Halloween 2013: Must-See Yard Haunts in Los Angeles

What are this Halloween's must-see amateur attractions? Which L.A. yard haunts are scary, and which are simply spooky? Which are decorated yards, and which are walk-through mazes? To find out the answer to these and other questions, read on...if you dare!

We're heading into the final weekend of October, when the majority of Halloween yard haunts open their cemetery gates and lure happy trick-or-treaters inside for some frightening fun. Many will also be open on October 30 and 31, maybe even November 1, but if you wait that long, you will miss your opportunity to enjoy the full range of Halloween yard haunts available in Los Angeles. Therefore, we recommend that you plan to visit as many as possible this weekend.

Of course, you can expect to see our perennial favorites listed below, but we will begin this year's list with yard haunts we experienced for the first time last year, but too late to include on 2012 Halloween Recommendations: Best Yard Haunts in Los Angeles. And for what it's worth, let's make a distinction between "best of" and "must see." A "best of" list usually comes at the end of the season, after all the competitors have been sampled; this "must see" list is by necessity based on past experience, since only a few yard haunts have begun operation so far.

NEW MUST-SEE HOME HAUNTS

Grave Rock Gulch
Grave Rock Gulch

Hollywood Haunter: Grave Rock Gulch

Location: 1547 Garden Street, Glendale 91201

Dates: last week of October

Website: Click here

Description: We first traversed this haunted terrain in Halloween 2012, when it was titled Haunt on Garden Street and featured a cemetery in the yard and a walk-through mausoleum. This year's theme is an old Western mining ghost town. Instead of an interior walk-through, trick-or-treaters will wander through the street of a small town, with several atmospheric buildings: a hotel, a mission, an undertaker's, etc. We did a brief drive-by last night and were totally impressive with the convincing construction: if there's a real house on the lot, it is well hidden behind the Halloween facades; you really will feel as if you are entering a miniature ghost town (it certainly helps that the adjacent houses are also decorated).

Sets, lighting, and some motorized props (a twitching hanged man; kicking feet in a coffin) are currently up and running. Full effects with fog and music should be starting soon, perhaps this weekend(check their Facebook page to be sure). On Halloween night, children will have fun with the interactive elements (mining for gold - no, not gold, mining for body parts) while their parents marvel at the scenery. Hours of operation are typically from sundown to approximately 10:00pm.

The Hollywood Haunter yard haunt is free, but visitors are asked to donate a non-perishable item to support the local food bank.

We though Halloween 2012's Haunt on Garden Street (reviewed here) was a wonderfully spooky and mildly scare. Grave Rock Gulch sounds more kid-friendly, but the sets are even more elaborate and definitely worth checking out.

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pumkinjack2013flyerPumkin Jack's Haunted House

Location: 28603 Natalie Lane, Saugus, California 91390

Dates: October 25, 26 & 31.

Hours: 7-11pm on Friday and Saturday, 8pm to midnight on Halloween night.

Website: Click here

Description: Here is another home haunt we first encountered in last Halloween. Located on a corner lot in a quiet Santa Clarita neighborhood, Pumkin Jack's Haunted House is more home haunt than yard haunt. There are some decorations outside, but the highlight is a 600-foot walk-through maze inside the garage. Although there was some plastic tarp on view, the construction mostly maintained the illusion of being inside a haunted house, and a jumble of details (TV screens displaying empty static) confused the eye, creating a sense of visual chaos that obscured the flaws. Eight separate rooms, each featuring a different theme, featured such familiar faces as Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers. The masks and decor looked mostly store-bought, but they were nonetheless effective.

Pumkin Jack's Haunted House is not up to the level of The Backwoods Maze or Big Worm's Camp Sherwood, but it ranks comfortably alongside such other admirable amateur attractions as The Haunted Shack. It's also in the same general area as the Heritage Haunt, so why not make it a two-fer night?

Admission is free.

Note: Hollywood Gothique's GPS insists that the address for Pumkin Jack's Haunted House is located in Santa Clarita, not Saugus.

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Sherwood Scare Summer Camp signpostBig Worm's Camp Sherwood

Location: 8856 Encino Avenue, Northridge, CA 91325

Dates: October 25-27 & 31.

Hours: 7-10pm, except for Halloween Night, which runs until midnight

Kid-friendly Lights-on Version: October 27, from 5:30pm to 7pm

Admission: $3 donation to benefit Big Worm's Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Website: Click here

Description: In 2012, Big Worm's Sherwood Scare exploded onto the Halloween scene like a demon blasting through the Gates of Hell, presenting one of the best haunted house attractions of any kind, amateur or professional. And we really do mean "haunted house" - not an asylum or a psycho-circus or any other variation - with rooms carefully crafted to hide the phantoms lurking inside.

After that kind of debut, it was an open question whether Big Worm's Sherwood Scare's sophomore session could live up to its own high-standards, but this Halloween's Camp Sherwood recreates the overall mood - atmosphere and anticipation, punctuated by pop-scares - while using an entirely new theme, a haunted summer camp, a la Friday the 13th. The expanded mazed (2,000 square feet instead of 1,800) does a great job of transporting you through the facilities of "Camp Sherwood," and there are at least two must-see scares: one at the beginning and one at the end, providing the best bookends of any Halloween haunt in Los Angeles.

Note: The “Big Worm” moniker comes from the nickname of the CF victim who founded the organization before his death; his family now keeps the foundation going in his name. This is a worthy cause and well worth the $3 admission price.

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MUST-SEE OLD FAVORITES

backwoods maze 2013 monstersThe Backwoods Maze

Location: 1912 North Pepper Street Burbank, CA 91505

Remaining Dates: October 25, 26, 27  & Halloween night, 7-10pm

Website: Click here

Description: As is to be expected, Backwoods Maze offers one of the best walk-through haunted attractions, amateur or professional, that you will encounter in Halloween 2013. The backwoods slaughterhouse theme has been replaced with a more futuristic one, a "Death Race Rumble" featuring armored vehicles and scares that come from all directions - including above. These post-apocalyptic mutants seem rather more athletic than their cannibal-crazy predecessors, leaping at you like ninja assassins. There are so many scares packed into this haunt that you almost can't believe it's fits inside a single back yard.

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boney islandBoney Island

Location: 4602 Morse Avenue Sherman Oaks, CA 91432

Remaining Dates: October 24-31

Hours: 6-9pm Sunday-Thursday; 6-10pm Friday-Saturday

Website: Click here

The Boney Island Yard Haunt offers a haunted yard full of mystical illusions and goofy gags that will appeal to both children and adults. There is absolutely nothing to frighten the young trick-or-treaters; instead, you will see a skeleton magic show, featuring goofy gags and magical cauldrons that spout fountains of colored water in time with Halloween music.

As always, admission to this amateur (but very professional done) event is free.

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Forest of Mirrors

forest of mirrors front yard
Ectoplasmic emanations outside the Forest of Mirrors

Location: 6124 Lederer Ave, Woodland Hills, CA 91367-1329

Date: October 31 only, 6:00pm to 10:30pm

Website: Click here

Description: The miraculous mirrored attraction - unique among Halloween yard haunts in Los Angeles - opens its gates once more, on Halloween night only. No matter how busy you are trick-or-treating that night, you should make the effort to swing by. Located in the back yard of a house once owned by silent movie comedian Buster Keaton, the Forest of Mirrors features a cemetery that seems endlessly extended thanks to a clever illusion: the forking pathways lead to arches, but the arches turn out to be not passages but mirrors; the result is disorienting because the mirrors are carefully placed so that you do not see your own reflection until you are almost ready to step through the looking glass - a startling and remarkable effect.

This one is spooky but safe for kids. There may be a jump scare or two, but mostly Forest of Mirrors relies on its amazing illusion to fascinate you.

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The House at Haunted Hill

House at Haunted Hill skeleton with candlesLocation: 4400 Saltillo Street, Woodland Hills, CA

Dates: October 30 through November 3

Hours: 7-10pm weeknights & Sunday; 7pm-midnight on Friday & Saturday

Website: Click here

Description: One of the best Halloween yard haunts in Los Angeles returns for another six nights of spooky entertainment. Don't expect shrieking ghosts, blood-stained monsters, or grinding chainsaws; instead, The House at Haunted Hill features a full-blown narrative show, using elaborate effects, music and narration to tell the the tragic tale of a Hollywood starlet who had the misfortune to marry a man whose late wife apparently never read the part of the wedding vow that states "till death do us part." The proprietors are planning to install a major addition this year; let's hope they can pull it off. House at Haunted Hill is truly a magnificent achievement, with professional-level production values that create an eerie shivers in keeping with the Halloween season - scary but fun, and safe for children.

Admission and parking are free, but the street is usually blocked off to cars for the safety of foot traffic, so be prepared to walk up that haunted hill!

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The House of Restless Spirits

hors newspaper finalDates & Hours: October 31 & November 2, 7-11pm

Location: 1008 Euclid Street, Santa Monica, CA

Website: Click here

Description: Santa Monica's premiere yard haunt - one of the best Halloween events in Los Angeles, amateur or professional - returns for two nights of subtle, spooky shivers: Saturday, October 27 and Wednesday, October 31. House of Restless Spirits is literal "yard haunt," offering a walk-around rather than a walk-through: you will see numerous ghostly effects in the front and back yards of the house, as a multitude of apparitions manifest. The back story of the House of Restless Spirits involves a ship's captain, who buried his family in the backyard cemetery during an influenza epidemic decades ago, then took his ship out to sea one last time - never to return. Guests are admitted in small groups at discrete intervals, to give everyone a chance to savor the ethereal effects in turn. Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.

Please note: Wait times can exceed an hour. The 11pm stop-time is the time when the House of Restless Spirits shuts down, so you need to be in line well before then.

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Rotten Apple 907: Wilsley Manor II

Haunt-Flyer-2013-FinalLocation: 907 N. California Street Burbank, CA 91505

Dates: October 25-27, 31

Hours: 7-10pm

Website: Click here

Description: Rotten Apple 907 - one of the best group of yard haunters in Los Angeles - offers four nights of Halloween horror this October. Halloween 2013 sees the a resurrection of sorts: The Haunted Wilsley Manor II offers a variation on last Halloween's traditional haunted house, set in a mansion once owned by a pair of brothers, one of whom went homicidally insane. His victims still walk the halls - do you dare enter and confront them? Rotten Apple 907's home haunts have always been fun, but in recent years they have extended their walk-through maze and offered professional-quality scares, making this one of the best amateur attractions around town.

As always, admission is free, but donations will be accepted for charity; this year's recipient is Family Promise.

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ALWAYS WORTH ANOTHER VISIT

Eternal Rest Cemetery

EternalRestPromoCard2012WebResDates: October 31 & November 2

Hours: Dusk till the line dwindles

Location: 414 Rose Avenue Venice, California (310) 755-1586

WebsiteClick here

Description: This annual amateur event is one of the better Halloween Yard Haunts in Los Angeles. With a decorated front yard and a very tight walk-through maze around the side of the house, Eternal Rest Cemetery provides a fun evening for the neighborhood, but it is good enough to attract fright fans from all around the city. The maze takes only a few minutes to get through, but it is very effective - and probably too scary for very young children. Arrive early, because lines get long, especially on Halloween night.

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The Haunted Shack

Haunted Shack Skeleton blacklight 2010 cropDates: October 26 & 31, 7-10pm

Location: 5112 Maricopa Street Torrance, CA 90503

Website: Click here

Description: The best little home haunt in Torrance returns for two days of haunting this Halloween - on Saturday, October 27, and Wednesday, October 31. The Haunted Shack has been around since 1997, growing into a 1500-square-foot walk-through labyrinth, featuring some amazing tricks and illusions. The corridors are loaded with skeletal ghouls, eager to deliver scares, but what stands out in memory is the unexpected twists, turns, and surprises, such as a “solid” wall that turns out to be a hidden door. There are some professional-level tricks-and-treats inside, making this a must-see for anyone in the area.

The Haunted Shack is free, but gladly accepts donations on behalf of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which benefits research for curing breast cancer.

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The Haunt With No Name...Yet

haunt with no name yet 3Location: 19351 Hatteras Street Tarzana, CA

Dates: October 10-31, November 1-2

Hours: 6pm-10pm on Monday & Tuesday; dusk to 10pm on Halloween night

Website: Click here

Description: Tarzana's as-yet unnamed yard haunt returns for its 21st year. The Haunt with No Name Yet is spooky in a wonderfully understated way, with a pumpkin-patch-full of hand-carved Jack-O'Lanterns, wonderful ornaments and lighting, and a handful of creepy effects. Kids will not be too terrified, but they will enjoy the ghostly tricks-and-treats, as will their parents.

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Helizondo Haunt

Haunt at Helizondo blakc light skullsLocation: 2134 Elizondo Avenue, Simi Valley, CA 93065

Dates & Hours: October 30 & 31 from dusk till…?

Website: Click here

Description: This elaborate yard haunt and walk-through maze – loaded with custom-made props and decorations – opens its doors for two nights of Halloween of mirth and terror. The Simi Valley location is a bit distant for most Los Angeles Halloween fans, but if you are anywhere in the general vicinity, the Helizondo Haunt is worth a visit (and you can kill two birds with one stone by visiting Mourning Rose Manor, not far away). Last year’s theme, Rasputin’s Carnival of Risk, actually infused a little vitality into the over-used killer klown canrival cliches, indicating that these amateur haunters know how to put on a good show.

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There are many other great Halloween Yard Haunts in Los Angeles. You can find last-minute additions filed under Amateur Halloween events.