The final installment of our 2011 Halloween Yard Haunt Odyssey takes us to a pair of old favorites, both restless and eternal, and also ventures into previously uncharted realms of mishaps and darkness. The wide spectrum of approaches - from shivers to shocks, from simple to sophisticated - is a remarkable testament to the impressive variety of Amateur Halloween Events in the Los Angeles area.
Of course, we cannot allow Halloween Night to pass without a visit to the House of Restless Spirits in Santa Monica (1003 Euclid Street). This amazingly eerie home haunt offers much more than a decorated yard; its windows are filled with spectral illusions and manifestations that combine to create the impression of an authentically paranormal experience. Real haunted houses may not exist, but if they did, they would resemble House of Restless Spirits. In fact, one suspects that any "real" haunt would pale in comparison to this expert simulation.
The effects remain consistent from year to year, but there are subtle alterations and improvements. The rattling gate, the glowing footprints, the ghostly sea captain in the woodshed - all these and more returned for Halloween 2011. New/improved features included a moving block and tackle near the water bucket in which the captain's face periodically appears. The ghostly infant in the baby crib manifested with a more transparent appearance than last year, suggesting an ectoplasmic apparition rather than a solid being. And the sinister shadow that walks on the wall of the back porch displayed a surreal touch: a soft glow surrounding the candle in her hand. Can a shadow - technically, the absence of light - be itself a medium of light? Apparently, in the spirit world, the answer is yes.
As always, House of Restless Spirits is for the true connoisseurs of the Best Los Angeles Halloween Events. One must be patient, willing to wait in line with the crowds, and proceed slowly around the house. Fortunately, the slow pacing yields marvelous dividends, revealing souls and spectres that one might overlook in a mere quick perusal.
Moving to the opposite spectrum, a trip of only a few miles brings one from the House of the Restless Spirits to the Eternal Rest Cemetery at 414 Rose Avenue in Venice. One wonders whether the name is a deliberate play on words: perhaps if the restless spirits interred in the back yard of the house were moved to the cemetery, they would at last find eternal rest?
Eternal Rest Cemetery offers a combination of yard haunt and walk-through maze. After waiting in line on the sidewalk (crowds do pile up on Halloween Night), you enter the main gate and gaze upon the tombstones and other decorations for a moment before heading away on your trip into terror.
Real estate is at a minimum. The haunt squeezes quite a lot into its yard display without looking overcrowded. The "maze" takes you down the side of the house, where you make a u-turn and head back along a parallel corridor. It's a tight fit, which adds a touch of claustrophobia - especially when squeezing past the dangling body bags blocking one section. For such a small space, there are a remarkable number of monsters lurking in in unexpected places (the ceiling, the floor), and you will experience quite a few more scares than you would expect possible.
The maze seems to have been extended for 2011. Once you return from the side of the house back to the front yard area, some additional scaffolding keeps you sequestered in the corridors of doom for a few more moments, as you pass a mechanical witch stirring a cauldron, a camouflaged bog creature that seems to be just part of the decor (before lurching unexpectedly to life), and finally some kind of over-sized monster with blank eyes and very sharp teeth.
It's too late for this year, but you should put Eternal Rest Cemetery on your list for Halloween 2012. The maze remains in operation on October 31 as long as there are crowds outside, which means you can still enjoy some precious Halloween thrills long after other Los Angeles yard haunts in have closed their tombstones for the season.
Leaving behind these two familiar locations, which we have visited often in the past, we move on now to unfamiliar territory, haunted by ghost never before encountered (at least by us). But a short drive from Eternal Rest Cemetery we found The Dark Side Haunted Attraction, also in Venice. This new yard haunt featured a fairly lengthy walk around a house in a quiet neighborhood. Some of the construction was crude (black tarp to hide the haunted yard from those waiting outside on the sidewalk), but inside there were a variety of scary scenes: a backyard with creepy noises; a garage with a torture porn-type vignette; a driveway with lurking ghosts; a hospital scenes with sick patients and sicker staff; a cemetery with things trying to get out and/or inviting you to stay.
The monster masks and makeup were fairy professionally done, and there were some clever surprises, such as an arm that suddenly lunges from beneath an upright tombstone, clutching at your ankle. The effectiveness was increased by allowing only one small group (of two or three visitors) inside at a time, so that the monsters could give them the benefit of their undivided attention. The unfortunate downside was the paralyzing slowness of the line, which prevented us from attending any other Westside haunted houses on Halloween night. (The advertising claimed that only one person at a time would be allowed inside, which might have worked on a slow night; by October 31 this strategy had apparently been abandoned. Hopefully, the yard haunt can find some way to retain the focus on small groups while still moving the customers in and out a little faster - perhaps allowing each new group inside after the previous group has passed the halfway point?)
We are not listing the address of the Dark Side Haunt here, because the proprietors promise to resurrect their monstrous mayhem at a new location next Halloween. We will let you know when and where...
Finally, Hollywood Gothique dearly desired to make a trip out to Glendale to partake of the psychic and supernatural phenomena at Hollywood Haunter's Mishap Manor (1547 Garden Street), which has somehow evaded detection on our PKE meters all these years. Unfortunately, time would not permit, but Mrs. Hollywood Gothique bravely made the trip on her own (detouring on the way home from work). She called from the location, thrilled by her discovery: not only was Mishap Manor worth a visit; there were also two other yard haunts ensconced side by side, each with its own set of ghosts and goblins, eager to frighten trick-or-treaters.
As always, we reached only a fraction of the haunted homes that we had hoped to investigate this Halloween; the witching hours from dusk till midnight slip by too quickly on October 31, and Mishap Manor is only one of many yard haunts that eluded our eager grasp, disappearing like Brigadoon as All Souls Day gave way to All Saints Day. Like Poe's agonized narrator in "A Dream Within a Dream," we cry out in frustration over our inability to prevent the sands of time from creeping through our fingers, bringing the holiday season to its inevitable annual demise. We take solace in knowing that next October, cemeteries will once more open their tombstones, unleashing resurrected souls to co-mingle with mortals for another Happy Halloween. Come that time, Mishap Manor is definitely on our to-do list of Halloween Events in Los Angeles. Until then, you can peruse these photos to see what we missed.