October 31, 2020

The Haunt on McLaughlin: A Neighborhood Gem Along Halloween Yard Displays

Sometimes the best Halloween haunts are the ones only the neighbors know about. 

For years, I've been attending spook shows and Halloween conventions, following all the haunt blogs, and scouring social media for places to go every October. 

But The Haunt on McLaughlin in the MarVista neighborhood of Los Angeles hasn't shown up on any of them. 

And by God, this yard haunt is one of the best. 
It's the creation of a young teen who lives there, and who can be found tinkering with the wiring out in broad daylight—especially if he's discovered something's not working. 

The best part is the interactive aspect—that is, certain decorations that you activate yourself by stepping on designated pads. 

What a delight!

When I showed up two nights before Halloween—based on a tip I'd seen deeply embedded in the comments on a friend's Facebook post—the soundtrack was early 2000s Euro techno, which somehow seemed appropriate. 

Upon my arrival, it quickly changed to "Ghostbusters," which helped drown out the barking of the attack dog I'd triggered to come out of hiding. 

Bravo, I said to its creator as I walked back to my car. I hope he knows what a good job he did. I can't wait to see what he does in future years. 

I hope he stays a haunter for life.

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Photo Essay: Hunting Down Yard Haunts During a Pandemic Halloween

For the first year in a long time, I'll most likely be staying home Halloween night this year. The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval is canceled for COVID-19; and it doesn't seem like a very good idea to go anywhere else where there might be crowds. 

But I thought maybe I could roam around a bit on my own on Halloween Eve night to see what spooks I could scare up in the LA area.
Every year, I always want to head up to Santa Clarita to check out the haunts just north of LA, but I always poop out before making the hour-plus drive. 

But last night, I finally made it. 

My first stop was The Doll House home haunt in Santa Clarita, where I got to spend some creepy and quality alone time with some yard-dwelling cuties. 

While in the area, I also visited Coffinwood Cemetery...

...which not only makes good use of its front yard...

...but also allows for a bit of a walk-through haunt attraction. 

Larger than life figures make their offerings while keeping visitors at arm's distance...

...though it's likely something befell them other than the coronavirus

I didn't see any live werewolves...

...but the cemetery was plenty full of skulls...

...and skeletons.

After a quick stop at the Beware the Dark Realm medieval castle-themed maze (where I may or may not have caught the bubonic plague)...

...I hopped off the 5 Freeway on my way home and swung by the city of Burbank...

...where I've had some good luck with Halloweentime home haunts before... visit the Circus of Nightmares on one of its "Scare Nights" starring live, pint-sized clowns. 

It's technically considered a "drive-by" haunt...

...but by the time I arrived sometime around 9 o'clock, all the activity had attracted quite a crowd out front. 

That was the scene at the Burbank yard haunt known as Holiday Fantasies Come to Life...

...which is just a stone's throw from the Disney lot...

...and this year pays tribute to the world of Disney with its "FANTASMIC!" yard display. 

I can't wait to go back and see what they do for the next holiday (a.k.a. Christmas). 

So, now that I've had one big night out full of Halloweeny stuff, I won't feel so bad about spending my big night in tonight. 
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October 26, 2020

The Haunted Car Wash Inside a Tunnel of Terror

I've been wondering why there aren't more themed car washes. Why not make something so mundane as cleaning your car a little more... entertaining

And this Halloween, the Russell Fischer Xpress car wash in Huntington Beach, California stepped up to the plate with its "Tunnel of Terror" Haunted Car Wash. 

I'm never really terrified at haunted attractions. I'm much more scared by real life. 
In fact, I'm downright giddy when I encounter a clown who's maniacally giggling at me. 

I just giggle back. 

And this year, I was just so happy for any Halloween festivities I encountered—especially when I already needed a car wash. 

They laughed at me when they saw me all by myself in my car. But it's too hard to make plans with somebody else these days. 

And I don't need to have kids in tow in order to appreciate a spooky spectacle. 

At this haunted car wash, much of the show actually occurred outside of the bubbly tunnel...
...with scary characters wielding squeegees and beckoning you forth into the darkness. 

After you enter the mouth...

...this car wash doesn't start out much differently than any other car wash.

At least, any other car wash with a good multi-colored light show. 

But then, something begins to emerge into the light at the end of the car wash tunnel...

...a shadowy figure who's been standing there, waiting for you to emerge from the soap and rinse cycle. 

And just as soon as they appear...

...they disappear behind your car to greet the next victim in line. 

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October 25, 2020

Photo Essay: Driving Through the Anaheim Halloween Parade

This is exactly what I had wished for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Instead of being canceled for COVID-19, could it still go on—as a drive-by experience?

Well, it didn't work out that way for the Rose Parade this coming New Year's Day. 

But the city of Anaheim in Orange County, California wasn't going to let anything interrupt its nearly 100-year tradition—and made its annual Halloween Parade a drive-thru. 

I'd gone down to Anaheim to see its Halloween parade once, back in 2016—but I'd been frustrated watching it pass me by without really being able to see it. It's always scheduled after sunset—and so it was plenty dark by the time the floats reached where I'd stationed myself along the parade route.  

This year, I showed up early to get an advance peek of the action while the floats were still being set up, where—in a coronavirus switcheroo—they'd be stationed while cars drove past them

Anaheim is known for its parade floats—which are created by locals, many of whom have a Disney pedigree, and often hearken back to vintage 1950s designs. 

In the 1950s and '60s, the parade was so popular that it was televised locally. 

Grumpy Trees

Its popularity waned until it was revived and revitalized in 2012—harnessing local artistic talent and volunteer manpower to bring dozens of floats to life. 

There's never a shortage of good ol' fashioned whimsey...
...and always a good dose of spookiness, too. 

And although this year's parade was massively scaled down from prior years, like in 1953 when the "Flying Sasser" made its debut... was clear as I was driving through that the energy and passion was just as strong this year as it's ever been. 

The Rocket Witch was once again ready to take flight, as she first did in 1951. 

The Anaheim Short Line rode the rails as it first did in 1948—this time with puppeteers from the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre front and center.  

The Candy Box Haunted House

This year's parade, in fact, was like a "greatest hits" of classic floats that have made their triumphant returns (in replica form) in the last 8 years. 

One of the more recent additions is the "Haunted House" float, whose current version debuted in 2016. 

For years, I've been tempted to just peep the floats at the daytime Anaheim Fall Festival rather than attending the actual parade...

But then I'd miss the animatronics, smoke effects, and personalities like the Pumpkin Man. 

And I wouldn't get my own trick or treat bag, either. It's the little things. 

I hear that some drivers had to wait a couple of hours to get their cars through the line and past the floats later in the evening—something I'd been wary of myself, and something that almost kept me away from the parade altogether this year. 

But I was more determined than ever this year to get a dose of Halloween—any semblance of Halloween normalcy—wherever, whenever, however I could. 

And now I'm wondering why I ever missed so many parades of past years. 

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