South Pasadena Rialto Theater Among 10 L.A. Landmarks Made Even More Famous by Hollywood Horror Flicks


Here are the ten best horror film locations in Los Angeles — including how to visit them, what you can see today and how they match up with their appearances on the spooky silver screen.

According to legend, the city of Los Angeles serves as the stomping grounds for the spirits of some pretty prominent historical figures — and boy, do they get around. (I'm talking about you, Rudolph Valentino, Harry Houdini and Howard Hughes.) It's hard to talk about any historic L.A. building without hearing at least a ghost story or two!

But the "creep factor" that many of us get from Los Angeles landmarks isn't from actual hauntings — but Hollywood ones. Horror film crews have set up shop in our abandoned hospitals, along our suburban-looking streets and at our natural landmarks for over 100 years.

And fortunately, there are lots of them that you can still visit today — whether you're hoping to encounter or avoid the monsters, creatures, slashers, aliens, ghosts, or goblins that may dwell there.

Here are the ten best horror film locations in Los Angeles — including how to visit them, what you can see today and how they match up with their appearances on the spooky silver screen.

1. Malibou Lake, Agoura Hills — from "Frankenstein"

1/2 Malibou Lake, located in Agoura Hills, was a stand-in for the Bavarian Alps in the 1931 classic monster film, "Frankenstein." | Sandi Hemmerlein

The remote area of Santa Monica Mountains near present-day Agoura Hills was largely inaccessible to many until 1925 — when William Mulholland opened up a highway that allowed motorists to drive from Los Angeles to Malibu (a.k.a. Mulholland Highway). Hollywood caught on quickly — because as early as 1931, film crews headed to the area to film the Universal Pictures monster classic "Frankenstein."

The "lake" where Frankenstein's monster meets a little girl in the Bavarian Alps is actually a manmade reservoir known as Malibou Lake. It was originally part of a private mountain residential community known as Malibou Lake Club or Malibou Lake Mountain Club, formed by the Malibu Lake Club Dam at the confluence of two creeks — the still-wet Medea Creek, which runs through Paramount Ranch and Triunfo Creek.

Today, Malibou Lake is still a private lakeside community with rustic, historic cabins and a circa 1936 clubhouse. The "lodge," as it's now called, and its surrounding areas are available for event rentals — but if you're not getting married anytime soon, you can also shoot a film or TV episode there (it also served as a location in other horror films like "The Ring" and "I Married a Monster From Outer Space"). Or, just drive along Lake Vista Drive from where it splits off from Mulholland Highway and you'll get an eye-full of the lake, the lodge and the stone pillars of the original gateway. Please note that the water, lawns and grounds are otherwise for club members only.

2. Franklin Canyon Lake, Franklin Canyon Park — from "Creature from the Black Lagoon"

1/3 Franklin Canyon Lake most famously served as Mayberry’s fishin’ pond in "The Andy Griffith Show" and the lagoon where “Gill Man” lived in Universal’s "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954). | Sandi Hemmerlein

Another famous "horror lake" can be found near the so-called "Center of Los Angeles" — at Franklin Canyon Park, whose circa 1914 reservoir has most famously served as Mayberry's fishin' pond in "The Andy Griffith Show" and the lagoon where "Gill Man" lived in Universal's "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954).

You can get to the lake — a.k.a. "Upper Franklin Reservoir" — by hiking the Ranch Trail off of Lake Drive (where there's an official parking area), by parking near the Blinderman Trailhead off Franklin Canyon Drive, or by parking in the large lot for the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom and Sooky Goldman Nature Center.

Note that this park gets extremely crowded on weekends and parking is limited, especially in dirt turnouts and along the side of the road. Beware of pedestrians in the road — and while you're exploring on foot, make sure your dog is leashed. Unfortunately, you can't look for a "creature" of your own in the lake — as boating, swimming and fishing are prohibited.

3. Cahuenga Library, East Hollywood — from "A Nightmare on Elm Street"

1/3 Horror film buffs know Cahuenga Library best not for its stacks of books, but for its façade — which served as the 5th Precinct police station in the original 1984 "A Nightmare on Elm Street." | Sandi Hemmerlein

Built in 1916, Cahuenga Branch Library on Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood is the third-oldest among the Los Angeles Public Library branches. But horror fanatics know it best not for its stacks, but for its façade — which served as the 5th Precinct police station in the original 1984 "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Designed by architect Clarence H. Russell and funded by Andrew Carnegie, it's one of only three remaining Carnegie Libraries in Los Angeles. It's both a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and a nationally-registered landmark.

It's open to the public Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Sundays. There's a large surface parking lot in the rear of the building (open during library hours) and metered parking out front and alongside streets. To see it as it appears in the film, stand across the street (on the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard) or directly out front. You can even climb the stairs for a shot-for-shot recreation of the movie.

4. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood — from "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors"

1/5 Located on the UCLA campus, Royce Hall hosts performances offered by the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA as well as other programming partners. But in the 1987 horror sequel "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," it serves as Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital.

Located on the UCLA campus at the top of the Janss Steps and past the Shapiro Fountain, Royce Hall is part of the academic quadrangle of the original (now "old") campus, which was built on top of an old sheep pasture. It's the largest and most grandiose of those original four buildings (hence, "quad") — designed in 1927 by brothers James Edward Allison and David Clark Allison as the main administration and classroom building of the UCLA campus.

In real life, Royce Hall offers a place to see performances offered by the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA as well as other programming partners. But in the 1987 horror sequel "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," serves as Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital — where the Elm Street children and their dreams are being studied. Its iconic tower is where Freddy Krueger manipulates a sleepwalking patient to fall to his death.

In the film, you see characters walking through the arches and between the columns of the cloistered colonnade and lots of long shots of the exterior, which was designed to mimic the 11th-century Romanesque style of the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan. Attend a show there, and you might be able to walk out onto the Ahmanson Terrace, just outside of the West Lobby, to get an even more unique view of the structure and its architectural details.

5. Ennis House, Los Feliz — from "House on Haunted Hill"

1/3 The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House (a.k.a. the Ennis-Brown House) secured its place in Hollywood horror history with its imposing presence in the 1959 Vincent Price classic "House on Haunted Hill." | Sandi Hemmerlein

Sometimes recognized for its role in "Blade Runner," the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House (a.k.a. the Ennis-Brown House) secured its place in Hollywood horror history with its imposing presence in the 1959 Vincent Price classic "House on Haunted Hill" — starting right from its opening sequence.


A Walk Through the 'Blade Runner' House

You can recognize this striking estate because of its concrete textile block architecture, whose relief ornamentation is reminiscent of ancient Mayan temples — a style Wright referred to as "California Romanza." Originally built out of 27,000 concrete blocks (manufactured onsite) for Charles and Mabel Ennis in 1924, it's been remodeled several times in the last 98 years, including some work to plug up some leaks and secure any concrete that's started to crumble. (Much of the most recent work was done under the direction of billionaire Ron Burkle, who purchased it from the now-defunct Ennis House Foundation in 2011.)

The 6,000-square foot house most recently sold to its current private owner (an LLC in the cannabis industry) in 2019, so it's not open to the public except by special arrangement for group tours (usually school groups, architecture and history clubs, and the like). However, you can experience it just as it was depicted in "House on Haunted Hill" — simply by taking a look from the street and sidewalk or spotting it in the hills while on a hike in Griffith Park.

The Complexities of Cross-Cultural Appropriation in Frank Lloyd Wright's Textile Block Houses

6. San Fernando Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, Sylmar — from "Plan 9 from Outer Space"

When you visit San Fernando Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, it might seem like there isn't actually much to see. But take a tour offered by the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, which manages the 3.8-acre burial site, and you'll learn that its seeming emptiness is actually its astounding characteristic. Many of the grave markers have been lost, stolen, or destroyed — so you can't see where most of its interred were buried (500+ burials in total) since it was founded in the 1870s as Morningside Cemetery.

The second-oldest cemetery in the San Fernando Valley, the last person was buried there in 1939, after which it was abandoned. It's landmarked both at the state and city level — but it's probably most famous to horror fans for its starring role in the Ed Wood cult classic "Plan 9 from Outer Space," in which aliens invade the San Fernando Valley (and flying saucers hovering over the graveyard). The cemetery even screened the film in 2019 for its 60th anniversary.

Open houses with guided tours are held monthly on the third Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. The cemetery also observes Memorial Day annually with a special free ceremony.

7. Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena — from "Scream 2"

1/2 While the auditorium scenes of "Scream 2" were shot at the Vista in Los Feliz, the exterior and lobby/snack bar scenes were shot at the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena. | Escott O. Norton - Friends of the Rialto

The second installment in the "Scream film franchise," "Scream 2," focuses on the release of "Stab" — the film-within-a-film that depicts the horrors that happened to Neve Campbell's character Sidney Prescott in the first "Scream" film. While the auditorium scenes were shot at the Vista in Los Feliz, the exterior and lobby/snack bar scenes were shot at the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena.

The façade and marquee look a little different now than they did in the 1997 sequel, as they recently underwent some restoration work and got a new paint job in consultation with Friends of the Rialto. And although "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" screened here for 30 years, its main tenant is currently a religious and not a cinematic one — the Mosaic church (which also completely renovated the lobby and former concessions area).

The Rialto originally opened during the spooky season in 1925 (on October 17 to be exact) and has been the subject of a number of ghost stories — so even just a visit to its Spanish Baroque style exterior (by architect Lewis A. Smith, who also worked on the Vista) is worth your while. To see the vintage interior of the auditorium (which is no more), you can also watch the 2018 horror anthology "Nightmare Cinema," which was shot inside.

8. Doheny Mansion, Mount Saint Mary's University, West Adams — from "Drag Me to Hell"

The Doheny campus of Mount Saint Mary's University utilizes a lot of historic old buildings, particularly along Chester Place, one of the first gated communities in Los Angeles — including the other mansion made famous by the Doheny family. Oil baron Edward Doheny Sr. purchased the 22-room mansion at 8 Chester Place in 1901, renovated it extensively over the following year and raised his children there — including Ned, who in his adult years moved into his own home in Beverly Hills, now known as Greystone Mansion.

This Doheny mansion — with its French Chateauesque style, mixed with Gothic, Moorish and California Mission elements — is certifiably creepy enough to be suitable for any horror flick. But in the 2009 Sam Raimi film "Drag Me to Hell," it really shines as the "Pasadena" mansion of a medium who tries to cast out a demon from a young boy and — well, you can guess what happens next by the title of the film.

The interior is accessible on occasional docent-led tours — although Mount Saint Mary's has suspended all public tours for 2021 (and the 2022 schedule has not yet been announced). The Da Camera Society also performs occasional chamber music concerts under the stunning Tiffany glass dome — so keep an eye out for when its performance schedule resumes.

9. Wattles Mansion, Hollywood — from Ghoulies

1/4 The Wattles Mansion served as the run-down protagonist’s mansion in the 1984 horror-comedy flick "Ghoulies," though the building has been well cleaned up since filming. | Sandi Hemmerlein

The Wattles Mansion today looks a lot more cleaned-up than it does as the run-down protagonist's mansion in the 1984 horror-comedy flick "Ghoulies" (though it's instantly recognizable from its three large archways facing the lawn's south slope). That's because the Wattles Estate (a.k.a. "Jualita") hadn't been lived in since the late Gurdon Wallace Wattles' son sold it to the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks as a historic site in the 1960s — and the filmmakers had captured it in a pretty serious state of decline.

But when it was built by the architectural team of Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey in 1907 — in the City of Hollywood, which was still mostly farmland —this Spanish Revival residence was so fabulous and postcard-worthy, it became a tourist attraction (along with its sprawling and eclectic gardens). And Gurdon Wattles was famous in his own right, as one of the wealthiest men in Southern California at the time.

In "Ghoulies," the mansion is haunted by demons — and in real life, if you believe in that sort of thing, Mr. Wattles' ghost is said to be still be hanging around the property. To see for yourself, you can visit the grounds Tuesdays through Fridays from 12 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (It's closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays.) The interior generally isn't open except for during rentals and special events — but if you manage to get inside, check out the library and kitchen, also featured in "Ghoulies."

10. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Downtown L.A. — from "Ghostbusters"

1/3 The Millennium Biltmore in Downtown L.A. was a stand-in for New York City's Sedgewick Hotel in the classic 1984 film "Ghostbusters." The hotel was the setting for the ghost-trappers' first encounter with "Slimer." | Sandi Hemmerlein

While not a horror film per se, "Ghostbusters" certainly has got lots of ghosts, gargoyles, terror dogs and a marshmallow man on a rampage. The most famous specter of them all is nicknamed "Slimer" — and the team of ghost-trappers first encounter him in the movie at New York City's Sedgewick Hotel, a.k.a. the Millennium Biltmore in Downtown L.A. (although in 1984, it was known simply as the Los Angeles Biltmore, as it was when it opened in 1923).

When the ghostbusters finally catch Slimer, it's in the Sedgewick's ballroom — which in reality is the Biltmore's former "Music Room." Through movie magic, the ballroom gets destroyed in the process; but the opulent space and its characteristic skylight are still very much intact and are being used as the hotel lobby.

A Brief History of L.A's Grand Downtown Hotel, the Biltmore

To experience this luxury hotel as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler did skip the front door on Olive Street and head to the side entrance on 5th Street, under the awning overhang. Walkthrough the doors, ask if anyone has seen any ghosts and head to the vintage elevator bank. Then hang around that first floor for a while to admire the opulent ceilings and chandeliers of what was once the largest hotel west of Chicago. (It was designed by the same firm responsible for the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, so you can see why it's a reasonable facsimile of a Manhattan.

Bonus: Although the exteriors of the Ghostbusters headquarters were shot in New York City, the interiors for both the original and the 1989 sequel were filmed in L.A. at Fire Station #23 (a.k.a. Engine 23 Truck Co.) on Skid Row at 225 East 5th Street. The 1910 firehouse is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, though it hasn't been in operation for firefighting since 1960. It's been slated to be rehabbed for decades — but as of right now, no work has begun.

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