Originally published October 18, 2015 at The Los Angeles Beat
While autumn settles into the East Coast with cooler temperatures and multi-colored leaves in early September, we brave Angelenos often suffer our hottest heat waves well into early October. After a few weeks of 100 degree scorchers we are eager and ready to welcome the ghostly, more temperate, Halloween season and usher in the beginning of the holidays that follow. Although there are several dozen worthwhile Halloween events, scary haunts and tons of fun to be had, we’ve narrowed it down to 6 cool choices from our long list of favorites. Here are a few helpful suggestions from the 2015 Offbeat L.A. list of witchy weirdness…
KITCHSY: The Ghost Train Amazingly adorable with a very mild edge of spookiness, the Ghost Train began its annual Halloween run in 2001 at Griffith Park’s Live Steamers Railroad Museum. During this time of the year, the 7 1/2 mile track of miniature steam engine, which winds through the scrubby brush of eastern edge of the park, is transformed into enchantingly haunting displays of wild west towns, singing man-eating plants, not-so-scary skeletons and flying saucer landings. The open-air train ride takes about a half an hour and is worth braving the long lines and the $15 admission fee. Walt Disney was an avid miniature steam train collector and his participation in this world directly influenced his vision for Disneyland. The feeling created by a ride on the Ghost Train is much the same as the one given by Disney’s own Haunted Mansion. It’s a family adventure, but great for cool big kids too. Open weekends from 7-10pm until November 1st.
Ghost Train 5202 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, 90027; (323) 661-8958.
CAMPY: Carrie: The Musical
Inspired by DePalma’s 1976 film, the theatrical version of Carrie involves singing, dancing and audience immersion. Seated on gymnasium-style bleachers, which break apart and move according to plot staging, the audience becomes part of the cast and the emotional involvement and fun intensifies. The idea was originally imagined in 1988 and didn’t quite fly then, but this successful revival is firing on all cylinders and is being primed for Broadway. With an excellent cast and stage direction, this play is a must-see, whether during the Halloween season, or any other time of the year. Its Los Angeles run opened at the gorgeous downtown 1931-built Los Angeles Theatre on October 1st and runs until November 22nd.
Carrie: The Musical Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles; (888) 596-1027. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
CREEPY: The Backwoods Maze This incredible, extremely professional and frightening home haunt is one of the best out there, and the kicker is that it is 100% free and located in a residential home on a side street in Burbank. Operating seasonally since 2004, this backyard spook show is full of authentic scares, screams, laughs and much adrenaline. The actors here play their parts with gusto and the sets are spectacularly created. Changing it up from last year’s tremendous apocalyptic theme, this year added an incredible sci-fi angle. The setting is similar to exploring parts of a dangerous otherworldly planet. This maze, while brilliant, is not suitable for young children, but should throw a scare into even the most jaded horror aficionado. Open weekends 7-10 until Halloween.
The Backwoods Maze 1912 N. Pepper St., Burbank, 91505.
HISTORIC: Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary Dark Harbor is one of the best major league haunts operating near Los Angeles. Offbeat L.A. covered it in a full-length article two years ago. Combining real life history of odd occurrences, deaths and ghost stories that are part of the ship’s much repeated lore, these apparitions are recreated as characters inspiring several of the mazes here. Reported sightings of a legendary child ghost named Mary, who died many, many decades ago in the Queen Mary pool, are apparently common. This year “Scary” Mary joined the pack in the new maze Lullaby. The six mazes here are full of excitement, a sense of adventure and screams. The three that take place on the actual ship add goosebumps and an authentic eeriness that would be impossible to create anywhere else. Runs through November 1st.
Dark Harbor 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802; (877) 342-0738.
RETRO: Tales From the Crypt Halloween Special by Captured Aural Phantasy Theater For two nights only, October 29th and 30th, the incredible Bob Baker Marionette Theater becomes host to the fantastic local theater troupe Captured Aural Phantasy, a unique and compelling group of actors who bring old school radio shows and comic books to life in the vocal tradition. The group performs into microphones, with little stage movement, as it would have been done decades ago for live radio. Much is left to the imagination through words and sound effects, leaving distraction to a minimum and intrigue to a maximum. The Tales From the Crypt Halloween Spectacular promises to mix up 1950s horror comics with 1970s trick-or-treating, adding in other retro touches such as spooky music and live magic acts, to the already bubbling and entertaining cauldron of wonderful witchiness. You won’t want to miss this one.
Tales from the Crypt Halloween Special at The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. 1st St., Los Angeles 90026. Tickets are $20 in advance.
CREATIVE: Boney Island Enter a magical Halloween wonderland, perfect for kids of all ages, even the littlest ones. Each Halloween since 1997, former Simpson’s TV show producer Rick Polizzi transforms his normal neighborhood backyard, on a shady corner in Sherman Oaks, into a special place called Boney Island. Cute animatronics include a skeleton named Seymour acting as host , flowers and bushes that blossom and talk, a magician performing a levitation act, talking spiders and much more. Admission is completely free, but an additional price, donated to charity, is charged for a climb into an incredible 4-story tree house. A photo station allows visitors to get a trick photograph of themselves “floating on air”. Many more sweet, enchanting and fun Halloween tricks abound. Open October 17th & 18th and then running October 21-31st, 6pm to 9 or 10 pm nightly.
Boney Island 4602 Morse Ave., Sherman Oaks, 91423.