I have a confession: growing up, I was a Haloweenie. I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating (what kid doesn’t) but I scared easy. Loud noises, the dark , the wind, all of it made me anxious. My mom still tells the story of one Halloween night when I was very young, a man answered the door in a gorilla suit when we were trick-or-treating, and 5-year old me, dressed as a bunny (an outfit that was basically my blue footed pajamas with a tail sewn on) was so terrified I high-tailed it down the street and back into the safety of our living room. My fear was only eclipsed by my anger when my friend Christopher came back later and reported that the gorilla was handing out full size candy bars. (full size!)
Ahhh how times have changed. My husband and I are self-professed Halloween nuts, in fact, before we started dating we were both known in our friend circle as the two people who would come to the Halloween party with some of the most elaborate costume and make-up (his full-head Voldemort makeup was really impressive, almost as good as my undead Ariel). We eagerly anticipate the Halloween season, booking tickets for events as soon as they become available, my husband fills our pantry with as many pumpkin flavored things as he can find ( the pumpkin tortilla chips are a little questionable).
One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is how festive it gets around the Halloween season. In many ways, Angelenos celebrate this time of year more than any other, with yard displays that rival any mainstream haunted attraction. Neighborhoods are filled with industry professionals putting their skills and talent on display with a passion and sense of humor that is quirky and wonderful. There is such a vast range of events and attractions to choose from this time of year that it is hard to narrow down, but here are some of our favorite, quintessential Southern California haunts.
1. Knott’s Scary Farm
We have attended this event the last few years, and it has become one of our absolute favorites. This year was just fantastic, Knott’s knocked it out of the park with their mazes and scare zones. They took a classic theme, Trick or Treat ( built in what looks like a spooky neighborhood house with scary pumpkins and the Wicked Witch) and turned it on it’s head by turning the lights out and only giving you a faulty flashlight to light your path. My favorite maze is a returning one called Shadowlands, with beautifully decorated Japanese sets, and a lot of the actors performing bungee work, so that they come at you from all angles. It is completely original, fantastically themed, the scene where you come face to face with a girl from Ringu is hands down my favorite thing I’ve seen at any attraction. Just walking around the park is great as well, the Pumpkin Eater area with deadly scarecrows was spooky and classic, and the historic Ghost Town section filled with fog and undead residents is never better than this time of year. Top it off with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and it is quite simply one of the most enjoyable Halloween-themed evenings you can have!
Knott’s Scary Farm runs thru Oct. 31st, https://www.knotts.com/play/scary-farm
2. Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor
Often looked at as one of Southern California’s most haunted locations, and one that has a rich history, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor event capitalizes on all of it. I think of this as a big Halloween festival that has a few mazes in it. Come ready to drink (this event has some of the best (and most plentiful) bars of any), eat and get spooky. The last few years, we have stayed overnight in the hotel on the ship, which I highly recommend, you can truly relax and enjoy the festivities, really soak up the location, and it feels a bit like you are on an episode of Ghost Hunters as you walk around the ship late at night. One of my favorite mazes (one they do pretty regularly) is B340. B340 is a cabin on the ship that guests are no longer allowed to stay in because of the sheer amount of paranormal activity that has been reported in that room. Supposedly this room was used as a temporary holding cell for a deranged man during one of the ships ocean passages, and the maze takes that story and runs with it. It is one of the many mazes that actually takes you through the ship itself, and that alone raises the creep factor. They also always have a healthy amount of live entertainment, be it musicians, aerialists or fire-eaters, which nicely complete the carnival-like feel.
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor runs thru Nov. 1st, http://www.queenmary.com/events/dark-harbor/
3. Reign of Terror
This 100-room haunted house has definitely become one of our must-see Halloween stops in SoCal. It is all built in a 23,000 square-foot warehouse space that sits on the second floor of an outdoor mall in Thousand Oaks. It is quite unassuming on the approach, until you enter the queue area on the 2nd floor, and you are immersed in the hugely creative and elaborate world of Reign of Terror. This haunted house has grown bigger and bigger every year, but still reminds me of haunted houses I grew up with, that are put together by people from the community, and everyone gets involved. They utilize animatronics better than most places I ‘ve experienced, and often have scares coming from unexpected places. Their themes are classic, ranging from asylum to an old mine, from haunted house to quarantine, but they make great creative choices with set decor and scare devices in each. This experience isn’t an all-night type of thing, but great to head to after dinner (or pair it with another attraction).
Reign of Terror runs thru Oct. 31st, http://www.rothauntedhouse.com/
4. Creep LA (and hopefully eventually) Delusion
In the last few years, there has been a rise in the idea of immersive, interactive horror-theater. Perhaps originally inspired by productions like Sleep No More in New York, Los Angeles has become an amazing place in it’s own right for innovative edgy horror experiences. I want to give a shout out to Delusion, which started in LA in 2011. Over the years, this theater company creates the ultimate immersive experience, truly putting guests in the middle of an orginal gothic tale, often taking them through an old mansion somewhere in the city, crawling through holes, into secret rooms and dark hidden pathways. Creep LA has truly put it’s own spin on immersive theater, almost asking guests to get more introspective (what are the stories we tell ourselves?) while being led from scene to scene. Creep lets the guests determine the direction of the night, so some guests go in different directions, different rooms, and interact with different characters. This year, Creep LA is themed around Lore, a popular podcast and Amazon series, so some of the vignettes are based around historic folklore from around the world. While I am a huge fan of Lore, I would be interested to see Creep go back to original content, because I felt the best (and creepiest) parts of the night were the most abstract. All in, Creep La is a really cool, unique evening, and I am excited to see what they put out each year.
Creep LA runs thru Nov. 12th – http://www.creepla.com/
*Delusion isn’t running this year, but has some exciting future projects: http://www.enterdelusion.com/
5. Rotten Apple 907
We finally got to this last year, and fell in love with it. It is the quintessential neighborhood haunted house, which according to their website, started as a children’s birthday party, and has grown into a local haunt that attracts over 3000 people at the end of October. It is free, but donations are accepted, and all proceeds go to charity. This year, all donations will go to the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter. This haunted house is constructed in the front yard of a house in Burbank, and the elaborate theming and set design rival that of several much larger operations. We waited 40 minutes last year to go through, and it was entirely worth it.
Rotten Apple 907 is open on Oct. 21,22,28,29, and 31st. http://www.rottenapple907.com/
6. Ghost Train of Griffith Park
This, while it is definitely the most kid-friendly option on this list, makes for a really fun, nostalgic Halloween activity for many adults. This miniature ride-on train is part of the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum and runs year-round, but at Halloween it is extra special. For a few select nights in October, the train ride is open at night (7-10 pm), and you are taken through the park on a fun, colorfully decorated scenic ride. It is a local gem that makes you feel like a kid at Halloween again, and this has become a must-see for many adults who prefer gentler more fun and wholesome horror. We have found going later rather than earlier to this avoids the long waits.
The Ghost Train is open on Oct. 20,21,22, 27,28,29,30, and 31st.
7. Warner Brother’s Studios Horror Made Here
What is more LA than movie studio? Warner Brothers has one of the most iconic studio lots in Los Angeles, and have chosen to celebrate some of their darker films, like Nightmare on Elm Street, The Conjuring, and of course, It. In what feels like a Halloween-themed back lot party, you get whisked (by studio tour tram) to the “Midwest town” set on the WB back lot, (TV fans will recognize it as Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls) where there are food trucks, wine and beer stands, and several different spooky experiences set up in various different houses around the town. The Conjuring house is a stand out, with fantastic set design , you feel as if you are thrust right into the Warren’s home from the film. From there, spooky surprises await. The creative way some of the scares happen in this house were by far the most memorable of the evening. There is also the Niebolt House from the movie It, which also is a great scary walk thru as you are armed only with flashlights and have to follow a frantic Georgie through more and more terrifying rooms. I loved the after-dark, spooky version of the back lot on-tram tour, it was fun, entertaining and had some great scares, and Stage 48 (a standard on their daytime VIP tour) is always fantastic to walk through. This experience is definitely low-key compared to Universal or Disney, but the intimacy (i.e. not too crowded) of the event made it a lot more fun to really take our time and enjoy the night.
WB’s Horror Made Here has a limited run, and is running thru Oct. 28
8. Scare LA and Monsterpalooza
For those of us that wish Halloween season was year round, it helps to have events throughout the year that celebrate the spookiest time of the year. Scare LA happens in summer, and really celebrates haunted attractions, independent horror films, books, comics, and horror icons. You get a sneak peek at what the big horror attractions are planning for the upcoming season, and see some mini versions of haunted houses. Monsterpalooza (and Son of Monsterpalooza) is more a horror make-up convention. Often, anyone who has been on Face Off appears at some point at one of these conventions, doing demonstrations or selling their wares. This is also the place to find any horror-themed accessory (jewelry, clothing, bags) or art. Monsterpalooza usually happens sometime in April, and Son of Monsterpalooza is in September.
Scare LA: https://scarela.com/
To see our Halloween adventures, follow me on Instagram. Have a wonderful Halloween season, get out there and get spooky!!!!