According to legend, the city of Los Angeles serves as the stomping grounds for the spirits of some pretty prominent historical figures — and boy, do they get around. (I'm talking about you, Rudolph Valentino, Harry Houdini and Howard Hughes.) It's hard to talk about any historic L.A. building without hearing at least a ghost story or two!
But the "creep factor" that many of us get from Los Angeles landmarks isn't from actual hauntings — but Hollywood ones. Horror film crews have set up shop in our abandoned hospitals, along our suburban-looking streets and at our natural landmarks for over 100 years.
And fortunately, there are lots of them that you can still visit today — whether you're hoping to encounter or avoid the monsters, creatures, slashers, aliens, ghosts or goblins that may dwell there.
Here are the ten best horror film locations in Los Angeles — including how to visit them, what you can see today and how they match up with their appearances on the spooky silver screen.
1. Malibou Lake, Agoura Hills — from "Frankenstein"
The remote area of Santa Monica Mountains near present-day Agoura Hills was largely inaccessible to many until 1925 — when William Mulholland opened up a highway that allowed motorists to drive from Los Angeles to Malibu (a.k.a. Mulholland Highway). Hollywood caught on quickly — because as early as 1931, film crews headed to the area to film the Universal Pictures monster classic "Frankenstein."
The "lake" where Frankenstein's monster meets a little girl in the Bavarian Alps is actually a manmade reservoir known as Malibou Lake. It was originally part of a private mountain residential community known as Malibou Lake Club or Malibou Lake Mountain Club, formed by the Malibu Lake Club Dam at the confluence of two creeks — the still-wet Medea Creek, which runs through Paramount Ranch and Triunfo Creek.
Today, Malibou Lake is still a private lakeside community with rustic, historic cabins and a circa 1936 clubhouse. The "lodge," as it's now called, and its surrounding areas are available for event rentals — but if you're not getting married anytime soon, you can also shoot a film or TV episode there (it also served as a location in other horror films like "The Ring" and "I Married a Monster From Outer Space"). Or, just drive along Lake Vista Drive from where it splits off from Mulholland Highway and you'll get an eye-full of the lake, the lodge and the stone pillars of the original gateway. Please note that the water, lawns and grounds are otherwise for club members only.
2. Franklin Canyon Lake, Franklin Canyon Park — from "Creature from the Black Lagoon"
Another famous "horror lake" can be found near the so-called "Center of Los Angeles" — at Franklin Canyon Park, whose circa 1914 reservoir has most famously served as Mayberry's fishin' pond in "The Andy Griffith Show" and the lagoon where "Gill Man" lived in Universal's "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954).
You can get to the lake — a.k.a. "Upper Franklin Reservoir" — by hiking the Ranch Trail off of Lake Drive (where there's an official parking area), by parking near the Blinderman Trailhead off Franklin Canyon Drive, or by parking in the large lot for the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom and Sooky Goldman Nature Center.
Note that this park gets extremely crowded on weekends and parking is limited, especially in dirt turnouts and along the side of the road. Beware of pedestrians in the road — and while you're exploring on foot, make sure your dog is leashed. Unfortunately, you can't look for a "creature" of your own in the lake — as boating, swimming and fishing are prohibited.
3. Cahuenga Library, East Hollywood — from "A Nightmare on Elm Street"
Built in 1916, Cahuenga Branch Library on Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood is the third-oldest among the Los Angeles Public Library branches. But horror fanatics know it best not for its stacks, but for its façade — which served as the 5th Precinct police station in the original 1984 "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
Designed by architect Clarence H. Russell and funded by Andrew Carnegie, it's one of only three remaining Carnegie Libraries in Los Angeles. It's both a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and a nationally-registered landmark.
It's open to the public Mondays and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Sundays. There's a large surface parking lot in the rear of the building (open during library hours) and metered parking out front and along side streets. To see it as it appears in the film, stand across the street (on the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard) or directly out front. You can even climb the stairs for a shot-for-shot recreation of the movie.
4. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood — from "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors"
Located on the UCLA campus at the top of the Janss Steps and past the Shapiro Fountain, Royce Hall is part of the academic quadrangle of the original (now "old") campus, which was built on top of an old sheep pasture. It's the largest and most grandiose of those original four buildings (hence, "quad") — designed in 1927 by brothers James Edward Allison and David Clark Allison as the main administration and classroom building of the UCLA campus.
In real life, Royce Hall offers a place to see performances offered by the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA as well as other programming partners. But in the 1987 horror sequel "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," it serves as Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital — where the Elm Street children and their dreams are being studied. Its iconic tower is where Freddy Krueger manipulates a sleepwalking patient to fall to his death.
In the film, you see characters walking through the arches and between the columns of the cloistered colonnade and lots of long shots of the exterior, which was designed to mimic the 11th-century Romanesque style of the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. Attend a show there, and you might be able to walk out onto the Ahmanson Terrace, just outside of the West Lobby, to get an even more unique view of the structure and its architectural details.