On Halloween Night, Hollywood Gothique took a hit of its own potent potion, following the path laid out in our 2013 Haunted House Itinerary: Torrance. This journey took us to a trio of strange and diverse spectral locations: The Haunted Shack, Revenge of the Ninja, and Spydrhill Cemetery. The first two we covered three years ago in our 2010 Halloween Haunt Odyssey, Part 4: South Bay Boogeymen, but Spydrhill was a first-encounter for us - and, possibly a final encounter as well, as the yard haunt's future is uncertain.
Regrettably, none of these three haunts continued operation after October 31, so we arrived too late to put in a good word and urge you to check them out. We would have written up our night-time Terror Tour of Torrance sooner, but we opted to prioritize Halloween Haunt Odyssey installments relating to those attractions still open to the public during the first weekend of November.
The proprietor first alerted us to this yard haunt a couple years ago; hearing that Halloween 2013 was its final manifestation, we made the trek to Torrance on October 31, and only wish we had arrived in time to send a few of our readers their way. Though not the most elaborately decorated yard haunt we have ever seen, Spydrhill Cemetery has (had?) an interesting set up: a pathway defined by yards and yards of spiderweb stretched between wooden fence posts. This creates an interesting illusion: because the white web is mostly transparent, visitors can see through to the house beyond the yard, and it looks as if little if anything is lying in wait for them. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and more than one trick-or-treater turned back while we were there, suddenly startled by the creatures lurking in clever hiding places. Those brave enough to run the guantlet of terrors are rewarded with candy at the front door, then must complete a circuit of the yard, encountering even more ghouls on the way out.
Interesting for a yard haunt, some of the most exciting activity takes place not in the yard but out in the street. The monsters, including a slider, harass passersby, chasing them across the road and down the block. In fact, on the night we visited, the zombies and other creatures were doing almost too good a job on their sidewalk patrol, scaring away potential trick-or-treaters, who might otherwise have entered the web-bound graveyard.
Halloween 2013 represents Spydrhill Cemetary;s last appearance at their old location in Torrance. However, we were told that the torch is being passed on to the next generation, who may resurrect it at a new venue next year. Here's hoping.
The Haunted Shack
Having been suitably scared during our first walk through this home haunt three years ago, we are happy to report that the Haunted Shack has not been resting on its bloody laurels since then. As before, this haunt offers more than you would expect from looking at the outside, which presents a small entrance tacked onto a quiet neighborhod home; once you get inside, you find yourself lost in a world of darkness. This year's theme is a clever concept: a sequential depiction of the ten greatest fears (darkness, isolation, etc).
It's almost like ten different themes rolled into one maze, and one or two of them feature effects you just don't expect in an amateur effort (e.g., heights, which uses mirrors to create the vertiginous illusion of staring down from high altitude).
There is also a playful aspect to the Haunted Shack. Outside on the lawn, a monitor shows the trick-or-treaters wandering through the last room, where they are blasted with air while sparks fly and a mechanical snake lunges forward. It turns out that these effects are controlled by buttons in front of the monitor. That's right: you get to inflict the scares on hapless victims! How fun is that? Our advice: go next year, but don't tell your friends about the buttons. Since the haunt likes to allow people through in small groups, tell your friends you want to split up and go through first. Then when you get out, run to the monitor and unleash hell on your companions.
The Haunted Shack should be back next Halloween. It usually runs on October 31 and possibly one previous day. Admission is free, but they accept donations for cancer research. You can check their dates here.
The Revenge of the Ninja
Set inside The Way of the Shadow Martial Arts Academy, Revenge of the Ninja is unique among Halloween haunts in Los Angeles. It is roughly analogous to the Theatre 68 Haunted House, which benefits from performers who are talented actors: Revenge of the Ninja, on the other hand, benefits from performers who are trained martial artists. They're fast and silent, and they know how to sneak up on you without being seen, so you never know where the next attack is coming from.
With a few notable exceptions, the sets are fairly basic, mostly consisting of cardboard walls; however, in a remarkable feat of artistic jiu-jitsu, the Way of the Shadow turns this weakness into strength: there are several tears in the cardboard flats, invisible in the darkness, through which the vengeful ninja spirits can appear and disappear at will. That's right: they seem to literally walk through walls!
Just about everything we remember from 2010 was on view again (such as the living torso mounted on a bamboo pole), but overall we felt the experience this time was even better than before, with more scares coming at you more often. Also, new thrills had been added, including Kayako, the malevolent spirit from Ju-on: The Grudge. This sudden intrusion of feminine horror creates a remarkable contrast with the aggressive masculinity of the ninja; in this case, the female is at least as deadly as the male.
Revenge of the Ninja is a community event. The scary walk-through maze operates a few days toward the end of each October; it's augmented with a neighborhood block party on Halloween Night. We suspect that the scares inside the maze may be toned down every so slightly on October 31, because the block party draws a large audience of impressionable youngsters; nevertheless, the Revenge of the Ninja is unique and exciting. If you can get down to Torrance next year, you should steel your nerves and venture onto the ninja-haunted domain haunted. Who knows? You might even make it out alive.
Normally, this would be the moment when we bid adieu to Halloween until next haunting season. However, Delusion: Masque of Mortality looms in our immediate future. We were unable to see this combo of interactive theatre and walk-through haunt during the month of October, so we have saved it till the end, rather like a delicious desert, to be enjoyed after the many entrees we sampled last month.
More in this series:
- Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2013: Restless Spirits and Westchester Park
- Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2013: Haunted Hill, Haunt With No Name, Wilsley Manor & Grave Rock Gulch
- Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2013: Spydrhill, Haunted Shack, Revenge of Ninja