Halloween is big business. You’re never gonna see a theme park charging less than forty dollars ever again for their witches brew of rides and mazes and overpriced edibles. It’s the largest retail season next to Christmas and its gaining on St. Nicks corporate ass pretty fast. The home haunt is a different animal, which is done purely for the love of the holiday, donations for a charity,bragging rights and sometimes all of the above. Over the last few years, the L.A. Valley has become notorious for its hundreds of porn productions shot there each week. But during October, the Valley does a 180 degree turn and dares the whole family to test their mettle through gobs of gore and very snarky humor.
Returning after a couple of years absence, due to complaints from grouchy neighbors, is Boney Island. Started by one of the producers of the Simpson’s about ten years ago, this open air front yard haunt features high tech illusions and a ten minute glow in the dark dancing waters show. Everywhere you go you are assaulted by friendly animated skeletons telling jokes and performing lame magic tricks that would make Nelson from the Simpsons go “Ha Ha”. Donations are accepted and they do have cool merch to take home.
A few blocks down the road is another DIY home haunt called The Back Woods. This started out as a “hill billy horror” theme inspired by a maze that appeared at Knotts Berry Farm for a few years. The Backwoods have kept some of the same tone but have set it in the future just a short year after the apocaplypse. The maze seems to be a feat of engineering because it makes great use of the small back yard space, but the realistic monsters and larger than life props and shocks are the main attraction. Screams can be heard blocks a way and it’s hard to miss the location because life sized recreations of Freddy Kreuger, Pumpkin Head, Leather Face and many others hold sway over the front yard.
Sojourning deeper into the valley to Sherwood Forest in Northridge. comes the best home haunt so far. Big Worm’s Sherwood Scare. Nestled in a nice community with large houses, trees and manicured lawns is the most professional and disturbing maze of the bunch. If it were twice as long there would be no way to distinguish it from an attraction at Knotts or Universal Horror Nights. Big Worm is a charity foundation that distributes funds and care to people saddled with Cystic Fibrosis. It has only been going on for three years, but it looks very seasoned one the tour starts. For a paltry three dollar donation you are escorted into the main entrance of a crumbling Art Deco movie studio of the 1930’s. The story goes that a child star playing a possessed first grader gets possessed for real and murders all of her co-stars and disappears into the film vault never to be seen again. The ghouls here, who are sporting great death pallor make up and period clothing, get right in your face. It’s almost a detriment because every inch of the haunt is dressed to the nines and dotted with antique movie equipment. I can’t give away anything else except that there are at least two pieces of mechanical gadgetry that you don’t expect to see in a humble home haunt. Expect big lines for this one.
Photo courtesy of Boney Island