No need to go anywhere else for a Halloween haunt. Crescenta Valley has lots to offer.
By Mary O’KEEFE
After a nine-year hiatus, the Haunted Jail is back.
Most who have lived in Crescenta Valley for over 10 years will remember the Haunted Jail either from walking through it or volunteering to work on it. It was a legendary CV event produced by the CV Sheriff’s volunteers and deputies.
“The [topic] came up in Community Relations of what we can do at the station to [reach out] to the [public] so they can learn about us and we get to know [the community],” said Sgt. Cynthia Gonzales.
Gonzales has been at the CV Station for 16 years. The Community Relations discussion she had included the station’s captain Bill Song.
“I brought up the Haunted Jail,” she said.
From her research Gonzales learned the event began in 1991 with the last one held in 2005. She remembered how popular it was with the community and thought it would be a great outreach. Song agreed with her and said, “We should bring it back.”
Gonzales found of those who were involved with the event years ago some were still with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. and some were not. She has a binder full of information on how to pull it together and who helped in the past.
“It has been fun,” she said of bringing the event back to the station. “In the past it had been all [LASD] reserves and deputies, along with some high school kid volunteers.”
But because this was an outreach effort, Gonzales reached out to the community to help with the design and production.
CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) organizers Paul and Lisa Dutton along with members of the Prom Plus Club and the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation joined the Haunted Jail Committee with the LASD. Mark Shelton and Mark Fenlason from the film industry and special effects joined the team to help with the design.
Both Shelton and Fenlason have a background in horror films and haunted houses.
“For the last 20 years I have been involved with the Universal Halloween Horror Nights,” Fenlason said.
In addition to working with Universal Studios, Fenlason also produced his own haunted house for 18 years.
Everything that Shelton and Fenlason learned from their years of experience is being used for the Haunted Jail.
Fenlason, whose nickname in haunted circles is “Red Dog,” considers scaring people an art form and a study in psychology.
“You have one person scream and that sets another person screaming [and so on],” he said.
He has had people go through his haunted houses and loved the scare; others have been almost catatonic and needed guidance to the exit.
Fenlason said that one important aspect to any haunted house is safety, to provide enough exits for those who are too scared to move on and to make certain everyone enjoys the event.
“It’s not hard to scare someone, it is hard to scare them safely,” he said.
The rear of the CV Sheriff’s Station will be transformed into several rooms, each with its own scare theme. The story that will guide visitors through is the legend of why the Haunted Jail ended nine years ago. A film with some of that information will be displayed to put audiences in the mood.
Both Shelton and Fenlason found their love of all things haunted by working with legendary special effects guru Bob Burns. For years, Burns created a haunted themed event in front of his home in Burbank, bringing in volunteers from the film industry.
“Bob is a hero of mine,” Fenlason said. “We are doing this as a follow-up from what we learned from him.”
The Haunted Jail is a fundraiser that will benefit the CV Sheriff’s Support Group, L.A. County Parks and Rec and Prom Plus.
“In 2005 the tickets were $7 and that cost is the same [in 2014],” Gonzales said. “We didn’t want to raise the ticket prices.”
Bringing the Haunted Jail back to the community has been a team effort with a total of nearly 100 people volunteering throughout the process.
Shelton attended the Haunted Jail years ago; Fenlason did not and is impressed with the level of volunteerism.
“[Working with the sheriffs] is unprecedented,” he said. “It speaks volumes of the community to have so much support from [LASD].”
The Haunted Jail is located at the CV Sheriff’s Station at 4554 Briggs Ave. on Oct. 29, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Friday, Oct. 31 there will be a Twilight Children’s Show for a younger audience with lights on from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Also on Friday there will be a carnival located in the Sheriff’s Station parking lot. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $5 for the Twilight Show.
The CV community is used to going all out for the holidays, including Halloween. It is not uncommon to see neighbors who have everything from scary and creatively decorated lawns to those who have devoted their entire home to scaring their community during Halloween.
One of the best-known haunted homes is in Whiting Woods. For 13 years, this group of haunted enthusiasts has created an elaborate haunted house, first on Vista Court and then in Whiting Woods.
“This year, it’s kind of like a fairy tale theme with zombies,” said David Krohn, the homeowner who opens his imagination and his home for the community.
“We will have a gingerbread house with witches and we have an enchanted forest,” he said.
His fellow designers include Gary Trousdale, Steve Trousdale, Alan Bernhoft and Geoff Deboskey. These five men dedicate a lot of time, effort and creativity to scaring as many people as they can.
“Gary has been doing haunted houses for 30 years,” Krohn said. “We love Halloween.”
Admission to the Nightmare in Whiting Woods, 413 Whiting Woods Drive is free. Doors are open on Halloween night from sunset to 11 p.m. Property Masters Realty sponsors the attraction.
“It is part of what we do, we want … to do stuff for our community to keep Halloween local,” he said. “We want people to stay in the neighborhood.”
Another tradition in the Crescenta Valley is Spooktacular, a place where kids can trick-or-treat safely. Montrose Shopping Park Assn. sponsors the event. Merchants and local organizations give out candy to the costumed children that walk along the avenue.
Montrose Halloween Spooktacular will weave its magic in the 2200, 2300 and 2400 blocks of Honolulu Avenue on Halloween night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to the MSPA website.