haunted attractions as urban renewal

October 21, 2010

Living in Los Angeles has its perks come Halloween, especially on the city’s outer edges where some of the entertainment industry’s best makeup and special effects artists live amid eerily disconnected suburban sprawl.

Localized haunted attractions have always been a seasonal offering in L.A.’s family-oriented neighborhoods, but the success of specialized theme parks such as Knott’s Scary Farm or Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights has spawned homespun yard haunts, abandoned-lot takeovers and thrilling attractions for those who need more than a ghost and a skeleton to get their spine tingling.

Because of the resurgence of zombie and gore-centered horror films — such as Saw, 28 Days Later and the Hostel series — the tamer community projects are now living alongside adult-oriented, professional-grade fright fests.

Take Pierce College’s recent embellishment, for instance. Located in the San Fernando Valley, a place with no shortage of empty lots and expansive spaces to convert, the school’s long-running Harvest Festival — which has always featured a pumpkin patch, hay rides and tame, child-appropriate haunts — now conducts an after-dark FrightFair Scream Park, that features three mazes including a scare-filled corn field and a blood-splattered insane asylum.

Though Pierce College and other community attractions choose to build new structures from the ground up, other areas of Los Angeles are using existing buildings to craft elaborate themed haunts. Pasadena’s Old Town Haunt walks visitors through the basement and catacombs of the historical California Union Savings Bank Building, where mysterious occurrences have been reported for more than a century.

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