Ten Of The Spookiest Day Trips Around L.A.
Given that many Los Angeles haunts kick off in September, some of you horror enthusiasts may have already exhausted your local options. That's why we've compiled a list of creepy day trips to carry you through the spookiest month. Some are Halloween attractions and some are supposedly haunted hotspots that you can visit all year long.
Into the Black
Into the Black comes via special effects company Bone Yard Effects. The story revolves around a mysterious house located deep in the woods known as The Black House. It gets its name from the fictitious Black family, who occupied the house in the 19th century and who were rumored to be seriously into the occult. To brief yourself on the story, you can check out a short, 25-minute "found footage" film (above) that follows a group of paranormal investigators and their quest to locate the home. Upon arrival, you'll find the Black House has somehow manifested at the Pomona Fairplex. Guests are invited to enter the house one at a time and navigate its demon-infested halls alone. There's also an accompanying VR experience for an add-on fee.
Into the Black runs through October 31. Tickets are $29 for the haunt and $13 for the VR experience, and may be booked online.
Into the Black is located at the Pomona Fairplex at 1101 W McKinley Ave. in Pomona.
Reign of Terror
You'd be remiss to forget Reign of Terror this Halloween. It's a sprawling Halloween attraction in a Thousand Oaks shopping center, but it's well worth the drive as it consists of 100 different rooms, spread over 23,000 square feet. Pass through various eerie themes—like 'Fun House' and 'Haunted House'—and enjoy the good, old-fashioned creativity of a thoughtfully designed maze.
It's open now through Halloween, and tickets are $15-35.
Reign of Terror is located at 197 N Moorpark Road B in Thousand Oaks.
The Haunted Hotel
If you're going to San Diego, check out Haunted Hotel, located in the Gaslamp District. This year, it celebrates its 25th anniversary, offering a "Hellevator," a zombie alley, a clown subway, and a hillbilly swamp. Sure, these aren't entirely new creatures when it comes to horror fare, but who can say no to a good trope? On Wednesdays, they turn out the lights and make you navigate the mazes with just a glowstick. Tickets are $19-29, and can be purchased online.
The Haunted Hotel is located at 424 Market Street in San Diego.
The Whaley House Museum
After the Haunted Hotel, check out San Diego's Whaley House Museum, which plays into its haunted history with events including ghost tours, horror film screenings, theatrical performances, and a Halloween party on the 31st. The Whaley House was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, who attached his two-story home to an existing granary. Throughout the year, guests can tour the living history exhibits, which include a general store, theater and courthouse, with docents in period-appropriate attire. Potential ghost meet-and-greets include the Whaleys themselves, including their ill-fated daughter Violet who perished by her own hand in the home at just 22 after being humiliated by a con artist who vanished with her dowry not long after their wedding. Another supposed spirit is a boat thief named Yankee Jim Robinson, who, according to legend, was executed on the property years before the home was built.
The Whaley House is located at 2476 San Diego Ave. in San Diego.
Mable's 6 Feet Under
Though Knott's and Disney may devour the lion's share of Halloween attention in Orange County, Mable's 6 Feet Under has emerged as a fan favorite in the few years it's been active. Unlike most walk-through attractions, this gore-free, motel-themed haunt is a maze that does require you to find your way out. This can be surprisingly difficult when monsters are lurking around every corner and when passageways you could have sworn were open are suddenly gone. Mable's is open now through November 4. Tickets begin at $15.
Make a night of it by checking out Anaheim's best horror escape room. Crossroads Escape Games offers Hex, where groups are split into different rooms and assigned horror archetypes (the prom queen, the nerd, the detective, etc.), meaning each team member will need to do their part to get out.
Mable's 6 Feet Under is located at 1960 S Anaheim Way in Anaheim.
The Amargosa Opera House
The Amargosa Opera House dates back to the 1920s, when it was built at the behest of the Pacific Coast Borax Company as part of their company town. The campus included the theater, several corporate buildings, a restaurant, and a hotel. As is the fate of many company towns that bloom then wilt, the small town and its buildings had fallen out of favor and into disrepair by the 40s.
In 1967, dancer Marta Becket purchased the property and began rehabbing the buildings. She covered the grounds in colorful murals and performed on its long-neglected stage. The idea of such a thing existing in such a remote area made it a curiosity worth the trek, and an award-winning documentary about Becket's work titled Amargosa was released in 2000. Becket continued to perform until 2012. She passed away in early 2017 at 92.
Today, visitors may book a room at the adobe-style hotel, enjoy a performance via Becket's protege Hilda Vasquez, or dine at the adjacent cafe. The hotel is rumored to be haunted, and has been featured on various "ghost hunter" shows and in David Lynch's Lost Highway. On a sweltering summer day when I happened to stop by, a long-time employee ambiguously talked about seeing and hearing things around the property. The supposed ghosts include a crying child who is believed to have drowned in Room 24's bathtub, and a murdered mining boss who haunts Room 32. Paranormal activity in Room 9 includes unexplained noises, while a friendly ghost cat is suspected to have free reign of the grounds. Perhaps a significant portion of the ghost appeal is the rustic nature of the property, the desolation of its location, and its fascinating history.
The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel is located at 608 Death Valley Junction in Death Valley.
Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House indulges in the lore that surrounds it, offering candlelit tours around Halloween and billing itself as "the house that ghosts built."
As the story goes, Sarah Winchester inherited a large sum of money after her husband, Winchester Repeating Arms Company treasurer William Winchester, died in 1881. She moved to California and bought a Victorian mansion in San Jose. For the next several years, she continuously added onto the house, at one point bringing it to seven stories in height before earthquake damage in 1906 brought it back down to just four. The ghost story requires you to believe that Winchester was haunted (or believed herself to be haunted) by the spirits of those who were killed by Winchester rifles in life. To hide from them, she endlessly built rooms and confusing passageways in her home, allegedly communing with them in her "seance room."
Not everyone believes that Winchester was haunted by vengeful spirits. Rather, some think the haunted hype is meant to drum up tour and gift shop business.
Janan Boehme, who has worked at the Winchester Mystery House for nearly 40 years, offered an alternative explanation to the L.A. Times. She thinks Winchester likely wanted to use her enormous wealth to keep her staff employed.
"She had a social conscience and she did try to give back. This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all," Boehme said.
Still, the curious doors and stairways to nowhere make for a spooky exploration, even if you choose to be a Scully this time around. You can book a tour any time of year, but if you'd prefer to creep yourself out and do it by candlelight, go around Halloween.
The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 S Winchester Blvd. in San Jose.
Bracken Fern Manor
In 1929, Bracken Fern Manor Inn was part of an exclusive resort run by Bugsy Siegel, the mobster famous for developing the Las Vegas strip. It came with all the amenities you'd expect a Siegel joint to have: a gambling hall, a brothel, and a speakeasy, plus a pool, ski lift, and stables. Today, the manor makes for a lovely getaway tucked into the tranquil woods of Lake Arrowhead, and guests frequently book out the 10-room manor for weddings and retreats. Yet, come Halloween, the manor plays up its rumored hauntings with a Halloween soiree. On October 28, guests will be immersed in the 1930s with food, music, and more. On October 31, there will be a ghost tour. Perhaps you'll run into Violet, the ghost woman who is believed to have died in the manor in the 1930s, or Brian, the spirit of a young boy who was fatally struck by a car near the inn. Tickets are $10.
Bracken Fern Manor is located at 815 Arrowhead Villa Road in Lake Arrowhead.
Black Star Canyon
Black Star Canyon is a gorgeous hike in Orange County, located within the Santa Ana Mountains in Silverado. It's mired in lore, giving way to rumors of hauntings and worse. In 1899, James Gregg was shot and killed by rancher Henry Hungerford, the motive involving a financial dispute. An abandoned school bus once sat overturned in a ravine, and no one seems to know why. Campfire tales paint the canyon as a meeting ground for the KKK and occultists alike, claiming that various groups convene in the canyon to conduct their profane rituals. Then there's the story of an 1831 massacre, in which a group of fur trappers murdered a group of Native Americans who were accused of stealing horses. However, the OC Weekly conducted an investigation indicating that that particular story may be little more than legend. Still, a lack of evidence has never gotten in the way of a good local ghost story.
Black Star Canyon is located at 12247 Black Star Canyon Road in Silverado.
Joshua Tree Inn & Motel
On September 19, 1973 country star Gram Parsons died in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn & Motel. He was just 26 years old, and had fatally overdosed on morphine and alcohol. One would think this grim fact would make the average traveler shy away from this room, yet staff say the opposite is true. Folks love requesting this particular room to pay homage to the singer and leave various gifts at a memorial that's been erected outside the door.
How the memorial came to be is an interesting story. Parsons had been scheduled for burial in Louisiana by his stepfather, yet Parson's friend, producer Phil Kaufman, claimed Parsons had wished to have his ashes scattered in Joshua Tree. So, using an old hearse, Kaufman and a friend heisted Parsons body from LAX, drove it to the desert, and lit it on fire. Though they were caught and later fined, and though Parsons' remains were eventually flown to and buried in Louisiana, a makeshift memorial was made for Parsons near the site in Cap Rock. That memorial was removed, meaning guests who wish to pay tribute may come here instead. This gives way to the idea that Parsons' spirit, in some way, lingers here. The room rents for as low as $109 a night, and can serve as a good base from which to seek out all the other desert ghosts.
Joshua Tree Inn & Motel is located at 61259 Twentynine Palms Highway in Joshua Tree.