Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2018: Sherman Oaks (updated)

We thank the Lords of Halloween for yard displays, which are just about the only type of Halloween home haunts open during the week, some of them up and running as early as mid-October. Because of their convenient schedule, we can increase our quota of yard haunts far beyond the number we could reach when attending haunts open only on weekends or - worse yet - only on Halloween Night. Monday, October 23, we took advantage of two of these Sherman Oaks yard haunts, the Van Oaks Cemetery and Spooky Saloma. Read on - if you dare...

Note: This post has been updated to include other Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts: Fillmore Graves and Wicked Pumpkin Hollow.

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Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts: Van Oaks Cemetery
5822 Norwich Avenue, Sherman Oaks, 91411
October 31,  7-11pm

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Over the past fear years, Van Oaks Cemetery has established itself as a seasonal perennial, noted for its low-key approach (a la the Hallowed Haunting Grounds) and its nicely detailed, upright gravestones, many of them adorned with the names of the fictional "Van Oaks"* family. A shovel near a lamp moves by an unseen hand, and a phantom appears at the window, shushing visitors with a finger to her lips (is she a librarian?).

This year's innovation is an aging radio, left beside the grave of a woman named Vera, who died in 1940. The unplugged device mysteriously comes to life at intervals, playing songs from the lifetime of the grave's occupant, such as 1939's "Well Meet Again" (made famous, appropriately enough, by Vera Lynn). It's a clever Twilight Zone-type touch, suggesting the ghosts of the past trying to communicate with the present.

Get more information on the Van Oaks Cemetery at their Facebook page.

* The name is a joke based on the fact that the neighborhood used to be part of Van Nuys before petitioning to become part of Sherman Oaks.

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Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts: Spooky Saloma
5635 Saloma Avenue, Sherman Oaks, 91411
Through October 31, 7-10pm

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Spooky Saloma is a series of yard displays on Saloma Avenue, north of Hatteras Street,  a couple of blocks from Van Oaks Cemetery. The amount and style of decor varies widely from house to house (mostly store-bought props and inflatables with some lighting and projection effects), but the cumulative effect is impressive.

The most memorable display is provided by the house at the corner of Soloma and Hatteras. With a larger yard, it has room for more decorations, but the true highlight is a trio of mournful ghosts peering out of the window and rocking back and forth in melancholy woe as they blink in and out of existence. The effect is genuinely eerie - and apparently achieved with physical mannequins, not digital projection. Definitely worth stopping for a look after visiting Van Oaks Cemetery.

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Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts: Fillmore Graves Jack O'Lantern Farm
14318 Emelita Street, Sherman Oaks
6:30-10:15pm through Halloween Night

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Father east from Van Oaks Cemetery and Spooky Saloma is the Fillmore Graves Jack O'Lantern Farm. This yard haunt offers a spooky slice of Southern Gothic, with a rocking chair moved by an invisible hand on the porch of a ramshackle cabin, while crickets chirp and moths cast flickering shadows. Jack O'Lantern-headed sentinels glow in the darkness, above a small pumpkin patch, and a skeletal statue guards a graveyard with a tomb surrounded by gravestones, where a bottle levitates above a cauldron. For those brave enough to approach the residence, a seance with levitating candle is visible through the front window.

A corner house half a block east from Fillmore Graves is boarded up with caution tape and signs warning of zombie attacks. Is this merely decor? Or will there be a walk-through on Halloween Night? If you happen to be in the area, let us know!

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Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts: Wicked Pumpkin Hollow
5421 Worster Avenue, Sherman Oaks

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The Wicked Pumpkin Hollow yard haunt is simple but amazing. It's basically a yard full of carved Jack O'Lanterns - a sort of mini-version of Nights of the Jack: A Halloween Jack O'Lantern Experience. Cornstalks give the impression of a mid-western farm; ravens caw, and a black cat stands triumphant with a rat in its jaws; and foolish trick-or-treaters in old-fashioned costumes unwitting court their doom near a witch's cabin. The latter is new this year - a facade with a witch peaking out the window, occasionally tapping her bony finger against the glass.

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Other Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts

There are many other Halloween Home Haunts in Sherman Oaks, near the Van Oaks Cemetery and Spooky Saloma, including a fairly elaborate display at  5758 Burnet Avenue. Judging by past experience, more will bloom by moonlight as Halloween approaches. These other displays are not as elaborate, but they act as a sort of value-added inducement, making a trip to this Sherman Oaks neighborhood an essential part of any haunt-seeker's Halloween itinerary.


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.