Every time October comes around, an itching manifests in the souls of certain individuals. Naturally, I speak of the Halloween people. They are of the ilk that loves Halloween as much as (if not more than) Christmastime. They are the people who thrive on out-of-season Halloween/horror-themed events such as Midsummer Scream, Monsterpalooza and Spookshow to get them through the year. They are the people who are going to get the most joy out of the following list of predominantly OC-based spooky attractions. So, without further ado, we sincerely hope this list allows them to facilitate the optimal experience of their Halloween season. Enjoy!
It goes without saying that Knott’s Scary Farm and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor have solid reputations for delivering great theme park haunted attractions. However, let’s not forget that smaller haunts can deliver some of the biggest chills. We’ll start with a freebie: The Legend of Boot Hill has the distinction of being known as Orange County’s most elaborate yard display. Visit their site to read the legendary tale about the ghost of Jedediah Smith, who is said to haunt the area. This 20-year-old tradition awaits you at 16 Goldenrod, Irvine, on select nights throughout October.
Naturally, the OC-based horror effects house/purveyor of haunted shindigs, Sinister Pointe, will be featuring a haunted experience this season. This one is a scavenger hunt called The Mist. Within The Mist, guests find that they are immersed in an otherworldly experience, wherein monsters and a disorienting mist challenge their ability to find missing artifacts in an abandoned town. The Mist awaits you at the Westminster Mall. For available dates and ticketing info, visit their website.
Got more buttons you need pushed? The 17th Door is now open on select nights in Fullerton to put your soul through the ringer. This one isn’t for the feint of heart; The 17th Door has a reputation (and a waiver to sign) that haunt aficionados respect. If you decide to accept this mission, you will follow Paula as she attempts to find redemption for the murder of her son, through the 17 doors of the Perpetuum Penitentiary. Located at 1851 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, 17th Door is open various dates until Nov. 2.
This next one extends a bit out-of-county, but it’s so much durn fun, we couldn’t resist including it. So, be aware that next door, over in Riverside County, Coffin Creek has no fewer than five haunted attractions waiting to scare the bejeezus out of you. This sprawling little collection of haunts is perfectly suited to the medieval-looking fairgrounds of the Riverview Recreation Park, 14600 Baron Dr., Corona. The event has got the feel and price of a grassroots collection of artists and performers who are in it for the love of the game, but the scare levels compete with the best of ‘em!
Rounding out our section on smaller haunts, we thought we’d bring it on home with another free attraction. This home haunt in Mission Viejo has quite an impressive design. When you visit their website, Prism Research Group, it is not even clear that you are looking at the site of a haunt, but upon closer inspection, it is clear that these folks have constructed an elaborate story dealing with genetic mutations, which culminates in an inventive and terrifying experience that awaits you at 24465 Chamalea, Mission Viejo, starting on Oct. 18 and running on select nights through Halloween.
CARNIVALS AND FESTIVALS
Beyond the occasionally claustrophobic walls of some of the above haunted attractions, the Halloween spirit can also be found floating through the open air at a variety of festive events. The first perhaps would work well under the previous category heading as well as this one: Cobbs’ Carnival of Dreams isn’t so much a proper carnival as it is an immersive theater experience. What started six years ago as a haunted yard display has grown into a full blown carnivalesque production featuring aerialists, contortionists, jugglers, fire spinners, musicians, an original score … the works! Produced in conjunction with Anaheim Fall Festival, Carnival of Dreams is presented on Oct. 26 at 150 W. Center St. Promenade, Anaheim. Visit the above link for tickets.
While we’re at it, the family friendly Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade also takes place on Oct. 26. Join the fun in Downtown Anaheim for the 95th annual event, which will feature a children’s costume contest, a Halloween Pooch Pawrade, and more fun and games. Huntington Beach also presents a couple of family friendly events along these lines. First, find carnival games, crafts, face-painting, etc. at the Halloween Harvest Festival at Bella Terra on Oct. 19. Then, there’s trick-or-treating, Halloween photo stations, games for children and more on Oct. 31 at the Halloween Fest in Downtown Huntington Beach.
Want a little varied culture with your Halloween celebrations? No problem! Carnival of the Dead brings the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos to Downtown Anaheim on Oct. 25. That means dress up (or get your face painted with a skull at the event), behold the circus acrobats and fire breathers, witness the musical and parade performances, and allow yourself to be showered in confetti shot from CO2 cannons in Downtown Anaheim!
Just a brief shout out for those folks who want to shake their bones on the dance floor. Batcave Hollywood will be paying a seasonal visit to the OC on Oct. 19. So, if you wanna put on your best black leather, lace, latex or (hmph!) cotton nightclub gear and dance to some dark electronic and gothic rock music, head on over to The Circle OC, 8901 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, for Batcave OC.
This next one is out-of-county, but it merits a mention since it is also one of the most enormous Halloween parties in SoCal and because it features an incredible Halloween atmosphere—complete with a wide variety of performers and oddities as well as world-class DJs. Insomniac’s Escape Psycho Circus is a two-day electronic dance music festival that haunts the NOS Center in San Bernardino Oct. 25-26.
There are two types of theater, my friend: that pertaining to going to movie theaters and that pertaining to plays. We’ve got both … and more! First, after completing its second successful year at its new place of residence, the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival has initiated a new quarterly film festival called Campfire Tales. On Oct. 18, The Frida Cinema hosts its inaugural selection of short horror films. If the programming for this spin-off horror film festival is on par with that of its flagship festival, then attendance is highly recommended!
Moving onto actual theater, Fullerton’s Maverick Theater showcases a run of Brian Newell’s stage adaptation of George A. Romero’s classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead from Oct. 4-30. The show has received rave reviews (including from OC Weekly); need we say more?
Beyond the OC, there are several theatrical shows worthy of mention. First, there’s Urban Death Tour of Terror at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre at 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. This is a mini-haunted maze/experimental horror theater, and there is simply nothing else like it. It is freaky, eerie, humorous, disgusting and a whole lot of other adjectives along those lines. Plus, there’s a family friendly version available as well! Check out their site for showtimes and tickets.
Talk about experimental theater, Nocturnal Fandango produces shows designed for an audience of one! If they’re not sold out, try to get a ticket to their Oct. 26-27 show Take Me in Los Angeles. With this production, Nocturnal Fandango’s mission is to provide a nightmarish, emotional experience that culminates in a life-affirming denouement.
One last one: While you’re up there, check out Force of Nature Productions’ Edgar Allan Poe. This one-man show features Duffy Hudson as Poe, who tells his atmospheric tales of terror to his audience at Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, on Oct. 6 and 13.
Bringing it on home, there are a couple of scary places to go in OC for all of your horrific escapist desires. While they are open year-round, the various OC-based escape rooms usually feature room scenarios that could have come straight out of a horror film. Crossroads Escape Games at 4245 E La Palma Ave., Anaheim, currently has four unique room designs (Hex Room, Fun House, Psych Ward and Séance) that will challenge both your bravery and your puzzle-solving skills. Visit their site to book an appointment.
Escape X Rooms provides additional scenarios (The Attic, Mafia Heist and The Curse of the Black Knight) to challenge your mettle. These mystery-based, problem-solving scenarios are awaiting your reservation at 17981 Sky Park Circle, Ste. H, Irvine.
All right, that’s it for the list! It is likely that we missed a few along the way, but this should be enough to get you started. Beyond that, good luck navigating your way through the horrors that are waiting for you to seek them out!