Boney Island 2011: Review & Video

After a three-year hiatus, the Boney Island Yard haunt is back, and it’s even better than before! The Halloween event’s skeleton crew has morphed from a carnival into a magic show, but the familiar, whimsical aura still pervades the grounds. Dozens of skeletons are arranged into imaginative tableau, with lights, music, recorded voices, and  mechanical effects to imbue them with life. These silly scenes are guaranteed to tickle the funny bones of young and old alike, making this one of the best Los Angeles Halloween haunts for children. But don’t take our word for it; check out our video to see what’s new at this unique amateur attraction.

At Boney Island, imagination trumps technique. Effects are low-tech. The skeletons are plastic toys; their movements are simple, and the wires animating them are often visible. Yet none of this matters. The charm of Boney Island lies in seeing what these skeletons are up to each year. In years past, they engaged in carnival activities such as eating “Rotten Candy” or playing “Trick or Trout.” This year, we see skeletons levitating, performing the Indian rope trick, and fashioning impossibly elaborate hand shadows. One unfortunate attraction – sawing a skeleton in half – has gone horrible wrong, and the bisected victims is strangling the performer.

A few familiar pieces remain. The skeleton organ grinder and monkey are playing by the side of the house. The talking spiders are back, with a few new jokes added into their repertoire. The skeleton fortune teller continues to amaze children with his mind-reading tricks. This last one features live dialogue between the fortune teller and the audience; visitors always seem to expect that this is another recorded voice, and are duly surprised when the skeleton’s answers are appropriate to the questions. (If you’re sharp-eyed you can spot how the trick works, but to reveal it here would be akin to telling a child there’s no Santa Claus.)

Boney Island 2011 Maestro MaxillaBoney Island raises the bar this year by presenting a colorful  musical performance by Maestro Maxilla the Great. This talking skeleton conducts cauldrons and pumpkins, which provide flashing lights and splashing fountains, timed to the music  (which ranges from “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” to “The Monster Mash,” the “Addams Family” theme).

Boney Island was always a fun place to wander, moving from one display to the other, and smiling at the ridiculous antics of the skeletons. Maxilla’s show now provides a memorable centerpiece, a technical tour de force that holds you in place as you watch the watery spectacle from beginning to end (which we did several times).

After the music fades and the bright-hued jets of water subside, Maxilla exhorts his audience to go out and have the best Halloween ever. Surprisingly, these recorded words, spoken by a mechanical skeleton, do not ring hollow. The very fact that Boney Island is back, with this beautiful new addition, goes a long way toward making this one of the best Halloweens ever.

Boney Island continues through October 31 at 4602 Morse Avenue Sherman Oaks, CA 91432. Hours are 6-9pm Sunday-Thursday; 6-10pm Friday-Saturday. Click here for their website.

Watch a larger version of the video below:

More in this series: 

  1. Boney Island Returns!
  2. Boney Island 2011: Review & Video