I have always loved Halloween. Sure, as a kid it was great to dress up and go trick-or-treating. But it was more than that. I remember one of our neighbors would decorate the front of his house and yard like an old cemetery. He would then lie in an old coffin all night, sitting up slowly just to spook the kids. We loved it! And of course we kept coming back for more. Maybe that was the spark, or possibly it only heated the existing fire, but Halloween became a rather big deal for me growing up.
When I was old enough, I began venturing out to each and every haunted attraction I could find. We went in packs to Knott’s Scary Farm (safety in numbers), Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios), Halloween Fright Fest (Six Flags Magic Mountain), Mickey’s Halloween Party (Disneyland) and the big Ghost Ship (Queen Mary). We would hit large independent haunts as they sprung up as well. During one trip, I survived the Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary as well as countless haunted walking tours through the streets of New Orleans.
I am a hard one to scare and was not really frightened at any of the above attractions. Lines are long and the scares are obvious – you’ll see them coming several people away at the crowded attractions. Detail? Not a whole lot. But to each their own. A fun time can still be had, especially if you are with friends. I particularly like the spots that come with history, but that doesn’t necessarily make them spooky, just interesting. What I really
enjoy is finding the little guy, the gem that really out does himself. The one that goes all out for the pure joy of it and not for the profit.
In 1999 when Bruce Stanton staked his front yard full of corn stalks, no one knew what that little kernel would become, growing and expanding with each passing season. The first year was spooky. But what began as a very elaborate front yard decoration soon extended to a walk-through haunted house – taking guests past the family room, down the hallway and out the master bedroom. The tour continued around the back and side yard eventually returning you to the front drive with a big scare as the sendoff. How do I know all this? Because at the time I lived next door and watched it grow larger each year.
Mr. Stanton’s house became so popular that people began lining up around the cul-de-sac most of the night just for a tour. It wasn’t just the fact he turned his home into a haunted house for one night a year (although you have to admit that is pretty darn cool), it was his attention to detail that had them coming in droves, coming back for repeats and calling their friends.
The work to create this masterpiece would begin in August. Come September a façade covering the entire front of the house would be erected, and the Reign of Terror would take up residence on an otherwise quiet suburban street in Thousand Oaks, CA. So popular this attraction became that Mr. Stanton opened up his house on multiple nights Halloween weekend. Neighbors came to expect the mayhem, and some of them even got involved with organizing the crowd or running scares in the house.
Knowing a good thing when they saw it, in 2008 the city sponsored the Reign of Terror by offering to move it to its first public location. A big move that took things to another level. In fact, proceeds from the event now go to the Thousand Oaks Teen Center. Mr. Stanton has continued to do all this work simply for the love of it and now for the youth. Everyone who helps with the sets and scares volunteers their time.
Today the Reign of Terror haunted house has a permanent address at the Janss Market Place on Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks, where the sets are left up in their indoor location all year, making it easier to add new thing each season. This year introduces
a new section to the walk of terror. Now you get three “houses” for the price of one admission. You’ll find the traditional Haunted Victorian, the Insane Asylum, and for the first time this year Blood Manor. A total of 45 rooms and 8500 square feet. Reign of Terror’s attention to detail is truly an art form.
If you love a good scare and relish the attention to detail…like I do… I highly recommend this attraction located just outside of L.A. Share the information with your friends and family. The more scare, the more fun to be had. And as an added feature I’ve not seen offered by other haunted attractions, Reign of Terror offers two “Lights On” tour events for small children and true enthusiasts. This is a MUST if you like this kind of stuff. I highly recommend it, so check their site for times and pricing.
Of course, I realize not everyone is in the area to hit this gem of a haunt, so I did a little Sam and Dean work on the internet and this is what I came up with…
The San Diego area has some real jewels worth a look. Check out Monster Manor, Shantung Slaughter House and The Scream Zone. In Orange county, worth a serious look may be The Haunting or The Empty Grave haunted house in Anaheim, or possibly Sinister Pointe in Brea.
If you are near Lancaster, PA then Jason’s Woods looks ready to go all kinds of horror film on you. Or you might find one of the largest haunted houses with Erebus 4-story attraction in Auburn Hills, MI. Among the top 20 is Scream World in Texas. There’s all kinds of great terror from haunted hayrides to full on houses in the New Jersey and New York area found here. Haunted Attractions made their list of 25 must-see places across the USA for 2011, and HauntWorld Magazine made a list much the same with the top 13. So check them out.
I apologize for all the areas in and out of the USA I didn’t cover. Especially if that is the area you are looking for. If you know of any great Halloween haunts that aren’t coming up on search engines, please share. The big boys always pop to the top, but they aren’t always the best. So show the love to the ones that deserve it!