Our house loves Halloween—no, really loves Halloween. We reconnect with neighbors as we hang ghosts in trees, weave skeletons into the jasmine, drape pumpkin lights along the fence, and smear cobwebs all over the shrubbery. Our normally zen rock garden becomes a graveyard, and last year's Halloween costumes become its inhabitants.
One way we feed our macabre creativity is by avidly checking out other Halloween addicts' handiwork; we love the ghost trains, festivals, and pumpkin patches—we even love a good scream at the Queen Mary—but the real beauty of living in the film capital of the world is that private haunted houses frequently rival the spectacle of the big theme park spooks. Seriously. We've collected the scream of the crop below.
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The Rotten Apple 907
October 21-22 & 28-31, 2017
907 N. California Street
Burbank, CA 91505
The family who lives at #907 takes the holiday very seriously and has done for decades. Preparations for this private haunt begin months in advance, with a different theme every year to entertain their neighbors and lure other people's neighbors. The 2016 motif is The Not So Enchanted Forest. Admission is free, but a box is put out to collect for Family Promise of East San Fernando Valley.
The Haunted Shack
October 28 & 31, 2017
5112 Maricopa Street
Torrance, CA 90503
Doubtless the coolest spot in Torrance for trick-or-treating, the draw at this house is not the candy. The maze and special effects are planned for ages 5 and up—higher on the scare and surprise scale, lower on the gore scale. The haunt is free, but donations are taken for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Photo courtesy of The Backwoods Maze
The Backwoods Maze Yard Haunt
Fri-Sun, October 13-31, 2017
1912 North Pepper Street
Burbank, CA 91505
Creepier than your average backyard haunt, this one is set in post-apocalypticrural Texas and features every horror movie extra you can imagine. For sure this private spookfest is too intense for the average trick-or-treater, but older kids who are ready for something more wicked than that "smell my feet" rhyme won't be disappointed.
Beware the Dark Realm
October 14, 20, 21, 27, 28, 2017
Free (donations benefit the local nonprofit SCV Domestic Violence Center)
28621 Sugar Pine Way
Santa Clarita CA 91390
This haunt may require a little more of a drive, but this family has been producing yard haunts for decades and does it up in style. The Dark Realm is based on a medieval castle, with flickering torches, stone walls, a torture chamber, three-dimensional ghosts, live scare actors, and a fire breathing creature. Please note that children under ten are not encouraged to attend.
The House at Haunted Hill
October 28-31, 2017
Sat 7pm-12am, Sun-Tue 7pm-10pm
4400 Saltillo Street
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
The Valley classic, scaring the socks off the neighbors since 2000, is back after a year off. This private haunt models itself on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Follow the spooky tale of a Hollywood starlet who mysteriously disappears, amid a cast of scary characters, haunting music, and creepy special effects. The city obligingly shuts down the street to traffic on haunt nights.
Photo courtesy of Reign of Terror Haunted House
October 28-31, 2017
13243 Mission Tierra Way
Granada Hills, CA 91344
These guys take their spooking and special effects seriously, making for a home haunt worth a drive from any neighborhood. Expect animatronics, top-notch design, and plenty of surprises.
Haunts that charge admission
Reign of Terror Haunted House
Fridays through Sundays throughout October, plus Mon-Tues October 30-31
Kids' daytime tours October 21 & 28, 2017
Adult/Teen tour $13 & up; Kids Lights On tour $5 (parents free)
7pm-10pm; open until 11pm on Saturdays
197 N. Moorpark Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
A thoroughly terrifying treat for teens and adults by night, the Reign of Terror Haunted House offers two special Lights On Tours for spook-loving tykes on the afternoons of October 21 and 28. Parents are admitted free of charge for the afternoon version, which has no scary actors or dark corners.
Grier Musser Museum Haunted House Tour
October 29, 2017
Adults $12; Children $6
403 South Bonnie Brae Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
This one isn't a private home, but it used to be. The Grier Musser gussies up for Halloween with pleasantly spooky tours of the Victorian mansion. This is high on Halloween spirit, low on creeps and gore. The tour isn't free, but refreshments and parking are.
Dearly Departed Haunts:
We keep these listed in case you're assuming that they will be around, as they were in the past. There's little worse than promising a kid a cool haunt and producing an empty lawn...
This Sherman Oaks classic has officially ended its run.
This place is as family-friendly as a haunt can be. Every inch of free space on the lawn of this private home is filled with skeletons, most of whom are engaging in some form of magic trick (think rabbits in hats and cups and balls). There isn't a tour per se - just lots of families wandering the lawn and admiring the detailed handiwork. Every 10 minutes or so a musical light show takes place, with glow-in-the-dark fountains shooting phosphorescent streams of water high in the air under the direction of a wise-cracking skeleton host. And if you see a fortune telling skeleton, Mom or Dad should subtly hang back and look for a guy with his face buried in a Big Gulp - just sayin'...
Forest of Mirrors
unconfirmed since 2014
6124 Lederer Ave.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
We haven't been able to confirm this (usually annual) private haunt in a home once owned by Buster Keaton. The website is still up and boasting "the world's strangest yard" but hasn't been updated since 2013; if you know more than we do, please share! The house has previously set up to scare the neighbors every Halloween night, with actors, special effects, and a graveyard of mirrors that seemed never to end. One sensed the hands of some Hollywood pros in this display, so maybe someone's filming schedule decides whether or not the haunt happens.
The House of the Restless Spirits
1008 Euclid Street
Santa Monica. CA 90403
The private haunt was a legend in this Santa Monica neighborhood for decades, telling a spooky tale from days gone by. Alas, those days have now gone by. Thanks for the memories, restless spirits.
Venice Haunted House
414 Rosa Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
The Eternal Rest Cemetery, aka the Venice Haunted House, threatens to return each year; check the website to see how to help that happen.
Don't forget we have a whole separate page for theme park haunts and Halloween festivals!
Originally published September 20, 2011