You can find information about these and other yard haunts in our Halloween Home Haunts page.