2020 Yard Haunts: San Fernando Valley West

So far this season, Hollywood Gothique's Halloween Home Haunt Odyssey has taken to the northern and eastern sections of the San Fernando Valley. What about San Fernando Valley West? Unfortunately, few haunts in that area (west of the 405 Freeway) opened early in the month, making it difficult for us to visit them in time to write this post. However, some furious driving last night rectified that situation. So strap yourself in as we recount the wild ride...

If you plan to follow the smell of burnt rubber we left on the streets, we suggest making a loop starting with Spooky Hollows and other yard haunt in Van Nuys, Lake Balboa, and Reseda. Then head west on the Ventura Freeway, stopping at the Haunt with No Name Yet on the way to West Hills, where you can visit Chappyland Cemetery and Hillhurst Haunted Circus. After that, loop back east to the Haunt at Hellizondo in Canoga Park; then go to Community Creep in Northridge and Terror of Densmore Manor in North Hills. If you still have any energy left, turn north toward Granada Hills to wrap up the evening with Ravenswood Manor in Granada Hills.

 

2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Resdeda & Lake Balboa

Spooky Hollows
16418 Gilmore Street, Lake Balboa*
Oct 30 through November 1
7-11pm Friday & Saturday, till 10pm Sunday

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Our first stop was Spooky Hollows, which is presenting a show in its front yard, using projection effects to tell the back story of Mr. Sticky, the fearsome creature seen in the sewer back when the haunt offered a walk-through maze. The show was not running on the night we attended, but it will be this weekend. You can learn more about the process that went into this year's haunt in our interview with the proprietor.

Update: We returned on Friday Night to see the show, which lasts a few minutes. The story is revealed mostly through audio, with a few visual aids: ghostly victims fade in and out; an old-time radio broadcasts the disturbing news of Mr. Sticky's victims; a shrouded skeleton (like the Crypt Keeper but without the bad jokes) narrates while a skeletal bird flaps and caws approvingly; and the titular monster himself appears via CGI projection. It's a pretty creepy tale, but Spooky Hollows is set in a wide yard, and the sidewalk has been marked off to help maintain social distance; consequently, one's view of the event varies greatly depending on where one stands, and it's not always clear where the focus of attention should be. Fortunately, the haunt crew offers helpful hints: the first half of the show tends to be on toward the right, with the climax on the left.

*Note: Spooky Hollows is one of several haunts with addresses in the area that shows up as Van Nuys on Google Maps or on GPS devices - even though, according to the LA Times' Mapping L.A. Project, it is located in Lake Balboa. We have chosen to use the Lake Balboa designation because it helps distinguish these haunts, which are west of the 405 Freeway, from Van Nuys haunts east of the 405, which are included in our San Fernando Valley Odyssey.


Hamlin Street Horror
17436 Hamlin Street, Lake Balboa
October 30-31, November 1
7-10pm Friday & Saturday, till 9pm Sunday

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This yard display was not scheduled to be open Thursday night, but we found it buzzing with paranormal activity: lots of sound-activated props and figures, moving and talking as curious haunt-seekers perused them from over the fence.

Update: It turns out that Hamlin Street Horror may have been decorated when first we visited, but it was not fully open. On its scheduled dates, Friday through Sunday, it put on a brief show with live actors in the driveway, running at twenty-minute intervals. These shrouded figures assembled around glowing "portal" emitting plumes of fog while their leader explained the ancient origins of traditions that live on today in our celebration of Halloween. Also, the lighting and ambient sound effects were ramped up from what we saw and heard before opening night.

Five minutes northwest of Spooky Hollows, Hamlin Street Horror is another yard haunt in Lake Balboa even though Google Maps insists the address is in Van Nuys. Whatever the official boundaries, this haunt and the next ones are so close they deserve to be lumped together on the itinerary of any haunt-seeker worthy of the name.


The Haunting of Hamlin House
17317 Hamlin Street, Lake Balboa
Through November 1, 7-10pm

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This Haunting of Hamlin House is so close to Hamlin Street Horror (literally half a block east) that we're foregoing alphabetical order to include it here. The decorations are mostly store-bought gravestones and ghosts, but colorful lights, oozing fog, and a couple pf ghostly projection effects turn the whole into something bigger than the sum of its parts. The giant spider web descending from the roof above the porch is nicely arranged, and a trio of singing Jack O'Lanterns adds a little life to the yard display. This is a great destination for neighborhood trick-or-treaters and definitely worth a stop for outsiders visiting Hamlin Street Horror. The owners plan to bring it back next year in expanded form.


The Haunted Mansion
7132 Forbes Avenue, Lake Balboa
October 30 & 31, November 1-2, 7:30-10:30pm

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Five minutes from Hamlin Street Horror, still heading west, is this tribute to the Disneyland attraction, comprised mostly of static figures and a few props in the front yard. It's simple, but the lighting is nice, and the lighted words "Welcome Foolish Mortals" atop the house give the haunt a sense of scale.


Bones n' Groans
6518 Yarmouth Avenue, Reseda
October 30-31, 7-10pm

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Three minutes west of The Haunted Mansion you will find trio of home haunts anchored by Bones N Groans, the only one with an official name and listing on the SoCal Haunts list. If features skeletons, cobwebs, and an unfortunate fellow stuck in a cauldron. lighting that is atmospheric but not too threatening for trick-or-treaters, and there is a silhouetted black cat projected on the wall.

Just across the street at 6511 Yarmouth is a yard full of skeletons and gravestones. Our favorite effect is the blinking cat eyes on the walls. A couple doors down, 6521 Yarmouth has a few decorations, a warning sign, and a quartet of ghosts in a circle as if conducting some kind of esoteric ritual.

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2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Encino

Creepy Crossing
17449 Burbank Blvd, Encino
October 30-31, 7-10:30pm

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The next stop on this tour is five minutes south in Encino. Creepy Crossing was known as Spooky Hollow when it debuted in 2012. Since then it has been on long hiatus, but for strange reasons no man can divine, it has been resurrected for Halloween 2020, certainly the most cursed and plagued year imaginable. In any case, Hollywood Gothique is glad to see it back in action. It has a industrial accident sort of theme, with fog and green glowing lights suggesting radioactive contamination, while an unfortunate figure pops its head out of a toxic waste barrel.

Update: The proprietor informs us that Creepy Crossing was not complete when we visited on opening night (Thursday). The finished version should be more elaborate than we described.


2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Tarzana

Haunt with No Name Yet
19351 Hatteras Street, Tarzana
October 30-31. 6:30-10pm
Open till 11pm on Halloween Night

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No Halloween Home Haunt Odyssey to San Fernando Valley West is complete without a stop at the Haunt With No Name. In spite of pandemic restrictions, the display remains mostly the same. A few props have been moved out front, where they are visible from the road, and the gate to the actual house is locked, to prevent trick-or-treaters from crowding the narrow walkway.

Otherwise, this is much the same nameless place we have know for years, a mystical realm that emerges into our reality for a few days toward the end of each October. Of all the yard haunts we visit, this is the one that makes us wish we could live there year round.


2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: West Hills

Chappyland Cemetery
6900 Melba Avenue, West Hills
October 30 & 31, 8-11pm

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Chappyland Cemetery is pretty awesome. Another riff on Disney's Haunted Mansion, this one augments the gravestones and Jack O'Lanterns with projection effects of ghostly silhouettes dancing in the windows, while an ominous voice (cribbed from the ride) echoes from a tomb where spirits manifest on a regular basis. If one pauses to analyze the paranormal activity, it becomes apparent that not that much is really happening, yet somehow this one feels alive - like much more than another static yard display. The fact that location is a corner with lots of space out front also helps, suggesting a large cemetery, not just a decorated yard.

The trek Chappyland Cemetery is the biggest jump on this trek - about fifteen minutes west of The Haunt with No Name, via the Ventura Freeway. Fortunately, this is one of two elaborate haunts in West Hills, making this western end of the night's loop worth the extra distance.


Hartland Haunt
23200 Hartland Street
West Hills

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As an added bonus, there is a small yard display just round the corner from Chappyland on the 23200 block of Harland Street. It's a little more family-friendly, with an autumnal feel that suggests a combination of Halloween and Thanksgiving. We of course selected the spookier images for your perusal, but some of the lighting is quite bright, which should make nervous trick-or-treaters feel safe about approaching.


Hillhurst Haunted Circus (yard display)
24218 Hillhurst Drive, West Hills 91307
Dates: October 20-31, 7-10pm

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The Circus has come to town, and it's totally evil! About five minutes north-west of Chappyland Cemetery, Hillhurst Haunted Circus is located up a hill an exclusive neighborhood, where the rent-a-cops eye strangers suspiciously as they drive by to eye these demonic clowns. As you might guess, houses in this neighborhood are big, which means that the Hillhurst location has not only a good-sized yard but also a wide driveway with room for decorations, a ghost in the window above the garage door, and a crazed talking clown on the balcony next to the window. Along with the static figures are a few motion effects: a swing, a merry-go-round, and a Jack-in-the-Box. Taunting voices add to the effectiveness of this haunt, whose most memorable characteristic otherwise is its size and scale. Even if you don't like Killer Klowns, you will be impressed.


2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Canoga Park

Haunt at Hellizondo
21024 Arminta Street, Canoga Park
October 30-31 - 7-10pm

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Now it's time to loop around and head back east, taking a twelve-minute drive to Canoga Park for Haunt At Hellizondo. This one is a true aberration: the Hellizondo Haunt usually presents a maze in Simi Valley, but with the walk-through closed down because of the pandemic, the proprietors moved some of new location for this year. There has always been a yard-haunt element to Hellizondo, which situated some of its walk-through on the front lawn of the corner house, which also often featured sets in the driveway.

Some of those old set pieces are visible here, but now they are arranged to be the star attraction rather than a sideshow. There are several motion effects to make the haunt seem alive: a swinging outhouse door, a skeleton stirring a cauldron, ghost floating inside a barn. The result is beautiful, atmospheric, and quite lively. It's not the Hellizondo we know and love, but it's a satisfying substitute.


2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Northridge and North Hills

Community Creep at Sinman Manor
17643 Community Street, Northridge
October 30-31, 6-11pm

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Fifteen minutes driving west on Roscoe, plus a few turns, brings you to this amazing facade. Inflatable figures outside grab the eye, and the proprietor sits out front playing recorded music to set the mood and spinning the lucky wheel for visitors, who win prizes like a glow-in-the-dark bouncing ball.

The haunt itself is perhaps best described as the equivalent of a funhouse facade: it looks like a dilapidated old house with ghouls on the porch and the roof. There's an entrance sign, but of course you cannot go inside (there is no inside - the "door" is a screen projecting scenes from movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas). There may be no treats to be had at the phony entrance, but there is a trick: clapping your hands brings the assorted figures to life - cackling, screaming, and growling, especially the skeletal dog, who is always the last one to quiet back down.

Community Creep had the misfortune to be knocked down by the harsh winds wafting through the valley recently, but it is back up and running - definitely a recommended stop on this haunt odyssey.


The Terror of Densmore Manor
8411 Densmore Avenue, North Hills
October 31, 7-9pm

Since this home haunt is open only on Halloween Night, Hollywood Gothique was not able to report on it till after the fact. However, despite its North Hills location, which makes it sound like something in the far-off hinterland, its address is less than ten minutes from Community Creep, so we finally stopped by.

The Terror of Densmore Manor featured a ghost bride and her groom haunting the grounds and distributing candy via at least a 10 ft. plus chute on Halloween night.  If that wasn’t impressive enough; we caught a bunch of neat displays, projections, and sounds to accompany the setting.  It was definitely a wedding from the ether and we were lucky enough to be guests.  The parting gift is of course free candy. - Capsule Comment by Warren So


2020 West San Fernando Valley Yard Haunts: Granada Hills

Ravenswood Manor
10929 Ruffner Avenue, Granada Hills
October 30 & 31, 7:30-9:45pm

Because of its relatively early closing time, we were not able to reach this intended stop on our journey. Being in Granada Hills, Ravenswood Manor might seem a bit outside the range of a haunt odyssey to the West Valley, but it is closer to Community Creep Creep (is about fifteen minutes north) and Terror of Densmore Manor (about ten minutes) than it is to the most well known home haunt in Granada Hills, Haunted Groundz. One option would be to reverse the direction of our journey and start with Ravenswood instead. If anyone pulls this off, please let us know.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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