Each Halloween, Theme Park Adventure visits a lot of haunts and attractions around the Southland; everything from major theme park events to intense, theatrical productions. People often ask me what my favorite type of haunt is, and the answer is always the same: home haunts. In my opinion, home haunts are Halloween – the fact that someone has taken the time to spook-up their home with some decorations for the benefit of their neighborhood – it just doesn’t get better than that. VanOaks Cemetery is one of those home haunts (also referred to as “yard haunts” or “yard displays”) that captures the magic of Halloween – and our adoration each season.
Located in Sherman Oaks, California, VanOaks Cemetery is the creation of Halloween enthusiast Derek Young. During the off-season (for haunters, that’s the rest of the year), Derek is a creative director here in Los Angeles. He is also Co-Founder of SoCal Valley Haunters, a group of spook-makers that work year-round to create props and special effects for home haunts around Southern California.
The VanOaks Cemetery is a yard display; in case you didn’t guess by the name, this particular haunt is a graveyard scene, which takes up the front of Young’s property. VanOaks doesn’t have any live actors, so this is a family-friendly haunt that doesn’t have any unexpected frights – only a very somber, mellow vibe as people stand along the sidewalk and look on.
One of the neatest effects is a shovel that moves ever-so-sightly as it stands dug into a mound of dirt next to a freshly-filled grave. Another favorite visual found in VanOaks Cemetery is a special plot with a tombstone that is dedicated to the Hallowed Haunting Grounds, which was/is considered to be the granddaddy of all home haunts here in Southern California. The Hallowed Haunting Grounds existed in Studio City from 1973 to 2005 before vanishing into the darkness for good. Tributes to the Hallowed Haunting Grounds are definitely a common thread that can be seen at home haunts across Los Angeles and beyond – kudos to VanOaks for keeping that memory alive (er, dead) and well.
The soundscape associated with VanOaks is very mellow – soft music, peppered with ambient sound effects such as crickets chirping and thunder rolling, which echoes along the street in the quiet neighborhood. Lightning flickers and illuminates the entire yard fairly often, causing shadows to dance and chase as guests look on.
It doesn’t take long to stop and enjoy the sights and sounds of VanOaks Cemetery, making it very easy to work into your haunt-hopping schedule in the Valley. Most guests spend between 5-10 minutes strolling back and forth on the sidewalk outside of VanOaks, taking photos and whispering amongst themselves.
Under the assumption that Derek will continue this awesome home haunt, you should already have it on your radar for Halloween 2017; it’s definitely worth your time and attention.
As you’re cruising the Net, also hit up Derek’s Facebook page, VanOaks Prop Foundry!
- Rick West
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