Location: 4343 Babcock Ave, Studio City, CA
The Hallowed Haunting Grounds is probably the best amateur haunt in Los Angeles -- a front yard full of elaborate decorations, mechanical devices, and lighting effects -- and it opened tonight!
Unfortunately, heavy rain over the the course of the last week or so put construction behind schedule, so not all the effects were operational -- rendering Thursday night something of a "preview" of things to come. One of the proprietors said that all of the "big" effects would be up and running by tomorrow night.
Even without all the special effects, the Haunting Grounds still looked wonderfully atmospheric. Basically, it seems the same as last year, with a few small additions. Most notably, the feel is slightly more scary than previously, due to some new sound effects.
Before, the sounds consisted mostly of subte music, chanting, and low wailing moans of despair. This year, there are some loud rumbling growls erupting out of the darkness at you, particularly around the upright tomb with the moving bricks. It looks as if something inside is trying to get out, and the sound enhances the illusion quite a bit.
If you have kids who enjoy Halloween, but they're too young for the scary, professional haunts, then this is the perfect place for you to bring them -- enjoyably haunting without being too frightening. There are no masked actors jumping out to terrorize you, just an assemblage of great props and speical effects. The Haunting Grounds will be open until Sunday from 7:00pm until midnight every night. (weather permitting).
For those who've never been and don't know what they're missing, perhaps this inscription from a marble slab in the front yard will whet your appetite:
"Within these hollow grounds
the anguished souls immortal
of the spiritless shall dwell
eternal without portal."
The see-through spirit was not visible on Thursday night. Presumably, that's one of the "big" effects that will be ready by Friday.
One more thing: if you go, it will probably be crowded, especially on Halloween night. This is a good thing. Much of the Haunting Grounds is timed at a slow pace. You see props that just look like props, and if there's no crowd, you might walk right by without noticing them. Crowds force you to slow down and look at everything, taking the time to really appreciate the craftsmanship.
This pays wonderful dividends, because many of these props featuring lighting and/or mechanical effects timed to go over every few minutes. If you stop and stare for a while, you'll see something moving when you assumed it was just static: a coffin lid opening, an eerie light flashing, or an apparition appearing inside a tomb. This is a haunt the definitely benefits from a slow, careful appraisal.