The previous installment of our annual Halloween Yard Haunt Odyssey took us through two terrifying mazes in Burbank, The Backwoods Maze and Rotten Apple 907's Space Oddessey. Moving on to Tarzana and Woodland Hills, we encounter a trio of Halloween Yard Haunts that are less interested in shocks and surprise than in spooky shivers.
The House at Haunted Hill (4400 Saltillo Streeet, Woodland Hills) has been locked into a carefully timed show ever since they synchronized their amazing array of mechanical and lighting effects to a recorded soundtrack, featuring narration and music that tell the story of Hollywood starlet who encounters horror when she marries a man haunted by the ghost of his first wife. The story line remains the same from year to year, but every Halloween sees new visual elements that enhance the presentation. This year's addition is some clever projections that make the house (a real dwelling) truly look haunted: cracks mar the surface; exposed brick peeks through; broken shutters dangle, and the shadow of a bat flickers by. As always, this decorated yard's lighting and mechanical effects are more elaborate than those seen at any of the other Amateur Halloween Events in Los Angeles. The show has developed quite a following: the street has to be blocked off to accommodate crowds, so arrive early and expect to walk up and down steep roads to reach the location. And try to find a space at the front of the crowd, so you can see every spook.
The Haunt with No Name (19351 Hatteras Street, Tarzana, CA) has grown steadily over the course of two decades. This is a more subtle haunt, without an elaborate light show or a walk-through maze. There are a few moving manifestations: a floating lamp held by an unseen hand, a ghost peering out from a tomb and another from inside a house window, a candle mysteriously suspended above a tomb. But mostly the decorated yard consists of static tableau: a shrouded figure poised above a cracked gravestone, from which red light emanates; a twisted tree with red glowing eyes; a lamp post surmounted by gargoyles; plus, grave markers and hand-carved Jack O'Lanterns. New items include a cross-shaped tombstone that sways back and forth without ever toppling over and a ghostly white female figure with a projected face who intones incantations. The overall effect is mesmerizing and eerie; this yard haunt comes closest to recapturing the ambiance of the late, lamented Hallowed Haunting Grounds; in fact, one or two of the displays seem like deliberate homages. (NOTE: after two decades, the proprietors have apparently given up on ever naming their haunt; their website has shorted the old "The Haunt with No Name Yet" to simply "The Haunt with No Name.")
Fallen Angel Cemetery (23830 Berdon Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367) is a small home haunt with numerous grave stones and mannequins packed into its front yard. Thunder and lightening set the mood as you walk past exposed coffins, skeletons, and spectral figures hanging from the roof; there is even a moving ghost floating in the darkness. This year's addition is a hearse parked out front. The unfortunate occupant is a skeletal bride bedecked in white. The drive (and perhaps the widowed groom?) is none other than the Phantom of the Opera (a mannequin in the guise of Lon Chaney, as he appeared in the 1925 silent movie version of the famous beauty-and-the-beast horror story). As with the other haunts mentioned here, there are no shocks and scares at Fallen Angel Cemetery, just wonderful Halloween atmosphere, making it the perfect place for parents to bring timid trick-or-treaters.