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Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Most Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023

Like furtive criminals lurking in every shady corner of Los Angeles, Giant Halloween Skeletons were responsible for more sightings than Elvis.

Warning: The following is a frankly silly article, based around the thinnest of conceits. Read on at your own risk…if you dare! 

As Halloween has expanded from a single day to a seven-week season, the Halloween industry has expanded along with it, supplying a range of props and decorations that home haunters can use to simulate the look of a professional attraction. There are giant-sized skeletons and enormous arachnids, howling werewolves and killer clowns. Many of these are animatronic, capable of movement and/or speech, which is motion-activated by approaching victims or set to spring to life at regular intervals. Yard haunts, in other words, are no longer limited to simple gravestones, spiderwebs, and Jack o’ Lanterns.

Consequently, Halloween displays look more spectacular than ever before, but the downside of these readily available props is that they can show up anywhere and everywhere, homogenizing the Halloween experience. And it is not just yard haunts: many are seen at ticketed events, blurring the distinction between professional and amateur attractions. If you are a fright fan traveling the length and breadth of Los Angeles in search of haunted houses, theme parks, and yard displays, you are likely to encounter the most popular of these props at dozens of locations. One in particular stands, quite literally, above the rest: The Giant Sized Halloween Skeleton.

Tracking Down 2023’s Most Ubiquitous Monster: The Giant-Sized Halloween Skeleton

With all of the above in mind, imagine the following scenario…

Giant Sized Halloween SkeletonReports are coming in of an enormous monster terrorizing trick-or-treaters around Los Angeles. Descriptions vary, but from the conflicting accounts a picture emerges: a Giant Halloween Skeleton, 20- to 25-foot tall, pristine and perfectly formed. Allowing for exaggeration, you estimate the giant skeleton’s actual height at closer to 12 feet, but even so, inconsistencies remain. Although most witnesses indicate that the only sign of life is in its blinking eyes, a few insist that its chest glows as if with the force of some ectoplasmic energy. Some say the skeleton speaks – though its words remains unclear. One or two accounts mention a cloak; others describe a skull like a Jack O’ Lantern and bones like twisted tree trunks. The former you assume is an attempt at disguise, a hoodie perhaps; the latter you ascribe to a trick of the light.

Most perplexing of all is the Giant Halloween Skeleton’s ubiquity: it has been sighted seemingly everywhere in Los Angeles and in the surrounding Southland as well. How could this boney titan traverses so much terrain with so few muscles to propel it? That is a question only further inquiry will explain, so you set off in pursuit of your suspect.

Your first two stops are dead ends. The Giant Halloween Skeleton at Los Angeles Haunted Hayride in Griffith Park is certainly tall enough to fit the description, but the skull does not match the identikit, and the knobbly hip bones are also wrong. There are similar discrepancies with the pair of Giant Halloween Skeletons at Shaqtoberfest in Long Beach, so you eliminate them as suspects. Obviously, there is more than one Giant Skeleton haunting the L.A. area, and not all of them look exactly alike.

A pair of Giant Halloween Skeletons, one at the Ghoulish Delights yard haunt in Northridge and the other at the Lights Out Halloween haunt in Pomona, are closer to what you are looking for – their faces are reasonably close to the identikit, and the shrouds they wear are mentioned by some witnesses – but you remain uncertain, especially about the one at Lights Out. Like the skeletons at Shaqtoberfest and Haunted Hayride, this one is working a full-time job, which provides him with an alibi from his coworkers. You keep the Ghoulish Delights skeleton on your list, just in case you need him for a lineup.

Giant Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton at Boney Island
Giant Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton at Boney Island in Los Angeles

Following a tip, you score your first positive identification at Boney Island in the garden of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, but it is not the identification you expected. This suspect has a twisted, gnarly look, more resembling a tree come to life than a human skeleton; nevertheless, his Jack O’ Lantern face was described by a substantial minority of witnesses. Could it be that they were right and the other witnesses wrong?

The problem with the Boney Island suspect is that he is part of an outdoor display; hundreds of witnesses can attest to his whereabouts, both day and night. You ponder the numerous sightings at far flung locations and start to wonder: Could there be more than one suspect matching this description?

The answer is yes. Following up on other reported sightings, you find more suspects matching this description. One is at Lost Souls Orphanage in Woodland Hills; another is found in the Haunt at Helizondo in Canoga Park; a third resides at the Pumpkin Hallow in Santa Clarita.  A few more are clustered in the city of Burbank – at Haunted Adventure, the Haunted Storage Yard, and a private residence on Clark Avenue. You put all their details in your notebook, planning to bring them in for questioning and a possible lineup.

You feel as if you are finally on your way to breaking the case, but then a hunch – a fear of having overlooked something – drives you back to retrace your steps, where you discover…

There it is: an exact match with the identikit – and more than one! Identical suspects reside at Boney Island, Lights Out, and Ghoulish Delights. The two professional haunts provide reliable alibies for their Giant Halloween Skeletons, but the neighbors living near Ghoulish Delights are not engaged in 24-hour surveillance. Is this one possibly the culprit? You’re going to have to wear out a little more shoe leather before reaching a conclusion.

Sadly for your case, further investigation reveals suspects exactly matching the identikit at the following locations: Halloween Rocks and Spooky Estates in West Hills, Hamilton Halloween in Burbank, Zombie Area in Toluca Lake, Community Creep and Grim Reaper’s Harvest in Northridge, and a private residence in Granada Hills. You attempt to question all of them, but invoking their 5th amendment privileges, they remain silent.

Scanning the multitude of mug shots, it seems impossible to distinguish these identical Giant Halloween Skeletons from each other, but at least one mystery has been cleared up. Now you know why there have been so many sightings at geographically distant locations: there is far more than one such Giant-Sized Skeleton terrorizing the city. In fact, maybe it’s a conspiracy, multiple skeletons working together, some remaining always visible to provide alibis while the others do the dirty work.

This latest suspicion is confirmed by photographic evidence showing the pumpkin-headed skeleton and its more generic cousin conspiring to terrorize trick-or-treaters on Halloween Night. Two or more of the titans can be found near Maynard Manor in West Hills, at Witch City in Santa Clarita, Kanwal’s Haunted Haven in Granada Hills, Wolff’s Den in Lake Balboa, the Pirate House in Murietta, Necromancy Nightmare in Alhambra, and Spooky Estates in Northridge.

Now the puzzle pieces fall into place: the multiple sightings, the distant locations, the inconsistent descriptions. An army of Giant Halloween Skeletons is loose in Los Angeles, many of them identical, though a few with enough variations in appearance to cause confusion. Searching house to house, door to door, reveals more and more of them, the same faces seen again and again, until the multitudes blur inside the memory, and it becomes impossible to remember exactly when or where you saw each of them because they are literally everywhere. Giant Halloween Skeletons are…ubiquitous. 

The Most Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Giant-Sized Skeleton Props
Giant-Sized Halloween Skeleton Props
Two Giant Halloween Skeleton Props guard the entryway to mazes at Lights Out.

Silliness aside, the Giant Skeleton Halloween Prop comes closest to justifying our figurative use of the term ubiquitous (literally, “existing everywhere at once”). After encountering this skinless titan at over a dozen locations, we did start to feel as if it was everywhere.

The popularity of the prop is easy to understand. Its size suggests something bigger than just another yard display, attracting eyeballs from a distance and convincing drive-by viewers to pull to the curb for a closer look. Seen from the sidewalk, the silent figure’s digital eyes gaze down with an occasional unnerving blink, setting the eerie mood. If you are trying to make you yard haunt look big, this one giant is worth a dozen smaller skeletons.

The boney titan also appears at pro haunts. Its use at these locations is a little different. It is a great way to fill a large space near the beginning of a haunt, enticing visitors with the promise of elaborate tricks and treats beyond the entrance.

The Most Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Green Inferno Pumpkin Skeletons
Giant Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton at Freaky Flesh in Anaheim
Giant Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton at Freaky Flesh in Anaheim

As we have seen, there is more than one form of Giant Skeleton Halloween Prop haunting Los Angeles. After the “generic” version, the most popular one is the Giant Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton, which is distinguished by its Jack O’ Lantern-shaped head, its glowing rib cage, and its timbered texture suggesting a fusion of human skeleton and a monstrous tree. This one showed up many times, sometimes on its own, sometimes in the company of its more famous sibling. To paraphrase Chopin, “Nothing is more sinister than than a skeletonsave perhaps two.”

Another species of Giant Skeleton Halloween Prop is shrouded like the Grim Reaper and speaks words of doom, which we encountered in the Graveyard scene at Lights Out in Pomona Fairplex and at the Ghoulish Delights yard haunt in Northridge. The  skeletons trading jokes at Shaqtoberfest look similar, but their design reveals some differences, particularly the hip bones – much like the boney giant at Los Angeles Haunted Hayride.

More Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023

Giant Skeleton Halloweens were not the only props haunting multiple locations in Los Angeles this year. Below are some of the other monsters we repeatedly encountered. For our purposes we are citing specific figures, not generic types. In other words, we are not counting every witch or clown, only the instantly identifiable ones: the oversized witch floating atop her broom or the crying clown selling “balloonz.” Likewise, we are not tracking different iterations of famous characters: we have seen Jack Skellington in numerous guises (miniature, life-sized, oversized, and inflatable), but there is no single version showing up with the ubiquity of the Giant Halloween Skeleton Prop.

Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Floating Witches Atop Their Brooms

What would Halloween be without witches? This one made a good impression in 2023: a large witch, who seems to be floating above the ground (she is actually holding onto a carefully balanced broom planted in the ground). Like the giant skeleton, she stares down on mere mortals with her glowing digital eyes, and the anti-gravity illusion adds a touch of magic to the effect.

Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Giant Howling Werewolves

The Giant Howling Werewolf is not as popular as his skeletal competitors, but we did run across him several times during Halloween 2023. Besides size and glowing eyes, this monster periodically howls at the night sky, adding a little aural excitement to any presentation.

Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Three Clowns

We saw many more than three clowns this Halloween, but this particular trio were easy to identify in multiple places. The tearful Balloonz Clown and his oversized comrade with the toothy smile and glowing red eyes registered so clearly that we immediately recognized them wherever they appeared. Both of them were at Hillhurst Haunted Circus in West Hills and Burbank Clown House in Burbank. In addition, the Baloonz Clown was at Community Creep in Northridge; the giant Clown was also at Maniac Mansion in Covina.

Making slightly less of an impression was the Free Candy Clown, whose repeated appearances went unnoticed by us until we were looking through our files for the other clowns. Then we realized he had shown up at Lights Out, Circus of Nightmares, and (discretely tucked away) at Burbank Clown House .

Why is Pennywise not among the clowns listed above? Rather like Jack Skellington, the star of Stephen King’s IT showed up in multiple places but not always in the same form. The character is definitely popular, especially in circus-themed haunts, but there is not yet a ubiquitous version showing up all around town. For instance, we saw similar looking animatronic figures in Hillhurst Haunted Circus and Lights Out, but closer examination revealed noticeable differences.

Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Spiders, Dinos, & Rock-n-Roll

This photographs represent a grab bag of things residing in several locations this Halloween. We had not particularly noticed their repeat appearances during our travels, but in the process of sorting through photos for this article, they appeared often enough to be worth including.

Ubiquitous Monsters of Halloween 2023: Final Thoughts

There is nothing wrong with ubiquitous Halloween monsters haunting homes and yards. These impressive props add a professional sheen to amateur attractions aimed at neighbors and trick-or-treaters who are not travelling across town, seeing the same props over and over. But they do start a sort of arms race in which every yard haunt vying for attention must outdo the competition. It may no longer be enough to have one giant skeleton; two is better, preferably if they are not identical. Howling Werewolves and Floating Witches put a little flesh on the bone, and killer klowns are good for a few laughs between the screams.

In the end, what matters is how these elements are arranged, preferably with some kind of theme tying them together. Needless to say, we prefer haunts with homemade, original decorations that provide variety as we scour the city searching for seasonal frights. Nevertheless, Giant Halloween Skeletons, Howling Werewolves, Floating Witches, and Crying Clowns have earned their place(s) in the Halloween Landscape, becoming almost like familiar friends you pass in the night while soaking up the season’s spooky vibes.

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.