Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.
Various Jack Skellington heads are on propped up on black rods in a display at the Academy Museum. The face in the forefront holds a surprised expression.
A wide variety of Jack Skellington heads in various facial expressions from the Tim Burton stop motion animation classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas" are on display at the Academy Museum. | Sandi Hemmerlein

11 Memorably Morbid Outings in SoCal

Support Provided By

There are countless ways to get your spook on in Los Angeles and beyond — whether it's during the actual spooky season or throughout the rest of the year.

After all, we've got more than enough ghosts to go around — be they real or imagined, in person or on the screen.

In certain parts of Southern California, it can even be tough to separate fact from fiction, as the lines between legend and legitimate truth have been blurred by Hollywood depictions, convincing storytellers and firm believers.

Is the Griffith Park picnic table #23 really haunted? The supposed "lie" has been told so many times, for some it's become the truth.

If you're drawn to the darker side of things, reality may not even matter. After all, in L.A., we can make our own realities.

So whether you're looking for some frightful fun, seeking to delve into some dreadful delusions or simply trying to tread on some unhallowed ground, here are 11 guides that'll send you on a journey through L.A.'s most memorably morbid and creatively creeptastic adventures — none of which are limited to just October.

1. The Most Haunted Places in Los Angeles

HeritageSquare
An exterior view of the Hale House, a "Carpenter Gothic" style structure. Designed by George W. Morgan and built in 1887, the structure stands at Heritage Square Park. | Sandi Hemmerlein

In a city like Los Angeles with such a storied past — from boom to bust and back to boom again, with lawlessness and true crime that gives any film noir a run for its money — you're bound to find ghosts around every corner.

This is a city where you can visit bona fide haunted houses — some clustered all together, like at Heritage Square Museum. Listen for the whispers of our earliest Angeleno pioneers, star-crossed lovers, sanitarium-committed starlets and even a string-pulling puppeteer at these historic landmarks that are rumored to be haunted.

You might not see anything supernatural while you're at one of these seven most haunted L.A. places — but that doesn't mean they're not watching you. Find these haunted places.

2. Five Spooky Places for Halloween Fun All Year Long

Thriller House (1)
Located in the historic housing district of Angelino Heights lies the Sanders House, made famous in Michael Jackson's 1982 "Thriller" music video. | Sandi Hemmerlein

Los Angeles doesn't wait for October to get spooky. If you know where to go, every month can be "Spooktober"!

Maybe it's our ties to Hollywood or our history of dabbling in the dark arts and black magic — but some of us are downright obsessed with those from the "beyond." And if we're not trying to chase them down and communicate with them, we're decorating our homes with their likenesses.

If you're looking for some chills and thrills to tide you over during the winter, spring and summer — or you'd just like to make every night "Devil's Night" — here are five spooky places that add a little darkness to our "angelic" reputation.

3. Where to Experience Horror Film History in L.A.

The May Queen dress from 2019 horror film Midsommar on display. The dress is made up entirely of bright and colorful faux flowers and foliage. The shape of the dress is bulbous and reaches the floor. It's draped on a black mannequin with no face. Atop the mannequin's head is a crown made up of the same flowers and foliage as the dress.
The May Queen dress from the 2019 horror film "Midsommar" is on display at the Academy Museum. | Sandi Hemmerlein

If you like your cinematic heroes to be more on the monstrous side, Los Angeles is "ground zero" for discovering their fictional backstories and learning what went into bringing them to life.

From public institutions like museums and private collections on display to studio tours, fantasy meets reality — in a delightfully horrifying experience! You can face your fears by standing eye-to-eye with screen-used visual effects, animatronics, props, costumes and more. You can even walk through one full set in all its terrifying glory in the basement "dungeon" at the Hollywood Museum.

At these historical horror destinations, you can also learn about the masterminds behind these other-worldly creatures and chilling scenarios — from illustrators like H.R. Giger and Saul Bass to makeup artists like Rick Baker and even Max Factor — as well as, of course, the actors who brought them to life. Find where you can experience horror film history in L.A.

4. Ten L.A. Landmarks Made Even More Famous by Hollywood Horror Flicks

The Doheny mansion, an red-orange brick building of French Chateauesque style architecture, mixed with Gothic, Moorish and California Mission elements stands among a grove of various trees. A paved pathway winds up to the mansion. Above the mansion is a bright blue sky.
The Doheny Mansion, located on the campus of Mount Saint Mary's University, is the setting for the opening of Sam Raimi's 2009 horror flick "Drag Me to Hell." | Sandi Hemmerlein

Depending on how you feel about scary movies, it could be a blessing or a curse that the entirety of the Los Angeles metropolitan area has served as Hollywood's backlot for horror films. An idyllic suburb in Anytown, U.S.A. on the silver "scream" could be found on a residential street in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, South Pasadena or even the Valley.

But perhaps more intriguing is the way that certain L.A. landmarks have earned a second layer of notoriety from their starring roles in some of the scariest film franchises and one-offs ever made — often standing in for haunted manors, creepy hospitals and even exotic international locales.

And unlike the many residential homes made famous in "fright features" — where you really shouldn't disturb the private owners — these 10 landmarks are places where you can hang out on the grounds, peer through the windows, walk through the front doors or even take a tour to explore the architecture and history (and maybe even recreate a scene or two). Here's where you can explore L.A. landmarks made more famous by horror flicks.

5. Five Best Haunted Hiking Trails

Hollywood Sign
Griffith Park's most famous landmark — the Hollywood Sign — is also perhaps its most legitimately haunted site. Why? Because failed Hollywood actress Peg Entwistle famously jumped off the letter "H" to her death in 1932 at the young age of 24 in a presumed suicide — on a Friday the 13th, no less. | Sandi Hemmerlein

If you're intrigued by ghosts and restless spirits but prefer the outdoors to dank basements and dark boiler rooms, you can get your fair share of spookytime on one of SoCal's many "haunted" hiking trails.

Set off on foot through a couple of freaky forests, meander up a mountain or two and pay your respects to the victims of real-life horrors (like Peg Entwistle's suicide and a legendary massacre in an inland canyon of Orange County).

For a quieter, less crowded and more phantom-friendly experience, you can even try tackling these five hikes under the light of a full moon. Try these five haunted hiking trails.

6. Hiking the Ghostly Tracks of Forgotten Trains

Red Car River Park 2
Until 1955, Pacific Electric's Glendale/Burbank Red Car line passed through this part of Atwater Village on its way to Glendale and Burbank. Now, these concrete footings of the former streetcar bridge support the Red Car Pedestrian Bridge. | Sandi Hemmerlein

You might think that the only ghosts that haunt us in Southern California are those of people who have passed — but trust me, we've got plenty of abandoned right-of-ways, repurposed rail trails and disembodied footings from old railroad crossings that still carry the lingering energy of bygone trains, trolleys and incline railways.

These were the lines that transported Angelenos across L.A. and out of the city, brought Victorian "pleasure hikers" to the tops of seemingly unscalable mountains and transported equipment, ore, and other freight until they were dismantled (or just left to rot).

And if you're still haunted by the destruction of the Red Car, you'll find where to chase down its ghost in this list of five train-related treks. Find these forgotten trains.

7. Where to Find the Mojave's Greatest Ghost Towns

Nipton (1)
Located near the California-Nevada state line, Nipton, CA has less than 100 permanent residents, though it attracts packs of bikers and other desert visitors, who can stay at the Hotel Nipton (and hope for a chance encounter with the ghost of Clara Bow, the silent film star who apparently once owned a ranch nearby). | Sandi Hemmerlein

They're called "ghost towns" because practically everybody has left them — except the ghosts. But even if you don't encounter any spectral visions in these six Mojave Desert ghost towns, you'll surely be surrounded by the ghostly shells of abandoned mining operations, deserted train depots and even a hot springs healing center.

Now, some ghost towns have made a business out of their ghostliness — like Calico — while others have struggled to survive after being bypassed by the freeway. But these are ones that are still hanging on — even just by a string — and not dead yet.

Or are they simply… undead? You'll have to go explore these Mojave ghost towns in person to find out for sure.

8. Five Great Death Valley Ghost Towns

Rhyolite
At the Goldwell Open Air Museum at the gateway to Death Valley, shrouded figures reenact "The Last Supper" in Rhyolite, CA. | Sandi Hemmerlein

If a place has earned a name like "Death Valley," you've got to expect a few ghosts to hitchhike along on your visit. And while the national park itself has surely seen its share of death — and, likely, hauntings — it's the ghost towns in and around Death Valley that attract paranormal investigators and tourists who are simply attuned to the "other side."

After all, you're never really alone in any of these ghost towns — whether you're just there for the day exploring Manson lore or daring to spend the night in an old mining town bunkhouse-turned-hotel with zero other businesses for miles around.

Among these five ghost towns in the Death Valley region, you'll find the "Queen City" where The Last Supper has been recreated by ghosts, a surprisingly watery route to the ruins of a mining boomtown once run by outlaws (where you can also spend the night), and much more. Explore these Death Valley ghost towns.

9. Bodie: The Ghostliest of Ghost Towns

Bodie | Sandi Hemmerlein
Nestled in the Bodie Hills, about five and a half miles from the California-Nevada state line lies the former Old West town of Bodie. | Sandi Hemmerlein

One of the biggest ghost towns you can still visit is the granddaddy of them all — Bodie, located outside of Bridgeport, CA at nearly 8,400 feet of elevation, 365 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles. Abandoned as a mining camp in the 1940s, it's been preserved in a state of arrested decay for the last six decades.

It's a time capsule that's frozen in time — and literally freezes in the winter, when it's frequently only accessible by snowmobile. Today, its 100 structures offer just a sliver of the gold-mining boomtown it once was. It's no longer the home to the "shooters" who were known as "The Bad Men of Bodie," nor to the other outcasts who were so lawless, they were buried in their own cemetery.

Here's where to find its hidden gems, explore the surviving remains of devastating fires and snowstorms that destroyed buildings and stole lives, and discover literally where the bodies are buried. Explore Bodie.

10. Wandering Through L.A.'s Other Parks

A castle-like building stands before a grassy patch and a paved loop. The building stands among tall palm trees. Above is a bright blue sky with small, fluffy clouds dotted sporadically.
Throngs of people visit Hollywood Forever and its Masonic Lodge every year for summertime cinema, indie rock concerts, and even comedy — all cultural events that really have nothing to do with death or dying. | Sandi Hemmerlein

In other places across the country and even around the world, they're known as "cemeteries," "graveyards" or "burial grounds." But in Los Angeles — where keeping up appearances really matters — they're known as "parks" or "memorial parks."

And while the distraction away from death makes them lovely places to visit — in some cases, with stunning architecture, beautiful landscaping, and even impressive art collections — you can't entirely escape the fact that you're also surrounded by the dead.

But you don't have to be haunted by the hereafter. Why not embrace both aspects of these incredibly lovely final resting places of some of our most famous Hollywood luminaries, dearest departed loved ones, and beloved pets who've passed? Among these five "other" parks, you'll find such highlights as one of the largest mausoleums in the country, the largest Buddhist pagoda in the U.S. (located in North America's largest cemetery) and the eternal home of "Leo" the MGM lion. Wander lovely final resting places here.

11. Where to Explore Iconic 'Devilish' Places in SoCal

Devil's Postpile
Devil's Postpile National Monument are well known for its columns of basalt formed during a volcanic period less than 100,000 years ago, feel forbidding, foreboding and maybe even verboten. | Frank Kovalchek/Creative Commons

The handiwork of the devil — the original fallen angel — doesn't just manifest in the Santa Ana Winds (a.k.a. the "Devil Wind") that sweep over the mountains in the fall and winter with a hot breath of hellish fury. Devilish deeds surely must also be the source of sinister SoCal sights named after Satan himself — from one of the Seven Portals to Hell to a hiking trail that seems to follow the ridge of Satan's spine. If you dare face the Angel of Darkness in all his glory, here are the five most diabolic SoCal adventures he seems to have inspired.

Support Provided By
Read More
A row of ice creams in cones.

We Asked, You Answered: Your Favorite Women-Owned Small Businesses

If you're missing a personal touch, creativity and curation, small businesses are the way to go. This holiday season, here are some women-owned shops to add to your list.