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Video Interview: Coffinwood Cemetery

Coffinwood Cemetery is easy to underestimate. It’s not as flashy as some other Halloween home haunts in Valencia and Santa Clarita; from the road, it may look like just another yard display. However, there is more to it.

First, the name: graveyards are a common theme, but “Coffinwood Cemetery” has  rustic, western sound, which matches the rickety picket fence, the wooden sign bearing the name, and the old-fashioned coffin in which a corpse sits upright, its head spinning. You can almost feel the desert dust beneath your feet (even though the lawn is actually quite green).

Next, visitors need not admire the graveyard from the sidewalk; it’s actually a walk-through display, allowing closeup perusal of the props and figures, including several moving, mechanical ones and a lovely, spectral skull, its oversized face framed by cracked wooden planks bordered in spiderwebs.

Then, exiting the cemetery leads to a “vault” inside the garage, where a glowing spider climbs the wall; a skeleton drinks a canned beverage; and Annabelle rocks quietly but menacingly in a chair. Altogether, it’s pretty spooky even on the less frightful Friday kids nights.

Coffinwood Cemetery 2021: Video Interview

Our video provides a walk-through Coffinwood Cemetery, following by an interview with proprietors Tony Monton and Tom Van Tassel, discussing the style and tone of their yard haunt and how it got its name. A transcript of the interview portion is included below.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: We’re in Santa Clarita at Coffinwood Cemetery with Tony Montan and Tom Van Tassel. How long has Coffinwood Cemetery been a thing?

Tony Montan: Coffinwood Cemetery itself has been a thing for roughly 15 years. Before that we did a haunt but we didn’t have a name for it so we just we finally decided that maybe we should come up with a name because everybody else seemed to have one.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Obviously this is a home haunt but it’s got a nice professional feel to it. Is this stuff homemade, or are you buying it from suppliers

Tom Van Tassel: Most of it’s homemade. Of course we do buy some stuff like the skeletons but we pretty much make most of everything.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: How long does it take you to set up?

Tom Van Tassel: Approximately we start the end of August and we’re usually done by end of September so about four to five full weekends.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: And how many weekends are you actually open to the public?

Tony Montan: In October we’re open for the whole month. We do Fridays and Saturdays and then Halloween night and then Fridays are what we call our non-scare nights where we have everything lit up so that people can walk through and look but not uh nobody jumps out at them and it’s mostly for the small kids that are too afraid to go through and a lot of the adults that are afraid on scare nights too.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: For people who just drive by this looks like maybe another yard display but it’s actually a walk-through. You walk through not only the yard but also the garage.

Tony Montan: Yes. We consider ourselves an interactive display. we’re not really a maze and we’re not just a display. You can actually like you said walk through and look at everything

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: I know it’s not meant to be terribly scary but some people just went through and they were scared.

Tom Van Tassel: Well, yeah there’s so few things that you know people get freaked out about even though nobody’s jumping out or anything at them but yeah there’s just certain things that’ll scare people anyway.

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE: Right it’s effects; it’s some mechanical stuff some lighting, but it’s pretty spooky in there but there’s no there’s no live actors in there grabbing them or anything.

Tony Montan: Right. And we have some animatronics that are actually just displaying right now but they’ll actually be active during the scare [show].

HOLLYWOOD GOTHIQUE:  and the name Coffinwood Cemetery – was that just something you came up with because it sounded good or because it conveyed the tone of what you’re doing. This is not a gore fest; this is kind of an old-fashioned spooky thing right?

Tony Montan: We were trying to come up with a name that went with the graveyard and we tossed a bunch of stuff back and forth but nothing really fit.

Tom Van Tassel: Yeah we had a whole list trying to figure out…it was like okay, no, that doesn’t work; this doesn’t work; o that’s okay but…

Tony Montan: And then when we came up with Coffinwood, we Goggled it to make sure nobody else had the name, and nothing came up so we grabbed the name, and then a couple years after that just out of curiosity I Goggled it again, and actually there’s a real Coffinwood Cemetery – I believe it was in Arizona – that popped up. So I was like wow, that’s interesting. But people recognize us now, and the name stuck with us ever since.

Coffinwood Cemetery will be open the final weekend of October: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 7pm to 10pm nightly. The address is 27159 Waterford Drive in Valencia. For more information, visit their 
Facebook page.

Coffinwood Cemetery Halloween 2021 Photo Gallery

Check out scenery from Coffinwood Cemetery’s Halloween 2021 presentation…

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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.