Read what LA Weekly wrote about me and my horror haunt adventures:
Halloween Haunts in LA, 2013
Jill Kill's Ultimate Guide to
Southern California has the best Halloween season in the world, but there's so much to do and so little time!
Here's some of my favorite Halloween attractions and haunts to get you in the spirit, along with my prescriptions to make sure you get the kind of fun and scares you want at a price you can afford.
(for anyone and everyone looking for a lot of good scares, shows, and fun rides; INTERACTIVE options; starting at $38)
This original theme park haunt has been around for 41 years, and Knott's still delivers more scares and fun than anyone else . Admission is $38 most nights with 10 mazes, tons of hilarious and horrifying scare actors roaming the park, plus Elvira's Sinema Seance performance twice nightly-- you get A LOT for your money. This haunt is great for all ages except small children, and there's something for everyone because the regular theme park rides and roller coasters are still open during haunt.
EXTRAS: Consider buying a $50 Fast Pass which allows you to cut front of the lines for mazes and entitles you to Skeleton Keys that get you into interactive rooms at the beginning of 4 of the mazes.
Also, the most unique attraction in Knotts is Trapped-- an interactive reservation only maze that you can bring up to 6 guests into for $60 total for a really unique experience. You sign a release form before Trapped where you agree that the actors are allowed to touch you-- and that if you're too scared to go any further and say the safe word "Boysenberry" you'll be escorted out of the maze with no refund. (Last year Trapped had me eating crickets and being filed away on a morgue slab-- but this year's maze focused on big action movie-style scares rather than small closed spaces, so beware!)
I highly recommend Knott's and Trapped to hardcore horror haunt fans as well as fans of the season just looking to dip their toes in for some Halloween fun!
One note: Elvira is doing a show at Knott's this year twice every evening. Go and get seats early, otherwise you'll get shut out like I did. :/
Buena Park, CA
Beer & Wine on sale for 21 & up
September 26 – November 2, 2013
Thursday – Sunday, plus Halloween-eve and Halloween
(for mature audiences who need a good shock and rock, starting at $30 )
Honestly, I think Rob Zombie is a Halloween horror haunt genius. If you're looking for scares and shock with a side of rock, you will LOVE Rob Zombie's new Great American Nightmare. This is the first year for Rob Zombie's haunt out in Pomona, but he's no stranger to maze design-- he also designed the House of 1000 Corpses maze for Universal's Halloween Horror Nights in years past.
But Rob's done something entirely more obscene and horrifying now that he's out on his own-- and I mean that in the best possible way. There's only 3 mazes at Great American Nightmare. but you also only have to wait in line once to experience the whole Nightmare under one roof, which is a great idea. First there's The Lords of Salem in Total Blackout maze where upon entry goons put a black bag over your head and you're forced to feel your way blindly through a darkened maze. Despite my best efforts to stay with my group, a fiendish ghoul separated me from my friends both times I went through, and I had to wander in the dark alone while being goosed by monsters and shocked by electrified walls and subjected to maddening sounds all around me.
The next maze is El Superbeasto, a cartoonish 3D maze full of colorful and delightfully obscene nudity... like the dramatic vaginal entrance to the maze itself:
But the last maze Haunt of 1000 Corpses is the real piece de resistance of Great American Nightmare. Instead of a retread of the Universal maze or a mockup of the cart ride seen in Zombie's famous film, this maze is a walk through of both real and fictious murders. Familiar scenes from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and American Horror story are featured, as well as Lizzie Borden, Elizabeth Bathory, and of course Zombie's own movies-- but it's in his famous serial killers scenes where Zombie really shines. There's a scene of Jeffrey Dahmer drilling the head of another Jeffrey Dahmer in a courtroom, John Wayne Gacy in clown makeup claiming he never hurt those kids-- and two rooms of the Manson murders with a Susan Atkins lookalike screaming "PIG!!!" with a pregnant corpse on the floor and a young Manson rambling in the next room with "Healter Skelter" (correctly mispelled!!!) painted in blood on the wall behind him. If you find this sort of twisted real life horror as fascinating as I do you'll love Rob Zombie's maze. If not... stay far far far away.
This haunt is not for everyone, but it's a great deal for your dollar at only $30 a night including 3 mazes and live performances by rock bands. It seemed to attract more of a scene-like concert crowd the night I was there rather than your typical theme park go-ers. I highly recommend this new haunt in Pomona and look forward to seeing if Rob Zombie's able to top himself again next year.
Alcoholic beverages available for 21 & up.
Open Thurs- Sun until Nov 2, + Halloween Eve, and Halloween Night. Check schedule for performances by bands like Andrew WK and The Dickies.
(for people who've always dreamed of SHOOTING UP ZOMBIES in real life, INTERACTIVE, starting at $30)
Ok, first thing off this haunt is NOT in Hollywood -- it's in Bellflower. Where the hell is Bellflower you ask? Google it, I say-- it's worth the drive.
This haunt is unique because the location is a paintball field the rest of the year and YOU GET TO ACTUALLY SHOOT REAL LIVE PEOPLE DRESSED AS ZOMBIES WITH AIRSOFT GUNS, LASERTAG, AND PAINTBALL GUNS. Do I have your attention? Is that interactive enough for you?
The mazes here are unique and fun because you go through with just your group in large paths set up through paintball playing fields, but the real appeal of Haunted Hollywood Sports is the killhouses where you shoot people dressed as zombies... my one critique is that it seems a little arbitrary when they decide to fall down or not, but all I really care about is that I get to light them up with extreme prejudice.
Admission starts at $29.00 and admission to killhouses is separate, but there's numerous coupons available to get discounted admission into the park. If you've always wanted to shoot zombies in real life, here's your chance.
Full monster bar if you're 21 & up. So you can enjoy a drunken zombie massacre!
October: 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, 25th, 26th (7:30pm - Midnight) 27th, 31st (8pm - Midnight)
(for kids of all ages; great for dates and scaredy cats who are afraid of typical haunts, $10)
Passengers must be at least 34" in height and weigh under 350 lbs. to ride
While I love hardcore scares at Halloween, I also appreciate creativity and fun for the whole family-- especially when it comes with an adorably twisted appreciation of the macabre. The Ghost Train is a not for profit labor of love that's put on every Halloween by the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum. It's a 20 minute tiny train ride through real hills, bridges, and tunnels in Griffith Park and features a collection of yard haunt-type animatronics set up into themed scenes -- old West skeletons, alien invasion, a demented nursery, killer clown carnival, man eating plants, etc. But my favorite recurring scene involves a skeleton farting in an outhouse while reading the paper-- that's just the kind of highbrow haunt fan I am.
This ride is so charming and nostalgic that it always makes me feel like a kid again. For $10, you'll have a frightfully good time but there's no big screams and no haunt actors jumping out at you--just creativity and spooky animatronics on display. Still, this is a must ride for me every Halloween and I always wish I had time to go more than once each year.
I highly recommend the Ghost Train for anyone who's generally too afraid to go to haunts. It's also a very quaint and romantic place to go on a date.
Griffith Park (between Burbank and Hollywood)
Oct. 12-13, and 18-2, 25-27 and 30-31, 2013, 7:00 – 10 pm
(for everyone, especially if you love current horror movies and tv, starting at $44; highly recommend purchasing Front of Line pass for $120 to see all mazes)
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS. But so does everyone else in Los Angeles. That's why the lines are often 2 hours long and the crowds are massive. The only way for a hermit-writer like me to bear it all is to shell out for a $119 Front of Line pass so I have time to go through every maze... it's a lot of money but I crave it and make sure to go to HHN absolutely every year.
Universal has the highest production value with big budget scares as well as branded film and tv properties like Evil Dead, Insidious, and The Walking Dead with plenty of gore and guts. I love love love Universal, but the lines are a beast to deal with and require lots of patience.... so if tickets sell out or if you're in the mood for a quick scare rather than a whole night of waiting in line, there's a lot of other options out there.
Universal City, right next to Hollywood
September 27 - November 2, 2013, 7:00 open
Friday though Sunday, Some Thursdays, Halloween
(for everyone who likes a good outdoor scare with awesome art direction and production value; great for dates and groups, $25-39 for single or dual attraction tickets)
Haunted Hayride is a really great high production value haunt right in the middle of Los Angeles' Griffith Park. The Hayride goes through the Old Zoo area of Griffith Park, and this year's theme is real life murderers-- expect to see John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, and Richard Ramirez strutting up to the cart. There's also an impressive Wicker Man, haunted trees, a religious cult with a demon that arises at least twenty feet in the air, and a really scary clown church at the end of the ride. The entire hayride lasts maybe 15 minutes and is incredibly frightening and well directed-- I highly recommend this haunt for people who are in the mood for Halloween fun but perhaps not ready to commit to a whole night of horror at Knotts or Universal.
There was an almost pitch black walkthrough maze inside a tent for an additional fee, and a carnival midway with a horse skeleton merry-go-round that rotated in reverse, and the midway for pumpkin flavored snacks.
Don't miss the Death Row free photo op booth full of deadly settings where you can take photos like these with your own camera:
The Haunted Hayride is a great time for groups and dates-- but not for scaredy-cats! Fearful friends should stick to the Ghost train.
NO BEERS OR BOOZE ON SITE
Griffith Park, between Hollywood and Burbank
Thurs - Sun, Plus Halloween eve and ends on Halloween -- NOT OPEN Nov 1&2
(if you like the idea of fun scares on a ship with real history, plus carnival rides and a zipline; great for dates and groups; starting at $20)
The Queen Mary is a tourist attraction year round, but around Halloween it becomes the home of the Dark Harbor and this year it's a literal carnival of frights with a new circus theme. This year the Dark Harbor has 6 mazes and a lot of new additions-- a ferris wheel, zipline, plus the all new "freak show" midway.
Dark Harbor features 3 mazes aboard the ship as well as 3 more on land including the exciting new Circus maze under the dome-- oh, and be on the lookout for the kiddie slide within the Circus maze, I missed it my first run through! The freak shows are small stage shows that take place inside metal shipping containers that each house a single scare or gag, but they're a lot of fun and are great quick hits to try out between mazes-- especially The White Spirit, a fogged out room with a ghostly figure lurking inside and my beloved Crabman... who yes, is just a guy in a Crabman suit attacking you while walking sideways, but I laughed really really hard anyway.
Full bar 21 & up
Long Beach, CA
Oct. 3-5, 11-13, 17-20, 24-27, 31- Nov. 1-2, 2013
7 p.m. to Midnight
(Friday-Sunday, some Thursdays and Halloween) 7-midnight
(fun INTERACTIVE action scares where you're part of a hostage crisis in a dystopian America, great for people who's always wanted to be in an action movie, 18 & up only, starting at $39
I don't know how many of you saw the high concept horror movie The Purge or liked it-- after all, I gave the movie a very mixed review. But the idea of The Purge (that the US government has changed the law so that murder is legal for one night) is a fun premise, and The Purge: Fear the Night Haunt explores that further when you become a hostage in a battle for The New Founders government.
This haunt felt less "spooky" and more like you were playing a hostage during an action movie like Die Hard or White House Down-- which turned out to be a fun dream come true for me. I was crying and begging for my life, trying to reason with our captors and escape-- wayyyy overacting and scaring the people in our group who didn't know me at all, hahaha. But if you're game to dive on the floor during gunfire and beg for your captor's mercy, you'll have a blast like I did. This haunt takes place downtown in a beautiful historic theatre building, plus there's a bar upstairs, so you can have a few drinks if you need to loosen up beforehand.
Purge: Fear the Night isn't for kids or for people looking for a lot of ghostly variety in their scares. There's some gore and some guts, but overall this is a more of an interactive action movie type scare than a traditional haunt. 18 & over only, alcohol served to 21 & up .
Bar for 21 & up
7-11 Thurs - Sat
Open Tues - Sat Halloween Week until November 2
(fun scary maze and haunted play with seriously creepy vignettes; HIDDEN GEM THAT'S NEW THIS HALLOWEEN ONLY $12)
One of my favorite things about Halloween in LA is you can find hidden haunt gems in strange back alleys. Zombie Joe's is a theatre in NoHo I'd been hearing about for awhile, and I'm so glad I finally made it out for their haunted theatre and play Urban Death.
Walk through a darkened maze with a flashlight into a black box theatre for some of the strangest and scariest vignettes you'll ever see. Part of the problem I've realized with haunted plays is narrative clarity-- it's too hard to mix interactivity into an extended narrative and keep it action packed without the story getting jumbled along the way. But Urban Death bypasses this problem by portraying short visceral scenes that almost like windows into high grade nightmares. Using simple lighting and sound tricks as well as great acting, these haunt quick scenes are the theatrical equivalent of Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark-- short, effective and to the point, and extremely haunting. I saw a few images during the play tonight that are going to stick with me for awhile... and one image in particular in the maze afterwards that I wish I could get out of my head.
Go to Zombie Joe's, even the most jaded haunt fans won't be disappointed. For only $12, I'm curious to go again and see what the actors do this time. And seriously, I don't like going to Noho or to plays... so you know it must be pretty damn good.
Friday & Saturday only
October 11-November 2nd
SHOWTIMES: 8:30, 9:15, 10, 10:45, 11:30 -- go through haunt in groups of 2 or 3, then wait for play to begin... go through haunt again when exiting.
(great INTERACTIVE maze with choose your own adventure twists; fun for dates and groups; starting at $17 )
Blackout is the only haunted house in LA where you walk through alone after signing a release form, and the people inside are not only allowed to touch you, but they're often NAKED and re-enacting twisted and depraved sex scenes in front of you, and sometimes force you to participate.
I haven't been to the infamous Blackout haunted house yet this year because I don't know if I'm ready to go back. I reviewed it last year for youtube, but didn't give away any spoilers then... so here's spoilers now.
Last year, I was very scared of the prospect of being forced to sign a release form before going into haunted houses like Blackout and Trapped. The idea that anything could happen inside and you waived all rights to complain or were immediately ejected from the haunt with no refund turned out to be a very powerful threat to me. Once I got inside Blackout, there wasn't much "spooky" art direction or any idea of ghosts or the supernatural-- the idea was that you were in an area filled with crazy people, and being forced to do what they told you with no complaint. So I was forced to put on a surgical mask then crawl on the floor in the darkness, do jumping jacks with a bag on my head, dance around with a mental patient who fed me a spoonful of fake blood and then kissed me through my surgical mask (their mouth was taped with duct tape), and then did a few other random stunts all while weaving down a black tarp maze path.
The most memorable part for me however was when I walked into a room where a naked man who looked not unlike Jeffrey Dahmer was simulating rape on an unconscious girl on a bed. In my head I'm thinking "Ok, here it is, this is the naked part of the maze, there's a guy's penis." But this is an 18 & up maze-- you've seen a penis before if you're in this maze. It ended up being not scary, I just stared at it for a moment and I was done. Then faux Jeffrey Dahmer barks for me to get on the bed next to the other girl. Now this is where I started to balk-- in real life, I would fight in this situation or in the words of Nancy Reagan "Just say NO." But I signed up for this mistreatment and paid good money to do it, so your dutiful reporter went along with the act and sat on the bed. The guy then continued to attempt to rape the girl next to me, but his penis was still flaccid (I never saw penetration) and he blamed me and screamed "I can't do this with you looking at me!" and told me to get out of the room. I obeyed, because that's what I was instructed to do for the purposes of the haunt.
I believe in the next room there was another naked man (also flaccid, also not so endowed-- by this time I'd realized I'm not afraid of nudity), and he was pseudo-vomiting into a toilet. He told me a key I needed was in the toilet and made me fish around in the bowl to grab it-- I found the key somewhere in the muck of the fake rice vomit, and then he washed my hand in a urinal and pushed me into the next room.
There was another part somewhere in there where I faced off with a skinny maniac with a staple gun who threatened to staple my wrist-- that part actually scared me slightly, but not in a fun way. Then I went in another room where a naked girl was chained up and I had to use a key to free her. Then we were both running for the exit when she was pulled back in and I was pushed out... having made it out alive.
If you're thinking that none of this sounds fun, you're right. It wasn't really fun. The Blackout haunt is more a way of testing your personal boundaries than it is about horror or fun, which honestly I find a bit questionable. I mean to me the whole avant garde interactive shock theatre stunt smacks of overprivileged people needing to simulate torture and rape in order to feel alive. If you survived any of those things in real life, I doubt this sounds like a good time or worth spending $65 to go through again.
Don't get me wrong, I had fun at The Purge haunt where we simulated a hostage crisis as a group, or at any of the many haunts where I was chased by famous fake killers. But something about going through it alone takes all the "oh gee, isn't this crazy" fun out of it. And since I was just doing what I was told and not allowed to speak instead of truly interacting, by the end of it I just felt like the whole thing was a rip off. I think people go to this haunt out of curiosity, or if they've been through before they want to show how taboo breaking and hardcore they are... but honestly, I'm a single girl that lives in a big city. Naked dudes threatening to kidnap and rape me isn't a fun "ooh spooky ghosts and vampires are chasing me" type thrill, it's a very real threat in everyday life. Simulating scenes like this with no real story, context, or message is fairly irresponsible... on top of being mildly boring since you go through alone and aren't allowed to interact.
But hey, if you read all this and Blackout Haunted House still sounds like your bag, have fun with it. I doubt I'm paying $65 bucks for it this year.
See my friend Summer Rose's harrowing account of Blackout: Elements 2013 and "milking".
Thurs- Sun until Nov 10
(NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART: go ALONE through violent INTERACTIVE scenes involving nudity and sexual situations where you're forced to interact; 18 & up only, starting at $65)
Alright, I live in Hollywood and hate traffic, but Sinister Pointe is so much fun it's worth a short drive out to Orange County for it. This haunt is created by the maze designers for Queen Mary and other famous mazes, so it's got great production values and is physically challenging-- expect to crawl, climb, press buttons in order to get out of rooms, and possibly get a little wet. One of the greatest benefits of Sinister points is you get to go through the entire maze with just your party-- you don't have to wait in line during the haunt like at Universal or put up with strangers not playing along with your scares within the maze like at other haunts that require parties of 8-10 ppl go through at a time.
Another unique aspect of Sinister Pointe is the "choose your own adventure" choices within the maze, where you choose between various doors that contain different scares. Since I'm a haunt fanatic it was worth it for me to go through three times to see all the rooms and scares, but it'll cost you $30 for an all night pass.
But really the first scare I faced right when I entered the maze probably messed with me the most. My advice at Sinister Pointe: GO LEFT AT THE FIRST CHOICE :)
Brea, CA (in Orange County)
OCT 25,26,27, & 31. Nov 1 &2
Thurs & Sun 7-11
Fri & Sat 7-12
(for theatrical INTERACTIVE eerie scenes with no gore but impressive stunts-- great for dates, $65)
Enter Delusion: Mask of Mortality is an interactive haunted play about a mysterious plague infection that incorporates stunts, interactivity, and stylish scares. Written and directed by Jon Braver, this experience is a little more expensive for an hour of haunting terror but would make for a great adventurous date. Don't expect blood, gore, or the jump scares you might see at a maze at Knott's or Universal. Do expect to hide in closets and under beds, and to be drawn into the play and possibly have your head chopped off.
Silverlake, CA (between Hollywood and Downtown)
Thursday-Sunday plus Halloween and Halloween-eve.
Hour long shows, 7-11, with midnight shows on Friday & Saturday
(for older kids and adults looking for a good quick scare, great for dates, $15)
If you've never been to the Old Town Haunt before, this is your last year to try it out. You'll journey into the bowels of a historic bank building's winding corridors while you're attacked by ghosts and various creatures, and then crawl through a pitch black tunnel if you're brave enough. The old banking building has a wonderful musty ambience, and I've seen kids as young as 8 or 9 enjoy these scares -- as well as plenty of adults emerge from the dark screaming.
Open Oct 18-19 7pm-11pm, 24-27 open 7-10 weeknights and 7-12 weekends, 30th 7-10pm, 31 7-12pm, Nov 1, 2 7-10pm
(for traditional American haunt fun, with surprisingly good scares, great for kids and groups; tickets for individual mazes start at $13, go to everything for $25)
For more Halloween fun resources go to:
This haunt is a very traditional All-American haunt here in the LA area, because it features A CORN MAZE.
Fright Fair at Pierce College is one of my annual favorites. It's open a lot more weeknights than most haunts, so this is a good mid-week haunt for me. The corn maze and harvest festival is open during the day, but at night there's also 3 haunts --Creatures of the Corn, a haunted corn maze with monsters lurking within, Insane Reaction, a fog and bars maze with an electrifying center, and Factory of Nightmares, which is a great indoor/outdoor haunt with a lot of creative twists and turns. and my favorite new character that just says "Oink!!!" over and over. Don't miss the traditional harvest festival foods like roasted corn and tater tots-- as well as live music, pumpkins and other seasonal produce.
There's a lot of kid friendly rides and attractions here too like a carousel and tractor pull rides. I REALLY enjoyed the cow ride train tractor pull, which was a ton of fun for just 2 tickets.
Woodland Hills, CA
Weekdays Dusk - 10 PM
Weekends Dusk - 12 AM Open everyday except Mondays through November 3rd