Family-Friendly Skeleton Carnival & Magic Show
Hollywood Gothique Says:
Boney Island mixes imaginative displays and clever humor to create an amazing and amusing way for families to celebrate Halloween in Los Angeles! There is nothing scary, and there are no actors in costumes, only mechanized props, skeletons, and special effects. The mechanical effects are mostly low-tech, but the colors and carnival music create a fanciful, almost Tim Burton-esque atmosphere, making this the perfect place to bring young children who might be intimidated by more adult-type haunts. That’s not to say the appeal is solely to the young – the outrageously goofy displays are guaranteed to provide laughs for adults, too.
National History Museum
900 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90007
2023 Status: After a four-year hiatus, Boney Island reopens this Halloween in a brand new Location: the National History Museum of Los Angeles. Set in the museum’s Nature Gardens, Boney Island offers a haunting show for the whole family, featuring sights and sounds from the haunt’s past. The NHM will augment the presentation with artistic performances, fossils, live animal presentations, trick-or-treating, and other ghoulish installations. Expect creepy crawlies, silly skeletons and Cretaceous carnivores.
Dates: From September 28 through the month of October on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, plus Monday October 30 and Tuesday October 31.
Tickets: $25 per person; $20 for museum members.
Event Webpage: nhm.org/boney-island-nhm
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Boney Island Yard Haunt History
Beginning in 1997, this unique amateur attraction entertained trick-or-treaters for a decade, earning a reputations as one of the best family-oriented Halloween events in Los Angeles. A true yard haunt – as opposed to a haunted house – Boney Island offered an amazing display in front, around, and on top of the house – populated entirely by skinless skeletons!
Billing itself as the “world’s only skeleton carnival,” Boney Island was essentially a Halloween riff on a Coney Island-type attraction. The special mechanical effects (mostly wires pulled by motors) were proudly low-tech, but that detracted from the entertainment value not one boney little bit. You could laugh as the skeletons fished in the “Trick or Trout” booth! Thrill as they swung clubs at flapping flying mammals in the “Batting Cage”! Or gag at the “Rotten Candy” machine filled with spiders!
Halloween 2007 marked the 10th and last year of Boney Island in its original form. Many of the old props were auctioned off; some of them showed up at a new home in Van Nuys. Although was nice to see a portion of the fabulous yard haunt live on, the new location was a pale shadow of the old – more a skeleton party than a skeleton carnival. If you lived in the area, it might have been worth walking by for a look, but we would not recommend making a special trip.
Fortunately, after a three-year hiatus, Rick Polizzi (a producer of The Simpsons) resurrected a new version of Boney Island in 2011. For this incarnation, the yard haunt was re-imagined as a “Halloween Magic Show,” featuring spooky prestidigitator Maestro Maxilla and the Conjuring Clavicle. As before, Boney Island relied on goofy gags. The mechanical effects remained mostly low-tech, but there were some spectacular visuals, too, such as the Magic Cauldron show, featuring colorfully lit water-fountains pulsing in time to creepy, classical music. This version of Boney Island ran for several years, adding new features every Halloween, such as the Hauntington Gardens.
Boney Island shut down at the last minute before its scheduled 2017 performances. After listing dates on its official website back in September, the yard haunt announced via its Facebook page, on October 7, that it would be forced to close because it could not afford the costs associated with the event:
“In light of events our world has been experiencing, keeping the public safe from harm in an outdoor setting has become stricter and cost prohibitive with permit fees, road closures, and police protection. With the city’s new requirements, costs could reach up to $100,000. For a neighborhood event like Boney Island, it is too far out of our reach and therefore, we have no other option than to close our gates for good.”
Fortunately, after the 2017 hiatus, Boney Island returned for Halloween 2018 in a new location: Griffith Park, near the Los Angeles Live Steamers Ghost Train. The two attractions were separately ticketed, with different but overlapping schedules. The location was not available the following year; then the 2020 pandemic hit, and Boney Island stayed dark until 2023, when it appeared at the National History Museum.