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Boney Island haunts L.A. Natural History Museum

Check out our photo galleries & review of Boney Island’s 2023 resurrection – back in business for the first time in five years!

Boney Island is back in business for the first time since its 2018 appearance in Griffith Park. That alone is cause for celebrating around the cauldron, but there is even more good news: the new location within the Nature Gardens of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum provides an excellent showcase for the familiar props, decorations, and displays that have defined the attraction’s family-friendly approach to Halloween for two decades. If you crave spooky entertainment but hate jump-scares, this is for you.

This year’s version of Boney Island combines memorable scenes from its past (Hauntington Gardens, Deadwood Forest, Maestro Maxilla’s Magical Cauldrons) with elements from proprietor Rick Polizzi’s Mystic Society: Smoke & Mirrors, a sort of traveling immersive show featuring mechanical magic tricks and illusions. The who mess seamlessly since Boney Island has more or less been a magic show since its second incarnation launched in 2011. The only distinction is that for the most part the Smoke & Mirrors installations do not feature comical skeletons bungling the tricks.

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Since Smoke & Mirrors has not been widely seen (there was a friends-and-family preview earlier this year), these scenes offer something new for long-time fans of Boney Island. The volumes in a bookcase move back and forth as if pulled by an unseen hand. A magical candle enclosed in a glass case invites you to blow it out. A spectral goldfish inexplicably floats through the air inside a bird cage (while a bird sits in a fish bowl below). Another black bird in a cage is visible from one angle but not another. A video screen displaying a deck of cards makes the one you pick disappear.

Also returning is the Boney Island Theatre, but instead of stage magic, the presentation consists of museum staff delivering presentations about some of the more intimidating species on display within the building. Considering that much of Boney Island consists of skeletal animals (dragons, dogs, dinosaurs), it makes perfect sense to see a saber tooth tiger skull as part of a talk about prehistoric life.

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Even if there were nothing new, Boney Island’s return would be worth the trip to the Natural History Museum just to see the attraction in its new home. The spacious Nature Gardens give the event room to breathe. Giant skeletons, talking spiders, creeping vines, and carnivorous vegetation are strategically situated along the forking paths, with several tributaries and loops that make it all but impossible to see everything without doubling back at some point and retracing your steps. This may sound confusing, but the sense of exploration adds to the fun.

Moreover, the winding trail is large enough to accommodate crowds without feeling crowded. This provides a luxurious sense of being able to delve into the displays at your own pace. Unlike the old days when Boney Island was a home yard display, you can easily navigate to your favorite tableau of silly skeletons and pause to enjoy their antics without rubbing shoulders against someone examining another scene less than a foot away. This is especially important with one or two of the Smoke & Mirrors installations, which run in cycles that need to be viewed from beginning to end in order to get the gag.

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Hopefully, Boney Island becomes a big success at its new home. Four years was too long to go without an appearance by what is probably L.A.’s best family-friendly Halloween event. Even if you have seen most or all of it before, this chance to see it again is not to be missed, and families with young children are especially encouraged to check it out.

Check out dozens of more photographs in the galleries below the review box…

Boney Island at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

There is only a little new to see this year, but who’s complaining? Boney Island is back, and the new location showcases its strengths in ways that make it worth revisiting, no matter how many times you have seen it in the past. As always, highly recommended, and kids love it.

Boney Island continues at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum throughout October on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, plus Monday October 30 and Tuesday October 31. Tickets are $20 for museum members and $25 for non-members. The address is 900 Exposition Boulevard in Los Angeles. Parking is located conveniently next to the event. For more information visit boneyisland.com.


Boney Island History Museum Photo Gallery: Skeletons on the Trail
Boney Island Natural History Museum Photo Gallery: Jack o’ Lanterns, Scarecrows & Spiders
Boney Island Natural History Photo Gallery: Smoke & Mirrors Magic
Boney Island Natural History Museum Gallery: Skeleton Sideshows
Boney Island Natural History Museum Photo Gallery: Deadwood Forest
Boney Island Natural History Museum Photo Gallery: Hauntington Gardens
Boney Island Natural History Museum Photo Gallery: Maestro Maxilla’s Magical Cauldrons

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.