Rosehill Haunt, Studio City, CA
The thing I love about home haunts is that every one seems to have its own story, one of a passion for the Halloween season and a desire to spread that joy and fun and fright to the local community. Many of these haunts start off small, or are still relatively small, and pour in hundreds of man hours of effort, all for a few nights of operation to share their creation. It’s a lot of sweat and work, but these people do it for love of the season. Some have reaped rewards from their efforts, growing their haunts to become well-known local traditions that attract crowds every year. And a lot of these haunts have been able to leverage their success with local charitable organizations to give back to the community or to a worthy cause and great even more good out of their haunting. But the common threat among all of them traces back to a small initial haunted presentation, often done when they were young, which slowly grew and grew.
Today’s story features Ben Conway, a 16 year-old haunter who is making his way through those initial years, and his yard display and partial walk-through in Studio City: Rosehill Haunt. Ben is part of the new generation of young haunters that we’ve been featuring lately with places like Opechee Haunt and Murder House Productions. Despite his young age, he’s actually been haunting for nearly a decade, having created his first haunted display at the tender young age of 7. His first official haunt came a few years later, in 2013, and this year is the second year that he has been openly advertising his home haunted creation!
As a fan of Halloween and a true creative, Ben enjoys story-based haunts and has striven to conjure new themes for his haunts each year. Last year, Rosehill Haunt brought the story of El Cucuy, the Latin culture Boogeyman equivalent, to life. This year, Rosehill Haunt presents a more family-friendly yard display and walk-through entitled “The Final Celebration.”
As the story goes, two hundred years ago, a skeleton was walking along the road (as they do during Halloween, you see…) when it began playing a song. So beautiful was this musical melody that the other skeletons buried deep within the ground were summoned from their slumber to the dark evening air, and they danced to this requiem until midnight. Every Halloween, that act manifests again.
It’s a charming tale that is set by a talking skeletal animatronic that greets visitors from a fence post at the Conway’s family residence driveway when they arrive, and it is carried through into the entry courtyard of the home, with projections of skeletons waltzing around, and a spooky jack-o-lantern continuing the tale in between quotes from The Haunted Mansion. The yard display is not a full haunt—the length of time to go through is more similar to that required for Irvine’s Boot Hill, but it tells a whimsical story that is entertaining for children and adults.
Rosehill Haunt is definitely a family and friend affair. The talking skeleton out front has voice work done by one of Ben’s friends, who is a voice actor. Ben wrote a 6 minute script, but the friend ended up adding 4 more minutes of ad lib for the 10 minute finished product. Ben’s parents have also been very supportive of his efforts, happily letting him dress up their home for his imaginings. Each year’s haunt has carried over with it elements from previous year’s features, sort of as easter eggs, but also as historical markers showing the evolution of Ben’s creations over the years.
What’s really fantastic about Rosehill Haunt is how it showcases the legacy of home haunting both from the “older generation” and the new. Ben has worked at Boney Island in the past, and the influence of the magic of Halloween from that haunt has clearly translated here, especially with the celebrating skeletons motif that is enchanting and lovely, not creepy or scary. The graveyard out front carries lessons from Derek and Erin Young of VanOaks Cemetery, who have offered tutelage on sculpting and aging tombstones and lighting scenes. Ben is also friends with Sam Kellman of Opechee Haunt and Zion Fenwick of Twisted Mind Productions, two other 16 year old haunters who march along the forefront of this new wave of haunters. There’s even an easter egg at Rosehill direct from Opechee’s Donnie Darko Experience—a note from Roberta Sparrow sitting on the poker skeleton display that represents Ben’s first-ever Halloween set creation from when he was younger. The three of them often bounce ideas off each other and offer feedback on each other’s ideas and plans. And Ben also networks with Kyle and Aurora of Murder House Productions, getting their perspectives on haunts.
This sort of inter-connected commitment and passion epitomizes the spirit of Halloween and why we love it so much. Even small productions have their moments of extravagance and heartfelt quality layered on. Rosehill Haunt represents so much of what is great about haunting, and it was a pleasure to visit this past weekend!
Rosehill Haunt is located on 11560 Acama St, Studio City, CA 91604 and will be open tonight, Halloween night, from 6:00-9:30pm. Unlike this past weekend, which was more of a static yard display, there will be a bit of a haunt element tonight, for some gentle frights. The haunt is located in the Burbank area and makes a great partnering with nearby home haunts like The Backwoods, Rotten Apple 907, and Spooky Hollows, which are also open tonight. Go support these great productions, and have a Happy Halloween!!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.