Oct 20, 2014

The Best Haunted Houses in Los Angeles

Halloween is in full swing! Here are some of the best haunts in Los Angeles:

House from PSYCHO - Halloween Horror Nights

1. Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Studios
One of the first things I did upon moving to LA? Hit up Halloween Horror Nights. For starters, having it take place at Universal Studios means they're going to get access to some of the best sets in the business. It's huge — depending on what type of pass you get, you may not be able to get through all of the houses. If you can, buy a VIP pass so you can hop the lines. (They get looooooong.)

The entire park is open, so if haunted houses aren't your thing, rides like The Simpsons, Transformers 3D, Jurassic Park and more are available. (Transformers is a ton of fun!) Beware, though. You don't need to hit up one of the mazes to experience some scares. Themed "Scare Zones" take over the streets of Universal, so you might might end up getting chased by clowns, a werewolf, or Jason. 

Must see: The Terror Tram is, hands down, always my favorite. You board the trams to the backlot of Universal, where some of your favorite movies and shows have been filmed: Desperate Housewives, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, War of the Worlds; PSYCHO. On the way there, a short film plays that prepares you for what's to come — one year the attraction was Chucky themed, so they created a "Chucky: True Hollywood Story" to watch. Once you get to the sets, you're forced off the tram and better start running — because people are coming after you. The past few years, the theme has been The Walking Dead, as Universal teamed up with AMC. This year, it sounds like they're adding actual scenes from the show. 

TIP: If you hit the Terror Tram, try to go right when the park opens or right before the ride closes. (It usually closes earlier than the other attractions.) The lines won't be as long and it's better to experience this without hoards of people around you. 

Blumhouse Productions

2. Blumhouse House of Horrors
I won passes to this two years ago and I'm bummed that I never made it. Producer Jason Blum created this haunted house — he is responsible for "I couldn't sleep for days afterwards" films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister.

Most reviews of this house are solid. There were slated "arrival times" for patrons who bought tickets, which helped limitate long wait times and lines. It's 40 minutes long, rather theatrical and offers an interactive element. However, some reviews state that it's more of a "watch and go" experience and that you're not actively involved in the experience.

Last year's house was themed after The Purge. (No, Jason didn't produce that one.) And apparently this Summer they opened Blumhouse again to promote The Purge: The Awakening.  Right now, they don't have anything slated for Halloween. Let's hope they have something in store!

TIPS/CONS: We have no ideas if Blumhouse will resurrect for 2014!

Yelp user Paolo H. 

3. PanIQ Room - UPDATE
I ventured to PanIQ Room on September 18th and the reviews are right — it's a completely unique experience.

I had initially booked at 7:00 slot for The Insane Asylum. I felt that The Bunker, which storyline includes your group being terrorists on the the search for their terrorist friend, was inappropriate and poorly timed, given current events. Never having received our room confirmation, I contacted them on Facebook. They let me know they doublebooked and that they only had a 7:30 Bunker slot available. The group was pretty set on going, so we took it.

The house is generally intimidating. You have no idea what you're going to be in for once you walk inside. Parking is in the horseshoe area next to the building (it looks like a vacant lot), or you can park in front of the house. I was slightly terrified to open up the door, having no idea what to expect, but it's just a lobby where you sign in.

Once everyone arrived and we got settled, we were told the rules. Don't destroy the room — nothing will need to be pulled off the floor or ripped apart. If we aren't as far as we should be, the attendant will walkie the team leader and help guide them. (They want you to have the full experience.)

I had heard The Bunker wasn't as exciting as The Asylum, or as detailed, but I have to say that our experience was exhilarating — if that wasn't detailed, then I can't wait to try The Insane Asylum.

We got out with about nine minutes to spare. We thought we would have finished earlier! But you get absolutely no instructions. You simply enter the room, the attendant gives you safety info, and that's it. The door locks and you're on your own.

I am not going to divulge any details, but I will say that because of recent events and the intensity of this particular experience, I did feel a little uneasy about 3/4 of the way through the process. Hopefully they'll get rid of certain things in The Bunker and edit this room so it's more PC.

PanIQ Room started over in Hungary and is considered a "live-action escape experience." Reading the site, this isn't meant to be a scare-filled attraction — great news for those of you with friends who won't step foot in a haunted house! It's an adrenaline-pumping event where you have to escape your assigned room within 60 minutes.

Yelp user Paolo H.
There are appointments everyday from 10AM to 12:00 midnight, for groups of six or smaller. You choose between two scenarios: The Bunker, where you are a part of terrorist group (I don't think this was the best decision on their part) or The Insane Asylum, where you're on a medical team trying to figure out the story of a past patient.

According to the site: "At this brand-new attraction, your party will be locked in a themed room where you'll rely solely on your wits and teammates to escape. You and your friends must solve a series of logic and skill puzzles using objects found throughout the room. After completing the final puzzle, you'll be free to go -- well, at least until next time."

I have a feeling I'm going to feel real dumb after this one. Ha. Sessions aren't longer than 60 minutes, but they finish as fast as you can solve the puzzle.

I don't know much about this. Questions I have: how do we get the information? Is it through actors or through letters left in the room? What's the live-action component?

Going to Yelp for answers: many have described the production value as "top notch" and said the atmosphere is "creepy." One Yelper concludes, "it's not so much about solving puzzles — it's about finding the right clues." Okay, good to know!

Right now there are only two experiences, but a few reviews mentioned they would be back to try the Mad Scientist room. Hmm...

TICKETS: Get a deal on Living Social! $79 for six people (regularly $159)
SHOWINGS: Daily from 10:00AM - 12:00 midnight

4. Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
I haven't been to the Haunted Hayride in years, and for a few reasons: I like to be scared, and I didn't find this scary at all. Back in 2009, there was a portion where you're dragged under a big top, and a bunch of psychotic heavy metal clowns come at you. Nothing to write home about.

However, this year there are a few new attractions: Purgatory (Haunted Village), The House of the Horsemen and Seven Sins Sideshow.

Purgatory: I don't believe Purgatory is new, but Theater Macabre (within Purgatory) is. This is where re-enactments of iconic horror movies take place. Additionally, there's the Scary Go-Round, Death Row Photo Room, Jack's Carving Shack and more.

The House of the Horsemen: the description of the site was pretty much nonsensical, so I believe this is an on-site haunted house.

Seven Sins Sideshow: Again, the description might as well not be there... but I'm guessing this is a live-action circus act!

If you have a group of teens or children, this might be your best bet.

I'm going at the beginning of October, so I will update accordingly.

TICKETS: $30 general admission; $42 all access (includes every attraction on site)
SHOWINGS: Starts October 3rd. 7:00 PM-12:00 midnight select dates; 7PM-10:30PM select dates.

5. Disneyland Halloween
A family-friendly event! If you haven't been to Disneyland during Halloween, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It's magical.

If you do anything, check out the Haunted Mansion for sure. They transform the mansion with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. And Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy a blast, too. Make sure you go see the goats who dress up for the occasion at Big Thunder Ranch as well.

TICKETS: $96 for Disneyland Park, $150 for Park Hopper ticket (Disneyland + California Adventure)
SHOWINGS: September 12th - October 31st

I have a complex about being alone. I think it has to do with the fact that Alice in Wonderland really freaked me out as a child — I hated that she was roaming around by herself with creepy characters harassing her! Leading her astray... and being a major pain in the ass. Nobody wants to help her and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, SHE'S A CHILD! Guide her! Damn. (The Cheshire Cat appears in my worst nightmares.) 

That being said, these next two houses are solo adventures, meaning you can go with a group, but you will go through the experience alone. I heard about both of these last year and considered going, but immediately put the kibosh on that idea after reading reviews. I do well in groups — I'll even lead the pack — but do not make me go alone! 

Blackout started in NYC and came to LA. Now it's available in Chicago. I became infatuated with this haunt and read probably every review possible... I had to know more if I were to entertain the idea of pissing myself in public. (Clearly the A+ reviews weren't enough to sway me.) 

SPOILERS: Don't read if you don't want to know some happenings that could occur during your time at Blackout.

More than being alone, I've heard revolting, crude things about this particular haunted house. In addition to waterboarding and picking a key out of vomit, I've heard people witnessing simulated rape, having to suck on bloody tampons and various other gag-worthy simulations.

Cracked.com gave a full, detailed account of the haunt in 2012, so you can learn more about what happens at Blackout and whether or not it's worth subjecting yourself to demoralization and trauma.

... Yeah, after re-reading that, my "never going to Blackout" stance has been solidified. I like scaring myself, and part of me wants to prove I'm braver than all this hubbaloo, but I'm having anxiety just reading a few paragraphs on the internet with all the lights on. Also, I'm not going to support rape in any form.

TICKETS: Details coming soon. Probably around $50 if based on previous years.
SHOWINGS: Nothing on the site as of 9/4, except for an announcement that they're working with Queens of the Stone Age on a version of Blackout on Halloween night at The Forum. It's sold out, though.

Instagram user @aloneexperience

Hopefully the link works for you. As I type, it won't load, which is freaking me out. (Scaring myself.) I hopped on over to their Facebook page and 25 seconds before they pasted this weird photo of a bunch of numbers (a code?). Which is unsettling to say the least.

Update: Link is working now. Here's what Alone is, in their own words:
Alone is an immersive and artistic exploration of fear, loneliness and self preservation.
Considering I am most terrified to be alone (not by choice), I'm not going to fair well at this house. Reviews say it's about 30 minutes long and you'll be given a safe word and a flashlight. Oh yeah, and if you haven't figured it out by now, you're alone. Nobody to cling to. Many compare this to Blackout. Some say it's more horrifying; others claim it's not as intense.

They call you by your name, sometimes your photo is involved... patrons have claimed they were "traumatized," "baffled," and even "turned on." Hmm...

Last year's event was Downtown and one patron said they were told that one of the SAW movies was filmed at the location. So everything I'm sure was just peachy

As with any thrilling haunt, the actors are allowed to touch you, thus a release form is required. You will not find out the address of the experience until the day of your show.

TICKETS: Price for 2014 unannounced, but last year they were $
SHOWINGS: Only available information at this time is that general sale will be available on October 5th.

I had heard a lot about this play, but didn't have the balls to go. Actually, I take that back. I would have gone, but I can hardly find anyone that has the balls to go with me! 

This immediately attracted me because they weren't positioning it as a house. In fact, when asked if it's a haunted house? "Hell no!" was the response. They consider it an "interactive horror theater."

You are a part of the play, making it more interactive. (You're not just passing by and watching.) Neil Patrick Harris tweeted about how great it was, so that's how I found out about it. (I think he might produce it, or has once in the past.) I took to Yelp to read some of the patron's reviews, and knew I needed to go ASAP! (It didn't happen, though.)

The man who created it, Jon Braver, is a Hollywood stunt coordinator, so thrills are a package deal with this haunted drama. You're in a group, and many Yelpers who have reviewed say you will be 1) running, 2) crawling, 3) you'll be in the dark for some situations and 4) stairs may be involved. Additionally, the actors will be able to touch you. The part that freaked me out the most is that some people will be pulled away from the group to finish certain "tasks." Who knows what those are, but being alone is enough to give me the chills. I have read various times that you have to volunteer to be separated, but I can't confirm that. There's a psychological element to this play, as puzzles are involved. 

Mostly, people brag about the actors, how long it was (about an hour) and the set design. They say the environment and atmosphere is what sets this attraction apart from the rest — I'm all about high production quality, which makes me even more eager to go this year.

Apparently there were some permit issues last year, so they were unable to serve alcohol. I'm always 50/50 on booze... I feel like I need to be 100% sober so I can navigate these houses at my best, but then again, maybe the booze will help take the edge off. 

This year, the theme is Delusion: Lies Within. The story follows the disappearance of an acclaimed author and takes place in a 108-year-old mansion.

TICKETS: $60 with fees. If buying six or more, enter "sixcount" and checkout and get 10% off your purchase.
SHOWINGS: Every half hour from 7:00PM-12:30 AM

TIP: Yelpers consensus - wear running shoes and avoid bringing a purse, if possible. If you're clausterphobic, you might want to sit this one out. Groups can be 10-12 people, so if yours is smaller, you might be paired with strangers. 

CONS: You may not enjoy other Halloween attractions after partaking in this adventure — so acknowledge it or save this as one of your last Halloween experiences! 

Oct 18, 2014

Halloween Inspiration 2014

Halloween is such a special time for me. Most of you know that I grew up having an annual Halloween party, from kindergarten to senior year of high school. My house was always festively decorated, thanks to my precious mother. I loved the thrill of this scary, mysterious and enchanting season. I also loved being able to express myself through makeup.

At work, I'm able to create looks for our viewers to replicate at home. From the novice to the expert beauty guru, we've created a great selection of costumes, whether you're ready to get decked out or just want to add a little Halloween flair.

1. Five Halloween nail art designs « 2. Bohemian fairy makeup « 3. Lady Gaga 'Applause' makeup « 4. How to create your own claw manicure at home « 5. iKat Halloween manicure « 6 & 7. Skull makeup « 8. Webby Woman « 9. Veronica Lake pinup tutorial (hair and makeup) « 10. Taylor Swift zombie makeup. Turn any of your favorite celebrities into a zombie! « 11. My favorite of the 2014 season: Fang Fatale. (Coming soon.) « 12. Leopard lady « 13. A Purr-fect black cat manicure. (Coming soon.)

Oct 6, 2014

Instagram Spotlight: The Best LA Furniture Accounts

Instagram has been a whirlwhind for me. I remember resisting for as long as possible, barely keeping my feed alive, and now I'm addicted. I had my NFL crush follow me (and a year later, subsequently, unfollow me - traumatizing!) and managed to nab a follow from Chrissy Teigen, queen of social media herself. I will be an emotional mess if (when?) she decides to hit that unfollow button. But that's not why Instagram is so fantastic — if you think about it, it's basically your own personal Oprah lighting crew. (Everyone knows Oprah's lighting is THE BEST.)

Recently, I've realized the benefits of Instagram, other than sharing photos with my friends and family who don't live in LA and stalking randos who you may never meet in person (let's get real, we were all thinking it): you can find some great pieces of furniture if you follow the right accounts! Below are a few that I've personally purchased from or plan on purchasing from soon.

I believe Whiskey and Honey started following me based on this post, so I followed back. I have been nothing short of thrilled! They offer everything from vintage housewares to clothing items, and I just bought the cutest vintage two pocket, buttonless, yellow wool blend cardigan. I'll let you know how it goes (meaning the quality), but purchasing has been a cinch. You comment with your email and zip code, then they invoice you through Paypal. You have 24 hours to pay, or it goes back on the market. Pretty cool.

And, side note — I literally just figured this out as I write this update — I went to high school with the owner! This is NUTS. I have not talked to this woman in probably 10 years, but I just bought a wool blend cardigan from her small business, on the internet, from my couch. Hoorah, Georgetown, Texas!

One producer on my team mentioned that I should start following Sunday Marqt, as I was on the quest for a shabby chic bedside table and coffee table. A few weeks later, I ended up buying this adorable milk storage cabinet for a bedside table and I'm absolutely obsessed. The best part? I emailed them around 6:00 and they delivered it straight to my apartment for $10 in under an hour.
My mom is rapidly approaching Kris Jenner is the "Momager" category, because in addition to being on my case about my career goals (I am very thankful for this, mind you), she's been helping to spot furniture as we outfit our apartment. I'm a true Capricorn in that I love anything that's vintage or has been refurbished, which means flea markets and Craigslist are my best friends. (As is Anthropologie, except that's more of a "love everything/my wallet hates you" type of relationship.) Mom stumbled upon a listing from NAK Home on Craiglist, and I followed them on Instagram per their post. We ended up walking away with this gorgeous shabby chic entertainment center and coffee table! They've inspired me to repaint my dining room table and a few mirrors we have around the apartment, too. Their storage facility is based in Culver City, and you'll need to pick the items up yourself. 

I haven't bought anything from James and Frankie yet, but I love their assortment of upholstered furniture. I'm actually in the market for a few chairs for the living room... I hope they have a few similar to these available soon!

I stumbled upon Krrb from James and Frankie, mostly because the name caught my attention. :) Their site isn't LA-centric. In fact, they have listings from all over the U.S. Apparently I'm late to the game on this site, because it's been featured in The Huffington Post. I haven't bought anything yet, but their posts on Instagram have me giddy about making a purchase.

If you've been on Fairfax on a Sunday, you've experienced the masses that head to Melrose Trading Post. It takes place in the parking lot of Fairfax High School and you've can find anything you've ever dreamed of there: clothing, jewelry, homemade and local food, and of course furniture. You can easily pick up some one-of-a-kind finds here, each containing a rich history and authenticity you can't find anywhere else. (Unless you are capable of shipping directly from France for this old school telephone seat.)

If you have other Instagram recommendations... what are you waiting for? Let me know in the comments below! And don't forget to follow each of these lovely accounts.
@kirbiejohnson :)

Sep 12, 2014

British Music Festivals That Are Infinitely Cooler Than U.S. Music Festivals

Maybe it's my infatuation with British culture. Maaaybe it's because I live in Southern California, so Coachella is the preverbial beaten dead horse. But I feel like music festivals in Britain are so much better.

Don't get me wrong — ACL is fantastic, and I've heard rave reviews of Lolla and Governors Ball, but whenever I see photos from across the pond, I get an overwhelming sense of "this is a magical music land!" and not "these people are all there to take selfies and wear flower crowns."

That being said, I know I'm not in the thick of these Brit fests (hopefully nexty year!), so I'm sure there's a whole slew of things people hate that happen at those festivals... but we're not here to talk about that.

If you're deciding to hit a festival, here are the major music weekends over in the UK.

Radio 1'S Big Weekend
If you're not familiar with Radio 1, it pity you. Besides being the home of two of my favorite DJ's, Nick "Grimmy" Grimshaw and Fearne Cotton (MAH GIRL), it's also the station responsible for giving us gems like these from their Live Lounge:

First things first: this is my dream job. Hosting a show and getting bands to do covers like this.

Can Sam Smith just stop already? He's making it hard for anyone else to compete with him. And this cover of "What Makes You Beautiful" by The 1975 — who I might actually be an offical groupie of at this point — makes the One Direction song tolerable for people who hate bubblegum pop.

This year, Radio 1's Big Weekend was held in Glasgow, and the headliners are enough to make a woman go mental:

Headlining was Coldplay, Tiesto and Katy Perry — but don't get it twisted, because they had major artists proceeding them: ONE DIRECTION (love), Ed, The 1975, Rita Ora, Kings of Leon, Bastille... Calvin Harris, and my girl Lily Allen.

By the way, if you haven't get Sheezus - one of my favorite albums this year. L8 COMMR is my top pick. I used it in my reel! And if you haven't had a chance to see her live, you'll be able to watch one of her shows online, tomorrow, September 13th. Lils really bring it out on stage... it's hard not to love her. I know she had some drama back in the day with the tabloids, but she's uber talented. (That's the end of my LA PSA.)

Back to Big Weekend: we should have seen the "In New Music We Trust" stage lineup. London Grammar, Clean Bandit, XO, Kasabian, The Kooks; Lorde. I wouldn't want to miss any of these acts. Phenomenal.

I know that Coachella and other U.S. fests are great because there's a wide array of music with hundreds of artists and bands, but it's rare that I see a lineup and start strategizing how to see every band that performs.

iTunes Festival
I'm shocked that iTunes Festival didn't make it's US debut until this year. Over in London, this is a month-long music festival. HELLO? One month for one festival. I would be exhausted, as I would be depraved of all sleep, and probably broke from taking off work and spending all my money tickets.

Held in Camden Town, the festival is this month — September. Each day, 2-3 artists or bands perform.

Here's a look at a few dates — this is an amazing lineup. David Guetta, Jessie J, Rudimental, PLACEBO — I'm getting flashbacks of high school just looking at the name. David Gray, Foy Vance and Lenny "Cinna" Kravitz.

Additionally, what's awesome about this festival is that you can watch it online, should you not be able to attend. (Might help with that bank account situation.) And because it's streaming through iTunes, you know it's going to be better than the bush league antics other stations have set up.

V Festival
V in V festival standards for Virgin Media, aka the mecca in terms of music and flying. This festival just went down in August and the one feature of this fest that separates it from most is that it's held in two different parks. So one bill plays one park on Saturday, when swaps with the other bill for Sunday.

The 18-year-old event has five stages, and Virgin Media has partnered with MTV on this one, giving them not only a stage but also the accessability to broadcast the lineup. This festival is known to be way more commercial than the others, but who cares! They can be. They've got Justin Timberlake and The Killers headlining.

Lily, Ed, Rudimental and Sam (the festival darlings) all performed as well.

I'd say Glastonbury is most on par with US festivals. Tons of tents and stages, so if you're not interested in seeing a band, you can head over for some DJ action. People camp out. It's a spectacle.

Originally a blues festival that launched the day after Jimi Hendrix died, this festival encompasses all kinds of music: EDM, pop, alternative, rap, etc. In addition to all of the music you can consume, the festival is chock full of art installations, too.


Which ones did I miss? Let me know!

Thanks to my friends at Yahoo! Live for sponsoring this post. 

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