The Halloween haunt’s latest production, Beyond the Gates of Turnball, transforms local history into horror.
What form of insanity drove me back to the Whitter Museum after last year’s abysmal descent into the Realm of the Supernatural? Ironically, it was a quest to regain my lost sanity after that mind-shattering experience. I had spent nearly twelve months in an asylum, attended by doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and soul tenders who convinced me that the horrors unleased in the museum were but artifice – a form of seasonal entertainment presented in honor of All Hallows Eve.
I believed them – or I wanted to believe them – and so I acquiesced when they insisted that my cure would not be complete until I faced my fears by returning to the accursed scene of my mental breakdown. Now I know I should have remained in my padded cell, locked in a straightjacket, the agony of my wounded soul dulled by a steady drip of Thorazine.
Beyond the Gates of Turnball: Press Conference
On Friday, October 21, the esoteric organization known as The Haunted Rose invited members of the press for a preview of this year’s “entertainment” at the Whittier Museum, entitled “Beyond the Gates of Turnball.” At first, the event seemed normal enough, though the “actor” in demon’s guise, spinning some strange fibrous confectionary from a glowing cauldron, should have been an omen.
The presentation consisted of a slideshow and a short film (rather too long for my liking, however), recounting the short history of The Haunted Rose and previewing “Beyond the Gates of Turnball.” Officially, what will take place in the museum this weekend is merely a kind of show, apparently known as a maze or a walkthrough – which I gather is something like a funhouse but seasonal in nature, taking place only during Fall.
Eager to believe the horrors that assaulted me last year were but fantasies, I was initially comforted by the presentation, which explained away The Haunted Rose as a “home haunt” that had struck a deal with Whitter Museum to create a fundraising event. My relief, however, was soon tinged with apprehension when the slide for last year’s supposedly fictional “Realm of the Supernatural” flashed on screen. The apprehension grew even more intense when talk turned to the historical basis of this year’s event, “Beyond the Gates of Turnball.”
While pretending their “Halloween haunt” is fictional, the representatives declared that it was depicting actual events. Was I the only one who could detect the irony? The only one who could sense the mocking disdain from the presenter, pretending the horrors he was about to unleash were unreal while openly admitting they were all too real? Apparently so.
Event the event’s title, “Beyond the Gates of Turnball,” is an obvious reference to the infamous, real-life Gates of Hell in nearby Turnball Canyon, behind which all manner of shadowy horrors are known to lurk. Though no one will confirm it, rumors abound that an asylum once resided beyond those gates, where strange experiments were performed on the criminally insane until the place mercifully burnt down, killing everyone inside. Their spirits, it is said, still haunt the canyon, seldom seen, their presence revealed subliminally to sensitive souls in touch with the supernatural realm.
Sometimes their impact is more tangible, as with the unexplained crash of Flight 416 in 1952. Officials theorize that the plane scraped the canyon wall while flying too low in order to avoid fog, but what was the plane really trying to avoid? Could it have anything to do with William Haight’s 1933 “electrodome,” supposedly created as an artificial rainmaker but whose electrical currents seem more likely designed to open a portal to the supernatural realm? With so many bizarre incidents, including encounters with souls of Indigenous Americans who once lived in the area, it is impossible to determine the exact nature of the paranormal activity, but the sheer weight of evidence screams out against dismissing it all as mere legend.
Beyond the Gates of Turnball: Horror in the Museum
All of this was mere preamble to the true horror of the evening: another descent into the museum! By the time the presentation was over, my senses were screaming warnings to my fragile mind, but what could I do, swept up as I was by a crowd of fellow journalists, eager to enjoy what they expected to be fantastical revelry of pretend terror? Down the stairs we went, and once more I entered that accursed abode.
Laughter was the initial reaction from my colleagues. Briefly I wished I could share their ignorant enjoyment of the horrible reality they were witnessing – wished I too could laugh with humor instead of growing mania. But soon their laughter turned to screams – screams more than blood-curdling – screams that reached down into the depths of my soul, grasped the memories of last year that I had tried to forget, and dragged them back into consciousness so that I could relive them in full terror once again and – even worse – see that this year’s terrors made my previous trauma seem like a pale shadow, a silly children’s nightmare, compared to the psychic assault unleashed by this ungodly trip Beyond the Gates of Turnball.
How I got out I do not know, nor do I care to remember. But I alone am escaped to warn thee. The others are gone – blasted into realms beyond human perception. Perhaps my previous exposure granted me some small measure of immunity. Or perhaps it is merely a joke played by the malignant forces haunting Whittier Museum – knowing that my warnings, however strident, will have no effect. Innocent victims will laugh them off as fiction or simply ignore them, and they too will go Beyond the Gates of Turnball.
For myself I see nothing in the future but a return to Bulltran Asylum, which – if fate is merciful – is where I shall remain, far from the horrors beyond the Gates of Hell.
Our Review of Beyond the Gates of Turnball
1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
The Haunted Rose knocks it out of the park once with another spectacular walkthrough that puts for-profit Halloween haunts to shame. The museum settings provide great production value, enhanced for Halloween with atmospheric lighting and decorations to create convincingly haunted environments (although we never really felt as if we were exploring the rural area of Turnball Canyon).
For our money, the historical nature of “Beyond the Gates of Turnball” is less interesting than the cosmic horrors of Haunted Rose’s Lovecraftian productions. In fact, our favorite monster of the evening, a raving lunatic with a pentagram carved on her head (great makeup!), seemed less like an inmate of Turnball Canyon and more like a possessed woman from The Evil Dead.
Frankly, the haunted history of Whittier is rather thin. There have been a few incidents of tragic violence but no more so than in any other town, and there is there is no evidence that the alleged criminal asylum ever existed. Some superstitious hikers believe there is something spooky beyond the so-called “Gates of Hell,” but people who have climbed those gates admit there is little except “spiders, bottles and car parts.”
On the other hand, reimagining William Haight’s rain-making “electrodome” as an instrument of mad science is a brilliant touch. Not only does it evoke the device Crawford Tillinghast used to access “inaccessible worlds” in Lovecraft’s “From Beyond”; it also provides a spectacular exclamation point near the end of the walkthrough, raising “Beyond the Gates of Turnball” to the level of a bigger production. And the horned Wendigo-type creature with its extended fingernails is quite striking. Another must-see.
Beyond the Gates of Turnbull runs at the The Whittier Museum on October 28-30, 6-11pm (no show on Halloween Night). October 28 feature performances by Los Angeles Misfits at 7pm & 8pm. October 29 includes a Nightshade market with hearses and spooky vendors. October 30 offers a kid-safe trick-or-treat experience from noon to 4pm.
Whittier Museum is located at 6755 Newlin Avenue, Whittier, CA 90601. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit thehauntedrosehaunt.weebly.com.