Last night, Hollywood Gothique went on a length - one might say, massive - Halloween Haunt Odyssey that took us to home haunts, yard displays, and walk-throughs in Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, North Hills, Granada Hills, Valencia, and finally Santa Clarita. Most of these haunts are good enough to deserve discrete review of their own, but in the interest of getting information to you as quickly as possible, we'll provide a brief rundown of them here.
[Editors Note: Apologies for any typos in what follows. We do not have time to proofread before heading out to the Santa Monica Zombie Crawl but we wanted to get this posted so that readers could get a glimpse of all the great home haunts open tonight!]
This is a straightforward yard haunt display representing a fenced-in cemetery. With wood chips instead of grass, the yard is well suited to simulating a graveyard. Most notable is the intricate details of the gravestones, which look absolutely convincing and bear the names of local streets (which were presumably named after prominent locals).
The Spooky Hollows
16418 Gilmore Street
Haunting through October 31
7-10pm Saturday, dusk-10pm Sunday-Monday
This decorated yard also features a very impressive walk-through. You might not expect much as you first move around the side of the house, but after entering the back yard you will find yourself bedeviled by numerous monsters, crossing a rickety bridge over a pond with a snapping alligator, and moving through simulated underground tunnels housing all manner of strange things, including some weird sort of plant-human hybrid.
The Spooky Hollows will be haunting every night through October 31. Notable sights include a tomb emblazoned with the name Koritzke (a tribute to Bob Koritzke, who operated the Spooky House Halloween haunt for decades) and a clever pun based on The Walking Dead - a warning about some not so dangerous "walkers."
Gothic Hills Cemetery
16419 Marilla Street
Haunting though Halloween Night
Hollywood Gothique correspondent Marie DesLoups reported on this home haunt last year, and it truly lives up to the accolades. Gothic Hills Cemetery features a very large and colorful display in the front yard, some singing Jack O'Lanterns near the porch, and a mini-maze behind the house. The decorations are beautiful and the maze is fun - guided tour through a tomb, where your crazed host is searching for the lost treasure of his ancestor. Jump-scares are relatively minimal; this is more like a guided tour with a few stops to see some great effects including a digitally projected witch who delivers an incantation and a mechanical monster guarding the treasure.
Highly recommended, this haunt will be open tonight from 6:30 to 8:30pm, Sunday from 6:30 to 9:30pm, and Halloween Night from 6pm to 9pm.
This home haunt deceptively presents itself as just another yard display, but after admiring the decor for a moment or two, you realize that it's actually a mini-version The House at Haunted Hills: a show with effects timed to recorded audio cues that cycle through at intervals. There's not really a story; it's more a series of one-liners and dialogue between the characters, who include mechanical skeletons in the yard, a digitally projected witch in the window, and more singing Jack O'Lanterns. There are also some very clever hidden surprises that pop out for the big finish. We won't give them away, but we will insist: do not walk away prematurely, thinking you've seen it all, because you haven't.
Pumpkin Hallows & Spooky Hollow
11531 McLennan Avenue
Open Through October 31
This is a pair of yard displays. Pumpkin Hallow is at the address listed above; Spooky Hollow (not the same as the “Spooky Hollows” in Van Nuys) is across the street. Pumpkin Hallows, as the name suggests, is theme around Pumpkins: there is a multitude of Jack O'Lanterns in the yard and on the roof of the house and the garage. There is also a moving tombstone, but the presentation seems somewhat cut back compared to photographs from last Halloween; perhaps more will be added by October 31.
Spooky Hollow consists mostly of inflatable decorations, but there is a creepy window with projected silhouettes depicting scenes involving Frankenstein's monster, a werewolf, etc.
Coffinwood Cemetery is a combination of yard display and walk-through. Not exactly a maze, it offers a path through the front yard so that you can peruse the tombstones, skeletons, and ghouls (all home made except for the animatronics) before heading into a "mausoleum" - a convincing facade built over the garage, which leads to a single black-lit room with decorations and an electric chair.
There were no scare actors on Friday night, but we understand they will be present tonight and on Halloween Night. Even without jump-scares, this home haunt is worth visiting just for the display, which also includes a giant spider atop the roof.
Note: Coffinwood Cemetery is 20 minutes north of the Granada Hills haunts, which really makes it part of a separate leg of our tour. Fortunately, it is within five or ten minutes of the next two haunts, in the Santa Clarita area. These three make a great triple bill - worth the trip up the 5 freeway.
Beware the Dark Realm
28621 Sugar Pine Way
Haunting Saurday & Halloween Night
Hollywood Gothique ranked this #1 among Halloween home haunt walk-throughs in 2014. Two years later, it is, incredibly, even bigger and better. We noticed one or two familiar gags, but the dank castle has been expanded so much that it feels almost like a new attraction - more extensive and filled with even more incredible scares. The sets are great: there are some traditional narrow corridors with monsters blocking your path or appearing from nowhere, but there are also areas that widen out, giving the inhabitants of the haunted realm room to "play" with their victims (i.e., you). This really deserves a full-length review, but for the time being, trust us when we say this is a must-see on par with the Backwoods Maze and Rotten Apple 907.
Pumkin Jack’s Haunted House
28603 Natalie Lane
Saugus (Santa Clarita)
Haunting Saturday & Halloween Night
After visiting Beware the Dark Realm, Pumkin Jack's Haunted House presents us with a bit of a conundrum: Which is better? We'll take the easy way out and say that both are great, just different. Whereas Beware the Dark Realm is more extensive, with an imaginative dark fantasy tone, Pumkin Jack's haunt is contemporary, shorter, but with lots of scares packed into its space.
Pumkin Jack's went dark in 2015; the revised haunt is notably different, introducing a new, jokey theme based around what looks like a shoddy ripoff of Chuck E Cheeze Pizza - an establishment so run-down and ominous that parents would be crazy to take their kids inside. And adults aren't so safe either!
The maze has a few funhouse-type corridors, but the proprietor works in construction, so many of the sets (including a motel reception area a la Psycho) are utterly convincing because they are essentially "real" (i.e., made from actual building materials, not cheap imitations). The focus here is more on jump-scares, with several well camouflaged hiding places. For better or worse, the ghosts and ghouls are not necessarily satisfied with delivering a single scare; they may pursue you at their leisure, enjoying themselves even more at your expense. Highly recommended.
Note: All of these home haunts will be open on Halloween Night; most will be haunting tonight and Monday, not on Sunday. Yard displays will be visible through October 31.
More: Halloween Haunt Odyssey 2016