Mystic Motel, Ladera Ranch, CA
Happy All Saints’ Day / Día de los Muertos, folks! Just because Halloween has passed us does not mean we’re done posting Halloween updates. For one, we still have a few haunted attractions operating past October 31st, like Halloween Horror Nights, Mable’s 6 Feet Under, Creep L.A.’s L O R E, and Wicked Lit. For another, by the time our haunt season actually concludes in a week and change, we will have visited 31 haunts, and we haven’t quite covered all of them yet!
Today’s visit takes us to South Orange County for a haunted attraction that is actually open tonight and is something so amazing that it really needs to be seen to be believed. Mystic Motel is a home haunt that’s part walk-through attraction and part dark ride. Yes, you read that right: dark ride. And not Dark Ride as in Knott’s Scary Farm’s fantastic, top notch maze this year. I mean an honest to goodness 35-second long carnival-style, single-track, amusement park ride through some spooky scenes.
The brainchild of Scott D’Avanzo, a slot machine game developer by day, Mystic Motel is a haunted ride through the basement of a creaky, old motel where guests seem to have a penchant for disappearing. The entire ride is literally located inside the garage of the family house, with a bit of an extension built onto the driveway. Guests enter the D'Avanzo abode and then take a rickety "elevator" "down" to the basement before proceeding onto the ride. The execution and flow through the space makes for a fun and believable sequence, with a bit of suspension of disbelief, of course (ignore that the basement is actually the garage).
Scott first created the attraction at the request of his son, who wanted something fun for Halloween, but it has since become a local sensation, attracting robust crowds on operating nights. But the family has been very conscientious about the impact of visitors and tries to maintain the queue on their own property as much as possible. As we've seen from controversies such as Boney Island, a small number of neighboring complaints can sadly trigger the death knell of a local haunt.
Mystic Motel didn’t actually run last year—the product of the typical complications a haunt faces with consistent operation. But it returned this year to lowkey fanfare, and I took a visit on Monday night to see what the fuss was all about. Unfortunately, during my visit, not all the effects and lighting were functioning—Scott and his [mostly family] crew built the entire set in a mind-boggling eight days (it usually takes a month and a half)—but I still had a charming and delightful experience. Just the notion that this is a ride in someone’s house is enough to strike a fancy. And the attraction itself is very cute and quaint—with kid-friendly scares that may startle but are not gory or disturbing at all.
What started out as just a personal project has paid some dividends over the years, as Scott has been able to develop an amusement park ride business on the side out of the success of his homegrown haunt. Adrenalin Attractions (no -e intentionally) is looking to produce commercial themed entertainment, be it a standalone ride or even maybe an entire theme park. This sounds like an incredible amount of work, but as I saw from the scope of Mystic Motel, high aspirations and aiming far are totally in line with Scott’s personality.
Mystic Motel is open tonight from 6-9pm, and if you’re in the area, I’d recommend stopping by for a visit. It’s in a residential neighborhood, so please be courteous to the neighbors, of course. But what Scott and his family have created is a very impressive endeavor—another one that just captures the eerie joy and spooky delight of the Halloween spirit!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.