One of my favorite aspects of Halloween and the way that Theme Park Adventure covers it each year are the home haunts in Southern California that we have the opportunity to visit and see first-hand. One home haunt that we first visited in 2012 is The Haunted Diary, located in Hollywood, just minutes away from Universal Studios. Each season, The Haunted Diary takes on a new theme; in 2013, it became Dark Carnival.
The idea behind this haunt is that each autumn, a book known as “The Haunted Diary” opens, and its sinister contents become living stories, unleashed on the public, brought to life by a dark, brooding power.
2013’s Haunted Diary theme was that of an ill-fated carnival where unspeakable tragedy occurred in the fictitious town of Oakwood nearly four decades ago, sparing few survivors. Last autumn, the carnival materialized once again, and with it, monsters, evil creatures and ghoulish apparitions of the victims of the tragedy so many years ago.
What we truly love about this particular home haunt above anything else, is that everything this group of relatively young haunters does is absolutely polished when it comes to production, story and immersive experience. The creative team behind Haunted Diary are avid haunted attraction fans, but more – it is apparent that they study various haunts and bring their understanding and knowledge into their own process each year, from concept art to unique, creative storylines. While the team may not have a huge budget or vast resources at their disposal, what they do have in abundance is creativity and dedicated vision.
The Haunted Diary has a switchback area that takes up a portion of the home’s front lawn. The bulk of the haunt itself is built in the backyard and garage areas of the property, with a very compact footprint that the group gets really great mileage out of thanks to really smart layout and route design.
While this home haunt features multiple actors and plenty of boo-scare moments, we are always impressed by the amount of home-made props and elements; 2013’s haunt featured a detailed 2-story saloon facade, as you can see in our POV video flow-through of Dark Carnival; really impressive! The crew working this home haunt is really fantastic, and they get it. Not only do they jump out and frighten guests, they take their time and engage them, interacting with them to create a satisfying experience. Hell, they even had a sword-swallowing ventriloquist in the queue in the front of the house entertaining people waiting in line! All in all, a great bunch of haunters with tons of passion.
One of the issues that this crew has encountered are unhappy neighbors; something that is a very real and all-too-familiar threat to home haunters everywhere. The upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles where The Haunted Diary exists is extremely quiet; its residents aren’t exactly accustomed to loud music, sounds, or screams in the night. And so, this particular home haunt has faced some serious local opposition. Whether or not the haunt returns for the 2014 Halloween season hangs in the balance at the moment, sadly. Theme Park Adventure wishes this team all the best in their pesky neighbor issues; if a few sour grapes ruin it for everyone else, perhaps they will find new digs where the diary can be opened.
It’s important to support and cultivate local home haunts such as this. Younger generations of haunters that will shape the industry that we all love so much often come from this very type of event. Many great themed entertainment designers have, for that matter. As a community, we need to recognize and support this by encouraging haunters of all ages to reach for bigger things each season and to keep pushing their own envelopes of creativity. And, we need to collectively circle the wagons when home haunts come under fire by soulless neighbors that seek to shut them down or take the fun out of Halloween for their own selfish reasons (sometimes obviously, complaints are legitimate – however, very often, people just don’t want anything like a home haunt in their neighborhood, and go out of their way to create problems).
Huge kudos to the Haunted Diary team on a job very nicely done! TPA supports your efforts and hopes to see a return during the 2014 Halloween season!
Were you able to visit The Haunted Diary in 2013? If so, share your thoughts below with other TPAers; we’d love to know what you think of this local home haunt!
– Rick West