Don’t miss your last chance to bid farewell to the Haunted Shack before it disappears into eternity.
The Westside and South Bay are home to several high-quality Halloween haunts. The number sometimes seems to dwindle – old favorites Eternal Rest Cemetery and House of Restless Spirits have gone dark during the past decade – but new ones appear. This year is a mixed bag: a former perennial returns from hiatus; an old favorite shuffles off into eternity; and a relative newcomer blows the doors off the house.
Unfortunately, these haunts are not as geographically convenient as those in the densely populated San Fernando Valley. However, with help of Mapquest and/or a GPS, you can navigate to all of the ones below in about an hour. Because the start and end times create additional difficulties (some start later; other end early), we recommend getting to the area shortly after sunset in order to give yourself enough time to get to all of them before they close.
Westside Haunts 2022: Culver City, Mar Vista & Westchester
Jack’s Halloween Display presents Haunted Mystic Swamp
10814 Garland Drive, Culver City
Open Halloween Night, 7-10pm
In operation for 15 years, Jack’s Halloween Display is the quintessential neighborhood haunt. Part of the display is visible on the sidewalk, but much of it resides within the walled yard, which you enter by following arrows on the sidewalk. There you find a party in progress, and caretaker with a lantern encourages you to enter the house and meet your neighbors. Though we felt as if acting on false pretenses, we followed his instructions and found ourselves within a convivial party atmosphere, with a lovely buffet.
The outside portion of the display is quite amusing: a pair of skeletons are crashing their car into toxic waste. This year’s theme, Haunted Mystic Swamp, is more reflected within the enclosed yard, where a lovely landscaped garden provides a wonderful canvas for the seasonal decor, such as a skeletal mermaid poised beside an artificial pond, where Charon ferries his boat to the Underworld.
Note: Many of the streets around Jack’s Halloween Display are cul de sacs, but your Google Maps app should get you to the location without any trouble.
The Holiday House
3547 McLaughlin Ave, Mar Vista
Open through November 5, 3-10pm
There is not much else in Culver City. The one big Halloween event, Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch at 10100 Jefferson Boulevard, is unfortunately closed on Halloween this year. However, it is only a short drive to see The Holiday House, which has been haunting nearby Mar Vista for eight years. Pressed for time, we did not reach this one on our Halloween Haunt Odyssey, but we understand it features a yard display with synchronized musical light show and animatronics.
Westchester Recreation Center had been haunting for decades before it flew on our radar, earning a reputation as a beloved Do-It-Yourself Haunt that served its community well. Originally known as Westchester Haunted Park, the annual Halloween event had rebranded itself as Park of Pain by the time we visited in 2013. Unfortunately, the event went on hiatus in 2019 and remained so during the 2020 pandemic lockdown. But now it’s back – and better than before.
This year, a new team is working the haunt, and they have taken it in a more ambitious direction. During our past encounter, the walkthrough took place in a large gymnasium, with some decorations and lots of young actors in costume delivering mild scares. This year, there an actual maze has been constructed outside: you enter the buiding and go through one or two rooms before an exit door takes you into the thin wooden corridors.
There is a good sense of being a rat in a cage, forced to follow the path even as it takes you into danger, and occasionally the space opens up to show a little scene (e.g., what looks like a section of a school room with overturned desk and other signs of recent chaos).
Also, this is a real maze with a couple of false turns and dead ends. It’s not too hard to find your way out, but the extra walking back and forth gives the monsters opportunities to get ahead of or behind you, depending on whether you are coming or going. There were only two or three actors on Sunday, a slow night (the haunt was open only two hours), but we expect there will be many more on Halloween Night.
Like Burbank Haunted Adventure, Park of Pain is a community-oriented event that charges admission to defray costs, placing it a step above a home haunt, but you should not expect the production values of a professional attraction. Instead, its strength lies in providing scary good fun tailored for its local audience: recommended for ages seven and up, it evokes plenty of screams, but it probably will not induce many traumatic nightmares.
Note: Westchester Recreation Center also offers a Halloween Kid Zone on October 31 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, with games, stories, and a costume contest. Price is $2.
South Bay Haunts 2022: Hawthorne & Torrance
Elm Street Productions presents The Pickerton Legend
4583 141st Street, Hawthorne
Open Halloween Night, 6:30-9pm
Named after a well known film franchise, Elm Street Productions is offering its second Halloween home haunt this year, The Pickerton Legend. Even by the standards of premium home haunts, this one is ambitious, with not one but two mazes on the property. One is a castle with its fabulously detailed walls facing the sidewalk; the other is a boarded up old house down the driveway. Each is impressive in its own way; combined, they make a double bill worth the drive out to Hawthorne.
Both of them begin with characters outside the entrance, who keep you entertained while waiting your turn. They either warn you off or lure you in; either way, they set up anticipation while explaining the haunts’ backstories to potential victims. The castle does a decent job of conveying the medieval setting, though it does contain an anachronistic touch or tow (e.g., a video clip of someone shot-gunning a zombie, accompanied by simulated “blood” spray splashing you as you go by – a nice effect).
The 1930s* house offers a somewhat more contemporary form of horror, involving a serial killer. There’s a store-bought mechanical butler near the beginning who provides additional information in the first room; after that there are some clever touches like a dead end that forces you back the way you came – except that a hidden wall has moved when you weren’t looking, opening a new path. There is also a nice outdoor section, a sort of corn maze haunted by several characters, some hostile and some miserable (such as the poor girl wailing for help finding her mother).
Getting one free maze at a home haunt is great, but two is beyond expectations. Overall, the interior construction is not quite up to the level of, say, Rotten Apple 907, but it achieves what it needs to do. We also thought it would have been nice if there had been more connective narrative tissue between the two mazes, with the modern one depicting some sort of fallout from past events at the castle, but that’s just us being nitpickers.
There are no other major Halloween events in Hawthorne, but after exploring the Pickerton Legend, you can swing by a modest yard display known as the The Ghoulie Graveyard at 14722 Fonthill Avenue, Hawthorne, which is open on Halloween Night, 7-10pm.
*We are judging this based on the hard-boiled lingo of the actor outside, plus the fact that “Pickerton” sounds like “Pinkerton,” the famous private investigator company where Dashiell Hammett worked before becoming the author of private eye mystery novels such as The Maltese Falcon.
It’s nice to know that Elm Street Productions will be keeping South Bay spooky for years to come, because the region’s longtime star attraction, The Haunted Shack, is bidding farewell with a final Halloween show. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday when we head to South Bay, but based on past experience we recommend this one highly, especially if you have never seen it. Haunted Shack typically offers a 6-minute walkthrough, with a different theme every year, with an imaginative mix of actors, effects, and clever settings. You really do not want to miss this.
Unfortunately, the other attractions that used to add value to a Torrance Halloween Haunt Odyssey have evaporated into eternity. Spydrhill Cemetary spun its last web in 2013. Revenge of the Ninja went dark in 2018. And now we learn that the Spooky Spectacular Halloween Display, which we first visited during the 2020 pandemic, is no longer in operation. The yard 17008 Spinning Avenue is empty this year; the only thing we saw was a couple of inflatable dinosaurs across the street.
Nevertheless, if you can get yourself to the West Side and South Bay tonight, three worthwhile walkthrough haunts await you: the House of Pain, The Legend of Pickerton, and the Haunted Shack. Any other year, these would be at least highly recommended. With Haunted Shack retiring, this trip is a must-see.