This Halloween, Boot Hill made a return visit to the quiet community of Woodbridge in Irvine, California; it was the home haunt’s 13th apparition and it drew huge numbers of fans and aficionados anxious to see what new surprises had been spooked up this year!
Boot Hill began well over a decade ago (the haunt has not run in consecutive years) at 16 Goldenrod in Woodbridge, one of the earliest master planned portions of Irvine in Orange County, approximately 15 – 20 minutes southish of Anaheim. In fact, many moons ago, I started this home haunt along with Shea Foley, a long-time associate of Theme Park Adventure. We wanted to create an eerie, no gore home haunt that was more theatrical in scope than scary. Back then, I took creative inspiration from the granddaddy of all home haunts, The Hallowed Haunting Grounds, which was in Studio City, California for over 30 years. Boot Hill grew each year and so did the crowds; what started as a very modest tiny yard display grew into one of SoCal’s most ambitious and elaborate home haunts very quickly; it was very rewarding to be a part of that.
Years passed and Boot Hill is now handled by Foley and a tight crew that includes another long-time friend, Glenn Schmidt. Together, Foley and Schmidt have worked with their small crew and have really taken Boot Hill to entirely new heights. The haunt is now just as much a boo-scare experience as it is theatrical, and the screams and laughter coming from terrified guests prove that the team has struck the perfect balance.
Boot Hill is still a no gore haunt, which I am really happy about. Even though this home haunt has evolved into something much larger than it was when we’d just started, it’s never lost sight of the fact that it’s not a violent, gore-filled production, but rather a story-driven, theatrical one. Yes, there are a lot of boo scares packed into the relatively small front yard/driveway space; but there are plenty of really stunning special effects elements along the way, too, that separates Boot Hill from most other typical yard displays. This haunt is anything but typical.
The story behind Boot Hill is, admittedly, much too complicated and deep for its own good; I can say that, since I created it all those years ago. However, the gist of it remains – an old West ghost town named Bridgewood rises from the fog each Halloween, as gunslinging ghosts and ghouls rise from their graves to exact revenge on the crusty old miser, Jedediah Smith, who murdered their loved ones and drove Bridgewood to ruin.
Over the past several years, Boot Hill has seen various special effects added to its show, from Pepper’s Ghost illusions to multiple projection gags. Its practical sets and props have become more polished and the end result is absolutely stunning. Set to a grand musical score that was created specifically for the haunt many years ago, Boot Hill has evolved over 13 incarnations to become one of the most fantastic home haunts in Southern California.
2012 saw the removal of Boot Hill’s swamp area (yes, they actually had a water-filled swamp built on the large driveway of the residence for several years), which was replaced by a corn field and scarecrow gag, a la a scene out of the horror film Jeepers Creepers. This new scene was really simple, yet very effective – and the scare it delivered sent guests fleeing in terror time after time!
The talent at Boot Hill, which includes Foley, Schmidt and their significant others, as well as a small crew of friends and family, is top-notch. They are a great group that fully understands what Boot Hill is, and they have mastered the art of scaring over the years to a professional level. Children and adults alike are reduced to whimpering messes at the hands of this team; watching them get their scares on is awesome fun!
Will there be a year 14 for Boot Hill? That remains to be seen. There is always discussion of letting the ghosts of Bridgewood finally rest in peace, or perhaps re-locating them to another place in SoCal. Only time will tell, but whatever the future holds for this haunt, we’re very proud of what it’s become, and that TPA has played a very personal role in Boot Hill over the years!
– Rick West