Murder House Productions bid farewell to its location of the past five years with a cemetery yard haunt display on the evening of September 16, 2020. The atmospheric presentation – replete with Jack O’Lanterns, tombstones, a full moon and a cackling raven – was prompted by the sale of the house on Ranch View Place in Thousand Oaks, which will no longer afford a location for the annual Halloween home haunt. Consequently, Murder House will not produce show this October – a decision that may have been inevitable in any case, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cemetery scenery had been created for opening night of SugarMynt Gallery’s latest Haunted Haddonfield exhibition, which launched on September 12. Murder House relocated the setup to their private residence so that they could take one last bow before departing forever (in a metaphorical sense only, since the haunters do not actually live there).
The mood was upbeat but sentimental. Fans wore masks and maintained safe distances from each other while admiring the scenery, lightening, and sound effects. The low-key atmosphere – no costumed characters delivering jump-scares – was subdued compared to the high-impact horror of Murder House’s much-admired walk-through haunts (Trick r’ Treat, Wendigo, etc.), but in the era of social distancing squeezing fans into a tightly packed maze was out of the question.
With no location, the haunt’s future is somewhat unclear, but proprietor Aurora Persichetti says Murder House will definitely return, either as a home haunt in another neighborhood or perhaps as a professional haunted house.
Whatever the future may hold, the one-night-only yard display served as a sort of unofficial launch for Halloween 2020. For many years, we have remarked on the gradual expansion of the holiday, as major Halloween theme parks got a jump on their competition by starting earlier and earlier in September. This year, the pandemic has forced those theme parks to close. Instead, an amateur effort in Thousand Oaks – small in size but big in imagination – managed to raise the curtain on what should be a very unusual Halloween season.