2020 Yard Haunts: San Fernando Valley

Halloween is alive and well in the San Fernando Valley, thanks to spectacular yard haunts like Gothic Hills Cemetery and Holiday Fantasies Come to Life.

One fortunate side effect of the unfortunate impact of Covid-19 safety precautions is that, with Halloween Home Haunts switching from walk-throughs to yard displays, many are open earlier in the season and, instead of operating only on weekends (when actors would be available to scare curious victims), the displays have their lights on during weeknights as well. This means that it is possible to enjoy season scares seven days a week, if you know where to look, and this is especially true in the San Fernando Valley, which offers a plethora of yard haunts worth visiting.

In fact, there are so many San Fernando Valley yard haunts that we break them up into areas - north, south, east, and weeks - in order to make it easier to keep track of all of them. Through some cosmic coincidence, the West Valley haunts (which we define as anything west of the 405 Freeway) do not open until the weekend of October 23, so they are not represented here. We will add them to this post as soon as we get a chance to visit them. Meanwhile, let's take a look at what is open now...

2020 Yard Haunts: San Fernando Valley North

We loosely define the North San Fernando Valley as anything above the 118 Freeway, which includes such neighborhoods and cities as Sylmar, San Fernando, and most of Granada Hills.


Haunted World
611 Newton Street
San Fernando
October 10-31 - 7-10pm

This yard display is filled with flickering lights, creepy voices, artificial Jack O'Lanterns, inflatable figures, and ghostly skulls projected on the front wall. The store-bought decorations are nicely arranged - the yard is packed without feeling overcrowded.

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Spooky but not too scary, Haunted World will, we suspect, be a popular destination for neighborhood trick-or-treaters on Halloween Night.


Gothic Hills Cemetery
13796 Marchant Avenue
Sylmar
October 1-31 6-10pm

Over the past few years, Gothic Hills Cemetery had been expanding and improving its walk-through home haunt until it rivaled the best in Los Angeles. In the year of Coronavirus, however, only the display in the front yard remains. In the past, this served as an appetizer for for the walk-through; this year, new props and effects have been added to the familiar decor, in order to make the colorful display worth seeing on its own.

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Obviously, the stand-alone yard display is no match for the missing walk-through, but the restless dead Gothic Hills Cemetery are still worth visiting. There is a moving skull peering over a tombstone; a skeleton torso pops out of a small coffin. A shovel twitches in the earth, moved by an unseen hand. Fog wafts through the cemetery gates, obscuring the flickering faces of Jack O'Lanterns nestled below a towering demon. And watch out for the angry pumpkin by the side gate!


Other North Valley Home Haunts

If you are in the North Valley area on Halloween Night, you can add this yard haunt to your list...

Haunted Groundz
13243 Mission Tierra Way, Granada Hills
October 31, 6-10pm

Haunted Groundz. Photo by Yuki Tanaka
Haunted Groundz

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2020 Yard Haunts: San Fernando Valley South

This area is perhaps more central than south: nestled between the 405 and 170 Freeways, it includes such southern areas as Studio City, Valley Village, and Sherman Oaks, but also neighborhoods higher north such Panorama City and much of Van Nuys. On the second weekend of October, we visited a modest but clever new home haunt that made good use of limited space.


Castlestymo

11850 Riverside Drive #121
(viewed from Radford Avenue)
Valley Village
October 1 - November 1, Dusk-10:30pm

How does one create a yard haunt without a yard? That's what windows and balconies are for! There is not a lot of room to fill at the awkwardly named Castlestymo, but you have to give the proprietor credit for pulling off something so eye-catching within the confines of an apartment/townhouse.

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The balcony features two figures, a werewolf and a shrouded figure. The werewolf growls and speaks; the figure occasionally tosses back his cowl to reveal a Jack O'Lantern face. The window is haunted by a ghostly bride and a skeletal groom. The lighting and backdrop disguise the fact that what they are standing in is just a simply room; it's hard to make out details from the sidewalk but the place looks creepy.

Castlestymo is too small to seek out for its own sake, but if you're on your own yard haunt odyssey in the Valley, it is definitely worth a drive-by.


More South Valley Home Haunts

Looking for more Halloween in the South Valley? Check these out!

Harry's Haunts
5637 Colbath Avenue, Van Nuys
October 31, 5-10pm

Harry's Haunts 2018 coffin
Harry's Haunts

Rosehill Haunt
11560 Acama Street, Studio City
October 23-25, 30-31, Nov. 1 - 7-10p

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2020 Yard Haunts: San Fernando Valley East

We define this region as extending east of the 170 Freeway. This has the unfortunate effect of landing North Hollywood in the East San Fernando Valley. Nomenclature aside, this makes the most geographic sense for haunt-seekers planning to reach as many stops as possible in a given area.


Clybourn Manor and More
4336 N. Clybourn Avenue, Burbank
October 11-31 - 7-10pm

When we visited Clybourn Manor last Halloween, it was a quite place, decorated with pirate skeletons. Well, we must have shown up late, after the lights and sounds were turned off, because this year we were regaled with a hearty chorus of "Yo ho, yo ho - a pirate's life for me!" Flickering lights, Tiki torches, and the sound of running water (the house has a fountain out front) add to the piratical ambiance.

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Clybourn Manor is located in a neighborhood filled with other decorated houses, many of which keep a low profile with little or no web presence. Two spectacular examples are located on Moorpark, a few blocks west of Clybourn.

Jack O'Lantern Mansion
10104 Moorpark Street, Burbank
Open Nightly (as far as we know)

As far we we know this massive yard display has no name, but "Jack O'Lantern Mansion" is an accurate enough description: the enormous yard is festooned with an army of artificial Jack O'Lanterns, accented with beautiful purple lights, which effectively expand the seasonal color scheme beyond orange and black. One would think that stacking hundreds of the same decoration side by side would yield monotonous results, but the sheer scale is overwhelming; even when viewed from across the street, the display seems to take up nearly one's entire field of vision. We recommend crossing the street for an even closer view.

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Land of the Giants
Moorpark Street, Burbank
(two blocks west of Jack O'Lantern Mansion)

Open Nightly (as far as we know)

Again we have applied a descriptive label to an (as far we know) unnamed yard display. The decorations at Land of the Giants are completely different from those at Jack O'Lantern Mansion, but the basic template is the same: take something that anyone could do, but do it a massive scale that overwhelms the beholder. In this case, instead of hundreds of Jack O'Lanterns, there are dozens of oversized inflatables on the lawn, gazing menacingly down upon trick-or-treaters traversing the sidewalk. .

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Rotting Hill Cemetery
4848 Sancola Avenue
North Hollywood
October 9 - November 8 - 6:30-10pm

Notting Hill Cemetery - excuse us, Rotting Hill Cemetery (the name changes thanks to the appearance of a spectral red letter 'R' on the sign) - reminds us a bit of Van Oaks Cemetery: it's a clever arrangement of tombstones and statuary, bathed in colored lights and wafting with fog. There are no store-bought, plastic peak-a-boo skulls; the decorations feel authentic, creating an eerie semblance of reality.

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On the first night we attended, not all the ghosts were active (the result of a blown fuse), and we called the haunt "low key," which turns out to be an inaccurate description. When Rotting Hill Cemetery is fully operational, it is more of a mini-show than a mere yard display, featuring a bust of Marie Antoinette, a skeletal figure banging his coffin lid up and down, and a white-shrouded spook who pops up from behind a gravestone. The ghostly comedy team cycles through a series of bon mots that will have you moaning and groaning with laughter.


Holiday Fantasies Come to Life
1505 N. Valley Street, Burbank
October 10-31,  6pm to midnight

No Halloween Home Haunt Odyssey is complete without a stop at Holiday Fantasies Come to Life, which features just about the most elaborately decorated yard displays  we have ever seen. The themes tend to focus on Disney characters - Captain Jack Sparrow has been prominently featured more than once - and this year is no exception, with Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Malificent from Sleeping Beauty, and Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians prominently displays. Nevertheless, Halloween 2020's presentation is not simply more of the same.

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In the past, Holiday Fantasies Come to Life was packed with static mannequins that were more fanciful than frightening. We would not call this year terrifying, but it definitely leans in a spookier direction, with animatronic figures that move and speak, including a gravel-voice grave-digger and a winged demon (perhaps meant to suggest Chernobog from "The Night on Bald Mountain" segment of Fantasia). Not to worry - timid trick-or-treaters can rest reassured that Mickey Mouse is still prominently displayed, and the ghosts projected on the castle wall look far too friendly to actually scare anybody.

Holiday Fantasies Come to Life is always worth seeing simply because there is so much to see. This year, the additions create a largely new viewing experience that demands a return visit.


Other San Fernando Valley Easy Home Haunts

Here are some other yard haunts in the East Valley that you can add to the itinerary  of your own Halloween Odyssey.

Circus of Nightmares
113 S Brighton Street, Burbank
October 21-31, Dusk-10pm

Corky's Discount Pest Control
2020 N. Manning Street, Burbank
October 20-31 - 7-10pm

Pierdell Fantasmagoria
6245 Whitsett Avenue
North Hollywood
October 23 - November 2 - 7-9:30pm

Pierdel Cemetery yard haunt 2019
Entrance to Pierdell Cemetery

Rotten Apple 907
907 N. California Street, Burbank
October 23-25, 30, 31, November 1 - 7-10pm

Rotten Apple 907

Other Home Haunts

In the upcoming days, we will visit yard haunts in other areas: the West Valley, the Verdugos, hopefully Simi Valley and Torrance. Meanwhile, you can our page dedicated to Halloween Home Haunts.

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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