It was double, double, toil and trouble as Halloween night neared in the Santa Clarita Valley, with residents continuing to provide haunts around every corner in the midst of the pandemic.
While most of the SCV’s “home haunts” typically feature walk-through mazes, with scare actors hiding in the most unforeseen places, most chose to instead do yard displays this year in keeping with public health regulations.
Even the city of Santa Clarita joined in this year, hosting its inaugural Haunted Highway, a drive-thru Halloween experience, with reservations booked by early this week.
The spooky, family-friendly experience allowed participants to celebrate all the tricks and treats of Halloween from the comfort and safety of their own vehicles.
In Saugus, with it being Beware the Dark Realm’s 32nd year scaring SCV residents, the acclaimed location’s owner, Scott Sivley, knew he couldn’t just go dark.
“We had a hard time,” Sivley said. “But it gives us something to do, and I had promised Family Promise that I was going to do the fundraiser for them … so we knew we had to do something.”
Each year, Sivley donates the proceeds to a local nonprofit or community organization, with this year’s beneficiary being Family Promise, a nonprofit dedicated to serving local homeless families.
“They’ve been very happy,” he added. “We’re actually the only fundraiser for the whole year that they’ve had.”
This year, the realm took guests on a short journey, with only three or four scare actors presented to them at different areas of the display behind barriers, versus the usual 30 or so actors haunting them in the maze.
“Usually, we would do a full-blown maze, whereas this year, we’re doing more of an interactive display,” Sivley added. “If Universal (Studios) and Knott’s Berry Farm couldn’t do theirs, we obviously couldn’t do ours.”
However, Sivley said they’ve been getting a lot of new people visiting their haunt this year.
Just a couple of miles away, William “Bond” Landeen and his family also chose to do a yard haunt instead of their usual walk-through.
He, too, didn’t want to disappoint, giving nearby residents something to drive by and appreciate.
“We just did it because people want some normalcy, and they can’t totally shut down Halloween for us,” Landeen said. “If they want to trick-or-treat, they can (do so), but if they don’t want to, they can always drop by and appreciate it from their vehicles.”
Though they’ve had a lot of people stop by the house either on foot or by car, Landeen still isn’t sure how many will turn out for Halloween night.
“I don’t know what to expect to be honest,” he added.
Over in Canyon Country, 19-year-old Cameron McGuinness is hosting the SCV’s only walk-through haunt this year, according to the SoCal Haunt list.
“A lot of people have been missing out on enjoying (holidays),” McGuinness said. “All the celebrations haven’t been very big, and I just wanted to give people what they want this season.”
With McGuinness’ birthday being during the Halloween season, along with taking inspiration from John Murdy, creative director of Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, and a neighbor’s haunted house he remembers from childhood, it only seemed right for him to create his own.
“I just was in love with trick-or-treating in my neighborhood,” he added. “ It was always so great, and I was just kind of obsessed with the holiday itself.”
Now, he’s created Insane Haunt Productions, decorating his family’s home for the third year professionally, even garnering some statewide recognition.
“I do this all by myself,” he said. “My dad will help me out every once in a while, my mom will help me out with a few things, but mainly, the ideas, the wiring, the electronics, the DMX, the sounds, the smells, everything is all decided and done by me.”
It seems to have paid off, as nearly 300 have visited his home in the two nights it’s been open this year alone.
Each year, he has a different theme, with this year’s being “Candy Shop Takeover.”
“The funny part is, when I’m done with the haunt, I already started thinking about next year’s theme,” McGuinness added. “There’s a lot of factors that make me decide on a haunt because I’m a 19-year-old on a budget, so I have to take into consideration how much this costume is going to cost, how much it’s going to take to build it.”
This year, McGuinness has even created a reservation system to control crowds amid the pandemic, along with providing free masks and hand sanitizer, as well as temperature checks to satisfy public health requirements.
Club Fear has been scaring souls in Valencia since 2016, but haunt owner Jason Shields has decided to take a hiatus this year due to the pandemic.
“This year, I stood down because of obvious reasons,” Shields said. “I’m extremely depressed not doing it this year. Normally in July, we’re building, and from July until now, I’ve been in this weird (phase, thinking), ‘I should be doing something right now.’”
Even so, Shields has already begun planning for next year.
“We went dark this year, but next year, we will be doing a finale in Santa Clarita because it’ll be my last year in Santa Clarita,” he added.
In next year’s finale, he said he plans to go all out, going really big in both decor and frights.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of haunts going big next year,” he said, referring to the lack thereof this year.