Halloween's Back After A Year Away — But Year-Round Spooky LA Businesses Face Frightful Competition
Spooky season reaches its climax this weekend as we creep into All Hallows' Eve. Here in Southern California, that means theme parks converted to contain more spine-chilling attractions, alongside the yards of Hollywood production workers putting their movie skills to use in making their own mini-fright zones.
For some, it’s big business. While the COVID-19 pandemic still has many feeling cautious about being out and about, Disneyland and Universal Studios returned to regularly selling out their special Halloween-themed evening attractions this year, Oogie Boogie Bash and Halloween Horror Nights (featuring a variety of new mazes, including one based around Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House). In a visit to Disneyland as they started converting attractions for the holiday, park staff were overheard saying that things had been slow — but that they were hopeful the Halloween attractions would bring crowds back to the parks.
For those who keep Halloween in their hearts all year long, living their lives for this season, it’s a joy. But it also means a lot of casual fans, and companies, getting into their lane.
“Right now is actually a really slow time for a lot of year-round spooky businesses, because you can go get a whole skeleton at the Dollar Tree,” Halloween Huns co-owner Nick Dee said. “A lot of people right now are like, ‘I’ve had one sale all month, what the hell is going on?’”
Halloween Huns, which sells crafts and hosts spooky events around L.A., is one of those year-round small businesses that felt the squeeze this month. They’re throwing an event at noon Halloween day, Spooky Sunday at Lawless Brewing in North Hollywood, featuring craft vendors, food trucks, a haunted walkthrough, trick-or-treating, and more. But along with all those theme parks, they’re also facing competition from every CVS, Spirit Halloween, and other businesses that only celebrate the creepy seasonally. Plus, some consumers who like spooky stuff outside of Halloween season start holding out hope for Black Friday sales instead of making purchases now.
Still, Dee isn't letting it dampen their enthusiasm for the season. They were born in October, so they think that might be why they have happy associations with Halloween. As the first of the big fall holidays, Dee noted, it’s also “the beginning of all the cool stuff.”
“I always had a spooky birthday growing up, because if you go to a party store, that’s what’s available. So the cake that’s on sale at Carvel is the one with the Grim Reaper on it,” Dee said.
A Petrifying Pandemic
During the pandemic, a lot of people were able to spend more time on their love for the creeptastic. The owners of themed entertainment site Parks and Cons set a record for how many individual locations they visited in 2020, including numerous yard displays.
Scary events were a coping mechanism for a lot of people during the pandemic, with events popping up all year long. This year, there’s even more of a hunger for Halloween among fans.
“Because we didn’t get a Halloween last year, really. Those of us who were responsible didn’t get a Halloween last year,” Dee said. “Oh my god, it was terrible. I was so mad. I could see it coming in June — remember when we first tried to reopen in June and it was just a mess? I was like, 'if we don’t get Halloween, if y’all don’t stay inside,' and sure enough…”
This Halloween has marked a return to celebrations. That includes for the big competition, from the massive Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios down to the more midsize Haunted Hayride at Griffith Park (which was held as a drive-through event in San Dimas in 2020).
The holiday’s part of what helped Dee and their business partner get through the last couple years when it comes to their own mental health. Much like how many others put up Christmas lights outside of Christmas time to make themselves feel happy in hard times, Dee proposed in April 2020 doing Halloween stuff for the whole month — a “quarantween.”
They started a spooky craft blog, Halloween Huns, which grew into a business selling spooky merch, along with throwing live events.
“Like most people during the pandemic, I think a lot of us figured out that working for other people sucks. What do we want to do with our lives? What are we passionate about, and what do we really like? And I’ve always been that spooky friend,” Dee said.
If people want to celebrate spooky Easter, they’ll give them a spooky Easter, Dee said. Along with a place to adopt a black cat and vendors selling taxidermy skulls and spooky baby clothing (yes, there are opportunities to get the kids started on their spooky lifestyle early).
There are spooky options for the whole family, according to Dee — there are fitness families, some are into religion, others are into boating. And then there are fright families.
“A lot of couples that are both spooky people gravitated towards each other, so of course, that’s how you want to raise your kid,” Dee said.
While there may be a certain vibe that comes from these events that could frighten off kids, Dee said that about nine-tenths of these events are family friendly. Some of the other events in the arena include Spooky Art Walk (their next event is set for the week after Halloween), Spooky Swap Meet, Halloween Depot’s Horrorville that holds monthly events all year long, and more.
“That’s where I see a lot of kids that want to get their photo taken with Pennywise, and are real excited for it,” Dee said.
Why People Join The Spooky Community
Fans of Halloween come together over their love of all things frightful, and events like the ones thrown by Halloween Huns offer a place to do that. The local creepy community also brings together people because of the scary space being a safe space, according to Dee.
“It’s people who were generally probably outcasts growing up. We weren’t the cool kids,” Dee said. “The spooky kids are always made fun of.”
A lot of queer people turn to this community as well.
“It’s frightening to live, for some people, so the only thing that makes it tolerable is engaging in even more frightening activities,” Dee said. “People who weren’t protected growing up… I know, personally, I feel I need to protect other people more. So if I see a little goth kid, I’m like, ‘come here, let me bring you into the fold, sweetheart.’”
It helps bring into perspective that hey, at least no monsters are trying to kill you in your sleep.
“I don’t know, there’s just something comforting about watching someone getting murdered, which I know makes me sound like a crazy person,” Dee said, laughing. “But it’s something about that entire feeling of, there’s crispness in the air, I’m enjoying my apple cider, and I’m carving a pumpkin, and there’s a horror film on television. There’s something funny about it, because it gets so ridiculous sometimes. Why are you running towards it? I know that I can go watch some girl in high heels run through a forest towards the bad guy, and that she’s gonna trip, and she’s gonna fall, and she’s gonna get murdered.”
For Dee, they also believe they grew up in a haunted house. A home built in the 1800s, where an old woman was said to have died in the attic… and could be heard walking back and forth, was believed to throw items off of shelves, and would mess with Dee while they were sleeping.
Yeah, we’d probably get real into Halloween too.
So the Halloween Huns are finally getting to celebrate their favorite day — then, maybe after the holidays, a return to less spooky competition.
You can visit the Halloween Huns at their Spooky Sunday event this Halloween, held at Lawless Brewing in North Hollywood. Tickets are free, but they ask people to register ahead of time on their website to help with verifying COVID-19 vaccinations. Oh, and Día de los Muertos is Monday, so you can follow up Halloween by kicking off your own full year of spooky joy.