Spooky Hollows: 2018 Review

Spooky Hollows, Van Nuys, CA

It may be past Halloween, but we’ve got plenty of haunted updates left in the tank! That’s because we visited a ton of haunts this season—our most ever—and really ramped things up the last week and a half of the month, hitting numerous home haunts and yard displays. So after a day’s rest, we resume our haunting spree, now in recap mode. Today, we visit Spooky Hollows, a swampy home haunt (literally—that’s their theme!) in Van Nuys that we greatly enjoyed last year.

 A creepy cemetery scene marks the front yard.

A creepy cemetery scene marks the front yard.

Spooky Hollows has been a mainstay at Halloween conventions over the years, starting off with Scare L.A. years ago before moving onto Midsummer Scream’s Hall of Shadows in more recent summers. It’s a fun little haunt that has always carried an eerily photogenic but dark vibe, a recurring use of projections and media special effects, and some interesting and charismatic characters within. Long-running over many years, Spooky Hollows has become a fixture of the home haunt community, with warranted reason!

Last year, Spooky Hollows presented Legends of the Swamp, and a lot of those elements have been retained for this season. But for 2018 also brings the addition of a mysterious new creature called “Mr. Sticky,” who lurks deep in the swamp or sewer or somewhere.

 If guests are brave, they’ll trek through the swamp.

If guests are brave, they’ll trek through the swamp.

The haunt winds a nice course around the entire property, starting from the front yard (well, really starting from the line that typically extends down the street), darting around the side yard, where guests must duck under torn out chainlink fencing, before navigating a swamp, a sewer, a cursed greenhouse, and a misty green bog around the backyard area. Guests who make it can escape out the other side yard, returning to the safety of the street.

Owners and operators, Christopher Els and John and Tracy Cassella, have also added other, more subtle touch-ups to this year’s Spooky Hollows. The sound system has been broadened and improved, providing a more pervasive soundtrack throughout the maze. There’s a cool video effect at one point that foretells of Mr. Sticky himself. New visual and lighting effects have been enhanced in the sewer. It all adds up to an even more polished and professional-looking presentation this year.

 A hag beckons guests to continue through to the sewer.

A hag beckons guests to continue through to the sewer.

But the strength and my favorite aspect of Spooky Hollows remains the manner in which it can combine fun and frights into a well balanced haunted maze experience. Some home haunts focus on visuals, while others try to be as ragged and intense as possible. Spooky Hollows doesn’t really pursue the gory, bloody route. Instead, like its name, this home haunt is spooky. There are startles and jump scares, but they’re quickly followed by improvised dialogue that entertains, with witty quips and ad-libbed commentary that almost seems tailored to the guest.

 MR. STICKY!!!

MR. STICKY!!!

Spooky Hollows once again comes through with a wonderful haunt that immerses guests in a dark quagmire of an ambiance and tracks them through a series of delightfully eerie and colorful interactions with a veteran cast of scareactors who clearly love the job they’re doing. It boils down to just being a really great haunt, and my only real complaint (that’s not even a rational one) is that it’s a shame that they’re not open for more nights!

 Aubrey II is back as well.  And still hungry!

Aubrey II is back as well. And still hungry!

Spooky Hollows is located at 16418 Gilmore St, Van Nuys, CA 91406 and runs from 7-10pm during the last week of October, plus Halloween night itself. If you’ve never visited Spooky Hollows before, add this to your Burbank/Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys area haunting list!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.