8 Halloween haunts to check out for chills and thrills in Southern California

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus

Halloween comes early to Long Beach every year thanks to the massive Midsummer Scream Halloween and Horror Convention that invades the Convention Center.

The star of the macabre weekend is the always popular Hall of Shadows, a dark space filled with haunts possessed by things like powerful witches, mad cannibals, all-star slashers and murderous families.

These creatures make up some of the best amateur haunts that pop up all over Southern California when Halloween comes around, and at August’s Midsummer Scream they offered their victims a tiny sneak peek of what’s to come in October.

So to help you decide where to invest your screams this Halloween, here’s a review of the haunts that took place at the convention which you can attend later on in the year.

The October versions will be bigger and scarier than the condensed haunts offered at Midsummer Scream, but this should give you a good idea of what you can expect.

And one more thing before you dive into fear, since Halloween is still a ways away, some of the haunts haven’t finalized dates, hours and admission cost yet. So don’t creep out and check their websites and social media in the coming weeks for more details.

Desert Decay Manor

If you’re a fan of movies such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Devil’s Rejects,” this maze is for you since it puts you in the middle of a mad family’s isolated home where the members are free to have their way with you.

The outside is a pretty good replica of a desert adobe home, and this is the home of the Kilgore family who are all waiting inside.

Just as the outside sets the right tone, the interior of the haunt feels like you’re walking into an actual home, albeit a home you never want to walk into. A decrepit hallway is lined with creepy old family pictures. That leads to another room that appears to be a kitchen where body parts hang and a mad chef makes it clear that the Kilgores have developed a taste for human flesh. And then it gets physical as he grabs the hand of whomever is unfortunate enough to be at the head of the group and slams a mallet right in front of it.

It’s always scarier when characters interact with you, plus the loud sound of the mallet hitting the table really makes you jump and worry a little about your own delicious fingers.

But the scariest member of the family is Lucy, a little girl who awaits you in her room holding a doll.

As you enter she holds the doll and hums a nursery song like any normal cute little psycho would, but then, well, let’s say you’ll run out of this little room screaming like a little girl.

There are decent jump scares all around, dark hallways, and strategically placed strobe lights that make this a pretty good haunt, but the ambience of an old home, plus the physical contact and that little girl are what make this scare a real good scream.

Location: 5525 Calico Ave., Whitewater

Dates: 6-10 p.m. Oct 25-26, 31

Cost: Free, but donations accepted


The Dreich Society Presents: Fear Fest ‘89

Fans of classic horror flicks, this one is for you because it’s inspired by gems such as “Friday the 13th,” “Poltergeist,” and “Aliens,” and this was one of the most popular mazes at Midsummer Scream with a constant line all day long.

A lot of it was thanks to the cool exterior, which looked like a movie theater with a light-up marquee, but once inside, you find out that these films have come to life.

First you see A-list slashers such as Jason walk by you before you’re ushered into an elevator looking thing. It’s a tiny room that spins around and then suddenly the door opens and you’re on the “Aliens” ship where a space soldier ushers you past the alien creature and directly into the static TV screen from “Poltergeist.”

And yes, once you’re heeeeere, like poor little Carol Anne, it will suck you in.

It’s not a really scary maze but more like an adrenaline-filled adventure and a ton of fun for anyone who grew up with these films.

Location: 1130 E. Highland Court, Ontario

Dates: Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2

Cost: Free, but donations accepted

Information: facebook.com/thedreichsociety

Gothic Hills Cemetery

This was a promising maze since it had one of the coolest exteriors, but the only scary thing about it is how bad it was.

The story is based on a family buried at the Fitzroy Mausoleum, and it looks amazing from the outside with realistic foam walls and doors. There’s even a reddish moon hanging behind the roof that gives it a real creep factor.

But once you’re inside there’s pretty much nothing to scream at.

A tour guide shares the history of the family buried here before a door suddenly opens and he leads you inside three hidden rooms in the burial site. The supposed scare is saved for the final room, but the only time you jump here is when you dive out the door to get out before you are bored to death.

However, in an email the maze organizer said there were technical difficulties at Midsummer Scream which lead them to regroup and come up with a completely improvised show. And they promised a new experience come Halloween.

Location:13796 Marchant Ave., Sylmar

Dates: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 25- 27 and 30; 6-11 p.m. Oct. 31 and 6-10 p.m. Nov. 1

Cost: Free, but donations accepted


Hyde Street Massacre

All of your Halloween nightmares come alive in this gory haunt.

First, you have to maneuver your way through hanging jack-o’-lanterns and bats, but beware because there’s a great jump scare here that you don’t see coming. Then it gets more gory with some guy that seems to be worshiping something before he sees you. Be ready to run because he will be on your tail, and then things get worse with body parts hanging and someone happily feasting on everything in the next room.

This one is pretty energetic and gory with great scares in a lot of unexpected places. You will scream here.

Location: Southern California Railway Museum, 2201 S. A St., Perris

Dates: Every Friday and Saturday in October

Cost: $15


Realm of Shadow: Temple of the Fallen God

You can channel your inner Indiana Jones with this maze based on the story of Dr. Nathan Hamre, who has just discovered the Temple of the Fallen God. You’re invited to check out the treasures, but as you’re told at the entrance, the only requirement is that you look into the eyes of some creature named Diabolki, if you dare.

It’s a good mind mess because as soon as you walk in you don’t want to look directly at anything because this Diabolki dude might just be around any corner ready to start a staring contest.

This isn’t a gory maze but rather relies on creepy island-themed scares. There’s a giant spider and a mummy in one room and one of them, or maybe both, will chase after you. Part of the vulnerability here comes from all the vines you have to walk through, which puts you on your nervous toes since you’re expecting one of them to actually grab you. Then there’s the armless man, some sort of laser room and a room were a bunch of creepy tiki/zombie-looking motionless creature things are just staring right at you.

And no, you’re not going to want to look them in the eye.

Location: 9526 Walnut St., Bellflower

Dates: 8-11 p.m. Oct. 26-27, 31

Cost: Free


Scareventures.com: Bone Dry

Was this Western-themed maze scary? No, not really.

Was it fun? You bet your sweet saloon it was.

The story is based on a pack of dead outlaws — led by a Mexican bandido called Coco Cucuy — hanging out in the town of La Muerte. It’s a fun theatrical maze with a lot of interaction, which means big dead cowboys yelling at you as you make your way through the town.

The best part is that you end up at a saloon where all the dead are having a great time. It’s supposed to scare you but really, you’re going to want to hang out and order a Bloody Mary at this dead man’s party.

Location: 1400 E. Washington Ave., El Cajon.

Dates: To be released soon

Cost: $16, which includes two mazes, Bone Dry and Camp Calavera

Informationscareventures.com or thehauntedlodge.org

Sinister Valley: Secrets of the Mist

If you have a fear of jungles and snakes, the idea behind this maze will scare you more than the actual maze. Visually this is a cool haunt with vines hanging all over. It’s dark, and there’s a spot where you have to squeeze your way forward as a monster approaches you, which provides a decent enough scare but that’s about it here. However, Sinister Valley will put on three different mazes at the popular Field of Screams at the minor league ballpark in Lake Elsinore so hopefully those will provide a few more scares.

Location: Storm Stadium, 500 Diamond Drive, Lake Elsinore

Dates: 7-11 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays in October

Cost: $25


Twisted Minds Productions: Salem

This is a truly creepy maze, but not because of jump scares or gory horror. This haunt is based on a real event and Twisted Minds puts you in the middle of it with this highly theatrical experience.

It starts in a schoolhouse back in the 1690s when the Salem witch trials took place. A teacher frantically yells at a young student named Elizabeth who sits at her desk, seemingly lifeless with her head down.

At first you feel bad for her, but she soon shows her real dark powers as she turns her wrath on the teacher. And that’s when you take off trying to escape the witches. You’ll run into dead cats and more witches — who are surprisingly fast sprinters — before you end up at the courthouse, where Elizabeth is being tried for her supernatural crimes.

And even if you’ve managed to avoid jury duty before, there’s no avoiding it this time because you are part of the jury that will find her guilty of witchcraft. When you do, she’s going to file an appeal that could mean a death sentence…for you.

There are a few jump scares here but it’s all taken up a notch by the psychological mind jumps you’ll go through as you walk through a dark time in our history.

Location: 8708 Wendon St., San Gabriel

Dates: 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 19-20 and 25-27.

Cost: Free, but donations accepted.


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