By: Brooke Adair Walters
Truth: There is no better way to celebrate the beginning of October than by perusing macabre set design, playing with horrific monsters, and breathing deeply in the oh-so-familiar and welcome smell of fog, as screams and growls are heard in the distance. I am home.
Friday at 3:30 pm I get the call to cover the LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE, and I say out loud, "my life is weird and awesome," and set forth to gathering camera equipment and charging everything, calling a pal that is good with a gimbal to join, and then shortly thereafter, we were off to the infamous Griffith Park, the perfect setting to host the haunted hayride with its decayed zoo, abandoned carousels, and the hazy LA skyline serving as a backdrop and precursor for the horrors to come.
After a short and painless drive, full of anticipation, rocking out, and research, We arrived in LA and at the LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE. Finding parking for the event was no issue, and for those who detest walking, there is a haunted shuttle waiting to spirit guests to their final destination. Actually, I’m not completely sure it was haunted. We were too impatient to wait, and decided to hoof it to the event grounds. After a moderate walk, we made it to security and found ourselves just outside of MIDNIGHT FALLS, being greeted by a colossal pumpkin pyramid and a banner that read LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE. Safe to say I was in the right spot.
Time to enter the event, we passed through an eerie and foreboding jack o'lantern-decorated tunnel, lit by the flickering “candlelight” shining through evil pumpkin grins, and entered THE TOWN SQUARE OF MIDNIGHT FALLS, a central hub where food, main stage, hayride, and mazes are all within 360° eyesight. It was a little disorienting, and I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, it being my first time at the event. Fortunately, the staff at the orange tent directly to my right after entering, pointed me in the right direction. And for those interested in SKIPPING THE LINES, I highly recommend upgrading to VIP TICKETS for $54.99 or PLATINUM TICKETS 109.99, and reduce the wait or skip the lines entirely. The alternative being, waiting so long you turn into a skeleton by the time it’s your turn to enter.
Enough shameless upsales-plugging, and back to the event. On our way to visit the VIP area, I had the pleasure of gabbing and snapping photos with a few good-looking monsters. Dressed as ghoulish prom queens and a terribly vain and dead quarterback, I guess something bad must have happened on prom night. Enough chatting with local haunt-fiends, so we whisked ourselves to the event’s namesake, the HAUNTED HAYRIDE. We had a brief wait with the other guests inside of a steel container, which was a little odd, but nice to lean on, before we
were ushered onto the hay-filled tractor-pulled wagon, and the ride had begun.
I am going to say this, the HAUNTED HAYRIDE felt a little like an acid trip, but a good one, not that I have ever been on such trips. There was no story or theme I was able to make any sense of, but good times were had all the same.
We began our journey entering through a fiery corridor where we then encountered a series of deliberately dilapidated mini-shows that used the classic look-over-here-at-the-guy-being-beheaded, that way you aren’t looking behind you when the 12-foot-tall pumpkin head on stilts pops out of the darkness to scare the pants off of you. Each vignette had a little show, whether it be a derelict animatronic band, ruined churches/hospitals, Lovecraftian tentacles, and phantasmagoric tunnels where we traveled through space and time (yes, there were aliens) until at last we were done. I hopped off confused, but also laughing, got a good chuckle from the monster at the end that shouted “I don’t even work here, where are you guys going?” SPOILER ALERT! Beware the chainsaws.
As a respite, we went and enjoyed your typical haunted attraction burgers and chicken strips, which were costly, a little well done, and business as usual...yum… We ate as BACK FROM THE DEAD mayor, MONTE REVOLTA AND HIS BAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, covered “People Who Died” by the Jim Carrol Band. MONTE serenaded us only the way a resurrected corpse of a small town politician could, and with that we were off to the mazes.
I had the pleasure of touching base with my friend Jon Cooke, the Creative Director for Thirteenth Floor and the man behind the building of the LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE. The event was put together in a very short two-week period. So any critiques I have are truly null and void, because, that’s impressive, I don’t care who you are. Nicely done, Jon and your awesome production crew of 12. Please ignore any and all suggestions, because you rock!
All of the mazes began with a strong facade, and decent nods to the theming. The first few rooms were strong in supporting the storylines, but at some point in all the mazes it became a bit of “Haunt Stew,” where you throw in any and all characters and themes that you have, want, or suit you, rather than sticking to a deliberate and identifiable theme. Every maze seemed to have cannibals and pigs at some point or another. But all of this is forgivable given the overarching theme of LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE is that it is set in the small town of MIDNIGHT FALLS, where you would likely run into the same people often. It's that small haunted town feel, where every monster knows who the other one killed and ate before they have even finished picking the flesh out of their teeth. Now for the maze play by play.
TRICK OR TREAT
A classic Halloween-themed maze where we entered into a classic haunted house (is it really breaking the law if the door was open?), and navigated through a neighborhood where Halloween has run amok. We then found ourselves at the scene of a violent school bus accident, and finished off the night by shouting at the Devil. Pumpkin-headed children lie dead around every corner, witch and creepy doll animatronics fly out of the darkness, and dead cheerleaders hang out on a couch outside of the frat house and... not sure what she was doing exactly. This maze was more fun than scary, had a few laughs, and on to the next.
DEAD END DINER
Take the well-established theme of cannibal hicks out in the sticks, toss in a diner facade, and whamo! You get the DEAD END DINER. Not much else to say. If you’ve seen any Rob Zombie film or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then you’ve seen this maze. What I can appreciate is the use of smell, the interior of the diner has a humid, rancid smell of spoiled meat. I also had a deep and pervasive love for the awesomely realistic pig head masked monster that was peeking around corners towards the end of this maze. I don’t know who you are, but I want your mask. In truth, this maze left something to be desired with regard to story and theme, but served its purpose because there was a gas-powered chainsaw in it! Squeal, little piggies, and run!
This maze turned out to be my favorite. It had the strongest theming, the most compelling monsters/characters, moments that could be a little unsettling for our faint-hearted folk. I liked it so much, I did it twice. We entered the mortuary, where (shocker), the dead appear to have risen, and based on the four-horned, half-goat men, there may have been some kind of cult activity to blame.
Traversing through the maze, we were taunted by the mortician, confronted by the embalmer, and spied vampires hanging in a graveyard as ghouls popped out around crypts and tombstones; not sure how I found myself at a barbecue pit with a human on it, is this DEAD END DINER? Oh, maybe it’s the crematorium BBQ? We then made our way out the side door of the mortuary, and the maze had come to an end. I do believe there may also be some goat-head puppets before you are returned to safety, more silly than scary, but I appreciated the attempt. Criticism aside, this maze is LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE’S most valuable player, winning the picks for best theming, best storyline, and most cohesive and creepy.
The LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE offered a full night of horror-filled laughs and entertainment. Giving props to Jon Cooke and his crew for putting together a big event in such a little amount of time, and not letting the details and themes fall through the cracks. I truly had a blast! Thank you LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE and CREEPY KINGDOM for reigniting and reviving my love of Halloween and haunted attractions. I feel as though I have risen from the dead.
The LOS ANGELES HAUNTED HAYRIDE runs through October 31, 2021. Find tickets, and more details, here.