2014 Halloween Haunt Award Nominees: Best Home Haunt Yard Display

Although more and more home haunts feature some kind of walk-through, the front yard display remains the traditional means of expression for most amateur haunters, and we celebrate their creativity here.

This year's nominees diverge considerably from Halloween 2013. We skipped several old favorites (such as Haunt with No Name Yet, The House at Haunted Hill, and Forest of Mirrors) that remain essentially unchanged from year to year. In their place, we endeavored to visit some new (at least to us) yard haunts. Our diligence paid off, revealing several spectral offerings worthy of attention.

And the 2014 nominees for Best Home Haunt Yard Display are...

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Boney Island cauldrons

Boney Island

This old favorite in Sherman Oaks is always a delight - a skeleton carnival for the whole family, including magic cauldrons that spew fountains of colored water in time with spooky music. The Spirit Box on the roof and the Anti-Gravity Water on the front porch are always worth seeing, and Halloween 2014 saw several new gags that made a return visit pretty much mandatory.

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Firehouse 6

Fire Station 6 2014Our happiest surprise of the season was the discovery of this display in Santa Clarita, down the street from Pumkin Jack's Haunted House.This haunted firehouse is manned by a literal skeleton crew, who seem shocked that their own firehouse is on fire! There are no mechanics, and the only movement was the flickering firelight in the upper windows, but the brick facade was absolutely amazing.

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Hollywood Haunter: A Night in a Haunted House 2014

Hollywood Haunter: A Night in a Haunted House

Last year's winner Hollywood Haunter re-qualifies because they presented a totally new display for Halloween 2014. A Night in a Haunted House featured the dilapidated facade of a decaying home, with moving skeletons peeking from behind curtains, while chairs rocked and trashcan rattled in the front yard, moved by unseen hands. The perfect evocation of Halloween horror - spooky but not too terrifying for trick-or-treaters.

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Mourning Rose Manor statue and skeleton in coffin

Mourning Rose Manor

Moody and sad, this Simi Valley yard haunt seems to be striking a more serious tone that what we remember from our previous visit a few years ago. The decorated yard has only a few effects (green light glowing in the fog, a skeleton popping from a tombstone), but the mournful voice of the Bride in Black, explaining why she and other souls are trapped for eternity, is memorably evocative.

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Via Del Lago Haunt 2014. Photo by William Greca.

Via Del Lago Haunt

Another discovery, this home haunt display in the Newbury Park community of Thousand Oaks is much lighter in tone than Mourning Rose Manor. The upscale home has a large front yard with room for a multitude of mannequins and gravestones, augmented by decorations on the house itself (e.g., a screaming face in a second-story window). The effect is mostly humorous, with jokey inscriptions on the headstones, creating a non-threatening tone for costumed treat-seekers.