The Empty Grave keeps fear real in Anaheim
Article and Photos by: Scott Feinblatt
The Middle Path to Hellish Delights
To see additional photos of The Empty Grave, visit the Horror Works Facebook page.
Anaheim has got two associations
for most Los Angelenos. The first is
that it's where
Disneyland is
located; the second is that it's in
(gasp!) Orange County. For the
benefit of non-LA readers, OC is
generally regarded as a haven for
Christian right – a far cry from
the colorful cadre of characters that
make up the Los Angeles
demographic. Of course, there are
exceptions – after all, I live here.
Furthermore, of the many haunts
I've visited throughout the greater
LA area, one of my favorites is
located right here in Anaheim. It's
The Empty Grave.
Not far from Disneyland, there's an outdoor mall in the Anaheim Resort District called Anaheim GardenWalk. It's
comprised of restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater and miscellaneous shops, and for the last few years,
during the Halloween season, it's also been the location for The Empty Grave. This haunt is the brainchild of
Michael Talarico, who has been running the event for nine years (the first three were at The Block, in Orange,
and the last six have been at GardenWalk). Talarico's passion for running a haunt is evident from the
enthusiasm and commitment his maze performers as well as the fact that he, himself, dons a costume and stirs
up guests and passersby in the immediate area of the mall.
In addition to the lively and creative characters
who creep within and pop out from behind the
walls of The Empty Grave, the design is
ingenious on a number of levels. First, the sets
and overall design do not scream “high
production value”, but their construction and
the overall layout scheme are effective in
conjuring a highly satisfying experience for both
amateur and veteran haunt goers. Second, the
psychological experience of the guests is
expertly engineered. For starters, guests are
only admitted in groups of 2-3 people; beyond
that, the lighting is controlled in a way that
(outside the various vignettes and themed
rooms) the maze never becomes completely
blackened, so it feels like there's always the faintest bit of security, which is more effective in toying with emotions
than total darkness. There are many more machinations to this design, but they are best experienced firsthand.
The haunt industry is an interesting
one. Every year, major theme parks
pour big bucks into creating the latest
and greatest collection of whistles and
bells – employing Hollywood engineers
and massive marketing campaigns in
an effort to create The Greatest Show
on Earth. On the other end of the
spectrum, there are Mom and Pop
operations which are done out of love
on private property (and frequently
operate at no cost to the public).
Obviously, there are many
considerations in determining an
individual's preference for the ideal
experience on this spectrum. I, for one,
am attracted to creations that reflect
the passion of an inspired soul, and
somewhere within the spectrum of grassroots and Hollywood, I fell into The Empty Grave.