The air is cool, cutting into the skin around the neck as it picks up. The leaves are changing in the trees, the colors standing out brightly against the setting sun. You start walking through the gates, taking in the sights of Halloween decorations as you enter the annual Midnight Falls Halloween Festival. Hay is literally everywhere, crunching under your feet with each step. However, despite how beautiful this fall evening looks, something feels amiss. You see, in the town of Midnight Falls, every day is Halloween and, once you enter, it may be nay impossible to leave.

This year at LA’s Haunted Hayride the event has received a major upgrade with a new storyline focusing on the small town of Midnight Falls. Like any small town in the United States, it is homey and welcoming but with an unspoken undercurrent that can be found in most towns. Reminiscent of the Welcome to Nightvale podcast, the Haunted Hayride definitely feels ripped from another time or, quite honestly, another dimension.

SCARE ZONE – TOWN SQUARE

Image Courtesy of LA’s Haunted Hayride website

Description: Located in the center of the small town, the annual Midnight Falls Halloween Festival comes to life with joyous decorations from a time gone by. Just underneath the layers of Jack O’ Lanterns, glowing orange lights, high-spirited entertainment, and fall festival atmosphere is an unsettling sense of foreboding – all is not right in this peculiar place. The celebrating locals are morphing into terrifying creatures while they hold the chilling secrets to Midnight Falls.

Review: Aside from the creative team having transformed this section of Griffith Park into a mini small town, it was a real blast to see the roaming locals really getting into character. Slowly as the night progressed, you could see the behavior of certain characters become more monstrous, but there was still an innately human quality about them. My biggest regret would honestly be not talking to more of the characters because I’m sure there is a lot they could share. So, for people planning on going, please talk up the locals. You might learn more cool things about Midnight Falls along the way.

THE HAUNTED HAYRIDE

Image Courtesy of LA’s Haunted Hayride website

Description: Within the foothills of Midnight Falls, The Hayride leads to a thrilling adventure of horrors afflicting the town. Out in the darkness, a portal has opened spilling hideous creatures from its rotted mouth. The spirit of Halloween comes to life surrounding helpless victims brave enough to board The Hayride.

Review: So, this was legit my first Hayride experience ever so I definitely had a bit too much fun sitting in the hay as we slowly rolled our way through Griffith Park. As the Hayride starts, you start to capture the little vignettes sneaking its way into the foothills of Midnight Falls. Some vignettes stand out more than others. One particular one is a haunting vignette of a woman jumping off the side of a cliff. For some vignettes, it was hard to tell what was being said due to what I think were the acoustics of the open-air environment. The one that comes to mind is a werewolf biker gang scene. I’m not sure if turning up the audio further would help with making it clearer or if it would just distort the audio further.

For those with mobility issues, I definitely think the design is a little bit more comfortable but, due to how low the seats are, you may struggle with getting up towards the end of the experience. However, you’ll get a chance to stretch your legs at the final stop on the journey, which is the Midnight Falls cemetery. Just keep an eye out for any roaming creepy crawlies.

NEW MAZE – MIDNIGHT MORTUARY 

Image Courtesy of LA’s Haunted Hayride website

Description: The dark and ominous house at the end of the street looms over Midnight Falls. Owned and operated by the Marlow family for decades, the local funeral parlor holds many sinister secrets. The town’s mysteries can be found breaking-through the dim hallways of the Midnight Mortuary.

Review: This was a fun little experience, though a bit jumbled at times in terms of performances. You walk through a mortuary where you are immediately met by a creepy priest. It becomes abundantly clear that something unholy is happening because you will run across basically Black Phillip’s many cousins that some of us aptly referred to as White Phillips. Whether due to storyline structure or due to getting into a flow on opening night, I found the scare actors in the first half of the maze to be less animated given what I could see happen in the rooms they occupied. One exception was the creepy woman featured on the bed. No matter how long we took to exit the room, she was animated and remained in character the entire time.

Keep your eyes peeled once you move into the second half of the maze because there are mini surprises along the way. I was fortunate to have been picked for a special little side adventure in the morgue room, where I got to discover a mini slide. And, at the very end, you will get to see the secret that the Marlow Family is truly keeping under wraps at the Midnight Mortuary.

NEW MAZE – ROADKILL RANCH

Image Courtesy of LA’s Haunted Hayride website

Description: Just on the outskirts of Midnight Falls, mysterious ranch hands are responsible for collecting the main highway’s deceased varmints. However, their hack methods of body disposal come back to bite with an insatiable vengeance. Within the dreadful chaos lurking inside, face the horrifying wrath of an ancient entity crawling inside Roadkill Ranch.

Review: Holy snotballs. This maze is almost like a bad trip. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the aesthetic of being able to walk around the ranch, seeing how the road kills were being acquired by the ranch hands and how the bodies were being disposed of. The maze was well done and you are taken outside at one point to really check out the outskirts of the ranch, finding more bodies and mayhem along the way. That being said, this maze is one of those that I will definitely have to recommend people avoid if they have any strobe sensitivity because the last room or two you enter features mind-numbing strobe effects that are intentionally designed to leave you disoriented.

(As such, I did double-check online to see if there was a warning pertaining to strobe effects and it’s located in the FAQs portion of the site, but it does take some digging to locate. I’m not sure if I missed signs while roaming around the place but I do not recall any easy to see signs warning of strobe effects. Please correct me if this is not the case.)

RETURNING FAN FAVORITE – TRICK OR TREAT

Image Courtesy of LA’s Haunted Hayride website

Description: Local homes inside Midnight Falls spring to life, driven by the spirit of Halloween But it is soon discovered the ghoulish residents have far more tricks on their mind than treats. The wondrous magic of a traditional neighborhood Halloween celebration is turned upside down as terrors stalk the streets in Trick-or-Treat.

Review: This may have been my favorite maze while I was here. Returning favorite TRICK OR TREAT has gotten a major revamp this year to fit in alongside the Midnight Falls storyline. This maze was very playful and the storyline of the maze was pretty crystal clear as we got to walk through the local homes of Midnight Falls. The actors were having so much fun and it’s hard not to given the maze design and the general premise. I do want to give a special shout out to the poor soul who was dressed like Baby Shark and had to endure me dancing to Baby Shark once I saw them. I’m such a child and I am grateful for your patience in my tomfoolery. This is definitely a maze that I recommend everyone hit up after doing the Hayride portion. It’s just really fun.

I highly recommend attending the LA Haunted Hayride this October. As a first-timer to the LAHH, it was definitely a treat to visit and has so much fun and whimsy. And I’m not just saying that because I have a thing for hay. I’m curious to know how the creative teams involved will continue to expand on the Midnight Falls premise in future years because they may have something good here.  I also heavily recommend getting to the Haunted Hayride early in the night and hitting the actual Hayride first. As we observed leaving opening night, the line for that particular portion of the event was all the way out the opening gates. Hit that portion up first before you frolic and visit the rest of the park.

While supplies last, tickets are on sale at https://losangeleshauntedhayride.com.

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Sarah Musnicky

Managing Editor at Nightmarish Conjurings
Sarah is the managing editor of Nightmarish Conjurings and a lover of all things magical and horrific. All who are familiar with her can attest for her love of glitter, adorable plush, and obsession with folklore and mythology. When she's not chasing after things she probably shouldn't hug, Sarah is making sure that Shannon's sanity stays intact long enough for deadlines to be tackled.
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