2020 Yard Haunts: Northwest County (updated)

Beware the Dark Realm and Coffinwood Cemetery are the first stops on our 2020 Halloween Haunt Odyssey, followed by visits to other Northwest County yard displays.

Originally posted on October 4, this article has been updated to include yard haunts that opened since our initial visit.

It is unprecedented for Hollywood Gothique to embark upon its annual Halloween Yard Haunt Odyssey during the first weekend of October; however, with many professional attractions shuttered by Covid-19, Halloween Home Haunts are major players this season.

With that in mind, we headed up to the Northwest County region of Los Angeles - which includes Santa Clarita, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, and Castaic - to check out two yard displays that have opened their graveyard gates earlier than usual, providing some much-needed Halloween cheer: Beware the Dark Realm and Coffinwood Cemetery. Since then, we have returned to visit The Farm Haunt, Cemetery at Lewis Way, Stoney Point, and others.

We have grouped the haunts geographically by city or neighborhood, which should make trip-planning easier. 

2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Castaic

The Farm Haunt
29130 Diablo Place, Castaic
October 10-31 - 7-10pm

Though the franchise is still officially known as "The Farm Haunt," the actual yard display has been labeled "Dr. Diablo's Caskets and Curiosities" since abandoning its Glendale location for a cozy slot on the conveniently named Diablo Place last year. The ambiance is still rustic, but now it is more old western ghost town than rundown farm. For such a small yard, it squeezes in quite a few artifacts, laid out in a nice v-shaped formation that draws you in both figuratively (capturing your eye) and literally (prompting you to walk on the lawn for a closer look).

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The decorations are statics figures and props, but flickering lights and ambient sound add a sense of (after) life to the surroundings, along with a morphing portrait seen through the window of Dr. Diablo's establishment. Too bad the Doctor himself was not open for business - we would love to have gone inside to view a few caskets and curiosities.

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2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Santa Clarita

Beware The Dark Realm
28621 Sugar Pine Way, Santa Clarita, 91390

Admission: Free but accepts charitable donations
October 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30-31, 7-10pm
bewarethedarkrealm.com

Beware the Dark Realm has ranked atop our list of walk-through home haunts for several years now, but we were not sure how it could live up to its own reputation during a pandemic that precludes sending dozens of people through an enclosed space, breathing potentially contaminated air. Beware the Dark Realm's solution was to fashion an open-air haunt this year; that was hardly surprising, but what was unexpected was that there would still be a walk-through element, with live scares - not just a static yard display.

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The old castle facade has been reconfigured to create an outdoor path that leads past a few doorways - some with bars, some not - inhabited by demented characters from the past urging potential victims to come a little closer and perhaps to...join them for dinner. The scares a milder than in the past, with a slightly tongue-in-cheek edge that evokes nervous chuckles rather than screams, but the setting is as fabulous as ever. It's still possible to feel immersed in the ancient atmosphere even though technically you are not really inside the haunt, and the decor provides such tasty eye-candy that it serves as a trick-and-a-treat all on its own.

As one member of our part observed - quite accurately - this year's Beware the Dark Realm is better than the L.A. Haunted Hayride's Drive-Up Experience.

Beware the Dark Realm is accepting charitable donations for Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley.


Candy Shop Take Over
20205 Soladera Way, Santa Clarita
October 31, 6-10pm
Reservation Required

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Candy Shop Take Over offers one of the few home-haunt mazes available in the Southland this October. The interior contains only a few small rooms (hey, it's a candy shop, not a candy factory), but less time inside equals less chance of Covid-19 infection, right? What's the matter - afraid to go inside? Are you scared of a little virus, ya baby? Joking aside, we we take the Coronavirus pandemic seriously, but we doubt the short exposure time represents a serious health risk - a good underwater swimmer could probably hold his/her breath for the duration, which is about a minute. In that time, the cast (wearing simple but effective store-bought masks) deliver more scares than one finds in many larger mazes.

Also, we really like theme: turning a candy shop into a haunt is a great way to take something sweet and twist it into something demented, without using the more obvious circus theme.


Coffinwood Cemetery
27159 Waterford Drive, Santa Clarita, 91354

Fridays & Saturdays in October, plus Halloween night, 7-10pm

Coffinwood Cemetery has always been predominantly a yard display with a small walk-through element, so it seemed more likely to make an easy transition to a Covid-safe version. Indeed, that is exactly what has happened. There is no longer a walk through the garage, but there is a roped-off path up the driveway so that trick-or-treaters can get a good view of the display within the garage.

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In the front yard, the display is almost completely intact. You cannot walk through the cemetery, which no longer extends all the way to the house, and yet the absent scenery is barely noticed - a strategically placed fence and a few other set pieces define the graveyard's extent, drawing the eye away from the undecorated porch and front door. The result hardly feels scaled back, and the addition of some thunderous sound effects add an extra layer of gloom to the setting. (The thunderclaps are so loud that they trigger the sound-sensitive lights of a small-scale yard haunt across the street.)

A handful of mechanical props bring a little life to this resting place of the dead, but even more eye-catching are the spectral projections in the upper windows, from which a ghostly form and a grinning face peer out, while an oversized spider emits multicolored glowing lights from its abdomen. There are no scares in Coffinwood Cemetery - just lightening, thunder, and scenery - but it's definitely scenery worth seeing.


Doll House
27337 Denoya Drive
Santa Clarita, 91350
Dusk - ???

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The creep factor is strong with this one, especially if you are easily spooked by dolls. There are tiny figures of literally all shapes and designs, including some in body bags hanging upside down. Creepy was also the large tree with a plethora of faces affixed to it. Most notable was a decapitated Doll Bride. The question is: was she a doll that became human or a human that became a doll? - Capsule Comment by Warren So


The Graveyards
26659 Isabella Parkway, Santa Clarita
October 23, 24, 29-31, 6-9pm

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Around the corner from Candy Shop Takeover is this yard display stuffed full with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. It almost seems overstuffed, with characters packed shoulder-to- shoulder whether or not they have much to do with each other. On the other hand, there are some clever touches, like the naive guy with the lantern who seems blissfully unaware of the monsters behind him. We imagine this place will be too intimidating for younger trick-or-treaters on Halloween Night.


Pumkin Jacks Haunted House
28603 Natalie Lane, Santa Clarita
October 31, November 1, Dusk-11pm

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Pumpkin Jack's is one of our favorite haunted homes, but this year they are presenting a yard display only, not a walk-through. Moody light bathes the house; eerie fog rolls through the air; spooky decorations dot the yard; skeletons lurk in coffins, and another stands on the porch, ready to greet brave trick-or-treaters as they approach. On the night we attended, the home owners were discussing ways to inject a scare element on Halloween Night; hopefully, they can pull it off.

There are several other yard displays in the neighborhood around Pumkin Jack's, including Santa Poco, a Day of the Dead-themed haunt just around the corner.


Via Jardin Haunt
25420 Vía Jardin
Santa Clarita, 91355

Dusk - ???

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Though it doesn’t have an official name, this haunt was made aware to us by the good folks at Shiver Home Haunt in the SCV.  This fun yard display included some ambient noise and sounds to accompany their display.  We spotted a scarecrow, a tree with hooks and a pelvic bone at the end of it, a large pumpkin figurehead and other neat spooky surprises. Also, if you look closely, you may see a famous character from “Halloween” lurking in the shadows. - Capsule Comment by Warren So

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2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Stevenson Ranch

Boo-o-o-otiful Broadway & Movie Haunt
25520 Wilde Avenue, Stevenson Ranch
Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31, 7-9pm

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Not a “drive-thru” or “drive-in” haunt like some people thought it was, this was actually a fun walk-up yard display, featuring a random assortment of Disney characters paired with some iconic comedic Halloween classics such as The Peanuts Gang, Casper, and Beetlejuice. Also, there is a mini-skeleton Joan Jett playing “I Love Rock’N Roll” as soon as you get near her. - Capsule Comment by Warren So


Cemetery at Lewis Way
25739 Lewis Way, Stevenson Ranch
October16-18, 22-25, 29-31, 7-10pm

This neighborhood yard haunt features ghostly projections flitting across the facade; cracked pillars surmounted by Jack O'Lanterns flank the driveway, and numerous props dot the lawn, including one or two moving animatronic figures.

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The haunt takes advantage of a concreate path to create a sort of walk-through effect, which allows visitors to approach from the sidewalk, collect treats (on Halloween Night), and exit past the the garage without having to backtrack into anyone behind. It's perfect for social distancing.

One or two other houses in the neighborhood may catch your eye...


Mushnik’s Flower Shop: Home Of Audrey II
25744 Lewis Way, Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381
Dusk - ???

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Across the street from Cemetery at Lewis Way, we met someone famous - we stumbled across Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors! See what hunting for haunts and exploring cemeteries will do for you?  Guess what - we’re staking our claim on this gem as the first to review it. But no, really we could not care less. This home haunt featured the Mean Green Mother from Outer Space devouring some poor sap after you entered a nursery arch that read “Mushnik’s Flower Shop." Mr. Mushnik wasn’t home and neither was Seymour, so we didn’t want to poke the bear...or in this case the plant.  Definitely worthy of a stop-and-take-a-photo of type of yard display. Make sure this is a stop when you pass Stevenson Ranch on the way to the Santa Clarita area. - Capsule Comment by Warren So

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2020 Northwest County Home Haunts: Valencia

Clown Town
25302 Vía Palacio, Valencia
October 23-31 - 7-10pm

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Situated on a corner house with a spacious yard, Clown Town is filled with demented clowns most nights the final week of October, with live scares on Halloween Night. The decorations feel upgraded and improved (not that they were shabby in previous years); the haunt seems more alive, even on nights without actors, thanks to spinning wheels, dancing lights, cackling voices, and moving animatronic figures. It's Crazy, Colorful, and Clownish in the best way possible.


Sombras Cemetery
26041 Sombras Center, Valencia
October 16-18, 23-25, 30, 31, Sundown-10pm

 

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As first timers to Sombras Cemetery, we were instantly impressed with the set lighting and the mood.  The sounds of the cemetery were on point with corpses and skeletons arising from their graves.  Once you enter through the “gates”, (and there was actually signage for “Gate, Chapel, Garden”) you feel surrounded by the dead at every corner and every turn.  We noticed a skeleton that was lynched and another one being slow roasted by another.  Guess it took too long to cook a human and the guy roasting starved to death.  With somewhat of a path to the garden and chapel; this home haunt felt more like a walkthrough sans actors than just a yard display, which brought back some of the good feeling of Halloween from yesteryear where it seemingly was not short on walkthroughs. - Capsule Comment by Warren So


Stoney Point Haunt
23227 Barnacle Lane, Valencia
October 15-31 - 7-10pm

Stoney Point offered a one-minute walk-through haunted by child actors last year, but of course the Covid-19 pandemic precludes that kind of haunting for Halloween 2020. Instead, the home haunt offers a hard display and some decorations on the front porch and a second story window.

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There are a few nice touches, like the macabre haunted clock on the porch whose hands spin madly before revealing a surprise. In the yard creepy kids whirl on a creepy merry-go-round, and a ghoulish girl giggles about how long her mother has been "sleeping" in the cemetery.

There are two or three other modestly decorated houses across the street, making this at least worth a drive-by when visiting other home haunts in Valencia and Santa Clarita.

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More 2020 Northwest County Yard Haunts

This post will be updated over the course of the following weeks as other yard haunts open in the Northwest County area. You can find information about these and other yard haunts in our Halloween Home Haunts page.

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.

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