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Photos: Not Even 2020 Could Kill Halloween

A werewolf runs up to my car window from behind some trees at The Bite LA in Whittier Narrows. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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I love Halloween. I start planning next year's Halloween costume on Nov. 1. I love Halloween so much I married my wife on Halloween. Every year, I look forward to getting scared silly by the many haunts, movies, and attractions that open up during the Halloween season. So, as 2020 ticked on and we got closer to October, I worried that Halloween would also fall victim to all the other 2020 cancellations.

Knotts Scary Farm, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, and many other local attractions announced that they would sit out this Halloween season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Even trick-or-treating was canceled, albeit briefly. Late last month, the city of Los Angeles set guiidelines banning the beloved Halloween tradition and other festivities, but the mandate was quickly retracted and, instead, folks were advised to just stay home.

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Pretty soon word spread that some local mainstays in the Halloween business would be finding other creative ways to spook the pants off Angelenos. Elaborate lawn displays popped up in various parts of the region, drive-thru haunts became a thing, and drive-in movie theaters saw a resurgence showing horror flicks.

I ventured out with my camera to see what people were doing this Halloween season, and how 2020 had changed how they celebrated this year. This is what I saw.

A haunted pirates' cove display at the Clybourne Manor in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

I met Joan Solorio and Micheal Campos while they were visiting a "Pirates of the Caribbean"-themed Halloween lawn display at the Clybourn Manor with their young niece. They are Halloween lovers and while things have changed in the world, they are doing whatever they can to keep the spirit of season alive.

"We're probably not going to pass out candy. I don't think my niece is going to be going trick-or-treating, but we are definitely trying to do activities like this that we can kind of fill in [the gaps]," said Joan Solorio.

Many families I spoke to shared similar sentiments. Most people said they probably won't be trick-or-treating or handing out candy this year, but trips to these lawn displays were one way to keep the holiday spirit alive.

Jessica Salvador and Ryan Moon, who I met outside Circus of Nightmares in Burbank, said they were dissapointed by the lack of truly scary experiences this year.

Jessica Salvador, Ryan Moon, and Beck Salvador said they were disappointed in Halloween this year. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

"We typically like to do things that you can actually go into. This is really different where you can't actually go into a haunted house," said Salvador. "We did a drive-thru haunted house, and it really wasn't that great. It wasn't as good as Knotts Scary Farm. It kind of doesn't even feel like Halloween. It feels like any other day."

Moon said driving around to look at lawn displays feels more like Christmas than Halloween.

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Sherill Watts Justo opened up her home to the neighborhood and helped her son and his friends build and put on an elaborate lawn display. Circus of Nightmares is a circus-themed horrorscape filled with killer clowns, and sponsored by Monster Club Kids, a group for young horror fans. Big crowds gathered and a steady stream or cars drove by to admire their work.

Sherill Watts Justo stands with That Creepy Cool Kid, Sinister Sista, Sinister Myth at their Halloween display, Circus of Nightmares, in Burbank. The display was built in Justo's front yard with direction from the "killer clowns" posing with her. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

For Justo, putting on this display was about saving Halloween for her son. "When it became apparent that Halloween was going to be canceled, we had to do something, and this is what we did," Said Justo. "I know that these monster kids are coming out of this having the best Halloween ever."

In the end, this might be one of the best Halloweens ever. At the very least, it will have been one of the most innovative. Finding ways to keep the Halloween spirit alive this year required a lot of creativity, and people showed up and showed out. There's a little bit of something for everyone. From spooky eats at The Bite LA and Knotts Berry Farm's Taste of Fall-O-Ween to revamped classics like the L.A.'s haunted hay ride in San Dimas, and even some traditional haunts like The Flesh Yardin Chino Hills.

Not even 2020 can ruin Halloween.

Here are some of my highlights from Halloween 2020:

Cars slowly drive through a haunted forest at the Urban Legends Haunt as horned creatures lurk in the shadows. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

At the Urban Legends Haunt in Orange County ghost stories come to life with a variety of unnerving characters. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Masked families enjoy getting spooked by killer clowns at an elaborate circus home display in Burbank. The Circus of Nightmares was put on by local families hoping to give their kids a Halloween to remember. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

What's scarier than clowns? Visitors to the Circus of Nightmares are greeted by this swingin' fella. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

In lieu of trick-or-treating, many families visited ornate lawn displays that have popped up across Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Cars slowly drive through a street in Burbank, filming the various Halloween lawn displays on their cell phones. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Two young girls hold each other while looking at a Halloween lawn display in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A killer clown haunts the Circus of Nightmares display. The killer clowns are also children who helped design and build the display. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

COVID-19 couldn't stop communities around Los Angeles from getting into the Halloween spirit. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A band of rockin' skeletons play spooky music from a Halloween lawn display. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Dead men tell no tales. Visitors are greeted by the burning gaze of this bony pirate. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Masked families gather around a "Pirates Of The Carrabean"-themed lawn display at the Clybourne Manor in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Spiders crawl down giant webs in a spooky home display in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A family walks through a pumpkin-lined walkway in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Dozens of pumpkins fill the lawn of this ornately decorated home in Burbank. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Notting Hill Cemetery has a very "Haunted Mansion" vibe. The jokes will kill ya. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Dozens of pumpkins fill the lawns of this Burbank home. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Spooky stories are brought to life at the Urban Legends Haunt heldat the Orange County Fair Grounds. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Hulking creatures lurk in shadows ready to frighten carloads of visitors to the the Urban Legends Haunt, one of the many non-traditional events that popped up across Southern California this Halloween season. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Bite LA takes brave visitors through a dark journey full of nightmarish creatures in the Whittier Narrows. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Bite LA is a drive-thru haunted food experience. Their menu inludes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

COVID-19 is top of mind this Halloween. The Bite LA lists some of their safety guidelines as you drive into the event. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Bite LA transmits spooky ambient sound through your radioas you as yout drive through the event. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

When booking tickets for The Bite LA you're asked to bring a flashlight from home so you can embark on a "creature safari" through the dark park. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A giant bat screeches at drivers at The Bite LA. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The Bite LA directs drivers through scary paths on their way to get food. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Food is served to you from a basket, from 6 feet away, by creepy creatures like this puppet at The Bite LA. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

This sea creature reviews my food choices before serving me my meal at The Bite LA. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Most haunts this year are taking place from the comfort of your car in dark spooky places. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

After getting scared by the various creatures that haunt Whittier Narrows at The Bite LA, haunt-goers can eat their food while watching scary stories at the "campfire." (Chava Sanchez/LAist)