Super-Pro Haunted Houses in Los Angeles

Funny thing about living in Los Angeles instead of a more urban city like Seattle or New York: People live in actual houses, not brownstones, or tenements, or apartments squished on top of each other. It’s basically, as Dorothy Parker said, “72 suburbs in search of a city.” This means that Halloween feels more like the holiday of your youth. Kids trick or treat on the street, not within your apartment building halls (I always felt so sad for the New York kids who were robbed of that fun experience). The other thing that’s different about L.A. during Halloween? The haunted houses. Sure, there’s the average amateur spook shop, with bad special effects and bad lighting, mostly aimed at giving little kids a cheap thrill. But we’ve got Hollywood here, and the many thousands of people who are employed by Hollywood, who work behind the scenes in the movie industry and who can create haunted houses that are far more advanced and eerie than anything you’re likely to see elsewhere.

I first stumbled on a super pro house last year which happened to be right behind my own apartment. I was startled to see a line around the block throughout the weekend, and authentically scary noises emanating from within. It turns out that the house, Poison Oak, was run by two-time Emmy award winning sound designer Adam Johnston, who also runs a Halloween prop company, Poison Props. Sadly, I never got to check it out, and even more sadly, it appears I won’t get to this year, either: I walked around the corner and found a sign posted in the yard” “HAUNTED HOUSE CLOSED DUE TO NEIGHBOR HARASSMENT IN BACK ALLEY. I GOT SO MANY VISITS FROM THE POLICE I DECIDED NOT TO DO IT ANYMORE.” Is it too early to say “bah, humbug!” I place a voodoo curse on our neighbors.

Thankfully there’s the House of Restless Spirits, on the north side of Santa Monica. This haunted house has been spooking the ‘hood for 13 years and is drastically different than others around town (for a very full list go to Hollywood Gothique). Think Paranormal Activity vs. Saw. In fact, says the house’s owner Eric Maurin, Paranormal Activity wanted to do a tie-in with them, but because he’s pretty averse to overexposure, he politely declined. With four special effects wizards at the helm (Maurin works in magic and illusions), the effect is more subtle; it’s more about mystery. Says Maurin, “So there’s a lot of inexplicable effects and there’s a deep backstory, the whole family that lived here and their tragic undoing, the influenza epidemic that just ravaged the community and sent the patriarch over the edge. We are faithful to this backstory.”

Don’t expect blood and gore, either. “I think ours is known as being true to the concept of the haunted house. A lot of places that call themselves that, there’s chainsaw-wielding clowns, or mad scientists. Or alien autopsies. This is a true haunted house. There’s nothing that comes out chasing you down with a knife.”

Due to the limited space and viewing time, and the overwhelming response (3,000 people came last year), we’d caution you about forwarding the house to everyone you know — just people who really really deserve it. House of Restless Spirits, Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 11pm.

If you can’t get into the House of Restless Spirits, on Halloween night only, there’s the Eternal Rest Cemetery, which explicitly warns that it’s not for children.

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