Most of you are probably sick of Halloween and looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, before bidding adieu to the October season, some of you are no doubt wondering: What were the best Halloween haunts this year?
Well, I'm here to tell you. But first, the ground rules: in order to make each year's list unique, we will avoid repeating winners from last year, unless they were radically revamped and/or improved. Other than that, pretty much anything goes.
The Back Lot Tram Tour at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights. Although many people were disappointed with this year's haunt at Universal Studios, we thought the journey through the back lot was spectacularly spooky. By using the "War of the Worlds" plane crash scene, enhanced with zombies, it delivered horror on an epic scale - something you just won't see at any other Halloween attraction.
Old Town Haunt. This one looked great when it made its debut last year, but in 2006 it really came into its own, providing a vault full of thrills beneath the earth as you follow the trail of robber who died making their escape from a bank decades ago. It's dark, claustrophobic, and filled to the brim with grim, as they say.
Sinister Dreadford's Mansion of Lost Souls at Fright Fair. Although we were profoundly disappointed by this year's Fright Fair, we have to admit that the new Sinister Dreadford haunted house is actually quite effective; if only it had been more extensive, it might have topped out list.
ZombieVille at HauntsUSA. This one gets a nod because of a clever gimmick: using chain-link gates to block the path, forcing visitors into a standstill as they are surrounded by zombies. Many haunts tend to encourage you to hurry through, shrieking and running away from the horrors lurking within; this one makes you stand and face them.
House at Haunted Hill. Of course, the big question for 2006 is: which amateur yard haunt will ascend to the throne vacated by the Hallowed Haunting Grounds? The long-running Grimmstone Cemetery would have been a contender, but that, too, is retiring, leaving the crown unclaimed. With that in mind, it's probably too soon to declare a new winner from among the many relative newcomers among yard haunts, but the wonderful House at Haunted Hill - now in its seventh year - certainly is a major contender. It's elaborate, colorful, funny, and eerie - definitely worth the trip up into the dark, hilly area south of Ventura Boulevard.
And wrapping up a few loose ends...
Our biggest regret was the unexpected absence of the Haunted Vineyard, due to new fire codes that made the old location unusable.
Our next biggest regret is that 2006 was the last year that Turbidite Manor would be part of the Spooky House presentation in Northridge. This excellent professional haunt inherited much of the ambience (and many of the props) from the Hallowed Haunting Grounds. For those of you who missed it, it may turn up elsewhere in Southern California next year, probably in the Lake Arrowhead area.
And we just want to say that the three-year-old Seaside Haunt was really great again this year.
I understand the Spirit Halloween stores are having a sale that lasts through Friday, so take advantage and prepare for October 2007...
Now say farewell to Halloween,
And marvel at the sights we've seen.
Watch the Spirits disappear,
Till they return, this time, next year...