October 25, 2021

This Santa Clarita family has spent 50 years making free Halloween haunts. See inside its latest

View Original Notice ? This Santa Clarita family has spent 50 years making free Halloween haunts. See inside its latest

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There’s definitely something spooky going on at the Sivley home in Santa Clarita. While the other well-kept houses on Sugar Pine Way have Halloween decor out, the Sivley’s is engulfed by a towering medieval castle.

A detailed, hand-carved facade reaches all the way out to the sidewalk and skeletons guard the windows and castle walls. Two large wooden doors open into the Sivley’s annual house of horrors, otherwise known as Beware the Dark Realm.

The independent attraction, which was featured in the 2018 documentary film “Epic Home Haunts,” is open for six nights, Oct. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30, from 7-10 p.m. and admission is free. However, a $10 donation to the non-profit organization Family Promise of Santa Clarita will get you a front-of-the-line pass. All guests must wear a face covering at all times regardless of vaccination status and hand sanitizing stations will be available on site. It’s not recommended for children under 10.

“We usually start building around the second week of September,” Scott Sivley said as he put some final touches on the haunt last week. “It takes about a month total to set up, and it has morphed over the years. It’s been the medieval theme for about 10 years, but we’ve done a psycho circus of horror, we’ve done an alien encounter, Universal Monsters and a Haunted Mansion type thing.”

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley’s , free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley’s , free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley’s , free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Scott Sivley and son Christian Sivley, the creators of the free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Independent home haunt Beware the Dark Realm will open inside the Sivley family home in Santa Clarita on Friday, Oct. 15. (Photo courtesy of Beware the Dark Realm)

  • Scott Sivley’s free non-profit home haunt Beware the Dark Realm in Santa Clarita. The walk-thru attraction has been going since 1971 and was featured in an independent haunt documentary, “Epic Home Haunts.” It is open weekends starting Oct. 15 and guests that donate $10 or more will get front of line access and the money will be donated to Family Promise SCV. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Sivley, who has constructed home haunts in the area for 50 years, got his start in his parent’s garage on Gothic Street in North Hills in 1971. He said that he’d grown to be six-foot-tall by the age of 10, so people would make comments or give him dirty looks when he trick-or-treated, so he gave it up.

“There was a neighbor around the corner from me who worked for 20th Century Fox and on the TV series ‘Lost in Space,’” Sivley recalled. “He’d show up wearing the costumes from the show and scare the neighborhood kids and chase them around and I saw how much fun he was having doing it, so I thought I could do that, too. I had also gone and seen Disney’s Haunted Mansion when it opened in 1969, so I thought, ‘Okay, this is what I’m gonna do.’”

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He went down to the local JC Penny store and asked if he could have their old appliance and furniture boxes so he could make walls with them. He constructed a maze with carved pumpkins, filled it with volunteers to deliver scares and used a record player to pipe in scary sounds.

He continued to do the haunts at his parents’ home until he married his wife, Cynthia, in 1988 and the couple moved to Sugar Pine Way. Neighbors began volunteering their time to help with the Sivley’s haunted houses, and their two sons, Christian and Jacob, joined the family fun, too. Sivley said people always assume that he and his family work in the entertainment business, but he’s actually a retired mailman and his son, Christian, works for Nike. Each year, they continue to attract thousands of haunt enthusiasts that line up around the block for the experience.



“It has always been super fun,” Christian Sivley said, adding that on top of making sure the attraction is running smoothly this year, he is the self-appointed King of the Castle and Jacob will once again assume the role of the Court Jester. The pair will be joined by a dozen or so other volunteers who will dress up as various royal subjects, villagers, witches, knights, blacksmiths and more to keep with this year’s theme. He also said that some of the volunteer scareactors have been working with the family for over 30 years.

“I think one of the coolest things about our event, too, is we hand-make or custom-make all of our costumes and we use a lot of prosthetics and makeup, too,” he said. “It’s something we’ve learned through the years from a family friend who is a professional makeup artist, who also volunteers with us. We do spend a lot of time working on that. We also have a lot of the same volunteers coming back and they’ve developed their own way, or their own style, of how to scare people.”

Christian is also responsible for conjuring up the backstory for each attraction. Though the medieval castle has stood for over a decade, the themes have changed. One year it was invaded by werewolves and the next a murder of crows had taken over. This year, it’s filled with dragons.

There is thick fog, lots of eerie lighting, animatronics, special effects and the entire attraction takes about 10-14 minutes to go through. Some actors are lying in wait just to scare and others will help slow down the crowds with storytelling.

“It’s important in a haunt to control the speed of people because if you leave it wide open, they’ll run right through it,” Scott said with a laugh. “I learned that years ago. I didn’t do all of this so you can just run through it.”

When his home isn’t in its haunted state, the props and walls are stored within the garage, along the side of the home or in a cabin the Sivley’s built in the backyard. They have amassed quite the collection of props throughout the years and Sivley said now that he’s retired, he budgets about $1,000 a year to put into the attraction, most of which goes to fog juice and making sure the volunteers are fed. He makes money by selling off items he no longer needs.

Each year, he donates proceeds from the event to a local non-profit, which has included food banks, the Santa Clarita Historical Society, family centers, domestic violence programs, and for the last couple years, Family Promise, which helps families experiencing homelessness.

“With all the canned food donations and cash donations over the years, we’ve made well over $100,000 for the charities,” Scott said, noting that attendees are generous and that some nights the donation line is longer than the free admission line.

Scott said he’s been trying to work with the city to find a new venue so Beware the Dark Realm can expand and raise more money for local non-profits. He said he’s had a great relationship with the city and the neighborhood for over three decades now, but he’s unsure how long he and his sons will be able to host the home haunt at its full capacity unless it can be moved.

“We’ve just outgrown this space,” he said. “If we moved locations, we could really raise a lot of money. Here, I can only be open six nights — you can’t be open more than that in a neighborhood. There has to be an abandoned building, or plot of land somewhere, we could take over. So we are very seriously looking for that.”

Beware the Dark Realm

When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30

Where: 28621 Sugar Pine Way, Santa Clarita

Tickets: Admission is free; a $10 donation to Family Promise Santa Clarita Valley will get front-of-line access. Those passes can be purchased online at bewarethedarkrealm.com.

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