As you don your Halloween costumes and decide which revels to enjoy on this last night of the Halloween season, make a special note of this: tonight is the final night that the wonderful Turbidite Manor will be in Los Angeles.
This haunt - a sort of electronically-guided museum tour of a haunted mansion - is one of three at Spooky House in Northridge. This particular location will be bull-dozed to make room for a mall after Halloween; Spooky House is looking for a new Los Angeles-area location for next year, but Turbidite proprietor Nathan Hamilton will be moving his haunt somewhere closer to his home area, near Lake Arrowhead. Thus there is little chance of seeing the haunt so close to Los Angeles in the foreseeable future.
Hamilton is one of the former contributors to the late, lamented Hallowed Haunting Grounds, the Studio City yard haunt that closed its eternal portal in 2005, after thirty-three years of haunting. Many of the Haunting Grounds' familiar props are now on display at Turbidite Manor, which evokes a similarly spooky feel, eschewing (for the most part) the jump-out-and-grab-you scares of other Halloween attractions.
Turbidite truly is a haunt, in the best sense of the word - it conveys a creepy sense of unseen things lurking in the shadows, and it's one of the few such attractions that is as effective (almost more so) during the children's "safe" matinee performances, when no actors in makeup are lurking within the corridors to screech "Boo!" Something about its ethereal atmosphere works even better when the crowds are smaller and quieter, when you can hear every whisper in the dark, every creaking of every floorboard.
Turbidite's presence at the Spooky House Theme Park is a welcome one, providing an excellent counter-balance to the other two mazes, Phobia and the titular Spooky House 17. It's nice to visit a multi-maze attraction in which the mazes actually offer a different types hauntings.
Spooky House came to its current location last year. Unfortunately, the site, an abandoned movie theatre complex, is not up to the level of its previous location (which featured permanent structures, convincing haunted house facades, and extensive areas with elaborate settings both in doors and outside), but the haunt does seem to have adapted to the constraints better this year, and they are putting on a good show.
In the past, I've taken Spooky House to task for being long on decor and short on scares, but that is not the cast this year. The new Phobia maze is not particularly memorable (it's effective, but it's hard to cite anything distinctive about it); fortunately, the Spooky House 17 maze is loaded with angry ghouls, sinister spooks, and malefic witches, all doing their very best to scare you witless.
As always, there are lots of nice props and atmospheric settings. They are not as elaborate as at the previous location (which had a bog, a mad scientist laboratory, and a haunted room with a shaking floor), but the space is well used; even the confines have their own advantage, lending a certain sense of claustrophobia.
But what is really impressive this year is the overall performance level from the cast. Even late in the season, they go at it with gusto, their enthusiasm undiminished. After the disapointment of this year's Fright Fair presentation, it is good to find a haunt literally loaded with screaming banshees that send you squirming with screams around every corner, fearfully anticipating what may be coming next.
I'm sure it will be crowded as hell as Spooky House on Halloween night, but don't let that stop you for going. I hope the theme park finds a wonderful new location for next Halloween, but even the propsect of future hauntings should not deter you from taking this last chance to visit the Turbidite Manor maze.
Ignore this opportunity at your peril, Los Angeles. For you will have only yourselves to blame for the eternal anguish of regret that will befall your blighted souls...