A crisp chill settles into the air and a palpable sense of excitement sweeps through Orange County as the season of thrills and spooks arrives. It’s that time of the year when ghosts, ghouls, and all things eerie come to life. From quivering encounters with the unknown to bone-chilling tales of apparitions, Orange County holds an array of attractions that are sure to send shivers down your spine.
So, let’s delve into the depths of the county’s most haunted spots – a journey that will challenge your senses and test your courage. It’s time to get your spook on!
#1 Bowers Museum
2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706
The Bowers Museum, founded in 1936, has long captivated and educated visitors with its rich exhibits on local and global art, history, and culture. However, when the crowds retreat and the sun sets, tales of eerie encounters emerge, hinting at something else that may inhabit the museum as well. The Bowers was never the site of a graveyard but there have been reports of paranormal activity over the years.
Some of the most common reports include footsteps and voices heard in empty galleries, doors opening and closing by themselves, objects moving on their own, and apparitions and shadows seen by visitors and staff. Notably, these occurrences often center around the collections storage area of the museum. It’s said that some of the ancient and most valuable artifacts are housed in this area, which led people to believe that this may attract paranormal activity.
While Bowers Museum officially shuns claims of hauntings, it offers a special “Haunted OC After Hours Tour” during the Halloween season, allowing you to explore the paranormal history and legends of the museum. For more information about this tour, including ticket prices, dates, and times, click here.
#2 Knott’s Scary Farm
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620
Knott’s Scary Farm is the most haunting and longest-running Halloween theme park event in Southern California. As night falls, the peaceful atmosphere of Knott’s Berry Farm morphs into a sinister playground of nightmares.
The ten Scary Farm mazes are infamous for their frightening intensity and immersive environments, with grotesque creatures lurking around every corner. The Scary Farm also presents four eerie shows and five scare zones, including the original and still most terrifying Ghost Town Street. For those seeking an extra dose of adrenaline, the Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny takes on an added layer of fright in the dark.
Amidst the macabre experience, Scary Farm offers themed foods and drinks that are to die for, including Jack-o’-Lantern Brownie, Witches Cupcake, The Mac and Cheese Pepperoni Pizza, and Dreadful Drinks. Remember that Knott’s Scary Farm is not recommended for children under 13. Additional details and ticket prices can be found here.
#3 Black Star Canyon
13333 Black Star Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676
Black Star Canyon is known by many across Southern California and in Orange County but it’s also known to be more than just its family-friendly trails and wide open spaces. It has been the site of numerous negative events in history, cult activities, paranormal events, and cryptid sightings compared to other Southern California’s canyons.
Some of the most widely known legends of Black Star include the Santiago Sam (bigfoot/sasquatch of the Santa Ana Mountains), the Black Star Waddlers (Dwarves), La Llorona (Weeping Woman/The Wailer), and The Lady in White. Satanic rituals and cult activity have long been associated with the canyon and hikers have reported bloody objects, satanic imagery, chalk pentagrams, and more.
Sightings of Native American ghosts have also been reported since the canyon was once home to a Native American village which was also the site of several skirmishes. Many believe that the hauntings are related to the canyon’s violent history and some believe that animals may be responsible for the strange noise and sightings. Ultimately, the stories and eerie atmosphere, especially at night, are perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.
#4 The 17th Door
8420 On the Mall, Buena Park, CA 90620
The 17th Door is a highly immersive attraction that uses special effects and state-of-the-art technology to create a truly terrifying experience. The haunt is known for its intricate costumes and sets and is not for the faint of heart.
This year, they feature a horrendous prison-themed haunt run by sadistic engineers who use unorthodox methods to treat the evils of humanity. Either you escape from the prisoners who are thirsty for blood or cry for mercy. For a more intense experience, I recommend you add on The Field Trip — a 50-minute (part walk-thru, part drive-thru) scare where your group will be taken to a remote, off-site location in a customized passenger van.
Due to the nature and intense environments of the attraction, The 17th Door is recommended for adults and teens ages 16+ and all participants will be required to sign a Waiver/Release. Additional details and ticket prices can be found here.
#5 Stanley Haus
8 Oak Ridge Cir, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Two and a half decades ago, the Stanley family. began a simple Halloween tradition to connect with their neighbors which now turns into something magical. Their journey has led them to host amazing house decorating contests and Halloween Block Parties year after year.
Their entire block, all eight homes, are united to present a single, spellbinding theme for the entire month of October. However, it’s not just about the eerie as they also set up a charity for the Marines at Camp Pendleton, a great way of giving back to those who serve our country. This year’s theme is Nightmare Before Christmas, complete with a giant 13 ft. animatronic Jack Skellington and the man-eating wreath.
I highly recommend strolling through the neighborhood to take in the spooky sight. This attraction is free of charge which makes it an ideal excursion for the whole family, but donations are more than welcome.
#6 Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano
Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Los Rios Street is one of California’s oldest residential streets still in existence. Some believe that the hauntings on this street are related to the fact that it was once a popular route for people heading to and from the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The street was lined with taverns and inns in the early days, and it’s said that many people died there, either from violence or accidents.
One of the most common sightings on Los Rios Street is the “white lady”, who materializes in fog, dressed in a long white dress, likes to call attention to herself and appears near the giant pepper tree north of the Rios Adobe. The Rios Adobe has ghostly footsteps, the Ramos House is known for its poltergeist activity, and strange lights and chanting were sometimes reported from the Montanez Adobe. Additionally, it also has the Pryor House (now the O’Neill Museum), where Albert Pryor’s ghost is sometimes seen rocking on the front porch, wearing a gray sweater.
Whether they are spirits or ghosts, San Juan Capistrano has the highest number of sightings per capita compared to other places in Orange County. San Juan Capistrano Historical Society hosts an annual Ghosts & Legends Tour. For more information about this tour, including ticket prices, dates, and times, click here.
Now that we’ve uncovered the most haunted Halloween attractions in Orange County, I want to hear from you! Have you experienced any of these ghoulish encounters, or do you have other terrifying tales to share?
Perhaps you have insider tips for fellow thrill-seekers. Leave a comment below and let’s keep the spirit of Halloween alive in the OC!