Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2018: North Hollywood & Van Nuys

On Halloween Night, Hollywood Gothique stuck close to home, visiting North Hollywood and Van Nuys yard haunts. Although we had hoped to explore more obscure and isolated regions, our local home haunt odyssey was far from disappointing, as we encountered several displays and walk-throughs for the first time, their high-quality justifying Dorothy's famous adage, "There's no place like home."

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North Hollywood Yard Haunts
Forbidden Woods Cemetery (walk-through)
11238 Califa Street, North Hollywood

This was a remarkable discovery. Forbidden Woods Cemetery has been haunting a few years now, keeping a low profile while entertaining neighborhood trick-or-treaters with a very impressive walk-through, consisting of the garage and the yard. A large "wall" by the sidewalk hid the extent of what lay behind. Bathed in eerie light, a few skeletons, skulls, and a talking tree set the mood. We entered a spooky lair in the garage, where a witch confronted us for a minute of interactivity, offering "maggots" and "children" for snacks (all we got was candy) before sending us through a door to the yard. The fog-bound domain, filled with Jack O'Lanterns glowing like phantoms in the night, was haunted by several ghosts: en evil woman, a three-headed dog, and an ominous child. Further along, the path entered something like a tunnel filled with braziers and spiderwebs, where a skull-faced creature emerged from the mist when least expected.

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The entire tour took about three minutes or so. The relatively small space was filled with decor, and the cast provide a nice variety of scares: some talkative,some silent; some aggressive, some subtle. What we liked most was the atmosphere, particularly the lighting, which made us feel immersed in its world, not simply walking through a decorated yard. The owner says he is growing his haunt every year. It should be on your must-see list for Halloween 2019.

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Van Nuys Yard Haunts
Harry's Haunts (yard display)
5637 Colbath Avenue, Van Nuys

Another first-time experience for us was this yard haunt - or, rather, yard haunts, as the plural in the title Harry's Haunts is definitely justified. The house at the address listed above is the hub of Halloween activity on a cul-de-sac featuring several yard displays, all of them decorated by Harry, who must be the King of Halloween in this neighborhood.

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The surrounding decorations consist mostly of tombstones, lighting, and some mechanical effects (a skull head popping up and down). The main yard is filled with ghastly sights, some of them pushing the boundary of what might seem appropriate for young trick-or-treaters. A roasted body on a spit spins over a bonfire. A hooded man groans and twitches, dangling by the neck from a tree branch. A static tableau depicts a mad surgeon over the corpse of a beautiful woman, bisected like the Black Dahlia.

The cul-de-sac creates an isolated feeling; with little automobile traffic to interrupt the magic, walking down Colbath Avenue feels a little like entering a jolly Halloween Land, set apart from the mundane, outside world. As trick-or-treat neighborhoods go, this one outdoes Spooky Saloma.

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Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts
The House of Boos (yard display)
5417 Willis Avenue, Sherman Oaks

This was not the first time that Hollywood Gothique visited this Sherman Oaks yard haunt, which resembles a small grave yard with tombstones, candles, and Jack O'Lanterns, a few of whom are groaning and growling at each other. Our previous visit had been a couple of years ago, a week before October 31; on Halloween Night this year, the vibe was totally different, with two girl ghouls lurking by the gate, which was chained, either to keep us out or to keep them in - or maybe both.

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One of the women, "Constance Weddington," is apparently a permanent resident of the cemetery, her name displayed on one of the stones. Having died in 1929, she was occasionally baffled by our 21st century lingo. Reading our business card ("The Online Guide to Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction...," she couldn't quite grasp "online," but she did hazard a guess that "science fiction" had something to do with Jules Verne. We pointed out that, in her time, she would have known Verne's work as "Extraordinary Adventures," while H.G. Wells' fiction was characterized as "Scientific Romance." House of Boos is tiny compared to other yard haunts, but our ghostly hosts turned it into an enjoyable visit.

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Van Nuys Yard Haunts
Spooky Hollows
16418 Gilmore Street Van Nuys 91406

We were not going to mention this Van Nuys yard haunt (it was already covered by another Hollywood Gothique correspondent here), but the one addition for this Halloween was too remarkable to ignore.

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As always, Spooky Hollows takes visitors on an amazingly convincing tour of a sewer tunnel. This year, a new creature was lurking in the darkness, and his appearance was startling to say the least. A strange young woman stopped our group, happy to have discovered new "friends." Doing a head count, she came up with one more that we could see - which was the cue for a long armed monster to emerge from its hiding place behind us, reaching out with grasping hands to startle and send us screaming away. It was not only a great piece of construction; the setup with the counting of friends created the perfect moment for the monster to make its appearance.

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Mr. Piggy's Playhouse (walk-through)
8744 Cantaloupe Avenue
Panorama City

Our final stop on Halloween Night was this walk-through on a quite residential street in Panorama City. We rolled in after 10pm, past the time when the trick-or-treaters had gone home to count their candy; fortunately, a couple of inflatable decorations out front indicated that the Halloween home haunt was still open. The proprietors were happy to have more visitors, inviting us to have a "wondrous time" inside...

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The maze was basic: a covered area leading up the driveway toward the garage and back. But then, a garage haunt is a bit like a garage band: you don't expect finesse; you're hoping for enthusiasm and some raw power. The tour lasted only a little over a minute, but we encountered disembodied hands poking out of a wall, masked monsters, strobe lights, a slaughterhouse with severed limbs, and one or two unexpected surprises in the dark. Not bad for a humble little home haunt! We imagine there would have been many screams emanating from inside during peak trick-or-treating hours.

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Sherman Oaks or Van Nuys Yard Haunts?

We should take a moment here to mention that these locations illustrate the difficulty of distinguishing between Van Nuys Yard Haunts and Sherman Oaks Yard Haunts. House of Boos is officially in Sherman Oaks, but it is midway between Harry's Haunts and Spooky Hollows, both of which are in Van Nuys. For the most part, the demarcation is Burbank Boulevard: anything to the north is in Van Nuys; anything to the south is in Sherman Oaks. The exception is Van Oaks Cemetery, which should be in Van Nuys but claims to be in Sherman Oaks (hence the hybrid name "Van Oaks"). Adding to the confusion, Google Maps insists that Miss Piggy's Playhouse is in Van Nuys, even though it is clearly situated in Panorama City.

Whatever neighborhood they claim to be in, these haunts are in close proximity and easy to visit in a limited amount of time. Next year, if you are mapping a route to Van Nuys yard haunts, start at Wicked Pumpkin Hollow in Sherman Oaks and travel west on Burbank Boulevard, hitting all the haunts mentioned here and in our Halloween Haunt Odyssey: Sherman Oaks. After you reach Spooky Hollows, loop around northeast to Miss Piggy's Playhouse. You are guaranteed to have an evening filled with delightful Halloween trick and treats.

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.